While many students choose to spend spring break vacation with family, make plans to work during the time off, or just choose to stay on campus, many others travel to destinations in Florida, travel down to Cancun, or enjoy the sun in Panama City. Such trips frequently involve large crowds, contact with strangers and access to alcohol. It is important for students to be aware of their own safety, as well as the safety of their friends; if you’re planning a spring break vacation, here are some safety tips to remember, to protect both yourself and your valuables.
So you’ve planned to go away for spring break. No doubt, you’re very excited and in a hurry to go, but there are several commonly overlooked things that you should do, prior to leaving. First of all, if you live on or off campus, remember that you should prepare your home before you go. Simple tasks, such as turning on the outdoor lights, putting in a timer or a motion light and ensuring that you have moved your larger, more expensive valuables away from the windows will help prevent burglary. Additionally, a quick stop should be made at your post office, to ask them to hold your mail until you return, or you can get a form online, by visiting the United States Postal Service’s website.
Another trick for protecting your home is to pull the curtains on the first floor, but to ensure that curtains are left open on all floors, second level or higher; this allows neighbors, police or campus security a good view into your home. Be sure to let those neighbors know that you’re going away for a few days, and when you plan to return and, chances are, they will be more than happy to keep an eye on things and make sure nothing strange occurs. Always ensure that you’ve taken the time to lock all windows and doors securely and, if you have sliding doors, that you’ve placed a wooden dowel or stick in the sliding track to make them more difficult to open.
If you’re traveling by plane or bus, make sure that all your luggage is boldly marked with durable tags (luggage tags are inexpensive to buy) and a little trick of the trade is to take some brightly colored yarn or ribbon and tie a small braid or tuft of this on the handle or zipper of your bag; in the event of a busy airport or at the risk of similar luggage issues, it will save you time and effort when your own bag is easily spottable. Furthermore, remember to leave items such as razors, scissors or knives at home and, if you must take them, be sure to put them in your checked baggage to save time at the airport. If you plan on taking expensive jewelry, toiletries or personal hygiene products on the bus or plane with you, slip them into clear, see through containers to save time going through security.
You should keep at least one form of government-issued identification handy, at all times though it is recommended to carry a second form of picture identification, just to be safe. Additionally, keep this second form of i.d. on yourself, but not in the same place as you keep the first; keeping one in your purse or wallet and a second slid into the pocket of your blue jeans or even in your hotel room, will ensure you are not stuck without any i.d. as well as granting a means of identifying you, in the event of an emergency. Additionally, it’s a good idea to keep emergency contact information in both places as well. For the sake of your family and friends, ensure that someone has a recent photograph of you and an itinerary of when you are planning on leaving, as well as when you are due home.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, so the saying goes. Don’t carry all of your credit and banking cards in your wallet or purse. Additionally, when you are going out, don’t take all your money with you; only carry the minimum amount you will need, plus a little extra in case you need a taxi. Traveler’s checks are preferable, if you are going on vacation, or try using a debit card for any unexpected purchases.
Travel responsibly, either with a reputable travel agency or with friends who are trustworthy and familiar with where you are headed. Book accommodations ahead of time, whenever possible, and be sure to let people at home know where you are staying. If you’re not familiar with a travel agency and would like to check out their reputation, try calling the State Consumer Protection Division and they can tell you whether or not there have been any complaints lodged against the agency.
When you arrive, be sure to put the buddy system into effect. Do not go out adventuring on your own; always be sure that you travel in a group or, at the very least, have one person with you at all times. Not only does this mean you have someone to get help, should an emergency arise, but it is also a great deterrent for muggers and other criminals. Be sure that your buddy knows where you keep your emergency information, as well as any allergies and medical conditions you may have, prior to leaving your hotel room.
Alcohol often plays a big part in spring break and, while many may claim that they don’t like to drink or know when to say no, it is far better to be savvy and ready, in the event that alcohol does come into play. At the very least, it’s important to know the alcohol laws at your destination; some vacation spots have different drinking ages, might ticket for open intoxicants and can even fine and/or arrest you for public inebriation.
If you do intend to drink, plan ahead and let your buddy know your limits. Talk to them and let them know when they should intervene, what to do if you argue with them, and make sure that you’ve made arrangements for safe transportation back to your hotel. If you do not have a designated driver, who has abstained from drinking, be sure to have the number for a local taxi service available.
Only accept drinks from a licensed bartender or one that you’ve poured yourself. Additionally, do not leave drinks unattended and then go back to them; you put yourself at risk for receiving a drink that has been altered, if you aren’t careful. Furthermore, don’t assume that someone you’ve just met will be concerned about your best interests, no matter how nice that they seem. Bear in mind that the majority of people who are sexually assaulted are attacked by acquaintances, rather than by complete strangers. Be responsible.
If a friend says that they feel ill, do not leave them alone and, if you don’t feel well, ask your buddy or another friend to stay with you and look out for you. If anyone passes out while drinking, turn them on their side to help prevent choking and have someone call 911 immediately. If they vomit, make sure it is cleared away from their mouth and nose, so there is less a risk of choking or inhaling it.
Use common sense while you’re on spring break. Don’t climb on rooftops or horseplay on balconies. Don’t sit on railings or attempt to slide down banisters; while these things may look funny in the movies, they are very dangerous. A fall, even from a short distance, can still be fatal. Don’t try and be a hero. If you’re robbed, don’t resist but simply give up your money and jewelry; these material goods can be replaced. You cannot be.
Taking these easy steps will help keep your spring break safe and fun. By using common sense and acting responsibly, you ensure that you and your friends will be able to share more Spring Break adventures in the years to come.