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Chapter 11.   Spring Break... a good time was had by all - maybe

So spring break is coming up – endless hangovers, unwanted calories, spending money, and so many other risks. Actually, I guess spring break is a very dangerous ritual.

Karen P., University of Massachusetts junior


The bars don’t care who’s drinking as long as they’re making money. My freshman year I got into every Florida bar and I didn’t even have a fake ID. At one of the bars the bouncer told my girlfriend that if she lifted her blouse for him, he’d let her in.

Jessica F., Massachusetts Institute of Technology senior


It’s a damn good excuse to drink and party for ten days straight and not feel guilty about it (not that guilty  anyway).



I’ve been to Italy, Greece, and England in the past three years. I’ve traveled and seen more and spent less than my friends who have gone to Florida to get drunk! Why don’t they just stay home  and buy a sunlamp and a keg?

Allison F., Keene State College junior

Responding to clear and persistent public criticism leveled at spring break excesses and at the beer industry’s role in students’ annual excursions south, breweries have pulled back from sponsoring spring break activities. Missing in 1992 were Miller’s How to Scam Babes and Starting Spring Training Early.57 Nonetheless, there was little reduction in alcohol consumption during spring break 1992. Legal-age drinkers reported consuming an average of ten beers per night during spring break.58 It is now the twenty-first century and  this dangerous ritual continues and is perpetuated by high-profile media coverage.


Spring break is a college ritual long associated with excessive alcohol or other drug use. But at what cost? Researchers found that the daily consumption of five to nine drinks per day (at a rate that kept the BAL lower than .08) for just eight days by non-alcoholic subjects resulted in some signs of liver damage.59 How much damage is taking place in Florida, the Caribbean, and Mexico during spring break? If you choose to consume alcohol during spring break, remember, the possible injuries, trauma or sexually transmitted infections that could occur will follow you home no matter how far away you traveled.


When traveling to some exotic foreign land, high-risk alcohol consumption, illegal drug use and/or rowdy behavior can have some devastating results. When traveling abroad, be aware that a drug that may be legal in one country could be illegal in another. Behavior that may be legal in the United States could be illegal in another country. Being an American does not excuse any illegal or disruptive behavior in a foreign land. As a matter of fact, in some countries you could become a target for the local police officials because you are an American. Being arrested in a foreign land can be a scary, dangerous experience. You can avoid turning your wonderful spring break into a horrible memory by avoiding high-risk drinking or other drug use, avoiding rowdy behavior and familiarizing yourself with the laws and customs of the country you are visiting before you leave on your trip.


Many colleges and universities are now offering Alternative Spring Break programs such as working in a third-world country, building a house for a needy family, or participating in an archaeological dig. More specifically, here are examples of some campus Alternative Spring Break programs: In 2015  while on campus, students from UMass Amherst learned about the history and contemporary issues of Guatemala, and then visited Guatemala during Spring Break providing them with a unique opportunity to put their academic study directly into practice. In 2012 eight Penn State Law students traveled to New Orleans and spent their spring break volunteering with AIDSLaw of Louisiana, a nonprofit agency which provides legal services to low-income individuals living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Students from Jacksonville University worked with the homeless in a number of Florida communities in 1999. Also in that same year, Keene State College conducted three Habitat for Humanity programs around the United States and Wilkes University students worked with children in Tijuana, Mexico. Annually thousands of students participate in Alternative Spring Break programs.  Speak to your campus community service coordinator about what is available through your institution.


If your campus does not conduct an Alternative Spring Break program, contact Break Away or any of the other opportunities listed in the Resources section of this book. These organizations provide information regarding program planning and volunteer placement with both national and international community organizations. If you’re more inclined, try a recreational break that includes white-water rafting, mountain climbing or bicycle touring.

Road Trip

Auto Preparation

If you don’t know where you are going you will end up someplace else. Yogi Berra

- Complete inspection of the car including a change of oil, tune-up, fluid check etc. can help avoid breakdowns and inflated repair costs.

