Spring break is about to begin for college and high school students. In about a month or so, young people from around the nation will be heading to some traditional -- and some not so traditional -- spots to celebrate the oncoming spring season, among other things.
If you're a high school student, you may be going on some kind of vacation with your parents. Or, if you're a high school student lucky enough to have the flexibility and permissions of a college student, you may be heading out with some of your school buddies to a warm beach somewhere.
However, let me focus on collegians, for whom spring break is essentially a period of hedonistic revelry that takes place mainly on the beaches of the Western Hemisphere, lubricated with lots of suntan lotion and alcohol.
It's not 1960 anymore and there's an extra need for caution and some restraint these days. Being the father of two former spring breakers, I'd like to offer some common sense advice for those of you who will be taking in the sights and sounds of surf, sand and silliness either here in the US or in points south of the border.
Heed the Current Cautions
I did a search for spring break survival tips and found a massive supply. I would be curious to see what a list of spring break cautions would look like if written by parents. We might see such wisdom as, "Don't forget to take your vitamins!" or "Be sure to check in with us every day." Comedy at its best!
We parents tend to forget what we were like as 19-year-olds or early 20-somethings. That's fortunate because if there were videos of our behaviors back then, we would no doubt hide in shame. Thankfully, our brains have a convenient way of suppressing our youthful stupidity.
Now, instead of reminding you to take your vitamins, let me advise you of some current cautions that have been in the news about spring break. Feel free to laugh, but these are serious reports. Here's part of one from the Chicago Tribune:
… In recent years, public officials have raised concerns that spring break is becoming rowdier, putting college students at risk. Last March, during one of the busiest Saturdays of the season, crowds overwhelmed South Beach's entertainment district in Florida, causing police to temporarily shut down a busy causeway.
In Texas, home to popular spring break sites including South Padre Island and Port Aransas, drunken driving is an ongoing issue. Last year, Texas had more than 400 crashes involving young drivers under the influence of alcohol during the period when students come for spring break, said Emily Parks, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Transportation. The accidents resulted in 11 deaths and nearly 40 injuries. It wasn't clear how many of those involved were in Texas for spring break ...
Headed South of the Border?
… the US State Department has some advice for the thousands of Americans who head to Mexico this time each year.
In a security alert for the country, the US Embassy in Mexico City offered tips on everything from avoiding unexpected medical costs and sexual assault to staying out of jail.
Here are some things to know before you go:
Hospital costs can be just as high or even higher than in the United States, the embassy said. Check that your health insurance includes coverage of Mexico as well as the cost of getting home for emergency treatment.
Stay safe when heading to the beach: Some beaches have strong currents and riptides, and there may not be any kind of warning or life guards.
Be careful what you drink: The embassy has received reports of Americans "losing consciousness or becoming injured" after drinking "unregulated alcohol." If you feel ill after drinking, get medical help right away. The US government has warned in past years
Be careful how much you drink: "Drunk and disorderly behavior and urinating in public are illegal in Mexico," the embassy said. Know your drinking buddies and stay with them "when you are in clubs and bars, out walking in dimly-lit areas, or in a taxi at night."
Another reason to go easy on the drink: Rapes and sexual assaults have been reported in some resort areas, the alert said, and "perpetrators may target inebriated or isolated individuals." ...
Much of these cautions qualify under the "DUH!" heading, but college students on spring break will behave like college students on spring break. Common sense seems to be in short supply with breakers, but the consequences of carelessness can be multiplied many times when partying out of the country.
And the award for The Place Your Parents Want You to Go Least goes to …
… Tijuana is the most dangerous city in the world, according to a report by the Citizens' Council for Public Security and Criminal Justice.
The Los Angeles Times reports that five cities in Mexico are among the most dangerous in the world. The list includes Acapulco, Victoria, Juarez, Irapuato and Tijuana …
… In 2018, Tijuana saw 138 homicides per 100,000 people. The report was published shortly after the US Embassy & Consulates in Mexico issued a warning to people traveling for spring break.
The alert warns of dangers including unregulated alcohol, sexual assault, medical emergencies and breaking the law in Mexico ...
I hope you're getting the message about the potential dangers -- I know your parents have already gotten the message.
Consider This Practical Advice
Now for some practical tips that Mom and Dad will love:
For Road Trippers:
- Make sure your car is in good working order before you leave.
- Never text while driving or drive under the influence.
- Check in to a hotel if you're nodding off on an overnight drive. It's much cheaper than the costs of falling asleep at the wheel.
For Your Hotel Stay:
- Choose a hotel that is located near where you plan to spend time so that you don't need to drive or take long walks.
- Use all the locks on your door.
- Don't open the door for strangers. If you suspect it may be a representative of the hotel, call the front desk to verify before you open the door.
- Go out with friends; go home with friends. No exceptions.
- Text someone who is not with you to state the exact address of where you are going.
- If you take cabs, only choose licensed, official taxis. Avoid unmarked cars or "private" car services.
- Always carry identification.
- Never carry large amounts of cash.
- Drink responsibly. Don't allow spring-break mentality to change your habits.
- Choose beer over liquor or mixed drinks. It's easier to count exactly how much you've had.
- Drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage.
- Be sure to eat a full meal before having a drink.
- Be a good friend. Even if you're having the time of your life, go home with any friend who clearly needs to call it a night.
For Those in Foreign Lands:
- Learn the equivalent of 911 for the country you're in. For instance, 066 should be used for emergency calls in Mexico.
- Get any necessary vaccinations. Visit the Centers for Disease Control Prevention Travelers' Health website to learn what is recommended for your destination.
- Make copies of your passports and travel documents. Leave a copy with someone at home and keep a copy in your suitcase while you travel.
Okay. You've been briefed. What I haven't mentioned are the current concerns about the Coronavirus that is causing so much harm and alarm around the world. Hopefully, there may be some kind of positive resolution about this before you head out on spring break, but if there isn't, check for the latest information and cautions here.
So, after all the above, allow me to offer you what may be the most ironic advice of all: Have a great time on spring break!