Spring break is practically universal for “let loose and go wild.” But while you’ve earned your right to have a fun, relaxing, and exciting week off from school, it’s important not to ruin it by throwing all caution to the wind. Before you head out for your vacation with friends, arm yourself with these 10 tips for ensuring a safe and successful break.
1. Embrace the buddy system.
When traveling with a group, it can be easy to lose track of each other here and there, especially in bustling spring break locations. Though it may seem juvenile, setting up a buddy system of sorts with your friends will help make sure you’re all accounted for at all times. Stick with at least one other person throughout your trip, whether you’re at a pool party, swimming in the ocean, or out at bars. Tempting as it may be to go off with a new friend or fling, it’s not worth it to risk your safety. Fight Back on Spring Break, an arm of Girls Fight Back advises on its website to “Come with your friends. Leave with your friends... We need to look out for each other and if you see someone not in your group in a potentially bad situation, look out for them too. Being an active bystander is the best way we can work together to end violence of all kinds.”
2. Protect your assets.
Make copies of your credit cards, ID, and passport (if traveling abroad), and keep one of each in the hotel safe at all times. Leave your flashy jewelry at home: Not only can it be tough to keep track of those things when traveling, but you also don’t want to draw any unnecessary attention to yourself. Spring break destinations can be a pick-pocketer’s paradise, so be extra vigilant of your belongings. When you’re out and about, keep your money, camera, and ID as concealed as possible — make sure you have a purse that zips shut, and keep it on you at all times. If you want to be extra safe, consider something like this bra pouch for discreetly and securely carrying your hotel key, ID, and money, or a small lock for your backpack zipper.
3. Do your research.
Prior to your trip, read up on where you’re going and any destination-specific tips. Pre-arrange transportation from the airport, or research the safest and most reliable options for when you get there. “At the airport, always use approved taxi services,” notes Fight Back on Spring Break. “Ignore people who approach you offering rides.” Look online, and check with your hotel concierge, for key safety information once you’re there. Is public transportation safe? Are taxis reliable? Are there any neighborhoods you should avoid? Check for travel alerts and warningsfrom the government, and read up on common travel scams. The more information you have, the less likely you’ll be to end up in an unsafe situation.
4. Stay alert.
When you’re in an unfamiliar location, or out partying with hundreds of other spring breakers, it’s crucial to be alert and aware of yourself, your friends, and your surroundings. In general, stick to well-lit, well-populated areas, whether you’re sunning, partying, or getting from point A to point B. When you’re in a cab, Fight Back on Spring Break recommends following along with the navigation on your phone to make sure you’re going the right way and to the right place. And if you use Uber or Lyft, double check that the license plate of the car you’re getting into matches the one on your app, and the driver matches the photo. When you’re out, keep an eye on your friends, especially for signs that someone has had too much to drink, or that they might be getting too close for comfort with strangers. During the day and at night, keep an eye on your belongings and on the people around you — if anyone or anything makes you feel uncomfortable, relocate.
5. Keep your hotel room to yourself.
When checking in or out and about, avoid saying your hotel name or room number out loud. “No one outside of your group of friends needs to know your exact location,” Fight Back on Spring Break notes. If you and your friends want to hang out with other people, the American Safety Council recommends doing so in a well-populated place like the pool. And if those other people aren’t already guests of your hotel, don’t bring them onto the property — stick to public places like restaurants for your get-togethers. For added security, Fight Back on Spring Break recommends requesting a room higher than the first floor.
6. Drink smartly.
Always keep an eye on your drink, whether it’s alcoholic or not. Don’t put it down and turn away, don’t leave it on your table when you go to the bathroom, and don’t accept drinks from strangers — if it didn’t come directly from the clerk or a definitively sealed bottle or can, don’t drink it. And if you're over 21, keep in mind that you can have fun without binge drinking, too. Know your limits when it comes to alcohol, and don’t feel like you need to “keep up” with anyone, or give in to the pressure of spring break boozing. Also consider delegating one member of the group to be sober each night so that there’s always someone with their wits about them to make sure everyone gets home safely.
7. Plan ahead.
Before you go out for the day or night, have a plan for where you’re going, how long you’ll be out, and how you’ll get back to the hotel. Make sure you and your friends are all on the same page, and agree on check-in times and meeting places in the event you get separated. The American Safety Council also recommends creating hand gestures or code words that you and your friends can use if you’re uncomfortable or need help. Ask your hotel concierge for a business card with the address and phone number — something especially helpful in a foreign country; if there’s a language barrier, show your taxi driver the card and he or she should be able to get you back.
8. Stay healthy.
We’re not talking about eating your vegetables. When you’re on a fun trip with friends, it can be easy to forget about simple safety precautions like sun care and hydration, but a nasty sunburn or sickness could ruin your whole trip. When you’re outside, whether sunning on a beach or exploring a city, don 100% UV protection sunglasses, make sure to wear sunscreen (the CDCrecommends at least SPF 15), and reapply often, especially if you’re sweating or going in and out of the water. Take occasional breaks from the sun, especially in the middle of the day when it’s the most intense. Hydration is also key: Keep a water bottle on you at all times, and drink it constantly throughout the day and night. If at any point you feel faint or light-headed, seek shade and air conditioning (if possible), and again, drink more water.
9. Keep your guard up.
It’s easy to get swept up in the surreal, almost fantasy-like feeling of spring break, but it’s important to keep your wits about you and not put your trust in strangers. If you’re talking to someone who makes you at all uncomfortable, use any excuse you can to get away — even if it’s a lie. As the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network notes, “It’s better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse.” Many spring break destinations foster a hook-up culture, but know that you have every right to say no and get away from anyone who pressures you or makes you uncomfortable. Just because you’re flirting or dancing with someone does not give them the right to take it any further. “At Girls Fight Back, we define consent as giving permission for something to happen and that permission must be given freely and is never coerced,” the Fight Back on Spring Break website notes. “Consent must be given verbally. Silence NEVER equals consent…consent should be clear and that applies to all kinds of contact. If it’s not a definite yes, it’s a definite no.” And if you do choose to engage in any sexual activity, make sure it’s protected — and don’t depend on your partner to provide anything; if you plan to have sex on your trip, bring the necessary protection, i.e. condoms, with you.
10. Stay connected.
Keep your phone fully charged at all times, and carry a back-up charger in your bag just in case. Download an app like Witness that lets you discretely notify your emergency contacts if you find yourself in trouble. Provide someone at home with your hotel information and ways to reach you if your phone dies or you have bad service. If you’re traveling to a foreign country, RAINN suggests buying a pay-as-you-go phone, or contacting your cell provider to activate international coverage for the time you’re away. Though that’s typically an additional charge, it’s worth it to be connected. Remember that in foreign countries 9-1-1 won’t be available, so do some research on if there’s a similar service where you’re going and, if not, what steps you should take in an emergency.
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