Tired of trekking to class in the snow? Hate that the sun sets at 4:30 p.m.? Exhausted as you gear up for midterms? Hang in there because the end is in sight! Spring break is almost here.
Once you’ve picked a destination, recruited your friends, and booked your hostel or AirBnB, it’s time to attend to the finer details. Spring break should never be stressful—especially when you’re traveling to get away from it all—so ease any tension long before takeoff.
Preparing for Vacation
In your downtime between classes and tests, don’t get lost in your daydreams. Sure, it’s fun to visualize yourself rocking gently in a hammock, fresh coconut juice in hand, but it’s not very productive. Save it for the beach.
In the weeks leading up to your break, you should be busy, if not with schoolwork, then certainly with trip planning.
- Ask about your ID. You need a photo ID, no matter where you’re going. If you’re leaving the country, you must have a passport and you may need a visa. Check the expiration date on both, just in case you need to renew one. Before you leave, make photocopies of everything (itinerary, license, passport, etc.). Pack one copy and leave a spare at home with family or friends.
- Verify your vaccinations. If you have an international destination in mind, you might need an immunization against a prevalent disease. Check the CDC’s recommendations for your destination.
- Watch the weather. No one wants to be caught in monsoon season without a raincoat. What are the average temperatures in your destination during your week of travel? Is there likely to be any severe weather? Before you throw things into your suitcase haphazardly, create a checklist that includes items for the anticipated weather (e.g., umbrella, close-toed shoes, hats, etc.).
- Pick your packing style. Some people can pack in an hour and be happy, even if they wind up with a pair of unmatched shoes. If you know you’re not that person, give yourself plenty of time to prepare. Start putting necessities in your suitcase days ahead of time.
- Research restaurants. Cheap food is good food only if it is prepared safely. Food poisoning can easily ruin an otherwise perfect Cancun getaway. Read restaurant reviews ahead of time, and toss a pack of Tums into your carry-on, just in case.
- Calculate your cash. Get ready to shell out money for transportation, food, hotels, and fun. Limit any unplanned spending so that you don’t see tumbleweeds rolling across the ATM screen when you come home and check your balance.
- Gear up for good times. The perfect spring break trip with friends is cost-effective and fun. To find deals on excursions and meals, sign up for Groupon or LivingSocial.
Catching those buses, taxis, trains, planes, ferries, and cars is typically the most stressful part of going on vacation. Start your trip off on the right flip-flop.
- Arrive ASAP. Check in as soon as you can to drop off your stuff and get your bearings. Prepare two copies of your lodging confirmation (one hard copy and one on your phone).
- Learn the lingo. At the very least, you should be able to say hello, thank you, yes, no, and excuse me in your destination’s local language. Download Google Translate to use text translation (e.g., street signs) in 26 languages and automatic speech interpretation in 40 languages.
- Share your schedule. Your family at home should have a copy of your itinerary in case of emergency. Talk about your plans with the friends who are traveling with you as well. If you all have smartphones, download Find My Friends to avoid losing each other. All travelers should know the plan ahead of time, especially if your group is meeting up somewhere and one of you has a dead battery.
- Tackle transportation. Have a map ready and an idea of how much it will cost to get from point A to point B. Taxis in vacation areas are known for taking advantage of ill-informed tourists. Educate yourself on the taxi system or Uber network if you are traveling to a new place like Costa Rica or Miami.
Tourists make easy targets for crime. Take simple precautions to keep out of harm’s way.
- Travel together. Vacationing with good friends is fun and convenient. When you know what the other enjoys, it’s easy to decide on activities. The closer your bond is, the more your friends will look out for your safety.
- Stash your stuff. Keep precious belongings like your passport, cash, and camera in safe places. If there is no lockable safe in your hostel, bring a pillowcase, preferably one that zips closed to hold your wallet, passport, and phone. Rest assured (literally) that no one is tampering with your valuables.
- Learn the laws. Keep out of trouble by following your destination’s laws, even the silly ones.
- Drop the drugs. Don’t travel with illegal substances ever. The repercussions can include heavy fines and jail time in the country where the charges were pressed.
- Rage responsibly. If you’re going to drink, do so wisely. Stay hydrated so that you don’t get sick. Don’t accept drinks from strangers or drink anything that was left unattended. Take note of the drinking age in your destination.
Taking Extra Precautions
If you aren’t prepared, the little things—sunburns, bug bites, and smelly clothes—can cause big issues.
- Hamper the humidity. If you’re going somewhere humid, pack clothes in sealable plastic bags, which you can buy at Marshalls or Bed Bath & Beyond. Humidity breeds mold, which would love to grow on your belongings if given the chance. If you don’t want to wheel around a moldy suitcase, wipe it down with white vinegar. You can carry bottles no bigger than three ounces on planes.
- Bring bug spray. There aren’t many feelings worse than when a dozen mosquito bites beg to be scratched. Prevent the discomfort with a squirt of bug spray.
- Slather on the sunscreen. Getting five or more sunburns while young will increase your chances of getting skin cancer by 80%. It’s much better for your skin to be pasty and healthy than tan and damaged.
- Keep up with class. Try to finish your readings and essays before you leave so that your trip really is all about that relaxation.
- Inspect your inbox. It’s possible that a professor will spring a surprise assignment on you or revise the syllabus over spring break. Check your email regularly so that your transition back to reality after spring break is an easy one. You should also respond to emails from your parents and friends. Write or text every couple of days so that everyone knows you’re safe.
Above all, have a great spring break! Whether you spend it in the mountains, on the beach, or at your parents’ place, enjoy yourself.