8 Tips for Staying Safe this Spring Break
When the winter seems like it will never end… when your assignments seem to be piling one on top of the other… suddenly Spring Break sneaks up on you – just when you need it most!
If you plan to spend Spring Break somewhere more summer-like, you’re likely headed south to cities like Miami, Cancun, or Havana. And you’re probably consumed with thoughts of what to pack, how hot the weather will be, and if you need to lose a few pounds before you go! Amidst thoughts of palm trees and Pina Coladas, don’t forget to think about your safety too!
So how do potential dangers affect your travel plans for Spring Break? Although your mother would like to convince you it means you shouldn’t travel at all, keep in mind that hundreds of thousands of Canadians travel to exotic destinations every year, and… guess what, most of them come back safe and sound!
Having a safe Spring Break starts with awareness – both before you board the plane and once you’ve landed. So do your homework before you go: Read up on the laws of the country you’ll be visiting, societal norms, and the current political climate. And while you’re there, always be alert when it comes to where you are, what’s going on, and who you’re with.
Read these 8 tips for ways to stay safe this Spring Break!
- Get the right travel insurance for where you’re going. A good travel insurance policy should cover unexpected illness or injury, emergency evacuation, and even last-minute cancellations. But certain policies will not cover travel to certain areas of the world, particularly to countries that have travel advisories. Before purchasing insurance for a higher risk destination, like Mexico for example, you may want to speak with someone who can advise you on the best policy for your trip. If you got a good deal on an all-inclusive package to your destination, don’t hesitate to spend the money on the right insurance for your travel needs.
IMPORTANT: Make sure you’re aware of what’s not covered before you go!
- Those friendly people in and around the airport offering to take your bags or give you a ride? For the most part, ignore them. You don’t want to risk having your luggage stolen (at best) or being kidnapped (at worst)! If you need help, speak with uniformed airport officials. Also, try and stick to official buses that use toll-roads to get to their destinations. If you want to get to where you’re going by taxi, it is always safest to call in advance as certain countries are infamous for their privately owned, unregulated taxis – which often pose a very real threat to tourists.
- Of legal drinking age? Great, have a few drinks (hey, you’re on vacation!) …but don’t overdo it. You’re no longer in your home country and you aren’t drinking in your friendly, neighbourhood bar – so have a few, but don’t drink so much that you lose control of the situation. Also, beware of leaving your drink unattended, as druggings have been known to occur. Make this your mantra: Bottled is better!
*And don’t forget the legal drinking age will change based on where you happen to be in the world. So look up this important detail before you go! If you’re under 21 years old in the United States, for example, it is illegal to drink alcohol. Don’t break the law while on vacation! If that means drinking Shirley Temples for a week, then so be it!
- Stick to well-lit, populated areas. This is common sense advice no matter where you are in the world, but it is advice worth taking while away from home this Spring Break. Thieves and kidnappers often avoid public confrontations. However, even during daylight hours, be aware of your surroundings at all times. If the area is too crowded, bag-snatching may occur unnoticed.
- You might enjoy a good political discussion back home, but avoid making controversial statements in public spaces. You can’t assume that all nations are like Canada when it comes to politely tolerating differing opinions. If you unknowingly make an offensive statement, and the wrong person overhears, the outcome could be a frightening (or possibly even life-threatening) encounter. So if you don’t have anything PC to say, don’t say it all!
- You may be a tourist, but you don’t have to be conspicuous about it. Looking lost with a camera around your neck and an oversized map in your hand could attract helpful do-gooders or… just the type of person you’re hoping to avoid. If you look like a tourist, those with bad intentions could take advantage of the fact that you aren’t familiar with your whereabouts or that you don’t know what number to dial in case of emergencies. So leave your brand name clothes and expensive camera equipment at home, and try to walk around like you know where you’re going. (And it doesn’t hurt to memorize how to call for help before you leave your hotel room!)
- Don’t get taken in by little children. As cute as they may be, if you come across small children begging for money, keep in mind that they are often working for dangerous adults. Although children may not pose an immediate threat to you or your friends, following them (out of curiosity or concern) could lead you to an unsafe part of the city. And keep in mind, the smaller the hands, the better the pickpocket!
- If you know the local language, use it! Communicating with the locals in their language (or at least attempting to) is a sign of respect that will not go unnoticed. However, don’t be approaching complete strangers to show off your high-level language abilities. You never know who you might be talking to. Save your language exchange for shop owners or hotel staff.
And there you have it. Although avoiding locations with travel advisories is always the safest option, there are precautions you can take to be as safe as you can be if you had your heart set on visiting a “dangerous” location this Spring Break. And, even though we have a lot in common with our neighbours to the south, always remember that the U.S. is a different country, and that you are vacationing there as their guest.
So be respectful, be cautious, and above all, have fun!
This article, written by Kathleen O'Hagan, is provided by Ingle International, specializing in travel insurance since 1946. Ingle International has partnered with StudentAwards to provide students with the best travel health solutions for their overseas adventures. For more information, visit our partner site at http://inglestudents.com/studentawards/.
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