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The Sober Travel Destinations Index

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Traveling can be particularly challenging for those in recovery, given how vacations have often been linked with alcohol—whether it’s celebratory drinks on the plane or cocktails at sunset. However, the landscape of travel is shifting as more people seek sober experiences.

According to Expedia’s annual travel report, 41% of travelers plan to book a detox trip this year. Additionally, TripAdvisor’s Consumer Sentiment Survey reveals that about 80% of Americans plan to travel this summer, with many aiming to “make memories” and “have an adventure” without alcohol.

This growing interest in sober travel is part of broader trends like the “sober curious” movement and the pursuit of wellness-focused vacations. Younger travelers particularly Gen Zs are leading this shift, but many older adults are also choosing to reduce their alcohol intake and embrace healthier travel experiences.

To support travelers in recovery, this index evaluates essential factors such as alcohol consumption rates, the prevalence of alcohol dependence, alcohol laws and policies, and the availability of sober-friendly activities. These insights empower travelers to make informed decisions, ensuring a supportive and fulfilling travel experience.

As the appetite for zero-proof holidays grows, it’s easier than ever to enjoy a vacation without alcohol.

Which US State is the Best for Sober Travel?

Choosing the best state for sober travel involves evaluating various factors such as the availability of sober-friendly activities, alcohol consumption rates, the number of bars, alcohol laws, the presence of Alcoholics Anonymous locations, public safety, and overall health scores. 

Here are the top five US states that offer supportive environments and plenty of opportunities for individuals in recovery to enjoy their travels.

US states for sober travel

#1 Utah

Total Score: 82.2/100

Utah tops the list as the best state for sober travel. The state boasts a high number of sober-friendly activities, from exploring majestic national parks like Zion and Bryce Canyon to skiing in world-renowned resorts like Park City. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking in Arches National Park, rock climbing in Moab, and mountain biking on the Slickrock Trail.

Why Utah Ranks High: Utah excels due to its low alcohol consumption rates, which are the lowest in the country at 1.30 gallons per capita. The state’s significant Mormon population, which generally abstains from alcohol, contributes to these lower consumption rates. Utah also has stringent alcohol laws, and high scores in public safety and health. These factors create a supportive environment for individuals in recovery.

#2 Vermont

Total Score: 72.2/100

Vermont ranks second, offering a wide array of sober-friendly activities. Visitors can hike on the Long Trail, which stretches the length of the state, bike through scenic routes in the Champlain Valley, and explore rural countryside in places like Stowe and Woodstock. Skiing in the Green Mountains, particularly at resorts like Killington and Stowe, and kayaking in pristine lakes such as Lake Champlain are popular sober-friendly options.

Why Vermont Ranks High:  Vermont stands out for its high availability of sober-friendly activities, scoring 161.34 per 100,000 residents, and a lower number of bars per capita and square mile. The state’s strong health and public safety measures further enhance its appeal. Vermont’s culture of outdoor activities and tight-knit communities supports a sober environment.

#3 Idaho

Total Score: 66.8/100

Idaho takes the third spot, known for its rugged terrain and abundance of outdoor activities. Visitors can hike the trails in Sawtooth National Recreation Area, fish in the Salmon River, or explore the natural hot springs of Kirkham and Goldbug. The state also offers beautiful parks and rivers for kayaking and camping, such as those found in Hell’s Canyon and Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Why Idaho Ranks High: Idaho’s lower alcohol consumption rates, which is at 2.00 gallons per capita, and fewer bars per capita and square mile contribute to a supportive environment for recovery. The state’s emphasis on outdoor recreational activities provides numerous sober-friendly options. Idaho also scores well in public safety and has supportive alcohol laws, making it an excellent sober travel destination.

#4 Hawaii

Total Score: 64.1/100

Hawaii secures the fourth position with its stunning natural beauty and relaxed atmosphere. The state offers a wide range of sober-friendly activities, including surfing on Oahu’s North Shore, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, hiking the Na Pali Coast on Kauai, and participating in yoga retreats on the beach. The landscapes of Haleakalā National Park on Maui and Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island add to the diverse, natural experiences available.

Why Hawaii Ranks High: Despite relatively higher alcohol consumption rates and more bars, Hawaii excels with the highest availability of sober-friendly activities, with 246.29 per 100,000 residents. The state also scores well in public safety and overall health. The cultural emphasis on wellness and nature supports a sober lifestyle, making Hawaii a rejuvenating and supportive experience for travelers in recovery.

#5 New Hampshire

Total Score: 63.4/100

New Hampshire rounds out the top five with its picturesque landscapes and charming small towns. Visitors can enjoy sober-friendly activities such as hiking the trails in the White Mountains, kayaking on Lake Winnipesaukee, and exploring quaint towns like Portsmouth and Hanover. The state also offers numerous trails in Franconia Notch State Park and scenic drives through the Kancamagus Highway.

