Single Parenting: Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe, Happy During Spring Break
As a single parent of a college student, you probably want your teen to experience a wonderful Spring Break vacation, but you’re also concerned (rightfully so) about everything you’ve heard related to the potential problems college students run into when visiting popular destinations. Improper planning and poor judgment can lead to serious problems.
Thanks in part to MTV and raunchy Girls Gone Wild videos, millions of college students look forward to enjoying their Spring Break vacation in a warm and tropical climate. Most students planning their Spring Break getaway are on a tight budget and are naive when it comes to booking airline tickets and hotel accommodations.
The following are a few suggestions for making Spring Break travel plans:
1. If you purchase an all-inclusive package deal from a tour operator or charter company, be extra careful.
Determine exactly what’s included in the price, and beware of deals that are too good to be true. Often, spring breakers are shocked to discover that many expenses are not actually covered, even though their trip was supposed to be all-inclusive. Talk to fellow students who have traveled with the tour operator in previous years, and seek out reliable referrals before making your non-changeable and non-refundable reservations. Be sure to get everything in writing, including confirmation numbers for the airline and hotel, and then reconfirm your reservations before leaving.
2. Research the destination (and accommodations) carefully.
Before taking a trip, become familiar with the safety (or lack thereof) in the areas you’ll be visiting. Be sure to inform and protect yourself by finding out whether there are any travel alerts or warnings for your destination.
When making reservations, obtain independent reviews. Don’t rely on brochures or promotional literature to determine if the accommodations are clean, comfortable, safe and truly offer the promised amenities and services.
3. To save money, college students often plan to share a single guest room with four to eight (or more) of their friends.
Some hotels and resorts, however, have strict policies against this. Know what’s allows and what you can get away with before leaving home, or you could wind up in a foreign country with no place to stay.
4. Use reliable online travel sites.
Hotwire.com, Travelocity.com, Kayak.com and Travelzoo.com can help you find discounted airfares and hotels. You’ll often find better Spring Break deals booking at least one to three months in advance, especially to popular destinations. If you opt to use a travel agent, find someone local and reliable, with knowledge about your intended destination.
5. Figure out, in advance, your ground transportation requirements.
For example, upon reaching your destination, you’ll need to get from the airport to your hotel or resort. Once at the hotel, you’ll probably want to visit the nearby town (to shop, sightsee or visit the clubs and bars). Figure out how much to budget for taxis or other public transportation.
6. Be smart about budgeting.
At most resorts, activities that require any type of equipment (such as scuba diving) all cost extra, so plan your budget accordingly. However much you’re quoted for your trip, plan on spending about one-third extra for incidentals, plus unexpected charges.
7. Make sure you have a passport and that it is current.
To travel outside of the U.S., including to all Caribbean destinations, you’ll need a valid U.S. Passport. Allow between four and eight weeks to apply for and receive a new passport or to renew your existing passport (if necessary). Rush service is available, but it’ll cost you up to $300. to get a passport within a few days if you wait until the last-minute. Also, depending on your overseas destination, you may be responsible to pay a departure tax (in cash), which could be between $25. and $100. Again, plan your budget accordingly.
8. Consider travel insurance.
Especially if you’re traveling overseas, purchasing travel insurance as a college student is highly recommended. Should anything go wrong during the trip, including medical emergencies, canceled flights, or if your luggage gets lost, this type of insurance prevents financial loss, plus it provides expert guidance when the situation is happening.
9. Don’t travel with a lot of cash or valuables.
For a Spring Break vacation, leave your laptop computer, jewelry, and other valuables at home to avoid the often high possibility of theft. Many of the less expensive hotels don’t offer in-room safes. Instead of carrying cash, bring a credit card and traveler’s checks, especially if you’ll be traveling overseas.
10. Always act responsibly.
Many bars, clubs, and resorts overlook underage drinking (especially overseas). In places like Cancun, the drinking age is 18. Local authorities, however, will come down hard on people caught breaking the law. Avoid getting into a situation where you get arrested or need to be hospitalized for a drug overdose or alcohol poisoning.
The American Medical Association reported that 50 percent of all college-age males and 40 percent of females drink until they vomit or pass out at least once during their Spring Break vacation. This often leads to tragedy, such as balcony falls, traffic and auto-related fatalities, assaults and rape. The U.S. Consulate added that more than 2,500 Americans are arrested abroad every year, many for drinking and drug offenses.
For women, avoid potential date rape situations, or the possibility of having an undetectable drug (such as GHB, Ketamine or Rohypnol) put into your drink when at a bar or club. Using a little common sense goes a long way when traveling during Spring Break.
ADDITIONAL TRAVEL TIPS
“If you’re looking to get the best deal, you’ll want to check into all-inclusive hotel packages which will include your food, drink, as well as most activities. The price usually includes taxes and fees. Several airlines are also running great Spring Break sales,” said Michelle Jerson, an anchor and producer at Travelzoo.com. “Here at Travelzoo, we have published some exciting all-inclusive hotel deals in places like Cozumel and St. Lucia, which are available through BookIt.com and Priceline.com.”
Most Spring Break travelers opt to go with one or more close friends. Book your travel reservations at the same time to ensure everyone you’re traveling with winds up on the same flights and staying at the same hotel or resort. When possible, split taxi fares, and once at your destination, avoid going places alone. Travel in pairs or small groups, especially at night.
To save money when calling home from abroad, purchase pre-paid calling cards (which can be used from public phones), or find a nearby Internet cafe that offers inexpensive overseas calls via the Internet. Using the phone in your hotel room, for example, to call back to the U.S. will typically cost several dollars per minute. If your cell phone has international roaming, it will cost between $1 and $3 per minute to call home to the U.S. while traveling overseas.
From a health and safety standpoint, when traveling overseas, avoid drinking local tap water or anything made with local tap water. Stick to bottled water only. Also, be sure to pack an ample supply of over-the-counter medications to deal with headaches, an upset stomach, cold/flu symptoms, hangovers, and sunburn. It’s sometimes difficult to find these items when traveling. If they are available, you’ll pay a hefty premium for them, especially from a hotel gift shop.
About the Author: Jason R. Rich (www.jasonrich.com) is the series editor and author of the Entrepreneur Magazine’s Business Traveler series of city-specific travel guides for business people. Guides are currently available for New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Las Vegas, Chicago and Orlando.