Experts explain why the sober travel trend is here to stay

A group of South African travellers enjoying a sober excursion and the sights in Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

A group of South African travellers enjoying a sober excursion and the sights in Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 19, 2024


While wine tours and sundowners are still popular choices, a growing number of South African travellers are embracing “dry tripping” and choosing to explore destinations and experiences without the involvement of alcohol.

According to Flight Centre in South Africa, this shift towards mindful living and seeking enjoyment beyond alcohol is not only taking place in South Africa; it’s also a global travel trend.

“New terms such as ‘sober curious’ and ‘mindful drinking’ reflect a growing awareness of the downsides of excessive drinking and a desire for more conscious choices.

“Research shows that this movement is especially popular among Gen Z and Millennials, who are leading the charge towards a more balanced lifestyle,” say the travel experts.

They say books like “We Are the Luckiest: The Surprising Magic of a Sober Life” have become manifestos for the sober curious and, as a result, the tourism industry has also taken note with the emergence of dry tripping or sober tourism.

“Specialised tour companies cater to travellers who prefer to explore the world without the influence of alcohol, and travel agents are brushing up on the best ‘dry’ restaurants, destinations, and experiences around the globe,” say the travel group.

So what can you expect from this trend in South Africa?

Though dry tripping is all about being sober, travel experts say you won’t find yourself sipping a soda water alone in the corner if you choose to go “dry” on your next local getaway.

“The mocktail revolution has arrived, and it’s anything but boring. Mixologists across the country are shaking and stirring up non-alcoholic concoctions that rival their alcoholic counterparts in complexity and creativity, plus, they’re usually infinitely more affordable,” they highlight.

For example, restaurants such as Ferryman’s Irish Tavern at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town offer a Blue Lagoon mocktail, a delicious mix of Blue Lagoon syrup, lime, and lemonade, while Marble Restaurant in Johannesburg have the No Drama Llama, a blend of pineapple juice, almond syrup, citrus and grenadine.

The travel experts also highlight that it’s not only about drinks, as the local culinary scene has also stepped up to the plate with innovative non-alcoholic pairings that enhance the flavours of local cuisine.

“Think multi-course meals where each dish is complemented by a unique, alcohol-free beverage featuring ingredients like kombucha, fruit shrubs, teas, vinegars and high-quality mineral waters like San Pellegrino, which add an extra zing to every nibble,” they say.

For example, this year, Cape Town’s FYN restaurant introduced a new offering of half pairings, allowing diners to sample both the wine and non-alcoholic pairings with every dish on the restaurant’s renowned tasting menu.

The travel experts say that whether you’re dreaming of a relaxing beach getaway, an exciting safari or a cultural city tour, they can hand pick dry-friendly accommodation, activities and experiences that ensure you have an unforgettable time.

“As younger generations embrace moderation and prioritise experiences over excess, it’s clear that dry tripping isn’t a passing fad. It’s a refreshing extension of the modern balanced lifestyle, and it’s here to stay,” say the travel experts.