Health, travel officials offer advice to avoid spring break pitfalls

Boynton Health Service and STA Travel shared good advice for spring break travelers.

Kevin Behr

Spring break is generally considered a time for college students to let loose and party.

But it is also a good way to rack up criminal charges in foreign lands or get hurt in a fall from a balcony in Mexico.

According to a warning issued by the U.S. Department of State, more than 2,500 Americans are arrested abroad each year. For students, underage drinking, drunk driving and public intoxication are frequent charges.

To avoid trouble, the warning advises students to moderate their drinking and familiarize themselves with the customs and laws of the countries they visit.

Brad La Nasa, senior travel adviser at STA Travel, said the common sense rule is a good one to follow, especially with drugs. Not only can they affect judgment and safety, but it could lead to time in prison, he said. Drugs illegal in the United States are just as illegal in spring break destinations.

“When on vacation, a lot of people believe, ‘I’m on vacation. Nothing can happen to me here,'” he said. “That’s not true. You want to have a good time, but you want to be aware and you want to be smart Ö even if your judgment is impaired at times.”

The most important thing for students to remember is to have a passport if traveling abroad for spring break. Without a passport, airport personnel will turn people away before leaving the country because they know everyone needs a passport to return, La Nasa said.

Because of this, he said he doesn’t expect many people will be stranded in foreign countries. He said STA told all students who booked travel plans through the agency about the requirement.

Tips for a safe break

Dave Dorman, a health educator at Boynton Health Service, gave safety tips about sex, alcohol and late-night driving.

The best way to remain sexually healthy is to simply abstain from sex, and more students are going that route, Dorman said. A recent survey conducted by Boynton found that 30 percent of students were sexually inactive in the past year, he said.

But if students do choose to have sex, he said they should use a condom and really know their partner before engaging in sexual activity.

“On spring break, probably there are some temptations to have hookups with people you just met,” Dorman said. “It’s probably something to think about.”

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For travel tips and information, go to: travel.state.gov

Even with condom use, pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections are possible, he said. Boynton offers free STI screenings and pregnancy tests for students who might have put themselves at risk for either.

Alcohol is another major issue for students on spring break.

Dorman advised students to set up a buddy system to make sure no one slips date rape drugs into friends’ drinks while they go to the bathroom or turn around for a minute.

La Nasa advised students to always travel with companions as a safety precaution, even when just walking down the street.

Emily Ray, an advertising senior who will go to South Padre Island, Texas for break with 19 of her friends, said no one will be traveling alone. There will always be at least three or more people together because it’s going to be really busy, she said.

Dorman cautioned against hazardous and high-risk drinking. Hazardous drinking refers to consuming a lot of alcohol over a long period of time, he said. When a beach in Mexico advertises 50 hours of free alcohol in one week, it’s considered hazardous drinking.

High-risk drinking refers to having five or more drinks in one sitting, Dorman said.

Both are dangerous, and that’s when deaths occur and people end up in detox and emergency rooms, he said.

“When it comes to alcohol, there are a lot of problems,” Dorman said. “People do stuff they normally wouldn’t do.”

He also offered warnings about taking long road trips.

“Make sure whoever’s driving had sleep recently,” he said. “Three o’clock in the morning is kind of a tough time on those road trips.”

He said if someone doesn’t feel comfortable behind the wheel late at night, pull over and avoid an accident.

He also warned against taking in too much caffeine. He said it’s just no match for a good night’s sleep.