- Be sure your registration and insurance are up to date and the paperwork is available.

- Plan your route ahead of time.  Keep a map handy just in case the GPS is not working. 

- Keep an emergency gas fund for the trip home.

- Notify someone at home of your travel plans,



In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. Dwight D. Eisenhower


Driving while tired and sleepy can be just as, and sometimes even more dangerous than driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs.

  • Take turns driving every three or four hours.

  • Activity breaks can help the driver stay alert.

  • If necessary, stop at a rest stop (lock doors and windows). 

  • Chip in for a motel. It would be cheaper than the cost of a potential accident.

  • If possible, use an audio GPS.

  • Stay on well-traveled roads where it is easier to get assistance if needed.

  • It’s nice to be nice, but these days call for vigilance when it comes to hitchhikers. 

  • Many states have open container laws that prohibit anyone in a car from drinking alcohol. If you are transporting alcohol, be sure it is in the trunk.


Hotel Safety


No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until s/he comes home and rests her/his head on an old, familiar pillow.

Lin Yutang

  • Book a hotel that is located near the beach, downtown and/or other areas where you plan to spend most of your time. You'll be less likely to get lost or involved in a car crash.

  • Reserve a room that’s above the first floor and below the sixth floor. First floor rooms are easier to break into, and rooms above the fifth floor can sometimes be too high for fire ladders to reach. 

  • Be sure the dead bolt and other locks are in good working order. Keep doors, including patio doors, locked.

  • Use the hotel safe for valuables.  Don’t let anyone into your room unless you can trust them. If someone states they work for the hotel, call the front desk and confirm this before allowing them entry.

  • Make a mental note of the nearest fire exits and stairwells in case you need to evacuate.

  • If you are flying, call the hotel or your tour operator beforehand and ask if they have a free shuttle or if they can recommend a taxi service.  Get phone numbers.

  • Use recommended shuttle services or buses to get around town. Avoid unlicensed taxi cabs by asking your hotel, restaurant or club to summon a ride for you.

Money, Money, Money


If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears. Cesare Pavese

What may seem like a quick and easy errand can easily take a turn to danger... a trip to the ATM. 

  • Go in groups.

  • Go during daylight hours. 

  • Do a full 360 degree scan, looking completely around to see if anyone suspicious is hanging out. 

  •  When punching in your pin number, use your other hand to cover the keypad. 

Carry a limited amount of cash as well as a single credit card. 

  • Never flash cash at the ATM or in public places. 

  • When out shopping, especially from street vendors and using cash, have your money separated in your wallet, purse and pockets.

  • Prior to departure from home, inform your credit card company that you'll be traveling to avoid any holds on your account due to suspicious activity.

  • Traveler's checks are your best bet when on vacation. 

  • Put extra cash in the hotel safe.


Avoid being an attractive target for thieves by leaving expensive or expensive-looking jewelry at home.- Leave unnecessary items such as iPads, DVD players, etc. at home or in the hotel safe.

Party Time


Our deeds still travel with us from afar, and what we have been makes us what we are. George Eliot

By this time in your high school and college life, you have received a fair amount of alcohol education.  Spring Break is a particularly important time to put that education to use.  If you are planning on drinking alcohol, here are some important reminders.

  • Know the drinking laws at your travel destination. Ask a travel agent or tour group leader for this information. Some areas will ticket for open intoxicants, while others may have stiff penalties for public inebriation.

  • Avoid going out, traveling and/or clubbing alone.Plan ahead on how much you will drink, set a limit for yourself and follow-through with that plan. 

  • Pace yourself (drink no more than one drink per hour and alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic drinks).  Avoid drinks with high alcohol content, like shots. 

  • Eat a real meal before drinking and snack throughout the time you are drinking.

  • Talk to a friend about when that friend might need to intervene and help you return to your hotel.

  • Have a “Designated Friend” in your group. Final decisions about hanging out or leaving a club should be made by that friend.  Alternate the assignment of “Designated Friend.”

