Travel tips from a pro for an alcohol-free trip

  • Traveling can have its triggers, but with the right preparation it can be fulfilling.
  • An advisor recommends establishing passwords and agreements with your travel partner(s) when you go out.
  • Find a non-alcoholic beverage unique to your destination. Make it your go-to while you explore.

The cobblestone streets of New Orleans. The neon-splattered vistas of Vegas. Malibu’s sunny piers. It’s hard to imagine traveling to these places without a drink in hand – but for those embarking on the journey of sobriety, this is the reality.

From young people giving up alcohol completely to the dry January crowd and “sober curious”, more and more travelers are traveling the globe while being entirely sober.

Traveling can have its triggers, but with the right preparation and the right mindset, it can be wonderfully fulfilling. Here are some tips from a seasoned pro – and a true professional – for having fun and staying true to your commitments.

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have a plan

Rule #1, according to Ginger Blair, LMSW and certified addiction counselor with over 40 years of experience in behavioral medicine, is: plan, plan, plan.

“Communicate with your travel partners in advance about your parameters and limits,” she says.

Blair recommends developing passwords and agreements. My wife and I have a code we call green light, yellow light, red light when we’re in situations where other people are drinking: green means good, yellow means I’m at my limit, and red means let’s go.

This brings us to the next piece of advice: “Always have an escape route.”

  • Know when and how to leave a situation that is testing your sobriety.
  • Always have your own key to where you are staying.
  • Keep a snack and drink with you as a diversion if you feel a compulsion.
  • And remember that no matter where you are or who you are with, you can say no.

Once you have your contingency plan, you can focus on your destination.

Get an all-natural buzz

There’s more than one way to experience that “holiday high.” It’s all about experiences.

Have you ever taken off from a sand cliff in a dune buggy? Have you been kayaking on a remote island in the Pacific Ocean? The feeling will stay with you long after you get home.

On a recent trip to Sin City, my wife and I had piercings done at the legendary Vegas Club Tattoo tattoo parlor. It was silly, impulsive and so much fun. Find what you love and go big – it’ll be a buzz you’ll truly remember.

Drink like a local with soft drinks

In my hometown of Detroit, it’s Faygo. In Austin, Texas, it’s Topo Chico. And in New Orleans, it’s chicory coffee. Find a non-alcoholic beverage unique to your destination. Make it your go-to while you explore.

If you land at a restaurant or watering hole with limited options, ask the bartender to surprise you with a soft drink. They are there to make drinks and get tips, whether those drinks contain alcohol or not. You’d be surprised how many have a recipe for such an occasion. And if not, you can always have a club soda with a lime.

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To take a walk

You travel to see the world, not to sit in a bar. Go for it, whether it’s a walking tour, a horse-drawn carriage ride, or a nighttime walk through a cemetery.

The natural world is unique and the perfect reason not to stay out drinking all night.

Reward yourself

Sobriety is not an easy path. Take the time to reward yourself for choosing life. Take an ice cream. Buy this souvenir. Nap on the beach. After all, travel and sobriety have so much in common: they are journeys of self-discovery, of being present in the moment, and of enjoying all that this world has to offer – unfiltered.

If you or someone you know is struggling with sobriety, you can call the National Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Helpline. This is a free, confidential, 24-hour, 7-day-a-week, 365-day-a-year referral and information service at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Taylor Rebhan is a writer living in Detroit. You can follow her on Twitter: @trebhan.