They’re counting down the days…
Within the next few weeks, 1.5 million high school and college kids across the country will be heading to the sunny beaches of Panama City Florida, Cancun Mexico, on a party cruise to the Bahamas or perhaps to an exotic international destination for spring break. Regardless of where they’re headed, spring break is often considered a rite of passage for students to ditch the stress of school, cut loose and pack in an unregulated week filled with non-stop fun, socializing and partying.
With the promise of endless fun, rowdy nights and lasting memories with their friends lies more than a few hidden dangers your child may not be aware of. Pass along these spring break safety tips to ensure your child’s spring break is both memorable and safe.
Before heading out for spring break read up on the destination you’ll be traveling to. Choose a safe hotel in a good area and, if you’re flying to your destination, research the safest options to get to the hotel including which taxi services are reputable. You can also check with the hotel to see if they have an airport shuttle service to the hotel. No matter what, never accept rides from unapproved taxi services. Check in with the hotel concierge or do research ahead of time to determine if there are any unsafe areas or destinations you should avoid while you’re there. The more information you have on the front end, the less likely you’ll be to end up in an unsafe situation.
What Not to Take
As excited as you are to pack your bag to the brim with everything you might possibly need or want during your vacation, just remember, if you’re worried about losing it, leave it home. This trip may not be the trip you want to take your brand new Fitbit, that flashy new pair of earrings you received for your birthday or anything sentimental that can’t be replaced. When traveling for spring break, keep it light and avoid packing anything that could potentially be a target for theft. With hopes of casual, stress-free days filled with sunshine and adventure, the last thing you need is to be worried about a piece of jewelry or other valuable item being lost or stolen, and you definitely don’t want to be that kid who packed like they were traveling for three months.
If you’re driving to your destination, plan ahead and travel during the day, if possible. Statistically, more accidents occur at night versus the daytime. Also, before heading out, make certain everyone in the car has a valid driver’s license and that you have a copy of your car registration and insurance in the glove compartment. To avoid driver fatigue, plan to switch drivers every couple of hours and have whoever is sitting in the passenger’s seat serve as the official navigator so the driver doesn’t have to worry about driving and keeping an eye out for your next turn. Always carry a map in the event you travel through areas without cell phone reception and never, ever drink and drive. Also, plan to stop at gas stations regularly to stretch your legs and fill up the gas tank since there may be long stretches of miles between gas stations.
Stay Vigilant at Hotels
When you’re on vacation the last thing you want to think about is hotel security. But, returning from a fun day at the beach only to find your hotel room ransacked is one surefire way to put a damper on an otherwise amazing vacation. Now is not the time to let your guard down. For starters, when you book your room choose a reputable hotel with a good security record and avoid the first floor if possible since most break-ins occur on the ground level of hotels. Always lock your door and use the deadbolt or door chain when you’re in your room and never open the door to someone you don’t know. If the person claims to be a member of the hotel staff and you aren’t expecting them, call the front desk to verify. When you leave your room during the day, always ensure the door is closed on your way out and make sure your valuables are secure. Most hotels offer guest room safes although they’ve been known to be broken into. If you have valuables you’re concerned about, ask the front desk if you can put your items in their safe. When going to bed at night always make certain the door and windows are locked securely.
Protect Your Money and Valuables
Nothing can ruin a vacation faster than being the victim of a pickpocket or theft. And, while most travel experts recommend storing at least a portion of your cash, a backup credit card and other valuables inside the hotel safe, even they aren’t completely safe. The best way to keep your money and values safe, experts say, is to divide and conquer. Never keep all your cash in one place. Keep some of it hidden in your hotel room (you might have to get creative here), some of it in the hotel safe and some of it with you when you’re out of the room. Always keep your valuables concealed and secure when you’re out and about and never flash your money or credit cards around in public. If you plan to go swimming and you’re worried about your valuables, either have your friends take turns watching each other’s valuables or consider buying a waterproof wallet.
According to the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), during spring break 44 percent of college girls and 75 percent of college guys get drunk on a daily basis. Approximately half of all college students will binge drink and many will drink to the point of passing out at least once on their vacation. Another study by the American College of Health found that during spring break the average guy drinks upwards of 18 alcoholic drinks per day and the average girl drinks 10 per day. The bottom line is, don’t end up a statistic. Stay safe and party responsibly. Don’t binge drink, always eat before you drink, keep an eye on your drink and never leave your drink unattended. And, as cool as it sounds to drink while in a hot tub remember that the heat of the hot tub dilates blood vessels and lowers blood pressure making the effect of the alcohol far more intense. Remember too that sexual assaults statistically increase over spring break, and many victims report that they were under the influence of alcohol at the time they were assaulted.
Go with Your Friends, Leave with Your Friends
It’s easy to get caught up in the fun and hype of spring break and lose track of where all your friends are. Regardless of whether you’re heading down for breakfast at the hotel restaurant, heading to the beach for an afternoon stroll or heading to the bars, always try to stick with the group. As tempting as it may seem to wander off with someone you met at a bar, it simply isn’t a risk worth taking. Keep tabs on each other to make sure everyone is safe and always tell someone where you’re going even if you’re simply heading to the bathroom. Keep the lines of communication open and never allow your friends to do anything irrational, unsafe or anything they’ll later regret.
