As you book your flight and pack your bikini, chances are you can’t stop picturing the stunning beaches and festive cocktails waiting for you at your spring break destination of choice. But did you ever consider you might be one bad decision away from a spring break nightmare? What about getting all of your valuables stolen so a thief can dine on unlimited breadsticks at the Olive Garden? Or attempting to get a sexy tan, but winding up looking like a full-fledged lobster? Read on for some tips and testimonies about the 5 most common spring break horrors and how to avoid them.
1. Sexual Encounters of a Dangerous Kind
“We were in Ibiza, Spain my freshman year of college. One night, I ended up getting separated from my girlfriends and going back with a guy, but I didn’t realize my phone wad dead. My friends didn’t know where I was, and had spent all night looking for me and trying to think of ways to tell my parents that they lost me. It definitely scared all of us, because I had no clue where my girlfriends had gone, and there is nothing scarier than being in a foreign country and not knowing where your girls are.”- Krista, Simmons College
By now, we’ve all heard about Natalee Holloway and the dangers of hooking up with strangers. While it might seem like an extreme example, it’s important to recognize that hooking up with someone you don’t know puts you in an infinitely more vulnerable position than hooking up with a friend from home. But that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge in a little spring fling romance. Here are some ways to keep your hookup from crossing into the danger zone.
- Power in Numbers: Before you hit the dance floor, develop a game plan with your girlfriends and stick to it. It’s easy to get lost in a crowded club, so agreeing on a time and place to meet at the end of the night is a great way to keep track of each other. The website SpringBreakSafety.org, suggests: “Go out with your friends, go home with your friends. It’s one of those things that keeps you a whole lot safer, and eliminates about 98% of the bad drama.”
- Pick a Location: If you do meet a guy you want to hook up with, try to go somewhere you feel safe, preferably in a place that’s near your friends so they know where you’re headed and how to reach you. Always use your hotel room instead of his, since your friends can access it if necessary. Or, if you don’t mind a little PDA, stay at the club and get a little smooch time in there. While it may not be the classiest behavior, at least your girls can keep an eye on you.
- Watch Your Drink: Drugs like GBH, Ketamine, and Rohypnol (“roofies”) are popular date rape drugs because they can be discreetly slipped into a drink and take effect quickly, often lasting several hours. At first, when a person is slipped a date drug she’ll just seem really drunk, often making it difficult for friends to realize the person has been drugged before she’s sauntered off with the guy and it’s too late. Stay in control and be aware of your surroundings by making sure you know exactly what’s in your drink and holding onto it the entire night. If a guy offers to buy you a drink, walk over with him to the bar and watch him order it. And if you notice your drink tastes or looks a little funky, pour it out. GBH can make drinks saltier and Rohypnol can change the color of a drink. Also, remember that the more you drink, the more self-control you lose. While there’s no shame in having a little fun, monitoring how much alcohol you consume and making sure to not exceed your limit will help you evaluate a hookup situation with more clarity and better judgment. And if nothing else, at least you’ll choose a guy without the influence of the beer goggles effect.
- Can I Get Your Number?: It's always a good idea to carry around the number and address of the hotel you're staying in. And before you leave for Spring Break, exchange phone numbers with your friends' parents. Their parents will feel better knowing they can contact you, and you'll know how to get in touch with them in case of an emergency. Also, if you think you might be spending the night somewhere else, bring your phone charger with you. It's a small device that could make a huge difference.
2. Getting Robbed
"I went to Las Vegas and on my first night out in a club, my phone got stolen out of my purse. Then the second night, I was at a club, dancing with one of my friends with my purse securely (or so I thought) strapped over my shoulder. All of a sudden, I realized that my purse weighed absolutely nothing. My ID, money, credit cards, passport- it was ALL gone. I had no clue where it all went. Luckily I was able to get the charges cancelled on my credit card... so I can now laugh about what the thief spent my money on: $300 at WALGREENS (what do you even buy there for $300?!), and a meal at the Olive Garden... someone really classy stole my stuff!" - Cassidy, Emerson College
“I was at the airport on my way back to California when my purse got stolen. I lost everything- my IPod, camera, all of my identification and over $100 in cash!” - Nicole, Emerson College
Between flying on an airplane, staying in a hotel, and running around town, there are an unfortunate amount of opportunities for thievery on Spring Break. San Diego-based travel agent Bonnie Sherman says vacation destinations are a hot spot for theft because “places that tourists gather are prime targets.” She also claims that TSA agents are notorious for stealing out of travelers’ luggage. However, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.
