Editor’s Note: Erin Weed founded the Girls Fight Back program after her sorority sister was murdered in June 2001. Determined to prevent similar tragedies, Erin created Girls Fight Back to educate women about campus security, personal safety, violence protection and self-defense. She now travels the nation giving personal safety seminars and has spoken to over 100,000 women nationwide. The following column is excerpted from her book, Girls Fight Back!:The College Girl’s Guide to Protecting Herself.
Every March the media calls wanting to interview me about how to be safe on spring break. Like it’s some sort of big mystery or something! At the end of the day, everyone has the skills to avoid bad situations on any kind of vacation.
The question is whether you choose to use those skills to keep yourself out of harm’s way.
Q: What are the five Spring Break safety rules?
The idea is to have a blast yet stay safe when you’re on spring break. Follow these rules and you will avoid many things that can go wrong during what should be an awesome getaway.
Rule #1 Do your research and choose reputable vendors.
Before you book your travel, first do some research on quality places to go. People who forget to do this sometimes are disappointed if their beach destination has been hit by a hurricane or there is bad weather during their trip. As budgets are usually a concern for college students, a great way to figure out general pricing for vacation packages is to do a search on a website like Expedia.com or www.studentuniverse.com.
Once it’s time to book, however, I recommend using a travel agent who is referred to you by someone you trust. The difference between a travel agent and booking trips online is that an agent can help you if things go wrong on your trip. When it comes to a vacation, you don’t want to waste time in long lines or mass confusion, so it’s worth the extra few bucks to use an agent.
Rule #2 Get to the destination in one piece!
Getting to your destination is half the battle. Don’t party on the road since it’s really not safe and open container laws apply in most states. Save your party pants for when you get to your destination. Also, take a car that has enough seat belts for everyone and buckle up. Take turns driving to avoid the risk of one driver falling asleep behind the wheel. Have whoever rides “shotgun” be the designated person to stay awake and talk to the driver and keep him/her company.
Rule #3 Set limits ahead of time.
Make important choices way before the party gets started. Sometimes in the euphoria of spring break, people tend to just “go with the glow.” But I can tell you from experience, the flow can get too wile for your personal tastes and very quickly. Have a plan, and you’ll be more likely to use it and stick to your limits.
Rule #4 Trust your intuition.
You’ll meet some fantastic new friends during spring break, but count on meeting some sleazy people as well. If you get a bad feeling about someone the instant you meet him, honor it. You don’t need to make a scene, but simply file away the fact that your intuition warned you about him. Make a mental note to not be alone with him or trust him for anything (including buying you a drink).
This is another time when staying with your group of friends is important. If someone is giving you the creeps, surround yourself with good friends and stick with the group religiously.
Rule #5 Go out with your girlfriends, go home with your girlfriends.
Recently I shot a segment for CNN about safe spring bring break in which we followed around a pack of four college girls from Wisconsin. CNN wanted to see what a “typical” spring break was like and what kind of potentially unsafe decisions were made. One girl from the group was the “party animal” and she had a nasty of habit of disappearing with random guys. I called her on it and she knew it wasn’t a good idea. I told her, “Being safe is a choice. And I guarantee you that you’ll be 10 times safer if you stick with your friends.” She promised she wouldn’t ditch them anymore.
Overall, I would say the most unsafe thing college girls do on spring break is get separated from one another while out. Assess each other and if someone is too intoxicated to be there, get her home safely.