Photo by Federica Giusti on Unsplash
Spring Break safety may not be top-of-mind when deciding whether to catch a few rays or go road-tripping, but following a few simple Spring Break safety tips will make sure everyone has a great time.
Here’s how to ensure that your Spring Break trip is safe and fun… even during a pandemic.
COVID-19 and Spring Break
COVID-19 has wrought havoc on Spring Break 2021 in multiple ways.
Fewer Students, More Seniors
For starters, many colleges have done away with Spring Break altogether. Instead of having a vacation week mid-semester when students go away, contract the disease, and bring it back to campus, schools tacked on a week to the semester break, or have chosen to end the semester a week early.
The result? Many fewer students heading to Florida, Texas, or Cancun for Spring Break.
Who’s taking their place? Often, it’s senior citizens. The over-65 group has been a priority group for vaccinations in most states, and there’s evidence that these newly vaccinated seniors are hitting the beach in pre-pandemic numbers.
As a result, as a recent New York Times article notes, Spring Break destinations now tout enhanced amenities for RVs, a plethora of vacation rentals, or great birdwatching.
COVID Tests And Quarantines
The other area where the pandemic has made its presence felt is in testing requirements.
Most Caribbean countries are open to American tourists; however, they almost universally require proof of a recent negative COVID test as a requirement for entry.
And this is just a start; countries like Anguilla and Barbados also require a two-week quarantine for American travelers, with Dominica and others requiring quarantine until a negative test is produced.
This is in addition to forms and other paperwork certifying that you’re disease-free.
Looking for Caribbean destinations where you can hit the beach right away, as opposed to just looking at it for a couple of weeks? Try St. Kitts and Grenada. Also, Mexico is wide-open for Americans (though Los Cabos has closed its nightclubs and imposed a midnight curfew).
Domestically, it’s all about encouraging Spring Breakers to wear masks and stay socially distant – or as South Padre Island’s tourism bureau puts it, “coastally distant.”
Besides quarantines, some Caribbean countries require visitors to wear monitoring bracelets, stay in certified hotels, or fill out paperwork documenting their actions in the country for contact-tracing purposes.
Looking for the latest information on countries that are open for American travelers? Check out the frequently updated list from U.S. News, or visit the State Department’s COVID-19 travel-information page.
Spring Break Safety Tips For College Students
For those college students fortunate enough to be heading to a vacation destination, Spring Break safety (beyond COVID safety) is Travel Safety 101, meaning:
- Don’t wander off at night by yourself
- Don’t drink and swim
- Be smart about alcohol consumption
Specifically, college students should:
1. Protect your location.
Sharing too much information on social media may endanger your safety, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Don’t broadcast your location on Instagram; instead, save your photos and post them after you return.
2. Arrive and leave with friends.
There’s safety in numbers, especially during Spring Break. To that end:
- Arrive and leave with friends when going somewhere unfamiliar.
- Agree on a place to meet if you’re separated.
- Consider creating a code word or signal if you’re feeling uncomfortable.
3. Get up-to-date on your vaccines.
Visit the CDC’s travel-health site to find out if you need to be vaccinated (for anything beyond COVID, that is).
4. Take a copy of your passport.
There’s no worse feeling when you’re traveling than discovering your passport has been stolen or lost. Take a copy of your passport everywhere, and keep the original in a safe place. Also, leave a copy of your passport back home with your parents or a friend.
5. Carry copies of important phone numbers and addresses.
Make sure you:
- Have a business card or phone number of a reputable local cab firm.
- Download the app of your favorite rideshare service(s), and know beforehand if they operate where you are.
- Know the location of the nearest embassy or consulate.
- Carry the number of your travel insurer’s assistance line.
- Put the address of your lodgings in your wallet.
6. Have a little cash in the local currency.
You don’t need a lot, but $20-$50 should see you through many emergencies.
7. Avoid first-floor hotel rooms.
They’re targets for thieves. If you bring your laptop, keep it in a hotel safe, or bring your own travel safe, like the ones from Pacsafe.
8. Be smart about the ocean – and water in general.
According to the American Safety Council, 70% of deaths from recreational water activities involve alcohol, so don’t drink and swim. Also:
- Watch for rip currents and riptides.
- Swim where there’s a lifeguard.
- Follow posted warnings about dangerous marine life.
- Don’t dive headfirst into shallow areas.
9. Tan safely.
Reduce your exposure to the sun; ease into your tan. And avoid tanning beds before you leave, as they can supply too much exposure too fast.
10. Buy travel insurance.
You’ll definitely want to consider travel insurance for its medical coverage, emergency evacuation, and travel assistance.
