If you’re a student, you know it’s that time of year again.
The weather’s warming up, the skies are clear, and everybody’s having a hard time concentrating on what they’re supposed to be doing. Wardrobes are changing, the birds are singing and everybody’s getting that twitchy feeling in their nethers that means one thing.
Spring’s here. And that means that vacation season starts right about… now.
Spring break is right around the corner and with it comes the promise of adventure, excitement and debauchery beyond dreams of every 80s teen sex-comedy ever.
But whether you’re headed to Austin for SXSW, snowboarding in Aspen, the beaches in South Padre or the far flung shores of Mexico or Europe, if you want this year’s spring break to be memorable, there’re some things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Know Before You Go
The difference between an epic vacation and wishing for the violent death of the son-of-a-bitch who convinced you to go with him is preparation. Heading out to the Rockies hoping to leave some tracks in fresh champagne powder is a great idea, but the last thing you want to find out after you get there is that there’s been next to no snow all winter long and 2/3rds of the trails have been closed.
Similarly, if you’re headed for sand and surf, it’s going to kill your buzz dead when you find out that the beaches have been closed because of oil spills or finding out that hurricane season started early.
If you’re headed out of the country, you want to double check the news and tourist advisories for civil unrest, collapsing economies, general strikes and governmental issues. France is lovely this time of year… unless you happen to arrive just in time for a nation-wide strike by transportation workers. Hell, I’ve had friends whose trip to Bali get disrupted because of a goddamn military coup. Even tourist destinations aren’t as untouchable as they used to be; Cancun, Aculpulco and Cozumel are all popular destinations, but they’ve had waves of drug-related violence as of late and have come under travel warnings.
Doing the research isn’t all about worst case scenarios, however.
Spend some time getting to know the area and finding out the real hotspots, the ones the locals like rather than the tourist traps. Knowing the where to find the hidden gems, the bars and clubs that aren’t swarmed with Ed Hardy-sporting douchebags doing body shots, the restaurants with the good food will impress your friends… and the cuties you meet while you’re there. While everybody else is trying their damndest to squeeze in at the bar at Carlos And Charlie’s, you and your friends will be enjoying the best tequila flights at this little neighborhood place just a little off the beaten path.
Preparation is key for a successful trip. When you’re scrambling to get ready for your trip, it’s easy to overlook things you’ll need, and then end up paying through the nose for them when you get to your destination. It’s easy to over-look things in your excitement and the last thing you need is to find out you’re missing something critical at the wrong moment.
But we’re not talking about extra socks and underwear here. After all, this is Spring Break we’re talking about. So you want to make sure you have the following items with you:
Sunscreen, sunglasses and chapstick – seems obvious, doesn’t it? And yet everybody seems to forget ’em. And the stores know this, which means they’re going to be subject to heavy mark-ups everywhere you go. Even if you’re not headed to the beach for Spring Break, you’ll want to make sure you have sunscreen on hand. Just because it’s snowing doesn’t mean you aren’t going to get burned and trying to rock the inverse-raccoon at the apres ski bar isn’t going to do you any favors. You can find virtual seas of red faces, neck and shoulders at every music festival… and nothing ruins potential sloppy make-outs than screams of pain when she leans on your burned thighs.
Condoms – C’mon. Be honest. Even if you’re convinced that you’ve got better chance of being elected Pope than achieving a vacation hook-up, you’re still hoping for that outside chance. I warn you now: the universe is powered by irony and if you don’t have a supply of condoms on hand, you will constantly be finding out you need them and not having them will ruin your night. Condoms are one of those items where it’s better to have it and not need it, rather than to need it and not have it. And if one of your buddies happens to hook up… well, karma gets paid forward, y’know?
Mints, breath strips, single-use toothbrushes – Again, this should be obvious… and yet I have run into more scenarios where the difference between getting an invite back to the room party and trudging back to my place alone and depressed has been the stick of gum I should’ve had right after that spice heavy dinner.
Instant Stain Remover – Shit happens. People get drunk, people get rowdy, you get splashed with something colorful and fruit-based, you brush up against things you didn’t notice, you spill stuff on your favorite shirt right before heading out to see the DJ spin at the party downtown… doesn’t matter. You don’t want to look like a slob.
Swimsuit and flipflops- Even if you’re not going to the beach, you want to bring a swimsuit with you. “Dude,” I hear you cry. “I’m going skiing! You know, with snow and shit?” And I say to you “Hotel pool. Hot tub. Random outing of the Polar Bear Club.” You Never know. Again: better to have it and not need it than to be the dude doubling up on his underwear trying to get into the hot tub.
Drugs – No, not those.1 A basic mix of painkillers, anti-diarrhea meds, antihistamines and nasal spray. Odds are you’re gonna need all of them before the trip is over.
