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How Are You Going To Spend Your Spring Break?

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I know, it seems like an eternity until spring break. Spring will be here before you know it and you don’t want to be left without plans for break. In the United States, spring break may range from the end of February to late April. Most schools are out for one of the weeks in March.

You’ve probably already seen the promotions on campus that are loaded with ads for cheap or free alcohol on spring break. An American Medical Association study indicates that college women and graduates agree something must be done to fix this advertising. 59% support restricting the content of spring break flyers and ads on campus. 61% support prohibiting drinking or alcohol specials as part of any tour package. Approximately 71% support increased regulation of the tour agencies and 81% support the idea of requiring colleges to offer alternative spring breaks that do not include alcohol. For tour promoters, the selling of all-you-can-drink spring break tours begins on campus. Tour companies place ads in student newspapers, send unsolicited e-mails, and plaster school bulletin boards with fliers. They also employ student “recruiters” who can earn free trips for themselves by booking them for several classmates. Promoters’ web sites promote various destinations as places where inhibitions are dropped, alcohol and sun are abundant, and sex is definitely possible. Most of the sites include photos of scantily clad women.

Spring break’s notorieties include increased drinking and sexuality, including public nudity. According to the AMA study 83% of the respondents agreed spring break trips involve more or heavier drinking than occurs on college campuses. 74% believe that spring break trips result in increased sexual activity. Other findings include:

  • A majority (74 percent) of respondents said women use drinking as an excuse for outrageous behavior.* More than half of women (57 percent) agree being promiscuous is a way to fit in.
  • An overwhelming majority (83 percent) of women had friends who drank the majority of the nights while on spring break.
  • More than half (59 percent) know friends who were sexually active with more than one partner.
  • Nearly three out of five women know friends who had unprotected sex during spring break.
  • One in five respondents regretted the sexual activity they engaged in during spring break, and 12 percent felt forced or pressured into sex.
  • An overwhelming majority (84 percent) of respondents thought images of college girls partying during spring break may contribute to an increase in females’ reckless behavior.
  • An even higher percentage (86 percent) agreed these images may contribute to dangerous behaviors by males toward women.
  • Almost all (92 percent) said it was easy to get alcohol while on spring break.
  • Two out of five women agreed access to free or cheap alcohol or a drinking age under age 21 were important factors in their decision to go on a spring break trip.

Spring break student revelers average 18 drinks per day for boys, 10 for girls. Many tour companies sell all-you-can-drink vacation packages to teenagers, never questioning their underage drinking status. Tour organizers are careful not to explicitly condone behavior that would violate local laws. Students who sign up for trips must sign liability waivers that absolve the tour companies of blame for virtually anything that could go wrong.

But spokesmen for the tour companies acknowledge that the promise of free-flowing alcohol for students is a key selling point for spring break trips. It’s not uncommon to pay $75 – $100 for a bracelet that gives you admission to various dance clubs for a week, along with unlimited alcohol at the clubs. Spring break is also a big marketing opportunity for distilleries and beer companies.

Cancun has become the most popular foreign destination for college students. Its popularity increased due to shifting attitudes about spring breakers in Florida cities. Other foreign tourist spots like Mazatlan, Acapulco, Jamaica, and the Bahamas are benefiting as well. There appears to be little impact on spring break trips outside of the U.S. due to the new U.S. passport laws.

If partying is not your thing, how about an alternative spring break? Alternative spring break trips often emphasize community service and have been increasingly successful across the country. Alternative spring breaks can be a very rewarding way to spend your time off. Check your school paper and bulletin boards for information. You can also contact a national organization like Habitat for Humanity. You can build your own alternative spring break ideas, too. Find a volunteer match near you and spend the week helping.

Regardless of how you celebrate your spring break, there are a few things you should know. Each year, more than 2,500 American citizens are arrested abroad — about half on narcotics charges. A drug that is legal in one country may not be legal in a neighboring country. Alcohol can also cause trouble for U.S. citizens traveling abroad. Students have been arrested for being intoxicated in public areas, for underage drinking, and for drunk driving. Some people are victimized because they are unaware of the laws and customs of the country they are visiting.

Disorderly or reckless behavior can have serious repercussions. In many countries, conduct that would not result in an arrest in the United States may constitute a violation of local law. Some Americans go abroad assuming that local authorities will overlook such conduct because they are American citizens. The truth is that Americans who violate the laws of the countries they visit may very well be arrested, and could face severe penalties.

Being arrested is not the only misfortune that can occur on spring break. Americans have been badly injured or have been killed in automobile accidents, falls, and other mishaps. Although some of these incidents are accidents, many are related to alcohol or drug use. Other Americans have been sexually assaulted or robbed because they found themselves in unfamiliar locales or were incapable of protecting themselves because of drug or alcohol use.

You should also exercise caution when swimming or engaging in water sports. Currents can be swift and dangerous. In many areas there are few lifeguards or signs warning of dangerous beaches. In addition, travelers should be aware that tidal currents before and after storms are strong and unpredictable. Several American citizens drown each year due to riptides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water. In some countries, the water sports and scooter rental industries are not carefully regulated. Visitors should rent equipment only from reputable operators and should insist on sufficient training before using the equipment. Every year people are killed or injured by the improper use of scooters, jet-skis, and personal watercraft or by the careless operation of such equipment by others.

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