Why New Hampshire Ranks High: New Hampshire has a high alcohol consumption rate per capita, but it benefits from a high availability of sober-friendly activities, with 102.56 per 100,000 residents, and excellent public safety. The state’s scenic beauty and outdoor recreational culture provide ample opportunities for sober living and recovery-friendly travel. Additionally, the state’s high overall health score contributes to its ranking.

Which Country is the Best for Sober Travel?

Selecting the best international destinations for sober travel involves a careful evaluation of several key factors. These include the availability of sober-friendly activities, alcohol consumption rates, the prevalence of alcohol dependence, alcohol laws, overall health, and public safety. 

Here are the top countries that offer supportive environments and enriching experiences for individuals in recovery.

#1 Iceland

Total Score: 84.1/100

Iceland takes the top international spot for sober travel. This country is a haven for nature lovers, offering a range of sober-friendly activities such as exploring the stunning landscapes of Thingvellir National Park, bathing in the Blue Lagoon, and hiking the famous Laugavegur Trail. You can also marvel at the Northern Lights during winter or visit majestic waterfalls like Gullfoss and Skógafoss.

Why Iceland Ranks High: Iceland excels due to its high number of sober-friendly activities, scoring an impressive 541.45 per 100,000 residents. The country also benefits from strong public safety and health score. Although alcohol consumption is at 9.21 liters per capita, the supportive alcohol laws and lower prevalence of alcohol dependence (1.90%) create an ideal environment for sober travel.

#2 Italy

Total Score: 74.7/100

Italy ranks second, with an abundance of sober-friendly activities. Visitors can explore historical sites like the Colosseum in Rome, the canals of Venice, and the art-rich cities of Florence and Milan. The picturesque Amalfi Coast and the rolling hills of Tuscany offer serene environments perfect for relaxation and recovery-focused travel.

Why Italy Ranks High: Italy stands out for its high availability of sober-friendly activities, 144.72 per 100,000 residents, and exceptionally low prevalence of alcohol dependence. The country’s public safety and health score are also strong. Despite higher alcohol consumption rates, Italy provides a balanced environment for those whose who want to travel sober.

#3 Norway

Total Score: 74.0/100

Norway takes the third spot, known for its breathtaking natural landscapes. Travelers can enjoy hiking in the fjords, exploring the Northern Lights in Tromsø, and visiting beautiful national parks like Jotunheimen and Hardangervidda. The scenic beauty of the Norwegian countryside offers ample opportunities for sober-friendly adventures.

Why Norway Ranks High: Norway excels in public safety and health, making it an ideal destination for sober travel. Although alcohol consumption, with 7.14 liters per capita, and prevalence of alcohol dependence are relatively higher, Norway’s stringent alcohol laws and availability of sober-friendly activities contribute to its high ranking.

#4 Denmark

Total Score: 73.7/100

Denmark ties for fourth place, offering a range of sober-friendly activities. Visitors can explore the historic city of Copenhagen, visit the Tivoli Gardens, and enjoy the scenic beauty of the Jutland Peninsula. Denmark’s extensive cycling routes and picturesque countryside make it perfect for outdoor sober adventures.

Why Denmark Ranks High: Denmark ranks high due to its strong public safety and health scores. The availability of sober-friendly activities, with 112.87 per 100,000 residents and supportive alcohol laws also play a significant role. Despite higher alcohol consumption and prevalence of alcohol dependence, Denmark’s focus on outdoor and cultural activities provides a supportive environment for recovery.

#4 Japan

Total Score: 73.7/100

Japan ties Denmark for fourth place. This Asian country is known for its rich cultural heritage and natural beauty. Visitors can explore ancient temples in Kyoto, enjoy the tranquility of Japanese gardens, and hike iconic trails like the Nakasendo Way. The country’s hot springs (onsen) and serene countryside offer peaceful settings for relaxation and recovery.

Why Japan Ranks High: Japan stands out due to its excellent public safety and health scores. Although alcohol consumption is higher, the prevalence of alcohol dependence in Japan is relatively low. The availability of sober-friendly activities, with 66.61 per 100,000 residents, and supportive alcohol laws contribute to making Japan a great destination for sober travel.

Tips on Staying Sober While Traveling

Traveling can be a wonderful and enriching experience, but it also presents unique challenges for individuals in recovery. As addiction experts from a leading rehab center, we offer the following tips to help you stay sober while exploring new destinations.

1. Set Clear Intentions Before You Travel

Decide on your sobriety goals well before your departure. Establish a clear intention that this trip will be alcohol-free and focused on enjoyment and recovery. Visualize positive experiences and create a mental picture of how you want your trip to unfold. By setting this intention early, you set a strong foundation for maintaining your commitment.

