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Articles / Preparing for College / Surviving Spring Break

Surviving Spring Break

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | March 20, 2017
Well, it's that time of year again. How will you be spending your spring break?

If you're a high school student, you may be going on some kind of vacation with your parents. Or, if you're a high school student with the flexibility and permissions of a college student, you may be heading with some of your school chums to a warm beach somewhere, assuming that your parents trust you enough not to get involved in any illegal activities denied to young people your age.

If you're a high school student from the Mid-West or Northeast, you may be celebrating a shortened spring break due to the brutal Winter of 2013-14, which is still in progress, by the way, as of this writing (which so happens to be happening on the Official First Day of Spring). The reason that your spring break may be shortened this year is because of all the snow days you experienced earlier during the seemingly endless onslaught of snow and ice over the past three or four months. Even though you high schoolers may also be enjoying the perks of a spring break, the thrust of my article here is aimed at collegians for whom spring break is traditionally a period of hedonistic revelry that takes place on the beaches of the Western Hemisphere and lubricated with plenty of suntan lotion and alcohol.

It's not 1955 anymore. Hardly. Thus, there's need for caution and some restraint while large crowds of behaviorally altered young people gather to find fun in the sun as they are “stunned in the sun," as a friend of mine puts it. So, being the dutiful father of two former spring breakers, allow me to offer some common sense advice for those of you who will be taking in the sights and sounds of surf, sand, and silliness either here in America or in points south of the border.

I did a comprehensive search for spring break survival tips and found a seemingly never ending supply of advice on the Web. I would be curious to see what a list of spring break cautions would look like if written by parents. We might see such wisdom as, “Don't forget to take your vitamins!" or “Be sure to check in with us every day."

We parents trend to forget what we were like as 18-19-year-olds or early 20-somethings. That's fortunate because if we had access to videos of our behaviors back then, we would probably have a huge struggle allowing our children to go on spring break. Our brains have a convenient way of suppressing a large portion of our youthful stupidity.

So, without further delay and self-deprecation, here are some highlights from my spring-break-cautions research.

University Hospitals publishes a list of 33 Crucial Tips for Spring Break Safety. Some of their points may seem overly obvious, but think about the mindset of typical spring breakers. “Obvious common sense" is a phrase that's not immediately in the forefront of many breakers' minds, such as these highlights that UH notes:

For road trippers:

  1. Make sure your car is in good working order before you leave.
  2. Never text while driving or drive under the influence.
  3. Check in to a hotel if you're nodding off on an overnight drive. It's must cheaper than the costs of falling asleep at the wheel.

For your hotel stay:

  1. Choose a hotel that is located near where you plan to spend time so that you don't need to drive or take long walks.
  2. Use all the locks on your door.
  3. Don't open the door for strangers. If you suspect it may be a representative of the hotel, call the front desk to verify before you open the door.

For partying:

  1. Go out with friends; go home with friends. No exceptions.
  2. Text someone who is not with you to state the exact address of where you are going.
  3. If you take cabs, only choose licensed, official taxis. Avoid unmarked cars or “private" car services.
  4. Always carry identification.
  5. Never carry large amounts of cash.

For drinkers:

  1. Drink responsibly. Don't allow spring-break mentality to change your habits.
  2. Choose beer over liquor or mixed drinks. It's easier to count exactly how much you've had.
  3. Drink a glass of water after every alcoholic beverage.
  4. Be sure to eat a full meal before having a drink.
  5. Be a good friend. Even if you're having the time of your life, go home with any friend who clearly needs to call it a night.

For those in foreign lands:

  1. Learn the equivalent of 911 for the country you're in. For instance, 066 should be used for emergency calls in Mexico.
  2. Get any necessary vaccinations. Visit the Centers for Disease Control Prevention Travelers' Health website to learn what is recommended for your destination.
  3. Make copies of your passports and travel documents. Leave a copy with someone at home and keep a copy in your suitcase while you travel.

Check out the rest.

Sarah Boswell of The Society of American Business Editors and Writers notes her view of spring break cautions. Here are a few:

Watch what you book:

The attorney general's office in Florida deals with consumer complaints all the time, and during spring break some of the most frequent hitches have to do with lodging.

Jerry Lockwood, a financial investigator for the state, said students are better off staying at a hotel or resort than renting a person's home for the week. It's easier to file a complaint and get some type of compensation when you work with a known company.

“And don't make a deposit until you know what you're getting into," Lockwood said.

If you've already put money down, don't expect to get out of it if you find a better deal.

“There is no buyer's remorse in Florida," he said, referring to the law in some states allowing a rueful consumer to cancel the deal …


Students who've been burned say it's critical to be wary of hidden costs when making reservations.

Sean Connor, a junior accounting major at Ball State University, thought he had gotten a great deal at a hotel last spring. But he spent almost $600 more than he planned, tipping waiters at the hotel bar, buying food and other necessities.

“With alcohol, it was all-inclusive, but you have to tip pretty well or they won't serve you," he said …

Thanks a lot, officer:

Lauren Hughes remembers her first spring break with friends. It was a year ago, and she was still in high school.

They had gone to an 18-and-older club in Panama City, Fla. When her friend went to the bathroom, a police officer working security immediately started banging on the door, telling her friend to leave. He thought she was an underage drinker and was getting sick.

Pretty soon, Hughes and her friend were in a manager's office trying to explain why they deserved to stay at the club – where minutes before they had just spent $20 at the door …

… “I lost a lot of spending money," she said, referring to the $40 all-access pass that actually didn't work at all the clubs. Her friend was able to buy the same pass down the street for $25.

Sarah Boswell is a senior at Ball State University and editor of the Ball State Daily News, so she's a spring break veteran herself.

So what's so funny about spring break?

In the spirit of being fair and balanced, after all these “cautions," how about a little spring break humor?

– The college kids call it spring “break." Their parents call it spring “broke."

– Spring break: That's when students take time off from football games, basketball games, dances, parties, and hanging out in bars, and go to Florida and relax.

– Spring break is when the nation's college kids demonstrate to the world how much they've learned.

– Spring break is when the nation's breweries go all out to teach another generation how to throw up responsibly.

Okay, two more:

– Why do spring-breakers use surfboards that are rounded at both ends?

Because they don't know if they are coming or going.

– Why do college students drink so much at Spring Break?

They find that diminished brain cells help lessen the blow of failing out of school.

Bottom line: Don't get broken on spring break!


Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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