  • Know the signs of alcohol poisoning and act accordingly.  If a member of your group is cold, clammy and/or unresponsive, turn them on their side to prevent choking and call emergency services immediately. Remember, if you are outside the United States, 911 is not necessarily the emergency number to call.

  • Only accept drinks from a licensed bartender.  Watch your drink being made.  Do not accept a drink from anyone else, and keep your drink in hand. If your drink is out of sight for even a moment, throw it out and get a new one. Keep your hand over your cup or your thumb over the top of your bottle. 

  • If a drink is spiked with a drug like GHB or Rohypnol ('roofies'), the drinker usually exhibits symptoms like extreme wooziness, confusion, slurring speech and difficulty standing, even if not much alcohol has been consumed.  Get help if you are experiencing, or someone you are with is exhibiting, a disproportionate response to the amount of alcohol consumed.

  • Caution: Excessive drinking can lead to violence and sexual assault.

  • Alcohol can dilate blood vessels and lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. As a result, the effects of alcohol are felt sooner and stronger if drinking in a hot tub. This can lead to unconsciousness and drowning.

  • Avoid horseplay and reckless activities. One of the leading causes of death for college students is falling. (balconies, roofs, windows, stairs, etc.)

  • And of course, DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE! Besides the risks for injuries or death, the penalties for drinking and driving in foreign countries tend to be much harsher than in the United States.


CAUTION: Don't take chances with illegal drugs. Possession of illegal drugs can result in serious trouble, both at home and overseas.




Travel brings power and love back into your life. Rumi

Despite what is projected in the movies and on television, the reality is that most students are not jumping from one bed to another during Spring Break. However, here are some important reminders if you choose to engage in sexual activity.

  • Before even going on Spring Break decide what you’re willing to do. 

  • Safe sex, safe sex, safe sex!

  • To avoid any compromising situations, stock up on protection before leaving home.

  • Always use a condom and/or dental dam. Carry them with you and refuse to have any kind of sexual relations with your potential partner if they don’t agree to use them.

  • Do not let anyone talk you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with. This can become more difficult when intoxicated.

  • 70% of college students who had engaged in sexual activity during Spring Break reported engaging in sexual activity they wouldn’t have normally because they were drinking.

  • Meeting new people is one of the best parts of Spring Break. However, that doesn't mean you should leave your group of friends to spend time with people you don't know.  Stick with your group.  If you leave your group, bring along someone you know and trust.  Look out for each other. 

  • As previously indicated, be on the lookout for signs of predatory drugs: extreme wooziness, confusion, difficulty standing and slurring speech. If you notice these symptoms in yourself, find your friends and leave the premises immediately. If you see these signs in a friend, take them to the hotel, or to a hospital if symptoms are severe.


Remember, just because you’re on Spring Break, doesn’t mean you must engage in sexual activity!

Fun in the Sun:


Now more than ever do I realize that I will never be content with a sedentary life, that I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere. Isabelle Eberhardt


The snow, just like water, increases the reflection of the sun and makes it easier to suffer some debilitating effects including sunburn and dehydration.  Whether on the beach or the snow, these tips can help.

  • Stay hydrated.

  • If you start feeling faint or light headed, get shade and water immediately. 

  • Wear sunscreen with a “sun protection factor” (SFP) of at least 15 (higher if you burn easily).

  • If necessary, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about your medication. Some medications, especially antibiotics, increase the possibility of sun damage and rashes.

  • Reapply sunscreen after swimming, sweating, and as instructed on the bottle.

  • Wear sunscreen even if it is cloudy and definitely if you are doing any activity in the snow (skiing, snowboarding, etc.).

  • Pay extra special attention to ears, nose, face and shoulders. 

  • Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the sun’s rays and remember you can burn even when it’s cloudy.

  • Wear sunglasses, protective clothing and a hat. 

  • Drinking alcoholic beverages while lounging in the sun or while in a hot tub can intensify the effects of alcohol on the body and increase your level of impairment more quickly.





If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.

