Staying Safe and Smart on Spring Break
Making good decisions when traveling with friends will increase your safety and add to the fun
It’s about that time when college students start plotting their next opportunity for an escape: spring break. Whether it’s a cruise to the Bahamas or a volunteer mission to build homes in South America, there are certain safety precautions everyone should keep in mind before they step off campus.
The sun is not your friend
In the dead of winter when most college students are begging for anything but snow, a trip to a tropical climate is close to a miracle. But keep in mind the closer you are to the equator, the more scorching the sun will be. We aren’t at risk for skin cancer just from tanning beds. According to the Melanoma Foundation of New England (MFNE), tanning in the hot sun is just as dangerous. Statistics show that melanoma kills one person every 50 minutes, making it the second most common cancer for 15 to 29 year olds. That’s why the MFNE advises vacationers who will be spending time in the sun to wear a hat and sunglasses and apply sunscreen with an SPF over 30 every two hours.
There’s safety in numbers
There’s a reason they taught us the buddy system in elementary school — it’s safer to travel in pairs. Also, keep your cellphone with you at all times, and be sure to charge it before you go out. If you’re relying on taxis in an unfamiliar city, be sure to use only licensed vehicles, and have the information and address of where you’re staying with you.
Protect your money and belongings
Heading away from home puts you in a financially vulnerable position. That’s why Ted Bassett, an attorney with the Massachusetts firm Mirick O'Connell, says you should be prepared for bad situations before you depart. “Whether traveling by plane or on a cruise ship you should also anticipate that your luggage may get stolen, lost or damaged. As a practical matter, all of your identification cards, credit cards, prescription medicines and a supply of contact lenses should be carried with you rather than in storage,” says Bassett.
If you’ve brought extra money to go shopping, be sure to keep it safely tucked away, ideally in a money pouch concealed under your clothing. A concealed pouch is also the best place to carry debit and credit cards, as well as your passport. Never leave your purse unattended; thieves in foreign countries prey on Americans who aren’t paying much attention. Confused tourists are great sources of money for scammers looking to make an extra buck.
Beware the spring break party culture
If there’s one thing that worries parents and teachers the most about spring break trips, it’s the abuse of alcohol. It’s always important to be hyper-vigilant about drinking, but particularly while on vacation. If you choose to drink, know your limits and avoid going too far. Don’t take drinks from strangers, and stay with your own drink at all times so nobody can slip you anything. Keep an eye out for your friends too; never leave to return to your hotel without your entire crew intact.
Lisa Pearlman, director of health services at Lasell College in Newton, Massachusetts, says the use of alcohol leading to unsafe sexual behavior is also a major worry. “I worry that students take lots of sexual risks over spring break that can lead to long-term physical and mental health consequences,” says Pearlman. “The ‘extreme party’ culture associated with spring break allows for excessive alcohol and drug use which can lead to poor sexual choices and lots of regretful sex. I think that there is a great deal of peer pressure to both drink and to ‘hook up’ during spring break and I worry that students don’t have the inner strength to say no to this pressure.”
There may be a variety of dangers when traveling, but that doesn’t mean your trip has to fall victim to one. Prepare yourself for trouble, should it arise, but remember that this vacation is your opportunity to take a break from the everyday stresses of home. Making smart decisions doesn’t have to mean you won’t enjoy yourself.
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