High school and college spring break trips provide a necessary respite from the stress of college admissions, midterms, standardized test prep, and homework. It’s important to let go, but not to forgo safety practices. Make sure the memories you make are ones that you look back on fondly and not with regret. Follow these 10 safety tips and trust your gut to help you stay out of harm’s way.
- Swim safely. If you are planning on venturing out into the ocean, you should feel confident in your abilities to swim strongly without the assistance of an inflatable device (tube, noodle, etc.). Remember the buddy system from elementary school? It’s time to bring it back. Designate someone to stay on the beach while you and a friend (or multiple friends) take a dip. Even the most confident swimmers can fall prey to a rip current. Your friends can help you identify the choppy, off-colored water flowing outward from the beach that signifies a rip current and warn you to stay clear. At times, you and your friends will not be able to see a rip current before it strikes. If you do get caught in one, try to relax and swim parallel to the shore until you are free. Draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help if you are struggling. Your friend on the beach can alert a lifeguard, call 911, throw you a floatation device, and yell instructions to get you to safety. Remember, rip currents often occur near piers and jetties. The American Red Cross recommends that you stay 100 feet away from these structures to decrease your risk. For more beach safety tips, check out this blog article.
- Protect your skin. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In 2013, 9,394 people in the U.S. died from melanomas of the skin. You may want to build a tan over the break, but do so with sunscreen that has at least a 15 SPF. Make sure it is not expired, and reapply according to the directions on the bottle. Have a friend (or someone who is more than a friend) help you with your back to make sure everything is covered. Don’t forget your lips and the tops of your ears and feet! Ideally, take a break from the sun by sitting under an umbrella or shady tree from time to time. Furthermore, if you plan to travel to an area with a history of the Zika Virus, it is paramount that you wear bug repellent and practice safe sex to prevent the spread of disease.
- Hydrate. Whether you are on the beach, partying at a friend’s, or skiing in the mountains, hydration should be one of your top concerns during spring break. Always have a glass or bottle of water at hand and make sure you know the signs of dehydration according to the Mayo Clinic: extreme thirst, less frequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. Doesn’t sound fun, does it? Download an app, like Water Alert, to keep track of your water intake.
- Drink smart. Plan on imbibing alcohol over the break? Make sure your fun doesn’t take a turn for the worse by understanding how to help yourself and your friends drink responsibly. Check out Student Caffé’s “Drinking Smart” article to learn about the underage drinking, DUI, and Good Samaritan laws in the state you are visiting.
- Require consent. It doesn’t matter if you have hooked up with someone before. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting a “vibe” from somebody else. Right before you make a move, you must ask your partner if he/she is comfortable with your intentions (and vice versa). Your partner must consent verbally and enthusiastically before it is okay to proceed. If it’s the other way around, say no if it doesn’t feel right. Say yes only if it does. Ask and listen with ultimate respect. For more answers about consent, read this article.
- Don’t publicize your location. If you check into a hotel, don’t announce your room number in the lobby or in the halls. Make smart social media decisions by not tagging your location or giving out information that could help people track your whereabouts. You don’t want unwanted followers where you are vacationing, and you don’t want robbers to target your car, house, or dorm because you are out of town. You, your family, and the friends you are with should be the only people in the know.
- Check in. Communication is key to making sure everyone is on the same page in your party, everyone is where they should be, and everyone is having a good time. Decide on a code word that you and your friends can use when you need someone to intervene in an uncomfortable situation. Tell someone where you are going (even if it is just to the bathroom), and take a friend with you whenever possible. Check in with family to let them know that you are safe and to tell them if you are planning any big excursions.
- Practice taxi safety. It’s always better to call a cab than to hail one. When the taxi, Uber, or Lyft driver arrives, check their credentials. Taxi drivers should have them displayed, and you can verify that a Uber or Lyft driver’s photo and car matches what you see on the app. Don’t ride alone if at all possible. Follow along with a map on your phone to make sure you are headed in the right direction. If, at any moment, you do not feel safe, wait until the car comes to a stop, leave money on the seat, and get out of the vehicle.
- Drive prepared. Before taking a road trip, make sure that everyone in the car has a valid driver’s license or ID. Check that your registration is up-to-date and that you have a copy of your car insurance in your glove box. Consider purchasing a AAA membership if you don’t have one already. Their partners will provide roadside assistance if you are stranded and need help. Always have an atlas in the car to reference. It’s likely that you will have limited or no cell phone reception in some areas along your route and you will not be able to check Google Maps. Every two hours, switch who is driving so that no one gets overly fatigued. While people nap in the backseat, the passenger riding shotgun should stay awake with the driver to help keep them alert. Stop to get gas before the tank drops below halfway. Depending on where you are, there may not be a gas station for hours.
- Have backups. Write out the phone numbers of your friends, a trusted cab company, and the place you are staying on a small piece of paper. Carry it along with your cash somewhere where it cannot easily be seen, preferably somewhere on your person. Both will come in handy if your phone or wallet are lost or stolen. Additionally, make copies of your health insurance card, passport, and ID and place them in the safe at your hotel or bring a small safe with you in the car if you are driving to your destination.
Spring break can be one of the best times of your life if you make a conscious effort to stay safe. By all means, party with your friends and relax, but use these ten tips to make smart choices along the way. For more advice on how to enjoy a stress-free spring break, check out this blog post.