Safety Tips to Travel Safely During Spring Break

Spring break is a great time for students to relax, hang out with friends, and enjoy time off from school; but it has also become notorious for traveling to party spots. That being said, just because spring break is associated with risky behaviors, it doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself at risk. You can have just as much fun being safe, and you lessen your chances of ending up in the hospital, jail, or worse. Below is a guide to help you make safe choices during spring break.

 

  1. Consider travel insurance.

    Unfortunately, most student health policies don't cover individuals once they leave the United States. Check in with your insurance carrier to make sure that you are covered overseas. If not then you should obtain a good travel insurance policy that covers illness, injury and emergency evacuation coverage.
     

  2. Before traveling get up-to-date on your vaccines.

    That advice comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Click on the CDC's vaccine quiz to find out if you need to be vaccinated. 
     

  3. Make a copy of your passport & travel info.

    There is no worse way to end a vacation than to discover that your passport has been stolen or lost.  Make copies of all of your identification and plane tickets. Keep the copies locked in the hotel safe. If you bring your laptop, jewelry, additional cash or anything else of value to you, keep it in your hotel safe.
     

  4. Book a hotel in a central location to limit the need to drive.

    The closer your hotel is to the beach, downtown or other areas where you plan to spend most of your time, the less likely you'll be to get lost or to experience transportation issues. Avoid unlicensed taxi cabs by asking your hotel, restaurant or club to summon a ride for you, and if in doubt, pass up the car and wait for another one.
     

  5. Don't stay on the first floor.

    Avoid first-floor hotel rooms because they are bigger targets for thieves.
     

  6. Protect your location on social media sites.

    Sharing too much information about your location on FacebookTwitter and Foursquare may endanger your safety. Adjust your privacy settings and use your best judgment when checking in any Social Networking Sites. Be cautious about revealing personal information and location through status updates.
     

  7. Plan ahead with friends.

    Create a secret signal or code word to let your friends know when you are uncomfortable and need them to intervene. When you are with friends, arrive together and leave together. Establish a place to meet in advance if you get separated.
     

  8. Don't drink in a hot tub.

    Forget about all those MTV videos that makes drinking look essential for a hot-tub experience. Alcohol can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. The effects of drinking are felt faster and stronger if you're sitting in a hot tub.
     

  9. Be water smart.

    If you are going to be swimming in the ocean, do you even know what rip currents and rip tides are? These strong currents can quickly carry you out to sea if you aren't careful and how you swim out of these currents is counter-intuitive. Be aware of rip currents. If you should get caught in one, don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to shore until clear of the current.

    Talk to a lifeguard about swimming conditions before getting in the water. 

    Do NOT go on the beaches or swim at night.

    • Follow any flags or posting markers on the beach or pool that are used to warn you about dangerous tides, harsh water conditions, or any other warning the beach patrol feels is necessary. Swim at your own risk when a lifeguard is not on duty.
    • Drink plenty of water, even if you do not feel thirsty.
    • Stay within the designated swimming area and ideally within the visibility of a lifeguard.
    • Never swim alone.
    • Seek shelter in case of storm. Get out of the water. Get off the beach in case of lightning.
    • Watch out for traffic – some beaches allow cars.
       
  10. Practice safe drinking. 

    Spring break is not an excuse to drink excessively or drink more than you normally would.

    • Drink no more than one drink per hour and alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks. Eat a real meal before drinking and snack throughout the time you are drinking.
    • Watch your drink at all times. Watch your drink being made, do not accept a drink from anyone else, and keep your drink in hand. If your drink is out of sight for even a moment, throw it out and get a new one. Keep your hand over your cup or your thumb over the top of your bottle. Date rape drugs, such as GHB and Rohypnol, could be placed in your drink while you are distracted to facilitate rape or other crimes.
    • Use the buddy system. Watch out for your friends and ask that they watch out for you. Make it a rule to never leave without anyone you came with.
    • Always make sure there is a designated, non-drinking driver if you are drinking. If your driver takes a drink, they are no longer your designated driver. Call a cab.
    • The following represent signs of alcohol poisoning, if you experience any of these signs, get some help:
      • Absent reflexes
      • Slurred speech
      • No withdrawal from painful stimuli (for instance from pinching)
      • Confusion
      • Difficulty awakening the person
      • Erratic behavior
      • Seizures
      • Feeling very ill including long, drawn-out vomiting
      • Slow, shallow, or irregular breathing
      • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
      • Inability to make eye contact or sustain a conversation
      • Unconsciousness (passing out)
         
  11. Tan Safety.

    These tips are important if you’re going to the beach or hitting the slopes! Remember that snow, like water, increases reflection of the sun’s rays and makes it easier for you to be sunburned. Follow these tips any time you are outdoors for maximum protection against sunburn.