- Lock It Up: Sherman says using a neck safe or a money belt, instead of a purse, is the most effective way to keep your valuables safe while flying. If you are planning on packing some valuables, make sure to pack them in a carry-on bag instead of your checked luggage. Once on vacation, many hotels will offer safes in the room, but bringing your own is also an option.
- Copy Important Documents: If you’re traveling outside of the United States, Sherman suggests making two copies of your passport: one to leave in the hotel room, and a colored copy for your parents at home. Better yet, scan and store all your key documents in Google Docs so that you have access to them anywhere.
- Mix Up Your Money: When figuring out what kind of money to bring, plan on bringing a few different kinds of payment. Sherman suggests carrying both cash and a credit card, and keeping them in separate places. She recommends bringing a debit card rather than a credit card, because “parents can reload it if needed, but if it’s lost, there isn’t a large amount at risk.” If you’re travelling internationally, make sure to call the credit card company and let them know you’re going away beforehand; otherwise they might think your card was stolen and cancel it when they see the foreign charges! Also, ask your bank what kind of fees they charge for withdrawals overseas and what kind of foreign currency exchange fees they impose. Many banks now offer to refund ATM fees, so shop around for the best deal. And your bank may have a partnership with a bank in the country you’re going to so you can withdraw from there and won’t have to pay the ATM fees at all.
- Lighten the Load: When considering what to pack, ask yourself, “do I really need this?” Cutting down the amount of prized possessions you bring might seem like a sacrifice at first, but chances are you really won’t need your grandmother’s pearls in the Bahamas, and you’ll never forgive yourself if they got lost or stolen. And consider leaving your laptop, iPad, and other hefty electronics behind. They draw attention, add weight, and most hotels have a business center if you need to check your email during the trip.
3. Attack of Montezuma’s Revenge (and other stomach bugs)
“When I was in the Dominican Republic last spring break I got some sort of allergic reaction to the sun or water or food, they didn't know, and my eyes and face swelled up like a marshmallow. I looked like an avatar and I could hardly see. Our hotel had no real medical care and there were no real hospitals nearby, so they put me in this rusty 1950’s era ambulance and drove me to this ‘clinic’ that was a terrifying excuse for a medical facility. After waiting for four hours, they let me know they didn't actually have any of the medication I needed and it needed to be transported across the island. When my medication finally arrived they said my insurance didn't cover it and charged me 500 dollars for the meds. When I came back I showed them to my doctor, and guess what I paid 500 bucks for? Zyrtec and Advil!” – Amanda, Cornell University
“We went to the most beautiful little islands in Antigua where we were the only people there because you could only get there by boat. We would anchor in the middle of the ocean at night and have dinner and casual drinks on the deck. So perfect. On Tuesday night, my boyfriend, Alex, started to feel really sick. Early the next morning, we contacted a hospital and took him in the dinghy to land and got him to a hospital. They did some tests and found out it was E. Coli!” –Kara, Emmanuel College
Tropical destinations like the Caribbean are a Mecca for stunning beaches, gorgeous people and unfortunately, food-borne illnesses. Getting sick on vacation is never fun, but when you’re in a foreign country it can become a total nightmare. Keep a few of these items with you to avoid a gastronomic catastrophe!
- Purify Your H20: Places like Mexico are notorious for having poor water quality. Some resorts claim to have filtered water, but if you’re unsure, it’s always better to buy bottled water or bring along a filtered water bottle. And if you’re ordering a drink, make sure to get it without ice!
