Spring break is a vacation time of the year wherein many people let loose and eat and drink with abandon. Fun as that might seem to some, your idea of a good time might be one that isn’t filled with worries about the pounds you’re packing on or the detox you’re going to need post-vacation to recover from all of the alcohol. If you’re looking for an detoxifying escape plan this spring, here are some ideas that will get you started. 1. Sweet + Thrasher: St Lawrence Gap, Barbados
This resort is offering a health-conscious vacation package called “Fitness + Foolishness” for April 18-22. The package includes daily yoga, Pilates, morning runs, surf classes and dancing in the evening at the hot spots in town.2. Playa Nicuesa: Gulfo Dulce, Costa Rica
Playa Nicuesa is an eco-friendly lodge in Southern Costa Rica. Fully immersed in the rain forest, this beautiful destination can only be reached by boat. Once you’re there, you’ll take part in fresh and communal meals and have an assortment of detoxifying activities to choose from in between, including yoga, massage, hikes through the rainforest, swimming and more.
5. Grand Velas Resort and Spa: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
This grand expanse of luxurious accommodations is the perfect place to pamper yourself and detox this spring if you’re looking for something top-notch. The resort is all-inclusive and you’ll have your choice of fresh juice, salads and veggie-heavy meals – the restaurants are also equipped to adjust their menu to your diet if you ask. When you’re not taking advantage of the detoxifying food options, you can spend your time swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, snorkeling, doing yoga or working out in the resort’s fitness center.
Spring Breakers, did you know that anyone boarding a plane is covered by a “passenger bill of rights?” Or that in Mexico you’re guilty until you can prove yourself innocent?
Lawyers.com’s editor in chief, Larry Bodine, has some legal insights that Spring Breakers should digest well before their first Jello shot – particularly the 120,000 students heading to Mexico this year.
What can I do right this instant to be safer on Spring Break?
Sign up for the U.S. government’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. It’s free, and in the feds’ own words, “It allows the State Department to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency and keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements.”
What’s another thing?
Look up the U.S. consulate or consular agency closest to where you’re staying. At travel.state.gov, check under Country Specific Information for a list of agencies in your destination. Print copies for you and your travel mates and enter the information in your cellphone.
Is there an app for that?
Yes! There’s a Smart Traveler Program app for iPhone and Android.
American laws apply to me everywhere, right?
Wrong. Bodine says many college students think American citizenship grants them immunity from laws in other countries. This isn’t true. If you’re in Mexico or Jamaica or the Dominican Republic or anywhere, you are subject to that country’s laws and punishments. “There are a lot of semi-innocent things we do the U.S. that are crimes in Mexico,” Bodine says. “Walking on the street with an open alcohol container is a crime. Getting off the bus without paying. Taking off your clothes on the beach.”
In another country you can’t count on something like Panama City’s Spring Break Court to minimize the repercussions. “The laws in Mexico are very different,” Bodine says. “If you’re charged with a crime, you are presumed to be guilty, and you have to prove you are innocent. If you are arrested, you’ll be held for 48 hours before you get to make a statement. If they want to charge you, you can be held for a year without bail.”
Check the most recent edition of a reputable guidebook for laws.
How can I find out about open-container laws?
In Mexico, it’s illegal to walk on the street with an open container of alcohol. Costa Rica made it illegal last year. The law varies by country, so ask a bartender, a hotel manager or concierge or a security officer about your destination’s law once you arrive. Ask about public intoxication laws, too. And research them before you go.
Why do the police seem cool with the “anything goes” thing?
Police might let the good times roll – but they often crack down when there’s a car accident, a fight breaks out, someone gets belligerent with the cops or danger otherwise looms, Bodine says. You don’t want to be anywhere near these incidents. Find someone fun and rational to hang out with if you want to make sure to stay out of jail.
I’ve been arrested. Whom should I call?
Bodine says your first call – and only call, if just one is allowed – should be to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the area where you’re staying. Consular officials can provide information on the local legal system and help you find a local attorney, but they can’t get you out of jail.
What will happen if I get caught smoking pot in Mexico?
The U.S. State Department’s website says: “The importation, purchase, possession or use of drugs can incur severe penalties, including imprisonment without bail for up to a year before a case is tried, and imprisonment of several years following a conviction.” Don’t even risk having some in your pocket.
I’m 18 and can drink legally in Mexico. Can I also bring home alcohol?
No. Once you land in the U.S., it’s illegal for you to have it. Chances are it will be confiscated when you go through Customs after you land.
What should I do if I am the victim of a crime?
“Notify the authorities,” Bodine says, “but don’t let the hotel or tour company or restaurant make the report. You should also call the U.S. embassy.”
What rights do I have at the airport?