Spring Break Safety Tips For Families
Families have a different set of imperatives for Spring Break travel safety. It may be everyone’s first taste of warm weather in months; it’s important to approach the sun, surf, and beach with a fair amount of caution.
To ensure a safe and fun Spring Break family vacation:
1. Do your research beforehand.
Make sure your destination is safe before you leave - and not just safe from a pandemic standpoint. Check resources like:
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel-health site.
- Travel.state.gov, the State Department’s safe-travel site.
- The site of the local tourism board where you’re traveling.
- Blogs dealing specifically with travel safety (like this one).
“I also pay attention to Facebook parent groups and see what locals suggest,” adds Stacey Zable, a long-time travel journalist who has written for FamilyVacationCritic.com, a subsidiary of TripAdvisor.
2. Up your awareness level.
“This applies whether you’re in a city or at a theme park,” Zable says. “It’s not easy when you have to keep track of your kids and their stuff, but don’t lose the instincts you have during everyday life just because you’re on vacation.”
3. Protect your eyes.
Don’t be absent-minded about your glasses, and don’t skimp on contact-lens care. In addition:
- Pack a spare pair of glasses and extra contact-lens supplies.
- Carry a copy of your formulary, if you’re lost without your glasses.
- Remove contacts before swimming.
- Take out your contacts before bed.
4. Practice good water safety.
Good water safety starts with everyone knowing how to swim. Parents and families should also:
- Stay within arm’s reach of young children in the water, and never leave them unattended near water.
- Swim where there’s a lifeguard – ideally more than one. As Zable says, “Some hotel pools may not have lifeguards, and even if they do they may have a lot of kids to keep their eyes on.”
- Watch for waves; Zable notes that waves can come out of nowhere and easily knock kids or adults off their feet, and rip currents can carry them away from shore.
- Avoid alcoholic beverages while swimming or boating.
- Wear life jackets while boating.
- Complete a boat-safety course.
- Check over a rental boat thoroughly before heading out.
- Know where you’re going when boating, and ask about areas to avoid.
5. Eat healthy.
Being on vacation doesn’t mean abandoning good eating habits. Eat lots of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, plus low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, and legumes, and:
- Drink lots of water; if you’re overseas, drink only water and other beverages that are bottled and sealed.
- Limit your intake of salt, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fat.
- Eat food that’s cooked and served hot.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating.
- Avoid eating in places you feel are unsanitary – and watch out for street food.
6. Be careful with the sun.
“If you’re traveling to the Caribbean and even Florida, chances are the sun is much stronger than what you’re used to,” Zable notes. “Also, water reflects, so extended pool or beach time means a stronger sun.”
To prevent sun-related issues:
- Apply SPF 15 or higher sunscreen (preferably waterproof) every 30 minutes. Zable recommends you reapply sunscreen after swimming, and use spray sunscreen and sunscreen sticks with kids.
- Put on insect repellent over sunscreen.
- Avoid direct exposure from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest.
- Keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight.
- Wear sunglasses, hats, and protective clothing, like swim shirts for kids.
- Avoid tanning salons pre-trip.
7. Talk about stranger danger.
Talk to your kids about stranger danger before you leave and when you arrive. Teach your children to never to talk to strangers, particularly at night, and to report suspicious behaviors to an adult.
8. Stop germs and viruses.
. Make sure to:
- Wash your hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer) and cover your mouth when coughing.
- Wear socks while going through TSA to avoid fungal infections.
- Use your own pillows and blankets instead of the airline's.
- Avoid airline magazines and catalogs.
- Bring your own antibacterial wipes for nasty situations.
9. Watch your valuables.
Passport and credit-card security may get lost in the shuffle of beach bags and theme-park excursions. Zable recommends that you:
- Put your passports, extra cash and secondary credit card in the hotel safe. Don’t carry them with you once you’re settled at a hotel.
- Make copies of your passports and carry them with you.
- Make another set of passport copies and leave them at home with a family member in case the originals are stolen.
Spring Break Safety Tips For Solo Travelers
She adds that your travel-safety priorities should be, in order:
1. Your person.
2. Your documents.
3. Your money.
4. Your stuff.
1. Be prepared.
“Safety is all about prevention,” Nesbitt says. “The more you can prepare, the less likely you are to find yourself in a dangerous situation.” Specifically, Nesbitt recommends that you:
- Arrive in a new destination during daylight hours.
- Take only licensed taxis or services with built-in safety features, like Uber.
- Research your destination in advance so you have an idea of the layout of the city and areas to avoid.
- Book at least your first night’s accommodation before you arrive in a new place.
- Be sure to get travel health insurance.
