Spring Break not Spring Broken
By Jeanne Webster CPC
Back in the days when I was in college, the destination for people over eighteen and in college was Florida. The sunny warm beaches and the promise of meeting thousands of other kids your age was quite the draw. It still is in many cases. Ft. Lauderdale, Cocoa Beach, Daytona Beach and even Disney World brace themselves at this time of year for the onslaught of Bikini clad, barefoot young people. But increasingly more and more students are headed to destinations outside of the U.S.
Destinations like the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Aruba, Cozumel and Cancun seem to be the new hot spots. Great travel rates and spring package deals are drawing throngs of college kids to tropical paradises outside the U.S. borders.
If you are licking your chops for spring break to arrive then here are a few tips for you to make sure this spring break is a lovely memory and not a horrible nightmare.
1. Remember you are in another country. The rules, regulations and laws of a city or island outside the U.S. are different. Getting into trouble with the local authorities becomes a whole different ball game outside the United States.
2. If you are traveling beyond the borders, remember to have up to date passports and identity papers (drivers license, birth certificate etc.).
3. Make copies of all of these documents and leave them with your parents, U.S. passports and identity papers are very highly sought after by thieves. If your papers are stolen, have your parents fax the copies to you. Getting them replaced in a foreign country is time consuming and almost impossible.
4. U.S. Immigration requires you to show documents both of U.S. Citizenship and identity before you reenter the U.S. Just saying you were born in the United States will not be enough. (Some countries charge you a departure tax, it may cost between $25.00 and $50.00 so make financial arrangements that include that fee.)
5. It is a good idea to check with your health care insurance company to make sure you are covered outside the country. Some do and some don't.
6. Do not leave your luggage alone in airports or on docks and do not ever accept packages from strangers. They may tell you that their sweet old Uncle will meet you at the airport, but more than likely it will be the drug enforcement officers. Again, being jailed in another country is a long, long, scary process.
7. The drinking age in most of the vacation paradise locations is 18. Being drunk is being vulnerable. Remember you are not at home.
8. Never go anywhere alone, especially at night. Two girls alone can be just as bad. Always travel in groups. If one person in your group is out of control, make sure someone sober will watch over them.
9. It's a good idea not to accept dates with the locals. Don't go off alone with anyone you don't know. Yes, there is human trafficking and a sex slave trade that is alive and healthy. Keep your wits about you.
10. Don't carry huge amounts of cash, use a replaceable vacation money like travelers checks.
11. It's a good idea to know where the American Consulate is located and the phone number. This will just take a minute and the information is usually available from the hotel's concierge service.
12. If you are on a cruise, be prompt in returning from day trips. Remember the captain is not your mother. You're on your own.
It will only take an hour or less to put these suggestions into action and may save you hours of worry or heartache. Most of the time spring breakers will go and return with lots of pictures, a ton of great memories and a great tan, but lately we have heard enough horror stories on the news to warrant a little before-hand preparation.
If you are planning on Florida consider this, it may be a long walk to the beach from some U.S. cites. You may not be familiar with the ocean. Here are a couple of quick suggestions you may want to keep in mind.
1. Consider tanning on the sand and swimming in your hotel's pool. Rip tides occur all the time and can drag an unsuspecting swimmer out to sea. The trick here is not to fight it by trying to swim back to shore. Don't try it, it will exhaust you and you won't make any headway. Swim across the rip until it "lets you go". By then the lifeguard will have seen you are in trouble and be on his way to aid you.
2. I almost hate to say this, but while we are stressing safety, its bears repeating. Shark attacks on the coasts have increased. The warmer water allows them to swim closer to shore. Life guards monitor the surface for signs of sharks, but even they get caught off guard. Swim where you can see whats swimming beneath you.
Spring break may be the first time you have traveled on your own. It won't be the last time if you use your good judgment and keep your head. Remember this is spring break, not spring broken. Have fun and remember to pack your sun screen!
Jeanne Webster is a certified professional life coach, columnist, speaker and author of the national award winning book, "If You Could Be Anything, What Would You Be?" For more information on Jeanne or the Be Anythhing Program visit http://www.youcouldbeanything.com
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Views expressed in the article are those of the author and are not necessarily the opinions of CaribbeanChoice, its staff or members.