Don’t Venture Out Alone
It’s easy to feel safe when you’re on vacation surrounded by seemingly harmless people who are simply there to have a good time like you are. However, the harsh reality is that teens and young adults on spring break are often targets of petty crime like robbery and theft. Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable situation by venturing off alone for any reason. Always use the buddy system even if you’re headed down to the hotel pool for a dip and, as a general rule of thumb remember, there’s always safety in numbers. If you’re venturing off to explore with your friends, remember also that the path well-traveled is always the best path. Choose the more popular destinations and avoid exploring areas that are not frequented by the crowds.
Play it Safe in the Ocean
Ahhh… the calming and inviting sounds of the ocean. It’s enough to lure any “tipsy” teen in for a quick dip. Beware though, alcohol and water is a dangerous combination. According to the CDC, alcohol is involved in up to 70 percent of water-related deaths among both adults and teens. And, when you’re basking in the sun during the heat of the day, the effects of alcohol are heightened. Play it safe. Never enter the ocean when you’re intoxicated and always swim with a buddy. Pay close attention to the warning flags on beaches and if red or black flags are up, never enter the water. If you do get caught in a current, don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the shore until you’re clear of the current. One thing to keep in mind if you’re traveling to Mexico is that strong undertows and rough surf are common and most beaches don’t have lifeguards so extra vigilance will be needed to stay safe.
Realize the Impact of the Sun
Far too many vacations have been ruined as a result of the sun. Harsh burns, dehydration and heat exhaustion are all too common among spring breakers. Add in the fact that the heat of the sun maximizes the effect of alcohol and you can see why so many high school and college kids end up in the emergency room. Be smart. Always wear sunscreen to avoid getting burned and don’t forget sensitive areas like the tops of your feet, toes, ears, and nose. Drink moderately, know your limit (and stick to it), drink plenty of water or sports drinks and mist yourself with a spray bottle to avoid becoming overheated. If, for any reason, you begin to feel the effects of the sun including dizziness, rapid heartbeat, elevated temperature or a headache, for instance, take immediate precautions. Mild dehydration can be managed by drinking plenty of fluids, but heat stroke is nothing to fool around with. Left untreated it can cause permanent damage or even death.
Practice Safe Sex
It’s spring break – time to party down, get a little crazy, meet a few new guys or girls and maybe even “hook-up.” But, before you get wrapped up in the hook-up culture so prevalent among spring breakers, you might want to think twice to avoid regret. In a new Project Know Survey of nearly 900 spring breakers, 32 percent admitted to regretting a sexual encounter while on spring break. Not only can having sex on spring break trigger feelings of regret, there’s always the concern of STD’s and unintended pregnancy. To avoid unexpected and unwanted outcomes, establish your personal boundaries on the front end and stick to them. If you choose to have sex, take the necessary precautions and don’t have unprotected sex. Also, because women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men, it’s important to fully understand the rules of consent. According to Girls Fight Back, consent is defined as giving permission for something to happen and that permission must be given freely and never coerced. Guys, remember… consent can never be given when a person is severely intoxicated or impaired.
International Travel Tips
If you’re traveling internationally, there are a few more things you need to be aware of to stay safe. First of all, before you travel make certain you’re up to date on all vaccinations. Always carry your ID, passport and some emergency cash with you, and consider using traveler’s checks and bringing a backup credit or debit card with you, just in case. Make copies of all your credit cards and passport to be safe. Leave all important valuables at home and be extra vigilant about keeping a close watch on your cash, credit cards, cell phone, and camera while in public. Check with your local cell phone provider to ensure your cell phone will have adequate coverage in the country you’re traveling to and remember, quite often extremely higher rates apply. And, no matter how eager you are to explore the native areas of any country, avoid venturing into isolated areas that aren’t frequented by tourists. Take the time to do a little research before traveling to learn about the customs, laws and what number to call in an emergency. Keep in mind that Mexico has very strict drug laws. In some cases, even a small amount of drugs can lead to charges and severe penalties. Above all, plan ahead, stick together as a group and always be aware of your surroundings.
Regardless of whether you’re on a cruise ship, on the sunny shores of Florida or California, or traveling through Europe, when you’re traveling it’s always important to stay alert and aware of your surroundings. Stay in populated, well-lit areas, keep a close eye on your belongings and avoid getting too personal with strangers. Keep your cell phone fully charged and with you at all times and make certain you have your hotel telephone number as well as the phone numbers of friends you’re traveling with written down in the event your phone dies. Remember, if you or one of your friends feels uncomfortable in any situation move on. Create a pact between your friends to stick together and watch out for each other especially if someone has had a little too much to drink or is on the verge of making a decision they may later regret. If traveling by cab, use your cell phone GPS to track where you’re going to ensure you’re heading in the right direction. Never accept a ride from someone you don’t know and, above all, listen to your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t.
Be Aware of Scams
No matter how careful spring breakers are, some fall victim to clever scams that can lead to substantial financial loss. Even falling prey to a simple, relatively harmless scam can turn your spring break into a disappointing experience. Don’t be caught “spring broke,” educate yourself on the top spring break scams here: Watch out for these spring break scams