    • To prepare for a beach destination, opt for spray tanning or self-tanning instead of a tanning bed. The risk of skin cancer is too great to spend time at a tanning salon.
    • If you do want to tan, wear sunscreen with a “sun protection factor” (SFP) of at least 30 (higher if you burn easily or are taking medications that increase risk of sunburn). Remember to reapply the sunscreen after swimming, sweating, and after the recommended time on the bottle. Wear sunscreen even if it is cloudy and definitely if you are doing any activity in the snow (skiing, snowboarding, etc.). When choosing a sunscreen, look for the words "broad-spectrum" on the label - it means that the sunscreen will protect against both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply every two hours or after swimming, sweating or towel drying. You may want to select a sunscreen that does not contain the ingredient oxybenzone, a sunscreen chemical that may have hormonal properties. 
    • Wear sunglasses. The FDA has implemented a system to help you decide which type of lens is best to block out harmful UV rays A and B:
      • Cosmetic: provides the least protection and is for those activities conducted in indirect   light. Less than 60% of visible light, 70% of UVB rays, and only 20% of UVA rays are blocked.
      • General Purpose: adequate for most outdoor activities. 60-92% of visible light, 99% of UVB, and 60% of UVA rays are blocked.
      • Special Purpose: especially useful on tropical beaches and ski slopes. 97% of visible light, 99% of UVB, and 60% of UVA rays are blocked.
    • Wear protective clothing and hats.
    • Follow the shadow rule: If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and you are likely to be sunburned. Get out of the sun or limit your exposure.
    • Avoid mid-day sun. The sun’s rays are most intense between 10:00am and 3:00pm.
    • Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration if you are in the sun. Dehydration is a serious concern if you are spending time in the sun and drinking alcohol. Drink non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic beverages to help replace fluids that your body may be losing. Warning signs of dehydration include feeling thirsty, dry mouth, weakness, dizziness, headache, and decreased urine output.
    • Read the complete instructions for or talk to you pharmacist about any medication you are taking.
      • Some medications, especially antibiotics, increase the possibility of sun damage and rashes.  If you are prone to cold sores, use Chapstick or lip balm with a SPF. Sunburn is often a trigger for cold sores, especially in combination with dehydration or fatigue.
         
  12. Avoid going out and/or traveling alone at night.

    There really is safety in numbers and you and your friends can watch out for each other. Walking alone or even clubbing alone can make you a vulnerable target to people whose intentions are less than pure. Even a two-minute walk can be dangerous when you're alone at night - especially if you've been drinking.
     

  13. Never go off with a stranger. 

    Spring break can be a great time to meet new people, but that doesn't mean you should leave your group of friends to spend time with people you don't know. Even if your new acquaintances just want to walk down the street, stick to your group or at least bring along someone you know and trust.
     

  14. Visit the ATM in groups.

    Friends can keep a lookout while you're withdrawing cash to lower the risk of robbery. If you must go alone, be sure to cover the keypad when you enter your pin number, just in case someone is watching or the ATM is equipped with an illegal skimming device that steals card information.
     

  15. Keep your money safe.

    Carry a limited amount of cash at a time as well as a single credit card. Never flash wads of cash at the ATM or in other public places. Tell your credit card company that you'll be traveling before you leave to avoid holds on your account due to suspicious activity.
     

  16. Don't take chances with illegal drugs.

    For some, the relaxed environment of spring break getaways can make it seem like no big deal to carry recreational drugs in and out of foreign countries, but possession of illegal drugs can get you into serious trouble, both at home and overseas.
     

  17. Carry phone numbers and cash.

    On spring break, carry emergency cash and the phone numbers of cab companies. Keep in your wallet and cell phone the address of the hotel or rental property that you are staying at.
     

  18. Know what to do in an emergency.

    It's easy to forget that in foreign nations, the phone number for emergency response is not 9-1-1. A State Department website called Students Abroad (http://studentsabroad.state.gov/) provides a list of these numbers along with detailed tips for health emergencies, evacuations; natural disasters, crime victims and assistance to U.S. citizens arrested abroad.
     

  19. Road Trips.
    • ​​Before driving to your destination, have your car checked out by a mechanic to ensure it can make a long trip. There is nothing worse than standing by the side of the road waiting for hours for help or for AAA. If you do not have a AAA Membership, you should sign up today at http://www.ny.aaa.com/Membership.aspx. If your parents are already AAA members they can add you to their account as an Associate Member for only $28.00 a year, and then you don’t have to worry about running out of gas or the cost of towing your car to a garage if it breaks down in the middle of your road trip.
    • Always keep your car doors locked and your windows up high enough that no one can reach in.
    • Drive on heavily-traveled highways and avoid making your way too far off of the interstate. Being lost decreases your vigilance and increases the possibility that could become the victim of a crime.
    • Don’t pick up hitchhikers or stop for anyone on the side of the road. You never know who the person might be or what they are capable of doing if they sense an opportunity for personal gain.
    • If you have car trouble, especially if you are driving alone, stay in your car with your doors and windows locked and call police for assistance. Be wary of individuals who stop to help.
    • Do not allow anyone in the car to drink alcohol. Many states have open container laws that prohibit any person in a car from drinking alcohol.
    • If you are tired, trade-off drivers or stop for the night. A night in a motel is cheaper than the potential costs of falling asleep at the wheel. You can also stop at a rest stop to stretch your legs and walk around.
       
  20. Consider an alternative spring break. 

    Many schools and religious organizations offer alternative spring break options, including networking retreats and community service trips. Choosing one of these alternatives should make your parents happy.

 

Special Tips for Traveling to Mexico or Elsewhere Abroad

  1. Research your destination carefully for information on safety, law enforcement, entry/exit requirements, food/water safety, etc. The U.S. Department of State maintains Consular Information Sheets that provide extensive details about travel in other countries. Travel warnings can also be found on the U.S. Department of State website: http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/english/alertswarnings.html
     
  2. In addition to researching your destination, take special care to research your tour group, hotel, side trip companies, and car/recreational equipment companies. Check with a travel agent before your trip to receive recommendations on legitimate, safe options.
     
  3. Be aware of any special medical care you need before travel to another country. Travel to many countries requires special vaccinations or medications to prevent diseases common in those countries. The CDC provides comprehensive health and vaccination information by country of destination. http://www.cdc.gov/
     
  4. Inform a family member or friend in the U.S. of your travel itinerary. Make sure he/she has hotel information, transportation information, etc. Make sure he/she also has copies of all of your important documents (passport, visa, driver’s license, plane tickets, etc.)