If you’re a college student, you may be looking forward to a fun vacation on a warm, sunny beach to break away from the daily grind of studying, lectures and textbooks. School can be stressful, and you’ve worked hard all year long to keep your grades up. You deserve some rest and relaxation. However, you’re probably aware that there are some risks involved in going on a trip for spring break. It’s no secret that high-risk behaviors often occur on week-long spring break excursions. Studies have shown that activities such as drug use, alcohol consumption and sexual activity increase during this college tradition. In fact, these kinds of behaviors are often commonplace and expected. But that doesn’t mean you have to overindulge in unhealthy behaviors. There are ways to stay safe and in control during a spring-break trip and still have a blast. Remember that choices you make in an instant can have consequences that extend far beyond this one week of fun. Follow these tips for staying safe on spring break:
- Know the law. In the United States, the legal drinking age is 21. However, in countries such as the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, the allowable drinking age is 18. There are legal consequences for receiving an underage drinking citation, such as hefty fines, loss of driver’s license and mandatory alcohol education courses. Being cited for underage drinking can affect your future career and chances of getting a job. Take some time to consider whether having certain kinds of “fun” now is worth the long-term effects.
- Drink smart. If you’re of legal drinking age and want to indulge, there are some things to keep in mind regarding safety. You’ve heard of safe sex, and safe drinking is just as important. In a busy club or even a small party, always keep track of your drink. Leaving it unattended could allow someone to slip a drug or another substance into it. Should you accidentally leave it out of your sight, get a new one. Try to order drinks in bottles or cans, which are more difficult to tamper with.
Make a conscious effort to avoid binge drinking, which is consuming more than four drinks for women or five for men within a two-hour window. Consequences of binge drinking may include alcohol poisoning, sexual assault, falls and car wrecks, among other damaging complications. Pace yourself and pay attention to the amount of alcohol you put into your body.
- Make safe-sex decisions. Sex is a natural human act. However, you should always take precautions when deciding to have sex, particularly in a setting like spring break when adrenaline is running high, the surroundings are unfamiliar and you’re around a number of new people. Always follow your instincts and consider if you’re staying true to your personal value system when deciding to have sex. If it doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to walk away. Sex must always be consensual. Communicate with your partner to be sure you’re both on the same page. Know how to use a condom properly beforehand and always carry them with you.
Also, stay vigilant in protecting yourself from sexual violence by sticking with your friends. Watch out for each other. Protect each other’s drinks, stay in well-lit, public areas as much as possible and always keep your cell phone with you.
- Practice travel safety. Again, always trust your gut first. Stay with your friends as much as possible. Create a code or signal at the beginning of your trip that lets each other know of something is making you uncomfortable so you can talk privately to assess a situation and make decisions together. Don’t disclose your location on social media — this can leave you vulnerable. Plan ahead by arranging a place to meet if you and your friends become separated. Know how to get back to your hotel prior to leaving, always be aware of your surroundings, and don’t let your guard down. Have fun, but stay alert to minimize your exposure to potential dangers.
Planning ahead, doing some research and trusting your instincts can help to ensure you have a fun — and safe — spring break by avoiding situations that could cause you harm.