Spring Break is here or fast approaching. But before you pack your bikini and tuck your passport safely into your suit case, take a minute to think about safety. Between the daily violence in Mexico and the general safety issues that could arise by merely being away from home in a foreign country, it’s important that you take your safety seriously.
There are many safety tips we learned in elementary school—don’t trust strangers, always travel in groups—that still hold true today. So let’s brush up on those rules to ensure a safe and memorable Spring Break trip.
“I don’t think I’m in Kansas anymore!” You got it, Dorothy, you’re no longer in the good ole’ U.S. of A. You don’t know a soul, besides your friends or your Spring Break group, and everyone (the cab driver, the guy selling knock-off purses on the corner, the bartender) seems like someone you can trust. While there are many trustworthy people abroad, there are also many who prey on college Spring Breakers. And why not? Drunk, stumbling and toting expensive purses full of cash, we’re easy targets. Stay on your game, be aware of your surroundings and take precaution. This includes everything from zipping your bag when you carry it to not walking home alone.
Go out together, come home together. Yes, it’s understandable that you may want to deviate from the group because you met a cute guy, or you want to check out a cool club you discovered, but you should NEVER go places alone. Yes, you do it all the time on campus, but this is not your campus. You do not know these people and you do not know this place. If you want to go somewhere, suggest checking the place out with your group of friends; I’m sure they would think it’s just as cool. And if you’re tempted to cab it back to some random person’s hotel for a night of fun, well, don’t.
Control your drinking. You’re in the Mexico and you’re 18. Score! But just because the drinking age is lower, doesn’t mean it’s time to get crazy. It’s fine to have a couple of drinks and enjoy being able to drink legally, but try not to take the celebration too far. Intoxicated girls are easy targets, so limit your alcohol intake and be aware of who’s around you.
Mexican Drug Wars. Although this does not really pose a threat to spring breakers who stay in the resort areas, it’s still an issue that needs to be brought up. The bottom line: the Mexican Drug War is a huge problem in Mexico; so don’t travel too far from the touristy hot spots in resort towns. The further you travel inland, the more risk you bring onto yourself.
Know the Laws and Customs Abroad. Every country has it’s own laws, oftentimes ones you wouldn’t even think of. An example: in Mexico, you cannot shout offensive words in public. If you’re traveling to Mexico, watch your language—it could put you in jail. (Which, by all accounts I’ve heard, is not a pleasant place to be, nor is it easy to get out of.) To check out if there are any strange laws in your spring break destination, go to the country’s government website and look under “Laws and Customs.”
Spring Break is a time to let loose, have fun and get a little crazy. Remember, you’re not in your campus bubble so stay aware and stay in groups and you’ll have a great Spring Break.
No parental supervision and a break from midterms. What’s not to love about Spring Break? Between last-minute packing of towels and the buzz of midterms, student’s minds are everywhere but on the idea of safety.
Whether you are headed to the beach or overseas or taking part in a service trip, it’s important to keep your safety top of mind this spring break. College aged students are at the highest risk for being sexually assaulted. That’s why it’s so important that to be aware of some simple things you can do to reduce the risk and prevent you or a friend from being the victim of sexual assault.
“While there is no surefire way to prevent a perpetrator from committing an act of sexual violence, there are some simple steps students can take to make sure their spring break is both fun and safe,” said Katherine Hull, spokesperson for RAINN. “It’s important for students to be aware of possible risks, and know how and where to get help if they need it.”
1. Trust your instincts. If you feel unsafe in any situation, go with your gut. If you feel uncomfortable or something doesn’t feel right, leave and get to a safe place immediately. If someone is pressuring you, it’s better to lie and make up a reason to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable, scared, or worse.
2. Be wary of the “You Only Live Once” mentality. Being spontaneous and adventurous goes hand-in-hand with spring break. However, being too carefree can lead to dangerous situations. Don’t leave your normal logic at home just because you’re in a foreign place.
3. Don’t let your guard down. A spring break destination can create a false sense of security among vacationers. Don’t assume that fellow spring breakers will look out for your best interests; remember they are essentially strangers.
4. Protect your location on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare etc. Think twice before sharing every detail of your spring break on social media. Before leaving for your trip, review your security settings to ensure that information you post to social media is as private as possible. However, even with strict security settings, be aware that posting information about your whereabouts or activities can still reveal details that are accessible to the public. Use your best judgment when “checking-in” on Facebook or Foursquare and geo-tagging images you post to Instagram. Be cautious of revealing personal information through status updates or tweets with Twitter trends like #SpringBreak and #SB2013.
5. Get local. Know your accommodation address and the safest routes to and from your local destinations. Before leaving a hotel, ask the concierge for a business card with the hotel address or write the address down if you are staying at a rental property to ensure you have the correct address. Have the number for local cab companies on hand too and always keep enough cash on you to take a taxi home. Know who to contact in the event of an emergency, such as 911 or local authorities. If traveling internationally, have the contact information for the U.S. Embassy with you.
6. Be a good friend—stick together & have a plan. Check out your surroundings before you go out and learn a well-lit route back to your hotel or rental property. Avoid putting music headphones in both ears so that you can be aware of what’s going on around you, especially if you are walking alone. Be alert and aware at all times.
7. Use your cell phone as a tool. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, shoot a quick text for a “friend-assist.” Make a back-up plan before you go out just in case your phone dies. If you are traveling internationally, buy a pay-as-you-go phone or contact your cell phone provider to activate international coverage during your trip.
8. Drink responsibly and know your limits. Establish a meeting spot in the event your friends get separated. Before you go out, identify a safe way to return to your hotel or rental property.
In the event of a sexual assault during spring break, seek immediate medical attention. In the U.S., call 911 for emergency help or the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE) for advice and support. If you are traveling internationally contact theState Department or the American Embassy in country, to be connected with special services for American victims of crime abroad. You can also register your international trip with the U.S. State Department, to be notified of safety status changes.
Regardless of when the sexual assault occurred, it’s never too late to get help. If you or someone you know has been affected by sexual violence, talk to someone who understands what you’re going through. Help is just a call or click away via RAINN’s National Sexual Assault Hotlines: 1-800.656.HOPE and online.rainn.org