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Tipsy Traveling: How to Drink Safely on Vacation

You’re ready to embark on your relaxing vacation, and you’re looking forward to trying the local foods – as well as the local drinks. After all, alcohol helps you unwind, and that’s what vacation is all about. While it can be fun to drink a little while traveling, and try new cocktails, there can be consequences.

Moderation and pacing are essential when drinking while traveling. In a foreign place where you’re figuring your way around, it’s important to have control over your senses. That doesn’t mean you have to have an entirely dry vacation, but it does mean there are a few considerations to keep in mind.

Drink only at trusted bars

Every area has its own version of “moonshine”, illegally brewed or crafted beverages with a higher than normal alcohol content. Sure, these kinds of drinks can feel “authentic”, like you’re experiencing life as a local, but they can be dangerous.

Most of these are a “one-and-done” way to get intoxicated, with a 120-proof alcohol content. When in an area or region you’re not familiar with, the last thing you want is to experience an alcohol blackout. Furthermore, home brewers (in the U.S. and abroad) have a tendency to add toxic chemicals like methanol to their brews as an affordable way to increase the alcohol content.

This is highly dangerous. In a report by the Overseas Security Advisory Council, 55 people died and over 150 were hospitalized in Kenya and India due to drinking bootleg alcohol in 2014.

If you and your travel buddies are looking for a place to get a drink during your travels, check local reviews. These will contain testimonies from tourists, so you can see how other travelers have responded to the alcohol served at trusted establishments by certified bartenders.

Similarly, as you would in your own city, keep an eye on your drink at all times. If you wouldn’t let your glass out of your sight at a bar, you certainly wouldn’t accept homemade alcoholic beverages from people you don’t know.

Set a drink & time limit

Familiarize yourself with the typical alcohol content of local beverages. Then, based on that, determine your daily drink limit. If you know that you get a little dizzy and out-of-touch after two drinks, try to stick to one. It’s okay to want to unwind on vacation, but you should never get drunk.

This will inhibit your enjoyment anyway. When you’re busy nursing a hangover, sightseeing and cultural experiences take a backseat, and that’s not what you paid good money for.

In addition to setting a drink limit, set a time limit. If you’re in an area with a wild nightlife, or a tendency toward raucous nighttime activities, opt to stop your drinking earlier. Even if you plan to stay out until late, make plans to conclude your drinking at an earlier hour. Then, you can still enjoy the nightlife in a relaxed state, but without dulling your senses.

Designate a spotter

If you’re traveling alone, it might be best to avoid strong liquor altogether. However, if you’re traveling with friends or family, just designate a spotter. This isn’t like a designated driver, where they’re not allowed to consume alcohol.

A spotter is someone who keeps track of how many drinks each person is having. They can do so on their notepad, or on their phone. Each person in the group can take turns being a spotter. Tracking your drinking will also make you more mindful of pacing, and help develop a sense of discipline amongst yourself and your travel buddies.

Keep yourself covered

If you’re still not convinced drinking too much while traveling can be dangerous, remember this: Most travel medical insurances do not cover claims that involve intoxication. So, if you end up in an international hospital with injuries related to your intoxicated state, you’ll likely be paying exorbitant medical fees out of pocket.

Stay covered by taking public transport or Ubers while traveling, keeping important documents safe and secure in your hotel room, and staying away from conflicts and rowdy crowds.

You can also keep yourself covered by holding onto an inventory of phrases to turn down drink offers. These might include:

  • “No thank you, I’d rather order my own.”
  • “I appreciate that, but I’ve reached my drink limit.”
  • “Thanks for the offer. I’ll stick to ____.”

Be polite, but upfront. And if you’re traveling to a region where they speak a different language, make sure you familiarize yourself with these phrases in the local dialect.

Safe drinking while traveling is a crucial skill – especially if you like to travel solo. Solo travelers can often be even more vulnerable to unsolicited alcohol offers, so make sure to know your boundaries and how to express them. Drinking is a custom in many cultures, and alcohol is a universal bonding tool. While it’s okay to want to engage in these local alcohol-related customs, make sure that you’re knowledgeable about their nuances first.