Thursday, 10 May 2018

5 Reasons Why Sober Holidays are Better

Now the weather's warming up, we all start thinking about our summer holidays. And, if you're newly sober, you're probably starting to panic.

I get it. I was the same. Packing for my first sober holiday, I remember resigning myself to the fact that it wasn't going to be fun at all. What was the point of a holiday if you couldn't let your hair down and go wild?

For over two decades, summer holidays were associated in my head with a loosening of all the rules. All those things I usually told myself I really shouldn't do were now completely acceptable because I was on holiday! 

I could drink as much as I wanted every day, even starting before lunch time. I could party every night and stay out as long as I liked. I could go wild on the dance floor and be totally inappropriate, since I'd be unlikely to see anyone in the club again. All bets were off.

I once behaved so badly after a tequila party in Mexico (there was nudity involved) that I woke the girlfriend I was travelling with at dawn and told her we had to be on the first bus out of town.

So, when you start thinking about your first holiday without booze, it's really hard to picture what it's going to be like. The carousel of holiday snaps in your head all feature alcohol. 

But here's the truth: Sober holidays are WAY BETTER. Ask anyone who's been sober for a while if you don't believe me. Here's why:

1.  There's more holiday to enjoy

On my boozy holidays, I would spend much of the morning asleep or hungover. And after midnight, everything was a bit of a blur. So there were only about seven or eight hours of the day when I'd be on good form. 

On sober holidays, I usually get up at around 7am, because the sun's up, I'm in a beautiful place and I have things to do. Then I'll crash at around 10pm. That gives me fifteen hours each day that I can really make the most of.

So now, my holidays are TWICE AS LONG!

2.  You can really appreciate your kids

If you have children, you'll know that on drinking holidays you end up spending a fair amount of time avoiding them. There's nothing better than a hotel kids club when you're hungover, or wanting to get stuck into the vino over lunch. 

In the evenings, I'd always try to feed the kids early and get them into bed, so we could let our hair down and not worry about moderating our behaviour or language or drinking.

Now, the children and I are on the same wavelength on holiday. We don't have different agendas. We'll swim together, surf together, eat all our meals together. 

By the end of the holiday it feels like we're a watertight little gang.

3. You can strengthen relationships

If you're going away with your partner or friends, then sober holidays are a great time to properly reconnect - to spend lots of time talking, to find out what's really going on in their lives and to share all your hopes and dreams.

When you're drinking, you don't tend to do that. 

You might have some fun memories of wild nights out to share, but it's quite likely that you'll never talk about the things that matter, or even that you'll end up having drunken arguments and with simmering resentments.

4.  You can experience new things

When your idea of holidays is only about booze, food and parties, you tend not to bother to organise much in the way of exploring - at least I never did. 

When you holiday sober, you plan more outings, go on more adventures, look for new experiences. 

What is the point of going away if you're going to do just the same things that you do at home?

5. You come home feeling better than when you left.

I used to joke on returning from holidays that I needed another holiday to recover. 

It was true! I'd come back feeling tired, fat, toxic and, often, regretful.

When you come back from a sober holiday, having had lots of sleep, sun, exercise and great food, you're refreshed, revitalised, and raring to go. 

The trick is to redefine your idea of what holidays are about.

They won't be the same, its true. They won't be so much about letting your hair down, going wild and getting trashed.

What they will be about is the things that really matter - looking after yourself, building relationships and making memories. And those things will keep you strong over the months that follow, if times get tough.

So please don't worry about holidaying without booze. It's going to be amazing.

By the way, Laurie McAllister interviewed me last week for her Not Drinking Diaries on her fabulous blog Girl and Tonic which you can find here. If you don't yet follow her, you're missing out, she's amazing! 

If you need any holiday reading, you can buy The Sober Diaries here (UK), here (USA), or here (Australia).

Lots of love to you all,

SM x


  1. Fab post - I'm actually excited about my first sober holiday. I already feel like there are way more hours in the day. Firstly because I'm getting up early and secondly because I just have way more energy to get stuff done.

  2. Fab blog as ever really concentrating on the positives of being AF. It's going to be my first ever sober holiday after a number of all inclusives where many days were spent in an alcoholic blur. So I've gone for something totally different, a family holiday in Devon in a remote cottage so I will have to drive places so can't even consider drinking. Am looking forward to it (but still a little apprehensive too!!). Thanks for everything SM xx

    1. You can do this Meggie! I've sent you a note on our regular post!! You will have a great time in Devon. All those cream teas! Not forgetting the amazing beaches and countryside. You will love it! You are doing amazing! Keep going. Jacqueline xxx

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  3. Hi Clare! This is such a wonderful post and perfect timing. Day 100 for me. Miraculous really! My husband and I are currently making travel plans and your list has helped me to see the benefits of sober travel and not what I will be missing out on. I am excited! Thank you and have a great summer! :-)

  4. Apprehensive about my first sober summer. I have a holiday with a (very) boozy family, and festivals and camping with friends (booze). Hoping they have alcohol free beer in France! Thanks for this well timed post

    1. Hi there. I can reassure you that there is now a good choice of AF beer and wine in France. I don't remember seeing it until about eleven months ago, but then I wasn't looking for it then! Enjoy your holiday.

  5. I agree with all of those!!! I’ve had two sober beach holidays now and I have loved them!!! And like you said you don’t need a holiday to get over them, plus you remember every single fabulous second!! Happy, healthy holidays!!! Xxxxxxx

  6. You're a good mum SM. What I remember from childhood holidays is mostly making our own fun while the parents chased us away to do do boring grown-up stuff, i.e. boozing. Think of the memories your kids will have of holidays with fun sober parents.

    I watch the ads on TV for holiday destinations, and if its for middle-age to retiree age, every second frame is someone drinking or holding a glass. And you know what, I'm so glad that's not me any more.



  7. What a great post and so very true, had an AF long weekend with my daughters and it was magical. I didn’t spend time thinking about when it was okay to have a beer or wine. I absorbed every moment of my time with my 2 young teenagers. Never to be forgotten. Thank you Claire, your TED talk and book gave me my red glittery shoes ��

  8. Hi Claire! Great post and so what I needed to read. Going to Italy in two weeks and am panicking that I wont find any AF beer in the local supermarket. First holiday since I was a teenager that won't include booze but am looking forward to sightseeing and doing things without a hangover. I dont know how many days I am now but I guess nearly 5 months AF. Finding it very hard now the sun is shining and struggled over the BH weekend but refuse to give in. I'm not going back to that place. So onwards I go and wait for the day when none of it matters to me! Best of luck to everyone and love to you Claire. Jacqueline xxx

    1. So sorry - I of course meant Clare! Damn autocorrect!

  9. Hi Clare,

    I'm three days sober! I found your book yesterday while walking the library. I want to thank you and tell you your book has inspired me to cut a deal with myself-no alcohol until I've finished your book. Reading you has also inspired me to resurrect my blogger account from 2013! I hope I don't seem stalker-creepy-copy cat-crazy, I can't put your book down for long at a time-thank you for your honest bravery !

  10. Speaking holidays, and books (works for DVDs too) - another amazing discovery I have made!! (I am now 21 month FREE ... so the surprises just keep on coming). I have started reading some books that I would have told anybody that I had read - but I am now understanding them and remembering the plot!!! AND enjoying them completely!! So pack your holiday reading and smile to yourself at yet another plus at giving the wine witch the swerve!! Happy Days All

  11. That's great! Are you looking for a great deal for sober vacations international 2019 Packages? Sober Travel Tours with Recovery Elevator is an option.