- Stock Up On Meds: Finding medicine on vacation can be an expensive and challenging feat. Come prepared and pack a first aid kit with some basic medications. If you do get sick, it will save you from the hassle and possibly the hospital (see Amanda’s story below).
4. Feelin’ the Burn
“I wasn’t even in Florida for 24 hours before I looked like a full-fledged lobster! And my beet-red appearance wasn’t even the worst of it. The sunburn made my skin so sensitive that I couldn’t be touched without flinching in pain. Oh well, there went my hopes for any spring break hookups!”- Jenny*, Emerson College
“I went to Phuket, Thailand with my friends and got a sunburn because I did not re- apply my sunscreen enough throughout the day. I was having too much fun with my friends at the pool, bar, and the beach. It was very painful and red!” - Crystal, Emerson College
Getting a tan is at the top of every collegiette’sspring break to-do list. But the quest for the perfect tan can often result in the incredibly painful (and much less attractive) sunburn. Manhattan dermatologist Eric Schweiger, M.D. says tan skin likely represents damaged skin and doesn’t recommend tanning. But that doesn’t mean you have to skip out on enjoying the sunshine completely! Here are some ways you can get your Vitamin D fix, without getting sunburned.
- Accessorize: Nothing looks more beach-chic than a flirty cover-up paired with Jackie O shades and a wide-brimmed hat. And this look isn’t just glamorous, Dr. Schweiger says, “Sun-safe clothing and hats are excellent ways to prevent UV damage.”
- Give Yourself a Break: The sun is most powerful between 10am and 3pm. So after a couple of hours in the heat, head inside for a break. Being wary of how long you’re in the sun will reduce your chances of getting sunburned and you can always come out later for evening cocktails on the beach!
- Moisturize, Baby!: If you do get sunburned, Dr Schweiger recommends using the over-the counter topical cream, hydrocortisone 1% to reduce swelling and redness. You can also soothe your skin by taking cold showers and applying a moisturizer that contains aloe vera.
- Be Patient: While we all want to become tan the moment our feet hit the sand, our skin simply doesn’t work that way. While it might seem like you’re not getting as tan as you hoped, remember to be patient. If you let your skin burn to a crisp, you’ll most likely peel without ever getting brown, and you’ll have to stay indoors the rest of your vacation. But by reapplying sunscreen (a 30 SPF or higher every two hours), you’re much more likely to get that sun-kissed glow.
5. Intoxication Overload
“My friends and I went to Cabo San Lucas and my one friend got a little too much sun and had a little too much to drink one day/night that the next night she was sick and had to stay in bed. She missed the best night when we went on a booze cruise!” Michelle, Emerson College
“It’s five o’clock somewhere” has become the unofficial motto of Spring Break. But while drinking definitely ranks high on the list of popular activities, having a few too many can ruin your entire vacation. By drinking responsibly, you can immerse yourself in the Spring Break experience, without suffering the next morning. According to NYC-based nutritionist and author, Cynthia Sass, “most women who drink 3-5 drinks will get a hangover.” But she says that if you do get a hangover, the following foods and practices may lessen the headache, nausea and dehydration that stem from a night of heavy drinking.
- Pace Yourself: “Your liver can process about one drink an hour. One drink equals 12 oz of regular beer, 5 oz of wine or a 1.5 oz shot of liquor. Drinking no faster than that rate and drinking plenty of water with and between drinks may help prevent a hangover,” Sass says.
- Snack Attack: While we traditionally think of pancakes as classic hangover food, Sass says scrambled eggs are better. “Eggs contain two amino acids that go to work to help you feel better: taurine and cysteine. Taurine has been shown in studies to reverse liver damage caused by a night of heavy drinking and help the body flush out toxins more quickly.” She also recommends bananas or coconut water for a much-needed boost of electrolytes and potassium.
You’ve booked a hotel, bought your plane tickets, and done your safety research. Now it’s time for some well-deserved fun in the sun! By arriving prepared and staying aware, you are well on your way to creating a Spring break that’s fun, fabulous, and most importantly, disaster-free!