James Michener

  • All travelers must show proof of identity and a passport when returning to the United States from around the world including Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and other Caribbean countries.  The US State Department website is an excellent source of information for proper documentation.

  • A passport or a raised-seal birth certificate will get you in and out of most countries.

  • Check with the US consulate of the country you are visiting for further information regarding documentation (passports, visas, driver’s license, etc.).

  • Bring all necessary forms of identification with you on your trip.

  • Pack an extra set of passport photos along with a photocopy of your passport information page to make replacement easier in case the passport is lost or stolen. 

  • Provide your parents and/or a close friend with copies of all of your important documents (passport, visa, driver’s license, plane tickets, etc.).

  • Keep handy all the information about the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate and a phone number for your tour operator, school travel office or travel agent.

  • Sign up online for the US Department of State's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). The STEP program enables the State Department to contact you in case of a family emergency, or to notify you of a crisis near your travel destination. You can also download a Smart Traveler iPhone App that provides additional tips and information.

  • Get information about possible scams. Find out if there any are particular areas that should be avoided as well as any crimes and scams common to that country.  

  • Be sure you understand the safety concerns, law enforcement, entry/exit requirements, food/water safety issues, etc. Check with the US Department of State for Consular Information Sheets that provide extensive details about travel in other countries. Travel warnings can also be found on the U.S. Dept of State website. 

  • Check with your doctor regarding any special medical needs you may have. 

  • Travel to many countries requires special vaccinations or medications to prevent diseases common in those countries. The CDC provides comprehensive health and vaccination information by country of destination.

  • Make sure your parents and/or a close friend know your departure and arrival times, where you are staying, and the phones numbers of where to reach you. Set regular check-in times and always follow-through with them.

  • In foreign nations, the phone number for emergency response is not 911. A State Department website called Students Abroad provides a list of emergency numbers along with detailed tips for health emergencies, evacuations, natural disasters, crime victims and assistance to U.S. citizens arrested abroad.

Using a Travel Agency and/or Tour Group


The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page. Saint Augustine


  • Travel with a reputable tour group or travel agency. Call your State Consumer Protection Division regarding any complaints against the agency or tour group.

  • Be sure you are clear about the kind of transportation, housing, food and beverages that are included in your travel package. Know exactly what you are paying for.

  • Understand the terms and conditions for refunds.

  • Research local side trip companies, and car/recreational equipment companies that you might use at your destination. Check with a travel agent or tour group operator to receive recommendations on legitimate, safe options.



Provides information about AmeriCorps programs. AmeriCorps participants teach children to read, help make neighborhoods safer, build affordable homes, and respond to natural disasters. Most AmeriCorps members serve with projects like Habitat for Humanity, the American Red Cross, and Boys and Girls Clubs, and many more local and national organizations. Information on how to get involved is available.


Break Away

Provides information about Alternative Spring Break programs. Alternative breaks are designed to give students an alternate choice for their school breaks rather than going to a resort or staying at home. Opportunities include travel and house-building activities as well as environmental clean-up trips, all with the purpose of helping other communities and habitats. Break Away is designed to promote social awareness through service on local, regional, national and international levels.


Global Volunteers

Provides information regarding Global Volunteers, a private non-profit development organization with the goal of helping to establish a foundation for peace through mutual international understanding. Global Volunteers sends teams of volunteers to live and work with local people on human and economic development projects. Volunteers gain a genuine, first-hand understanding of how other people live day to day.


Habitat for Humanity (Campus Chapters)

Supports students who wish to take an alternative trip during school breaks through Habitat for Humanity. The trips consist of house building for those less fortunate and environmental trips for the restoration of different habitats. Members make a difference for many families and individuals that would otherwise not have the opportunities they are given through this program.


Peace Corps

Provides information about the Peace Corps, which works to bring clean water to communities, teach children, help start new small businesses, and stop the spread of AIDS. The volunteers work to develop different countries while getting a better understanding of other cultures and giving those cultures a better understanding of Americans. This site provides the information needed for prospective volunteers as well.

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