By Bobby VanCleve and Jill Yashinsky-Wortman, Student Life
Spring Break is one of the most anticipated breaks of the school year. To students, Spring Break represents the chance to escape the gloom of winter months and burdens of school work. Many students choose to recharge at home while others travel to domestic and international locations with friends. Most students encounter few problems on their trip and have a great time, but each year there are stories about trips gone wrong. Your student can avoid many of the potential pitfalls of traveling by planning ahead and staying alert while on their vacation. Talking with your student about their plans before they leave can help increase the odds of a positive experience.
The first step to encourage your student to take is to create a plan for their trip. An organized plan will keep you in the loop on their intentions and make sure they have considered everything needed to make the most of their time. One of the most popular destinations for GU students is to visit Mexico. Part of any plan for international travel should be verifying visa requirements and checking with the State Department for travel alerts concerning their destination. Additionally, students should make all copies of important documents and always have with them their ID and passport. A lot of things are different in other countries—including the laws! Remember, students traveling abroad are subject to the laws of the local jurisdiction and not afforded the same rights as in the United States. Does your student know that 911 is NOT a universal phone number for help? Emergency numbers vary by country. Encourage your student to do some research about his/her destination prior to departure. Check out http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/safety/safety_2836.html for more information about spring break travel.
A second popular destination with Gonzaga students is to travel to Las Vegas and support the Zags in the WCC basketball tournament. Las Vegas ties in perfectly with the second major step to take towards having an enjoyable break–creating a budget. Students should consider any remaining expenses they will have for the rest of the semester, and use that amount to determine the total amount they can afford to spend while on break. Sticking to a budget will allow your student to have a great time while still having money to get them through the rest of the semester. Students should set aside money for lodging, food/drinks, and any recreational activities including basketball tickets, shows, gambling, etc. Students can lose track of how much money they are spending in the excitement of their travels and a budget can help them stay on track. Despite their destination, students should always have extra cash available for emergencies.
A general safety tip to encourage is to always travel in groups, specifically when going out at night. When traveling internationally, the drinking age is often less than that of the United States. Some students over indulge in this new found freedom. Talk to your student about the dangers of binge drinking and overconsumption. Encourage students to know their limit and pay attention to how their body is responding to alcohol. Have them consider the idea of rotating who is drinking so that at least one or two people are always sober and able to assess dangers, monitor alcohol consumption, and look out for everyone’s well being. Drunken individuals are not only a danger to themselves—they also become targets for pickpockets, thieves, and other worse things. If you are specifically concerned or want extra reassurance about your student’s safety, discuss setting aside specific times to check in and stay in touch. If students are aware of their surroundings and practice common sense and everyday safety precautions they should have no problem staying safe while on break.