The location from which I'm writing this (Central Pennsylvania) is currently enjoying an air temperature of minus two degrees Fahrenheit. That includes a “feels like" temperature of minus 11. Of course, if you live in Florida or Southern California, you're probably not thinking about the air temperature right now. But college students and their parents, should be thinking about spring break, which is my topic today. (Maybe that's because I could use a good spring break right now, just to warm up!)
There are more considerations to spring break than how much it will cost and what will go on there. Perhaps the most important consideration these days is like the key to real estate value: location, location, location. Where will you be going on spring break?
It's not too early to start planning for spring break. I'm addressing both college and high school students here, since high school upperclassmen seem to want to get in on the action too, assuming that their parents are agreeable. Where to go is always the challenge. In the United States, the beaches are the most popular destinations. Daytona Beach is always overrun with partying students, much to the dismay of the residents there. That's easy to understand.
Outside the United States, Mexico has always been a traditional destination for those who have both the motivation and funding to make the trip. Among the various tourist spots south of our border, Cancun has been (at least until recently) a preferred location. I parenthetically say “at least until recently" for good reason.
Like many tourist destinations in our world (think Paris), Cancun has come under the cloud of criminal activity. Students have mysteriously disappeared from groups traveling there, only to be found later in less than ideal circumstances. I state that delicately, since the reality of those circumstances is too grim to include here in my G-rated blog.
Thinking back to my mentality as a college student, I recall being pretty much oblivious to what was going on in the outside world. To me, the definition of “outside world" back then was anywhere off campus. I paid little attention to the news and world events. My major concerns were daily college life, the circle of my friends, sports and how all of that was making me feel about myself. Yes, I lived in a self-centered universe, sad to say.
This may well be the situation in your collegiate life -- or, if you're the parent of a college student, you may be seeing this type of global indifference in your son or daughter. The result of such relative oblivion can often result in carelessness. Since we're talking about spring break, then, we should realize that carelessness can lead to danger when it comes to leaving campus for “fun" destinations, especially destinations outside of the United States. Let's consider some points about that.
Prudent Information to Keep in Mind
Since I've already mentioned Cancun, here's some prudent information about that well-known spring break site and others in Mexico, courtesy of the US State Department:
The US Department of State is warning road trippers and jet setters visiting Mexico to exercise increased caution and avoid travel in certain places. All 31 states in Mexico currently have warnings in place, while five states are listed as "Do Not Travel" under the Mexico Travel Advisory.
The State Department cautions the public of widespread violent crime, such as homicide, kidnapping, carjacking and robbery in Mexico.
According to a report by Forbes, the number of homicides recorded in Mexico in 2016 was more than the combined total number of homicides recorded in every other country abroad. Of the 31 million Americans who visited Mexico in that year, 75 Americans were victims of homicide.
The Mexico Travel Advisory is divided into four levels of caution from the least dangerous – the exercise normal precautions list, to the most dangerous – the do not travel list.
Well, it looks like I'm not going to Mexico for my spring break. Yikes.
To be fair and balanced, though, there are places right here in America that have a negative track record for spring break. Some of these locations may surprise you:
10. Miami, Fla.
9. Jacksonville, Fla.
8. Panama City, Fla.
7. New Orleans, La.
6. South Padre Island, Texas
5. West Palm Beach, Fla.
4. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
3. Las Vegas, Nev.
2. Daytona Beach, Fla.
1. Orlando, Fla.
According to just this list, it would be safer for you to walk Bourbon Street rather than wait in line at Disney World. As in anything there are risks involved and it is a matter of lifestyle and decisions made. ...
Use Common Sense
“Danger." “Crime." “Violence." “Kidnapping." These words are enough to scare most parents into a “You're not going anywhere on spring break!" mindset. But, there are some common sense precautions that can make spring break both safe and enjoyable.
If You Are Road Tripping It: When driving to your destination, take turns behind the wheel and make sure someone sits shotgun. They can help keep you awake, keep an eye on traffic and help find the right roads. Drive defensively because the roads will be packed and remember if you get sleepy pull over and rest.
Remember, There's Safety in Numbers: Hang out in groups, always use the “Buddy System" and never allow a friend to leave alone. If you lose your buddy ask for assistance from a proper authority to escort you home. Females should take a bottle of mace or a small Taser, as it may be a lifesaver if you end up in a critical situation.
Always Carry Your Cell Phone and Identification: Carry emergency contact information with you on your phone and always check in daily with a loved one back home.
Enable the “Find My Phone" App: If you get lost, somebody in your group can use this app to locate your whereabouts thru GPS on your phone. This app will can locate you with in just a few feet, if you've got your phone on.
Carry Hotel Contact Information: Keep the hotel address and phone number with you at all times. If you get lost or disoriented, this information will help get you back to your hotel.
Appoint a Designated Safety Scout: Someone in your group should remain sober and observant at all times, watching over the rest of the group's activities helping to avoid dangerous and unsafe situations.
If You Drink, Drink Responsibly: When you choose to drink, know your limits, keeping track of the number of drinks per hour and do not accept drinks from others outside your group. Remember underage drinking and carrying open containers will land you in jail.
Remember That Alcohol and Water Don't Mix Very Well: Always follow all posted rules and avoid all diving in pools and even into the ocean. Never swim at night, especially on the beach, and remember swimming is at your own risk. Follow any flags or posting markers on the beach that are used to warn you about dangerous tides, harsh water conditions or any other warning the beach patrol feels is necessary
Chose Safe Transportation: Check with the hotel front desk for guidance on the cheapest, easiest and most reliable form of transportation in Panama City Beach. Uber and Lyft are spring breakers' transportation of choice, but remember to verify that they are indeed approved drivers, just don't hop into any vehicle if not summoned by your phone app.
Hotel Tips: Inspect your hotel room for damage as soon as you arrive so that you aren't charged for somebody else's reckless behavior. Quickly orient yourself with all fire exits. If possible, request a room above the first floor so thieves don't have easy access to your belongings, and remember to keep doors and balconies locked at all times and secure any valuables in a hotel safety deposit box. Do not remove your hotel wristband; they are used by security for guest identification and hotel access purposes. Never hang out on the balconies of the hotel; people are killed every year doing this during spring break.
And finally, for more balance, if you're not a student but an adult (I suppose that there should be some differentiation between college students and “adults"), here are two of 11 points from a wry article that focuses on Cancun, just to give you some further (and surprising) depth about that location and the people who party there:
– Despite the hype, the Cancun tourist area feels totally safe. About a week before the trip, the State Department was kind enough to issue a warning basically telling Americans not to go to Mexico. That went over well. But really, the entire time I was there, I never felt even remotely unsafe, and I accomplished that by being a self-centered American who didn't venture outside of Touristland. I have no idea what goes on outside of Cancun's hotel zone. No one on Spring Break does — not unless you decide to leave the area for non-prescription drugs, brothels or, worst of all, cultural or historical expeditions to the Mayan ruins.
– Today's college students realize what they do will be immortalized on the internet. This trip was my first sign that, yes, kids have realized that the internet is forever and anything they do ends up there. Now, instead of doing wild things, they all channel their desire for permanent regret into getting bad tattoos.
So, moms, dads and students … you make the call as to where spring break will happen for you or yours this year. Remember: In cases where you may not be sure what to do, the internet is your friend. Just go to your favorite search engine and enter “Best and worst spring break locations." You may be surprised at what you find.