Holiday drinking how does it add up?

Avoid holiday drinking guilt and take our 5 great tips to moderate your drinking on holiday!

Whether it’s camping in the UK with the kids, or jetting off abroad as a couple, holidays are the perfect time to relax together.

For some people this can mean drinking more alcohol than usual. However, the fact is that holiday drinking can cause problems that stay with you long after returning to work.

Have you ever suffered from post-holiday weight gain? It’s not unusual to put on a few pounds when you’re away – and alcohol can be a big part of the back-to-work bulge.

For example, a pint of 4% ABV (alcohol by volume) beer contains around 182 calories, and a 165ml glass of 13% ABV wine 159. On top of a week full of ‘treat’ food that can soon add up.  

And it’s not just about the extra pounds. Sometimes extended time together can lead to rows – and you might not realise how alcohol fuels bad feelings. Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep, making you feel stressed, rather than refreshed1.

Understanding units

When thinking about holiday drinking it’s a smart idea to understand the unit guidelines – especially since drinks abroad can be stronger than back home.

The UK Chief Medical Officers’ guideline for both men and women is that to keep health risks from alcohol to a low level it is safest not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.

Find out more on our Alcohol Limits and Unit Guidelines page

It’s important to remember that regularly drinking over these guidelines can contribute to serious health harms. Over the long term, drinking alcohol increases your risk of illnesses such as mouth, throat and breast cancer2.

Drinking too much could also put you at risk of Holiday Heart Syndrome3. This is a condition, caused by heavy drinking, in which people experience severe chest pains. Your blood pressure changes, increasing your risk of a heart attack or sudden death.

The condition gets its name because cases tend to rise around holiday times, when people might drink more alcohol than usual4.
Find out more about alcohol and heart disease

Have a little less, feel a lot better

Want to think differently about alcohol on holiday?

Then try our easy-to-use DrinkCompare Calculator. Simply enter the typical amount you drink on holiday (or at home) and you can compare yourself to the rest of the UK – and find out how small reductions can make a big difference. 

Five holiday tips

  1. Go global. Swap out an alcoholic drink for one of the local specialities, whether that’s a Citron Pressé in France or a Greek-style iced coffee.
  2. Stay hydrated. Remember that alcohol dehydrates your body, so stock up on plenty of water.
  3. Be Duty-Free savvy. Do you really need that discounted gin, or bottle of local wine, at Duty-Free? It could lead to you drinking more than you’d like on your return.
  4. Try dry days. On holiday, dedicated alcohol-free days can help you stay within the guidelines.
  5. Compare your consumption. The DrinkCompare Calculator will help you compare your drinking to the rest of the UK population, with tips on cutting down.

Cut back, eat right and get active 

If you're looking for other ways to improve your all-round health then you might want to try these free apps from Public Health England:

ONE YOU Active 10

Exercise made easy. An app that helps to get you off the sofa with just 10 minutes of brisk walking a day. Set goals and track your progress. Simple!

Try the app

ONE YOU Easy Meals

If you find yourself short of inspiration for how to make nutritious meals then this app is for you. Quick, simple and most importantly healthy recipes straight to your smart phone.

Try the app


(1) Roehrs, T. and Roth, T., (2001) Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use. Alcohol research and Health, 25(2), pp.101-109.


(2) V. Bagnardi, M. Rota, E. Botteri, I. Tramacere, F. Islami, V. Fedirko, L. Scotti, M. Jenab, F. Turati, E. Pasquali, C. Pelucchi, R. Bellocco, E. Negri, G. Corrao, J. Rehm, P. Boffetta, and C. La Vecchia
Light alcohol drinking and cancer: a meta-analysis Ann Oncol mds337 first published online August 21, 2012 doi:10.1093/annonc/mds337

(3) Menz V, Grimm W, Hoffmann J, Maisch B. PubMed,1996 ‘Alcohol and rhythm disturbance: the holiday heart syndrome’, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 227-31. Abstract available online at:

(4) (7) Ettinger PO, Wu CF, De La Cruz C, Weisse AB, Ahmed SS, Regan TJ (May 1978). "Arrhythmias and the "Holiday Heart": alcohol-associated cardiac rhythm disorders", Am. Heart Journal.

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