Gatorade and Multivitamins – Separate from drugs, these are your end-of-the-night hangover preventatives. Hangovers are essentially dehydration and electrolyte imbalances – head ’em off at the pass with a couple glasses of Gatorade and some Centrum before you go to bed and you won’t be praying for the sweet release of death in the morning.
Booze – Whether you’re pre-gaming it, hosting an impromptu after party or just bringing someone back to the suite, stock up right. Keep it simple: you’re not going to be there long and everything you don’t drink is money you just poured down the drain. Stick to one or two bottles plus mixers. Vodka is your friend here: everyone likes it, it mixes with everything and – as a bonus – it doesn’t smell if you spill it all over the place. Remember though, underage drinking is wrong kiddos, so it’s important not to get caught!
Ear plugs and a sleep mask – Odds are that you’re going to be sharing a room with someone. If you want to stay friends, you’ll want these. No being woken up by hellacious snoring or your roommate’s tendency to flip on the light when they stumble in long after you’ve passed out. Being able to sleep through the night uninterrupted is the difference between a great trip and a murder charge… even when you’re convinced that no jury in the world would convict you.
Digital Camera – Pics or it didn’t happen, son.
Keep It Sane
Look, let’s be real here. You’re presumably headed off to parts unknown to party, get laid and generally have an amazing time. You’re probably going to be more concerned about how to get into that party you kept hearing about than you are about getting mugged. But booze will be flowing and guards will be down and there will be people who’re willing to take advantage of that. So you want to take care.
Always have a way of getting in touch with your friends. This means keeping your cellphone on, charged and on you at all times. You and your friends should be able to get in contact at a moment’s notice for any reason whether it’s practical – “Hey dude, we’re all headed to Del Taco!”, to let them know where you are or where you’re headed – “Yeah, I’m going back to the room. Don’t come back for at least an hour and a half.” or in case of emergency – ” Where the hell are you? Miranda’s starting to puke like crazy, we need to get her to the hospital.” The world doesn’t need another “dumb college student on vacation disappears” news story.
If you get separated from your friends – deliberately or otherwise – always have a way of getting back to your room under your own power. You don’t want to be reliant on strangers, especially if they have a vested interest in keeping you around. Keep a stash of emergency taxi fare on you at all times, as well as a card with the address on it in case you’re too damn drunk to be able to explain where you’re going to the driver.
Keep an eye on your drinks and how much you’ve had. This is especially true for women. Never let your drink out of your immediate control, nor should you drink anything you did not get yourself or was not prepared in front of you. It’s equally important to pace yourself and keep track of how many drinks you’ve actually had. No matter how convinced you are that you know exactly how drunk you are… you’re probably much drunker. The easiest way to keep it under control is to drink a glass of water – not soda, not tonic, water – for each drink, including shots. On the one hand you may feel like some sort of loser for pacing yourself. On the other, you won’t wake up the next day to find a someone you don’t know sleeping next to you… or in a pile of your own vomit for that matter.
Take Some Chances
Now that I’ve told you to be sane… well, it’s time for you to get a little nuts.
Y’see, I’m a firm believer that when you’re young, your life should be all about collecting stories and experiences. And this means being willing to step outside of your comfort zone and try things you’ve never done before. Maybe you have an opportunity to go snowmobiling. Maybe it’s a day trip to go snorkeling in crystal blue water above a coral reef. Maybe it’s a chance to go skydiving or parasailing or a tour of the Thai jungle on elephant-back. Regardless of what it is, this is your chance to go out and try something you might never do otherwise. When in doubt, you want to err on the side of adventure.
And while you’re out there having adventures… well, it’s time to break out of your shell a little. Experiment some with who you want to be, not who you are.
Chances are if you’re a regular reader of my column, you’re a little shy, introverted or you have a harder time talking to people you’re attracted to. And yet now that you’re on vacation, it’s the perfect time to make the effort to break through your self-imposed shell. After all, you don’t know anyone here. Nobody’s going to care – or even remember – if you stumble on your approach. You’re in a perfect position to try to talk to people you’re attracted to with almost no consequences! Even if you get shot down, who cares? These are all people you’re not likely to ever see again. You can roll on and try again somewhere else without feeling as though this one mistake is going to follow you forever.
Plus, it’s Spring Break! Everybody is out there looking to meet people and have a good time! Just by being there, they’re more open to being approached and making a new friend.
If you don’t take a chance, you never know what you might miss out on. And you’re in the perfect postion to try.
So take a chance. Make it a spring break you’ll never ever want to forget.
- I mean, come on. It’s Spring Break. Someone’s gonna be holdin’. Sharing is caring, kids! [↩]