2. Stay healthy.
Pack extra prescription medicine and scripts. Make sure the drugs have a generic drug name. Having backup meds is especially important when traveling alone. Also, if you’re overtired or jet-lagged, you’re naturally going to be less alert – so get your rest.
3. Enroll in STEP.
Enrolling in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is one of the simplest, smartest things you can do when you travel. When you sign up for STEP, you:
- Receive information from the local embassy about safety conditions in your destination country.
- Help the embassy contact you in an emergency.
- Help family and friends get in touch with you in an emergency.
STEP is free, but you have to re-enroll with every new trip.
4. Blend in.
Among the things to keep in mind:
- Walk like a local – briskly, and with a sense of purpose.
- Research local customs and dress codes before you travel. For instance, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome will turn you away if you have bare shoulders or legs.
- Dress conservatively. Leave the flash home.
5. Be a safe hermit.
Being socially distant when traveling solo sometimes means just holing up in your room for a night. If that’s you, remember to:
- Tell the front desk you don’t want anyone to be given your room number or know that you’re at the hotel. All hotels should know this, but some staff members break the rules.
- Ask who it is if someone knocks. Don’t automatically open the door; if you aren’t expecting anyone, report the incident to the front desk.
The ultimate expression of hermiting these days is to rent a vacation home far from the madding crowds and only venturing out for the necessities.
If that sounds like paradise to you, remember to fully vet your rental. Some of the reviews that sound too good to be true probably are.
6. Go (and stay) public.
The reverse of that advice can help keep you safe as well.
“Stay in public places,” Nesbitt advises. “Don’t leave them with a person you have just met.”
7. Watch your stuff.
Keeping safe means keeping vigilant. To help do that:
- Keep your bags in sight at all times.
- Make sure your bag or purse has a long strap that can fit across your body.
- When you put down strapped gear, put it between your feet and step on the strap.
- Don’t hang a purse or bag on the back of a chair.
- Keep your backpack in front of you if you’re standing in a line.
- Buy a luggage strap to secure additional items such as a laptop bag or coat to your suitcase so you can keep your hands free.
8. Take special care of your documents.
Nesbitt recommends you:
- Make copies of all important documents and keep them in a separate place.
- Leave a copy with someone at home and save a copy in the cloud so you can access it from anywhere.
- Spread cash around multiple places; don’t carry it all in your wallet.
- Use credit cards when it makes sense.
9. Learn a few phrases in the local language.
Memorize the words “slow down,” “please,” “thank you,” and a few others in the local language.
10. Engage other people in your safety.
“If you are feeling uncomfortable, stop and ask for directions,” Nesbitt says. “A local can tell you if you are heading into an unsafe area.”
Also, if someone suddenly needs help, find someone else to help you help them. If the situation is a set-up, they’ll be less likely to pick on multiple people.
11. Always carry a map.
Walking around with a map in your hands may make you look like a lost tourist, but sometimes it’s the best way to understand where you are. Want to look less conspicuous? Use a map app like Google Maps, or a Lonely Planet guide.
12. Understand how mass transit works – and whether you want to use it.
In Cairo you won’t want to use mass transit; in Montreal it’s the only way to go. Before you leave:
- Research the safety of the mass-transit systems you’ll be using;
- Find out how to pay for it; and
- See and understand where it can take you.
To have this information literally at your fingertips, download the Transit app, or the app of the mass-transit providers where you’re visiting.
13. Be proactive – not reactive.
“Choose who to talk to – don’t let yourself be chosen,” Nesbitt says. “Listen to your instincts.”
Along those same lines, Nesbitt recommends being rude, if necessary, to get your point across. As she says, “Regardless of whether feelings get hurt or people are disturbed, if a polite ‘no’ doesn’t work, rudeness is completely acceptable to ensure your safety.”
14. Tell people where you’re going.
Leave your daily itinerary with a friend or family member at home. Leave the same information with someone where you’re staying.
15. Never be rushed into a decision.
“Con artists are successful when they can get you to make a quick decision without considering the consequences,” Nesbitt says. “Take your time.”
16. Trust your instincts.
“Use all of the same tools that you use to keep you safe at home,” Nesbitt says. “They will keep you safe wherever you go.”
Safe Spring Break Destinations
Cancun, Los Cabos, and Orlando topped the list for most searched-for Spring Break destinations in 2021, according to data from Expedia.
However, travelers named Canada, Iceland, Switzerland, and New Zealand as the safest countries in Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection’s latest traveler research. (Learn more about our safest places to travel.)
Topping our list of safest cities to travel: Tokyo, London, and Dubai ... but don’t despair. Honolulu, London, and New York made the top 10 – and sound like great Spring Break travel destinations.
Whatever destination you choose, following a few simple safety tips can help make your Spring Break trip memorable … for all the right reasons.
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