Spring Break Travel Tips: What to know before you go
By: Sue Hornof
“Spring break” travel can mean anything from a family frolic in Disney World to a high school service trip to a college-kids-let-loose romp in a foreign country. Whatever the scenario, it pays to plan ahead and prepare for the unexpected. Here are some tips for safe and simplified spring break travel:
• To avoid holds on credit and debit accounts, notify your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling.
• Try to book a hotel room above the first floor and below the seventh floor. Ground floor rooms are easy to break into, and fire equipment cannot always reach rooms on higher floors.
• Some hotels issue wristbands upon check-in. If provided with a wristband, do not remove it. Hotel security staff relies on the wristbands to identify registered guests.
• Report any damage to your hotel room as soon as you check in.
• Don’t visit an ATM alone, and if possible, make ATM withdrawals during daylight hours.
• Obtain phone numbers of a couple of reliable cab companies from your hotel, and carry them with you. Ride only in licensed cabs.
• If vacationing at a beach destination, know the meaning of beach warning flags. Two red flags mean the water is closed to the public; one red flag means there are serious hazards in the water, such as high surf and/or strong currents; a yellow flag signifies moderate surf and/or currents that call for added caution; a green flag indicates calm waters; and a purple flag means potentially dangerous marine life has been spotted.
Leaving the country for spring break warrants special precautions, and depending on the destination, that may include vaccinations. To find out what immunizations are needed in other countries, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s Travelers’ Health page at cdc.gov/travel.
Keep in mind that most student health insurance policies do not provide coverage in other countries, so students should consider purchasing a travel insurance policy that covers illness, injury and a medical evacuation back to the U.S.
Another thing to arrange before leaving the U.S. is cellphone service. Most major phone companies offer plans that include international calls, but make arrangements before you go. Don’t forget to inquire about text messaging charges, which can add up quickly.
The U.S. Bureau of Consular Affairs recommends that citizens who travel out of the country take the following steps when packing:
• Pack an extra set of passport photos and a photocopy of your passport’s information page to simplify replacement of a lost or stolen passport.
• Use covered luggage tags to avoid casual observation of your identity.
• Keep medicines in original, labeled containers. Bring copies of prescriptions and the generic names for the drugs. If a medication contains narcotics, carry a letter from your doctor attesting to your need to take it. If you have any doubt about the legality of carrying a drug into a country, consult the embassy or consulate of that country before traveling.
• Do not pack valuable or expensive-looking jewelry, unnecessary credit cards, your Social Security card, library card or similar items you might routinely keep in your wallet.
The Bureau of Consular Affairs keeps its website current with country-specific information, so travelers can learn about the latest laws, travel warnings and other tips before they go. For example, the site states that in Cancun and Cozumel – popular spring break destinations – moped rentals are widespread, and the number of serious moped accidents has risen accordingly. Most operators don’t carry insurance, nor do they conduct safety checks. The U.S. Embassy recommends avoiding moped operators who do not provide a helmet with the rental.
For more tips for traveling out of the country and links to country-specific information, visit travel.state.gov.