A little deviation from the norm this week as we approach Spring Break across this great land of ours. This one is for the kids!
Spring Break! Ah, the memories: Sunshine, the beach, attractive guys and gals, refreshing beverages, and adventures to last a lifetime. While our Spring Break days are long over, we are realists here and know that for many students and youngsters, this is the time of year to cut loose and get a little crazy. Fortunately, most students’ Spring Break will end with happy memories. Unfortunately, some trips will contain the unhappy memories of theft, assault, injury, or hospitalization.
For you kids out there, how can you ensure that you will be in the “Happy Memory” group? By following some simple Spring Break Safety Tips!
1) SIGN UP! – First and foremost, do yourself (and your parents) a favor by signing up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The STEP program enables the State Department to contact you in the case of a family emergency or to notify you of a crisis near your travel destination. They also provide a Smart Traveler iPhone App. The State Department also has a great “Students Abroad” page that is worth a look.
2) Makin’ copies – Make copies of your passport, passport card, and itinerary. Leave a set at home with someone you trust. Keep your passport in the hotel safe (as long as it is in YOUR room and YOU set the passcode) along with your valuables. And keep a paper copy of your passport hidden somewhere in your luggage and accessible in case you lose it.
3) Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems – Before you depart, notify your credit card company that you are travelling to avoid getting your card shut off and to help spot unusual charges. Should you need to visit an ATM: DO NOT GO ALONE. Have one person use the ATM while the other(s) stands watch. DO NOT count your money in public or flash it around. You should only carry the money and credit cards that you need when you go out, in a hidden pocket if possible.
4) “Pour up, drank. Head shot, drank” – Regardless of what Kendrick Lamar says, don’t fill up a swimming pool with liquor and dive in. This tip will probably elicit groans and eye rolling, but the reality is that excessive drinking impairs your judgment. And you DO NOT want to be in a foreign country (or any unfamiliar city) while seriously impaired. If you are going to drink, designate someone to the “Sober Guide” for the day. If you each take a turn, everyone will be safe and happy. Besides, not drinking everyday will actually help you enjoy your trip even more.
In addition, should you (or a friend) feel noticeably intoxicated after a drink or two, be aware of the possibility that you have been slipped Ambien or Rohypnol (Roofies). Excessive slurring, wooziness, and difficulty standing are surefire signs that you’ve been drugged. If this is the case, notify your friends immediately and leave your location. If the symptoms worsen, seek medical attention IMMEDIATELY.
5) Drinking, Sunlight, and Hot Tubs…Not a winning combination – As much as we propagate the idea of chillin’ on the beach/in the hot tub with a drink, it is actually pretty bad on your body. Drinking in the sun will not only cause you to forget things like sunscreen (lobster tan, anyone?) but will intensify the effects of alcohol and lead to increased dehydration. And drankin’ in the hot tub dilates your blood vessels and lowers your blood pressure, which can lead to unconsciousness and drowning.
Stay in the shade, wear sunscreen, put on a hat, and DRINK WATER as often as possible. Already been drinking? Stay out of the hot tub!
6) Party Drugs – Again, we are realists here and know that the temptation – or for that matter solid plan – to do drugs may be on the agenda. Remember, the laws governing your Spring Break destination are probably VERY different from the laws in your home state/country re: illegal drug use. Some countries offer the death penalty for transport or even possession of drugs. Do yourself a favor and don’t try to buy drugs in – or try to smuggle them into – a foreign country. Better yet, don’t do the drugs at all.
7) Go Together/Leave Together – The saying, “There is safety in numbers” exists for a reason. You instantly become a target when you are walking alone or hanging out in the club by yourself. Make sure that you are watching out for each other and that no one wanders off. Remember that “Sober Guide” idea? Implement it and travel as a group. The other benefit to operating in “group think” is that the single person’s vote can be overridden a.k.a “We are ALL leaving. NOW.”
8) Hook it up…or don’t – Yes, everyone imagines the amazing Spring Break hook up. In reality, this can lead to catching a nasty cold, contracting something you can’t get rid of that easily, or more seriously, sexual assault. Be realistic: if you plan on hooking up over your break, stock up on protection. Or you if plan on a quick make-out session, make it clear that things are going any further. Better yet, save yourself the hassle and just hang out with your friends.
9) Strangers in Paradise? – In regards to the hook up or even the hangout, just because you meet a “chill” group of people doesn’t mean you should abandon your friends and set off on your own. Stick with your friends or bring along someone you trust. That goes for bringing randos back to your room as well. Don’t do it. As soon as your room becomes the “party room” valuable things start to disappear.
10) In Case Of Emergency – 911 does not work in every country. As a matter of fact, each country has its own version. Here is the list of emergency numbers around the world: http://studentsabroad.state.gov/content/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf
11) Trust Your Intuition – If you find yourself in a situation, place, or with person or group and you don’t feel comfortable…LEAVE OR LET SOMEONE KNOW. A lot of you will want to stick with the group to not be the Debbie Downer. But if your gut is feeling like something is wrong, listen to it. If you are wrong, well you made a mistake. But the consequences of not listening to your gut feelings can be far worse. YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO BE RUDE AND INCONVENIENT AT ANYTIME! That means if YOU want to go, you have the right to say so. If YOU see a problem, you have the right to speak up. And if you OR someone you know needs help, you can ask for it. If you are voicing your concerns to your friends and they are not listening to you…it may be time to find a new group of friends.
12) Have A Good Time – In spite of what may be perceived as “doom and gloom” in this message, we want you to have a good time on Spring Break. As long as you pay attention, stick to your friends, act responsibly, and actually get a little rest, we guarantee that you will have fun.
Be safe amd enjoy yourselves!