With Spring Break right around the corner, many college kids anticipate a relaxing week away from their academic responsibilities. However, since many students engage in risky behaviors during Spring Break, it’s crucial for administrators to provide information to assist travelers in making smart decisions while they’re away. Here’s a guide to help encourage a more in-depth conversation about Spring Break—share these tips with your students (and their parents!) to help ensure everyone comes back from their trips safe, healthy and energized for the second half of the school year.
See a Doctor: It’s important to remember that some of the most popular spring break destinations are located in countries with poor infrastructure. Schedule an appointment with a doctor or a travel medicine specialist before you depart so you can receive any vaccinations/medications that are required for your destination. This is also a great time to discuss other important travel health issues, such as proper sunburn and insect bite prevention (for example, many tropical spring break destinations are stomping grounds for insect-borne illnesses such as Malaria and Dengue Fever) and proper food and water safety guidelines. Unclean food and water can cause illnesses like Travelers’ Diarrhea (TD) which is the most common illness that affects travelers—each year between 20%-50% of international travelers, an estimated 10 million people, develop it. Higher-risk destinations for TD include the developing countries of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Pro tip: The CDC’s website is a great resource to help you make educated travel health choices on your own. Check the CDC’s Destination Pages to learn about the health risks related to your trip by choosing the country you’ll be visiting. Additionally the CDC issues travel health notices which are designed to inform travelers and clinicians about current health issues (such as disease outbreaks) related to specific destinations.
Pack Extra Medication: Pack enough medicine for the duration of your trip (in your carry-on, of course!), plus at least a few days’ extra in case of unexpected travel delays. Make sure your medications are allowed in your destination country (local embassies will have this information) as some common prescriptions in the U.S. may actually be considered illegal in some countries. You may also want to pack a traveler’s first-aid kit to prepare for unexpected health emergencies in the event a drugstore is not around the corner. Check out this article for even more helpful tips on traveling with medications.
Drink Responsibly: A recent article from Forbes indicated that the average male and female reported drinking 18 and 10 drinks per day during Spring Break respectively—well above the safe levels of alcohol consumption. Aside from the fact that excessive drinking can be hazardous to your health – and many popular Spring Break activities like sunbathing can intensify the negative effects of alcohol in the body – it could also lead to some negative legal repercussions (picture being stuck in an international prison with frighteningly few legal options).
Protect against STDs: These statistics are real: Nearly half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) diagnosed each year are among young people aged 15-24 years; about one in four of all new HIV infections are among young people aged 13-24 years. If you are already sexually active (or planning to be), check out this helpful information about STD prevention and testing.
Consider Your Security: Aside from brushing up on common-sense travel safety guidelines, don’t forget to enroll in the State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides timely updates on travel warnings and alerts via email. The site will also help the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate locate you in the event of an emergency. You should also learn about the local laws, culture, and overall safety landscape of your destination. The U.S. State Department’s Country Information Page is a great place to find safety and cultural information for every country in the world. Take special notice of any hot spots or areas you should avoid, the location of the nearest U.S. Embassy, driving rules, laws, criminal penalties (laws in foreign countries are often very different from those here in the US), road conditions and any other special circumstances or concerns.
Take a Break from Social: Though it’s tempting to post constant updates letting your friends and family know how much fun you’re having on Spring Break, try to resist the urge. Letting the world know that you’re not home (and your current whereabouts) makes you a prime target to other criminals. In addition to casing neighborhoods and dark parking lots, criminals love to browse social media channels for vacation updates and “check-ins” to places near and far. And with social media networks’ privacy policies constantly changing, it’s not always smart to assume you’re safe even if your social profile settings are set to private.
Know Who to Call: Many colleges and universities partner with travel risk management companies like On Call International to provide travel emergency services to their students, faculty and staff. On Call membership not only provides emergency medical evacuation to the hospital of your choice, but it can also assist you with other potential Spring Break headaches such as rescheduling your travel plans, locating quality medical care, delayed baggage, prescription replacement and more. We even have memberships for travelers who need heightened coverage including political and natural disaster evacuation and pet return.
International travelers take note: Placing a call abroad can be a tad tricky! Aside from buying a conversion kit before you go (the last thing you need is to run out of juice during an emergency!), check out these tips for making an international phone calls.
Does your institution need help with proactively educating your students, faculty and staff on proper travel health and safety best practices like these? Are you unsure if you have the right emergency resources in place to protect your travelers—and your institution? Contact us today.