Spring Break is the traditional time for many students to exit their college campuses as fast as possible to head for sunny locations. Some of the more popular places to fly and drive to include Panama City, Orlando and Daytona Beach, Fla., Acapulco, Cozumel, Cabo San Lucas and Cancun in Mexico, Las Vegas and South Padre Island, according to online travel information Web sites.
But there are things to keep in mind to prevent the traveling experience from becoming a manmade catastrophe.
Ronnie Tavarez, a senior vice president at Frost Bank in McAllen, said students should set a budget before traveling.
“It’s easy to get down there and if they start having a good time and if they are there for five days and run out of money after two, it puts a real damper on their Spring Break plans,” he said.
Tavarez recommended taking a combination of cash and travelers checks, which should not all be kept in a wallet or suitcase. He said some of the money might best be kept in a room or hotel safe if available.
Students also could take a credit card with a low spending limit to have something to cover any emergency expense s, Tavarez said. He said students should take and keep in a safe place all credit card numbers and company numbers, in case any are stolen.
Students traveling out of the United States should be aware of their destination’s currency. Some Mexican resorts accept both pesos and American dollars.
“The peso has been fairly stable, and so has the exchange rate,” Tavarez said. “As long as they are not getting taken advantage of on the exchange rate, you are good using credits and (American) dollars for purchases.”
Low-cost travel insurance is also beneficial. The Better Business Bureau recommends people first look at their insurance policies to see what is covered. If they still feel the need to have extra coverage, consumers should pay with a credit card for travel coverage from an independent insurance agent to have financial backing for baggage loss, illness in remote locations and trip cancellation or interruption.
Tavarez also suggested carrying a pre-paid telephone card on trips, especially if you’re traveling internationally, in case cell phones are lost or do not have service.
The travel to the location also is as important as what to wear on the beach or in the clubs.
Miriam Medel, the Mexican Consulate’s spokeswoman in McAllen, said Mexican President Felipe Calderon has taken a strong position fighting crime by having law enforcement and military personnel better protecting cities and major highways.
“I think it’s safer than ever because of the actions the Mexican government has been taking,” Medel said.
But Adriana Rivera, Mujeres Unidas’ sexual assault prevention coordinator and sexual assault response team coordinator, said visitors should be aware that different kinds of drugs are available in Mexico.
“When you go to Mexico, they can give you anything from Ecstasy to cocaine,” she said. “They think they are taking an Ex drug, but it might be cocaine or heroin in the form of a pill.”
Before traveling internationally, make sure all the necessary paperwork is in order.
Medel said visitors driving or walking to Mexico need photo identification, but not necessarily a passport.
“There are no initiatives in the (Mexican) Congress to the point of changing it,” she said.
The United States, meanwhile, began requiring in January that air travelers from Bermuda, Canada, Mexico and the United States have passports to travel into the country. The same citizens must have a passport by next January if they are driving or walking across international bridges into the United States.
Students also should be aware of traffic rules, especially if they are visiting destinations for the first time.
Drivers at South Padre Island have a new concrete median down Padre Boulevard to get used to this season. Drivers also will be limited in making left turns onto some side streets.
Driving on the beach is banned by South Padre Island but is allowed by Cameron County on its portion of the beaches. Beachgoers are not allowed to drive or park on sand dunes or block streets.
“We go out and hire extra people and work out schedules for different functions of the main event being Spring Break,” South Padre Island Police Chief Robert Rodriguez said.
When the city of destination has been chosen and it is time to search for lodging, be sure to sign and get copies of all agreements, said Dolores Salinas, president of the Better Business Bureau of South Texas Inc. in Weslaco. Abiding by the rules of contracts and keeping the lodging in as good condition as it was found in can assure deposits are returned.
“What we tell people is make sure you do your homework,” Salinas said. “Make sure you comparison shop and try to get the best possible — for lack of a better word — the best possible prices for the best possible lodging.”
Travelers should always be aware of their surroundings.
Rivera said travelers should stay in groups, keep an eye on their drinks in clubs, never go somewhere alone and have a designated driver.
Sexual assaults can happen during Spring Break, most likely with people the victims know, she said. She said victims should scream as loud as possible during attacks, find the closest law enforcement officer and not shower afterward because evidence must be taken by medical personnel and the police.
Salinas said her office typically receives Spring Break-related complaints from consumers after they have visited South Texas.
“It’s free enterprise and supply and demand,” she said. “If people will pay that, that’s what the market will bear, therefore that’s what the hotels will charge and people will pay for it.”
Daniel Perry covers education and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach him at (956) 683-4454. For this and other stories, visit www.themonitor.com.