2. Be Mindful of Airport Triggers

Airports can be full of temptations, from bars to duty-free shops. Plan ahead by packing snacks, water, and distractions like books or games to keep your mind occupied. If possible, avoid sitting near airport bars and opt for a seat at a café or restaurant that does not serve alcohol. Recognize common triggers and prepare strategies to handle them.

3. Schedule Sober Activities

Fill your itinerary with activities that do not involve alcohol. Consider morning yoga classes, nature hikes, or visiting cultural landmarks. Booking these activities in advance can help you stay committed and provide a structured plan for your days. Engaging in enriching activities can help you focus on the beauty and culture of your destination rather than the temptation to drink.

4. Stay Connected with Your Support Network

Even though you’re away from home, it’s crucial to stay in touch with your support network. Schedule regular check-ins with your sponsor, therapist, or trusted friends. Use technology to attend virtual meetings or connect with local support groups at your destination. Staying connected helps you maintain accountability and receive encouragement during your trip.

5. Pack a Self-Care Kit

Bring along items that support your sobriety and well-being. This could include a journal, meditation app, comfort snacks, and inspiring books. Having these essentials can provide comfort and help you stay grounded during your travels. Your self-care kit can be a lifeline, offering you tools and reminders to prioritize your well-being.

6. Choose Sober-Friendly Accommodations

Opt for accommodations that support a sober lifestyle. Look for wellness-focused hotels, retreats, or Airbnb options that offer a peaceful environment. Some places even offer yoga classes, meditation sessions, or other wellness activities. Research and select places to stay that align with your recovery goals.

7. Practice Mindfulness and Relaxation

Traveling can be stressful, so incorporate mindfulness practices to stay calm and focused. Techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and grounding exercises can help manage stress and reduce the temptation to drink. Being mindful can enhance your travel experience, allowing you to fully appreciate your new surroundings.

8. Establish Boundaries with Travel Companions

If you’re traveling with others, communicate your sobriety goals and set clear boundaries. Let them know that you will be avoiding alcohol-related activities and that you appreciate their support in creating a sober-friendly environment during the trip. Honest communication can prevent misunderstandings and ensure everyone is on the same page.

9. Explore Local Sober Communities

Research and connect with local sober communities at your destination. Attend local meetings or sober events to meet new people and gain support from those who understand your journey. This can also enrich your travel experience by providing authentic local connections. Engaging with local sober communities can offer a sense of belonging and additional support.

10. Celebrate Your Sobriety Milestones

Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements in maintaining sobriety during your trip. Whether it’s treating yourself to a special meal, a spa day, or a new experience, recognize your efforts and reward yourself for staying true to your recovery goals. Celebrating milestones reinforces your commitment and provides positive reinforcement.

Traveling while maintaining sobriety is entirely possible with the right strategies and mindset. By planning ahead, staying connected, and prioritizing self-care, you can enjoy your travels while staying committed to your recovery journey.

Methodology

The Sober Travel Destinations Index ranks both US states and countries based on various metrics to identify recovery-friendly travel destinations. 

Our methodology integrates multiple authoritative data sources and assigns different weights to each metric to reflect its relative importance. These metrics are then combined to calculate a total score for each destination, providing a comprehensive overview of how well each location supports sober travel. All data is correct as of May 21, 2024.

For US states:

  • Alcohol consumption rates were obtained from Surveillance Report #121 (2022) by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).
  • Sober-friendly activities data were sourced from TripAdvisor and normalized per 100,000 residents.
  • The number of bars (drinking places) data were obtained from the US Census Bureau‘s Country Business Patterns and normalized using a hybrid index of per capita and per square mile measures.
  • Alcohol laws and policies were compiled from official state regulations, and points were assigned based on control measures, sale restrictions, and legal drinking age laws.
  • Alcoholics Anonymous locations were sourced from the Alcoholics Anonymous website and adjusted per 1 million residents.
  • Public safety scores were gathered from the World Population Review.
  • Overall health scores were sourced from the latest America’s Health Rankings (2023).

For countries:

  • Sober-friendly activities were evaluated using TripAdvisor data and normalized per 100,000 residents.
  • Alcohol consumption and prevalence of alcohol dependence data were sourced from the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Health Observatory.
  • Alcohol policies were compiled from the World Population Review and scored based on the minimum drinking age and severity of restrictions.
  • Safety scores were obtained from WorldData.info, which identified the top 40 safest countries for vacation and served as our seed list for evaluating sober travel destinations.
  • Health scores were sourced from the Global Health Index by CEO World.
Warren

Warren Phillips

Warren is a Licensed Master Social Worker, who specializes in substance abuse and mental health treatment. Clinically, Warren has developed a therapeutic skillset that utilizes a strengths-based perspective, Twelve Step philosophies, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Motivational Interviewing.

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