GW’s Health Promotion and Prevention Services offers advice for a safe and healthy vacation.
For many George Washington University students, daydreams of hours spent lying on the beach or exploring new cities will come true during the upcoming spring break, March 9-14.
But the travel-heavy holiday sometimes can lead to risky decision-making, according to Alexis Janda, associate director of Health Promotion and Prevention Services in the Colonial Health Center, formerly the Center for Alcohol and other Drug Education.
“Students may think the choices they make during spring break vacation are guilt-free, that they have no consequences,” Ms. Janda said. “But it’s important to remember that tips for health and safety always apply.”
Binge drinking, theft and unwanted sexual encounters are just a few of the dangers students should be aware of, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
George Washington Today spoke with Ms. Janda about tactics students can use to stay safe and healthy during spring break vacation.
1. Be Prepared
Make a copy of your passport or other identification to keep in your suitcase in case your original is lost or stolen. Review first aid skills and warning signs of alcohol overdose. Health Promotion and Prevention Services will host a “Safe Spring Break!” table 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Wednesday in the Marvin Center. Volunteers will answer questions and give away lip balm, sunscreen, condoms and informational materials.
“If a student chooses to drink alcohol, they should do so responsibly,” Ms. Janda said. “But it’s also important to know the warning signs of alcohol overdose. If you understand them, you’ll know what to do if you or a friend needs help.”
2. Have a Conversation
Discuss boundaries and expectations. Ms. Janda said that students should talk about the activities and behaviors they are comfortable with before their trip and make a pact with members of their travel group to follow those expectations.
3. Going International? Research the Culture
Understand the laws and culture of a country before traveling. That could be the difference between a safe and fun experience and a disaster, according to Ms. Janda. Rules and laws differ from country to country, so students should be aware of what behavior is considered inappropriate to avoid faux pas or possible confrontation. To better prepare for possible emergencies, Ms. Janda advises students to know contact information for emergency services and the American consulate at their destinations.
“You can’t call 911 in Mexico, but there is an emergency phone number available,” Ms. Janda said.
4. Explore Your Surroundings
Identify the locations of emergency services, such as police stations and hospitals. Criminals gravitate toward tourist destinations, so students need to be alert and informed.
"Theft is an issue for tourists, but students who travel in groups and appear to be alert in their surroundings are less likely to be targeted,” Ms. Janda said.
5. Keep in Touch
Stay in contact and share the hotel, flight and other travel information with parents or other guardians. These details will come in handy for a parent or guardian who needs to contact the authorities in an emergency.
“An easy way to establish peace of mind is to set up a regular check-in with your parents,” Ms. Janda said. “That way—if an emergency occurs—they can better communicate the details of your trip to the appropriate people and get you help faster.”