If you’re bumped from a flight because it is oversold or canceled, the airline is required to give you a paper detailing your rights. The airline employees rarely offer it, but you can ask for one. Bodine says the law requires the airline to rebook you on a different flight, and if that flight isn’t scheduled to arrive within two hours of your original flight, the airline is supposed to pay you 400 percent of the one-way fare for that leg of the trip. But again, don’t expect the airline to be upfront about this. “Ordinarily, they’ll offer you as little as possible,” Bodine says. “They’ll put you up in a hotel and offer you a $300 travel voucher. If you don’t ask for [your full entitlement], they won’t give it to you.”
If your flight is canceled or delayed by weather, the airlines don’t owe passengers any compensation.
Going to Mexico? Read the U.S. State Department’s “Know Before You Go” page for Spring Breakers, and brush up one more time with this video:
[Editor’s note: Got legal questions? This isn’t legal advice. Try reaching out to the folks at Lawyers.com!]
[Photo credits: top, Mnadi via Flickr; bottom, Spengu via Flickr]
For the college crowd, spring break typically means one thing: raging parties. For everyone else, however, spring break brings on more of a raging headache.
Those traveling at the same time as the party crowd are faced with a number of dramas, ranging from laying wide awake at night listening to thumping music piercing the paper-thin walls of their hotel room, to having to explain to their seven-year-old why those scantily-clad college kids are puking on the sidewalk. Put up with it long enough and spring break has the ability to break down even the most tolerant traveler.
Is there any hope of avoiding the chaos? Thankfully, the answer is yes – I’ve certainly done it and lived to tell the tale. So, whether you forgot to check the school calendar when making your travel plans or you simply want to take a relaxing family vacation while the little ones are off from school, the good news is there are lots of steps you can take to avoid running into the spring breakers.1. Head to a city. If you still have some flexibility in your travel plans, then pick a destination that’ll allow you to avoid the partygoers. The majority of spring breakers are fleeing the metropolises and heading to sunny, sandy spots, which means now is a great time to visit a city.
2. Steer clear of party beaches. If you’re headed to a seaside destination, beware that certain beaches will be packed with partygoers and plan your stay accordingly. For example, if you go to Miami, you’ll want to avoid South Beach or Miami Beach and pick a quieter spot like Key Biscayne or Mid Beach to base yourself in instead.
3. Choose your hotel wisely. Even if you’re headed to a destination known for attracting spring breakers, you can often avoid the revelry as long as you keep away from party hotels – venues full of college kids there to enjoy the pool parties, live entertainment, and music around the clock. You can figure out which hotels are geared specifically to the party crowd by hunting down the spring break website for that destination. For example, you can see which hotels are set up for the event in Cancun here, and at Daytona Beach here.
4. Arm yourself with noise-canceling devices. No matter how well you research your hotel, you might not be able to prevent a group of noisy merry-makers from setting up camp in the room above you. So to be on the safe side, bring along some earplugs and even a white noise machine to muffle any sound. If you’re a business traveler or need to get work done while you’re in your hotel, noise-canceling headphones can be a lifesaver. It’s also worth asking the hotel to put you in a quiet corner of the hotel, far from any college kids, when checking in.
5. Wake up early. If you want to sightsee and enjoy the destination in peace, get up before the spring break crowd. Most of the partiers stay up late and sleep in the next morning nursing their hangovers, so by getting up earlier you can beat the crowds. Morning is also a good time to enjoy the popular party beaches before the crowds, kegs and DJs invade later in the day.
6. Do activities spring breakers tend to avoid. While many attractions will appeal to spring breakers and ordinary travelers alike, there are still plenty of things you can do where you won’t find a partier for miles. Examples include enjoying a round of golf, a quiet afternoon of fishing, or a private boat ride.
7. Head to the quieter watering holes. The party crowd will be busy hitting up nightclubs and bars offering kegs of beer and mixed drinks by the yard glass, so if you’re looking to sip a quiet drink or two, steer clear of these venues. A much better option is to head to wine bars, intimate cocktail lounges, vineyards and bars attached to restaurants. If you really want to go to one of the popular clubs or bars in town, check their event schedule and those of nearby venues. Depending on where the spring break action is on a given night, some venues can be pulsating and others can become ghost towns – which might be exactly what you’re looking for.
8. Research where the locals hang out. Particularly when it comes to the international destinations, many cities have a main tourist drag that’s lined with resorts and entertainment geared towards travelers (and in the case of spring break, the partiers) and a separate part of the city where the locals tend to congregate. I once visited Cancun, Mexico, during spring break (but not actually for spring break) and was able to avoid the party crowd by spending time at the beaches frequented by the locals and the downtown plazas few tourists ventured into. As an added bonus, these areas had a more authentic vibe, and the food, drinks and accommodation were significantly cheaper.
Have you traveled during spring break? Were you able to escape the party crowds?