Spring Break As We Knew It Is Over...

Spring Break Has Changed: 5 Tips to Survive

Justie Nicol, Nicol Law Offices, LLC


As long as I can remember, spring break was something to look forward to and signified a break from the grueling schedule I kept both in undergrad at CSU and during law school at DU.  Of course, I also spent much of my spring break working and not traveling like my peers, but I did have plenty of after-hours fun once work ended.  

Today's collegiate students have other considerations to worry about, though.  Namely: safety. This year's spring break is scheduled from March 14 to March 18, 2016 for Colorado State University students (don't get me started about the fact that this also overlaps with St. Patrick's Day, which is the subject of different posts).

Despite what you might think, spring break as a tequila-infused-travel week was not always celebrated.  Rather, spring festivals likely began as pagan worship of Greek and Roman gods of wine (ok, in that sense, it really isn't all that different). It wasn't until the 1930's that Florida became the domestic travel destination of choice.  Back then, a swim coach took his swimming team to the first Olympic-sized pool in the states for practice--guess where--Fort Lauderdale, FL.  Soon other coaches and swim teams were doing the same thing, and spring break was born.  As you can imagine, things spiraled from there.  In the 60's and 70's, well, let's just say things got out of control. By the 80's hundreds of thousands of young adults were traveling to Florida, eventually prompting government officials to pass laws to shut down the debauchery.  Now, spring break destinations have moved south of the border, resulting in more sun, lower drinking ages, and more risk, in some situations.  For an excellent explanation of the evolution of spring break, check out this TIME article on the history of spring break.

Mexico, once a popular destination for spring breakers, is now changed.  One hears constant stories about the land of kidnapping and ransoming students and travelers.  But is this accurate?  The State Department regularly issues warnings regarding travel, and 2016 is no different.  However, the State Department's website also lets you look up particular areas of Mexico, and when you click on a particular location the most current advisory warning of particular dangerous areas pops up.  This pop up also includes information about embassy locations, phone, and email information.  Some areas of Mexico have no current advisories in effect, while others warn of particular parts of the city, rather than the city or even state, as a whole.

Admittedly, drug running and cartel violence have seen an escalation in the years since I was in school.  But not everywhere in Mexico is considered dangerous, and plenty of informed travelers make the trip safely every day.  Be sure to heed safety suggestions for traveling to Mexico or any foreign country--especially if you do not speak the language.  16 Safety Tips When Traveling in Mexico and Safety Tips When Traveling to Mexico are just two of the many hits for how to stay safe when traveling.

Other foreign spring break destinations may also be in a state of change... Worldwide, the State Department website also lists current travel advisories, and has searchable data based on destination.  Regardless of where you are headed, the government recommends staying connected by:
Domestically, Panama City Beach, FL remains a hot destination.  2015 saw thousands more arrests by local law enforcement, though, which may signify an increase in enforcement. One local newspaper reported that: 
Officers from 13 different jurisdictions along the Panhandle were brought in to help combat the multitudes of party-seeking spring breakers, [Bay County Sheriff's Office] reported, similar to the type of response a major natural disaster would receive. Also, a new ordinance enabled police to approach people drinking on the beach and arrest them if they had no identification, where they wouldn’t have been able to initiate contact in previous years.
This brings me to my legal tidbits for the day... 

  1. To avoid coming back to college with a criminal record, keep the drinking indoors unless you are in a location where you KNOW you can imbibe outdoors.  Generally, these are locations that have beer-garden-type qualities (think defined borders, wrist-band, ID checks, etc.). Always try to comply with outdoor liquor licensing rules, otherwise the organizer may not be able to do the event again next year. 
  2. If you are underage, and traveling domestically--try to be smart!  If you are given an MIP in another state, it can find you at home! Worse yet, a drug or alcohol conviction can render you ineligible to receive federal financial aid!!  That's right, NO MORE STUDENT LOANS! For a complete list of possible collateral consequences, see http://www.abacollateralconsequences.org/map/.  
  3. If you are traveling, do your research ahead of time, leave your valuables at home, try to have at least one sober-buddy at all times to make sure you make it back to your hotel safely.  Stay together and don't go off alone.
  4. Always be respectful of police!  Most of the time, they will give you a warning, but if you are an @%$)~&)!&, you cannot count on good looks alone to get you off.  Better to build good will with the authorities, especially if you'll have to confront that witness against you in a court proceeding later on. Nothing is worse than hearing a cop recount your exploits to a jury and not be able to rebut it. 
  5. Know the laws of the country you are visiting before you go!  Is the drinking age 18 or 21 or is there no legal drinking age?  Is it regularly enforced?  Although, foreign convictions and offenses may not have the same impact, we have all seen the horror stories of foreigners thrown in another country's jail causing an international incident.  Don't be that guy.