Planning Vacations with Family Members who are in Eating Disorder Recovery

Healthy breakfast on a meal plan.

Contributor: Courtney Howard, B.A., Executive Assistant at Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope

Are you planning a spring break trip or summer getaway? Are you nervous to do so when one of your family members is in eating disorder recovery? It is natural to have these feelings about going on vacation when a loved one is struggling with an eating disorder, but it is possible to have a fun and relaxing family trip. If you and your loved ones adequately prepare for your vacation and potential problems that might arise, there is no reason to be anxious.

Adhere to any Meal Plans

If your loved one is on a meal plan set by his or her dietician, vacation is not the time to deviate from this plan and practice intuitive eating for the first time. This can be very triggering and lead to relapse.

Since the individual will already be in a different environment with new potential triggers, adhering to a meal plan is highly recommended while on vacation. Though you might be on spring break, your loved one’s eating disorder is not. He or she must adhere to any meal and exercise plans as though it is any regular day.

It would be ideal if you know what this meal plan is so that you can help. Either way, let your family member know that he or she can check in with you if triggered in any way. If you are visiting relatives in another city, state, or country, make sure they are aware of the importance that your loved one stick to this meal plan.

However, if your family member does not want anyone else to know that he or she is in eating disorder recovery, this must be respected. You can find discreet ways to explain behaviors or make it appear as though you are the one who is hungry and needs to eat at a certain time. This can ease your loved one’s anxiety and be a small way of showing your support for his or her recovery.

Always Plan Ahead

restaurant tableSome people are planners and some are not. It is important to realize that your loved one with an eating disorder is likely not spontaneous, at least not when it comes to food. Knowing where the family is going, what kind of food will be there, and adhering to meal plans can all reduce an individual’s anxiety while on vacation.

To alleviate some of the tension that might arise if an individual’s food needs are not met, you can carry snacks on the road with you. Whether you are flying, driving, or taking some other method of transportation, carry small snacks or even sandwiches. This way, if there is an unexpected change in the schedule or if your loved one needs more food than is available for whatever reason, you are prepared and his or her meal plan does not need to be affected.

It should be noted that a long-term goal is flexibility with food and being able to go on vacation without worrying about meal plans or times. Early in recovery, this is likely not a realistic option. Depending on where your family member is in the recovery journey, he or she might be able to be more spontaneous with where you stop to eat on the road. Regardless, snacks are always smart to keep on you, just in case.

Have Fun!

Extended family on vacation smilingGive yourself permission to have fun. You and your family deserve it, especially since you have probably had a long year spent worrying about your loved one, finding adequate treatment, and haggling with insurance companies. While it is important to be aware of potential triggers and help your family member in recovery, this does not mean the vacation needs to be spent walking on eggshells. That will not benefit anyone.

Family vacations are a chance to spend time with your loved ones and enjoy each other’s company. Regardless of whether you have a family member in eating disorder recovery, do not let any issues or stressors get in the way of this quality time. The more you prepare for triggers and are open with concerns, it can be a fun getaway for you and your family.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What tips and ideas do you have to help support your loved one in eating disorder recovery while taking a vacation together?


Courtney Howard Image - 2-17-16About the Author: Courtney Howard is the Executive Assistant for Eating Disorder Hope and Addiction Hope. She graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. from San Diego State University, holds a paralegal certificate in Family Law, and is a Certified Domestic Violence Advocate. After obtaining her certification as a life coach, Courtney launched Lionheart Eating Disorder Recovery Coaching in 2015 and continues to be a passionate advocate for awareness and recovery.


The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders. These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 28, 2016
Published on EatingDisorderHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He is responsible for the operations of Eating Disorder Hope and ensuring that the website is functioning smoothly.