The 19 Best (and Worst) Spring Break Spots (Updated 2019)

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Daniel Walker
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UPDATED: Apr 3, 2020

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Students (teacher, professors, and don’t forget the parents!) deserve a break from the rigorous demands of the day in and day out school life. For those lucky enough to get a spring break . . . it’s hard not to love!

This glorious hiatus takes place on varying weeks depending on the area and particular institution, which is fortunate; otherwise, highways, beaches, and hotels would all be completely overcrowded.

No matter your age, spring break comes around at the perfect time of year and offers a great excuse to finally take that once-in-a-lifetime trip.

Unfortunately, spring break often includes partying to the point of danger for many teens and college students. Keep your spring break activities safe for all those involved.

A major part of being responsible includes checking your car insurance coverage before hitting the road. Enter your zip code into our free tool to make sure you’re prepared for the unforgettable trip you have planned.

Here’s what we cover:

What You Should Know: 19 Favorite Spring Break Spots

Click here to view our interactive graphics for destinations and school spring break schedules.

If you’re planning on visiting any of the destinations highlighted in this article, at least know what to look out for.

Warning! Spring break can flip from the best to the worst week of your life in a matter of seconds.

When you work hard all year, it’s tempting to throw responsibility to the wind, but don’t let one week make you carry a lifetime of regrets.

It’s no secret that alcohol is often a major part of spring break. Just make sure you never get behind the wheel impaired OR catch a ride with a drunk driver.

Pow wow over! Let’s dive right in to reveal the good and the bad for each of the top 19 spring break destinations across America. Important Note: the below list isn’t a ranking; the locations are presented in alphabetical order. We’ll leave you to determine the best and worst of the bunch!

#1 – Lake Havasu, Arizona

Main Attraction: Music performances on the lake throughout the spring
Major Downfall: Ranked the 14th most dangerous spring break destination

The Good: Lake Havasu is an incredible destination for spring breakers. Since the location offers year round events, there will be something exciting happening here regardless of when your spring break week is.

One of the coolest things this destination has to offer are the floating stages on the lake where many famous artists perform live.

The Bad: A study ranked Lake Havasu the 14th most dangerous spring break destination in the U.S. It’s difficult (and foolish) to ignore a study that focused on violent crimes, murder, rape, and fatal car crashes.

#2 – Los Angeles, California

Main Attraction: Entertainment, culture, and landmarks
Major Downfall: DUIs and fatal crashes that increase during spring break

The Good: Los Angeles is constantly listed as a top destination for spring and summer vacations. This area offers endless possibilities for fun and adventure.

Those visiting L.A. can enjoy world-famous theaters, celebrity memorials, the thrilling nightlife, spectacular views, and countless outdoor activities including hiking, surfing, parasailing, and paddleboarding.

The Bad: Certain aspects of L.A. might seem like a dream, but it can be a nightmare, too. For example, in 2014, Los Angeles cops averaged 114 DUI arrests each day which is up from about 13 daily just five years prior.

“In 2016, the number of traffic accidents in Los Angeles had soared by nearly 20 percent to 55,350. That means that an average of one person is killed in Los Angeles traffic accidents every 40 hours.” – CityWide Law Group

Then when you factor in the finding that fatal car accidents increase by 9.1 percent during spring break weeks, it comes to a downright, terrifying, death-by-car-crash risk.

#3 – Aspen, Colorado

Main Attraction: The snow sports and legalized marijuana
Major Downfall: Car accidents caused by impaired drivers

The Good: Lounging at the pool not your thing? What about winter sports? Depending on when your spring break is, the ski and snowboard season might be still going on in Aspen.

Major ski resorts in Aspen open in mid November and don’t close until the end of April!

Another reason why spring breakers might choose Colorado as their destination of choice: legalized marijuana.

The Bad: We already discussed how alcohol is often a big part of spring break celebrations nationwide . . . mixing drugs and alcohol is a recipe for disaster.

Learn from college student, Jack Galyon’s mistake. He left a woman nearly paralyzed after a collision he caused due to speeding and driving impaired by both marijuana and alcohol. He was sentenced to four months in jail followed by four years of probation with strict sobriety monitoring.

Don’t let your spring break put you or your friends in jail!

#4 – Bethany Beach, Delaware

Main Attraction: Peaceful getaway; golfing, unique cafés, and shops
Major Downfall: Strict rules and more expensive rental stays

Not all spring break vacationers are looking for constant action, live music, and loud parties. There are many who want a break from the busyness for a quiet, peaceful getaway – if that’s you, Bethany Beach is calling your name!

The Good: There are under 1,200 people who live in this gorgeous coastal town, but, throughout the summer, over 15,000 people vacation here, which helps prove it’s worth a visit.

Bethany Beach, founded in 1901, was used for over 60 years as a religious retreat and referred to as a “haven of rest for quiet people.”

Today, Bethany Beach is full of quaint eateries and places to explore. It has fun activities for vacationers of any age from mini golf and arcades to museums and shopping. And for the partier in your group, Dewey Beach is a short drive up the road.

“For a night out, head to Dewey Beach, 15 minutes north of Bethany. It’s wild, and that’s all I’ll say here on that. But all you really need for a fun and relaxing vacation is Bethany Beach.” Travel + Leisure

The Bad: Rules, rules, and more rules. Rules are what keep Bethany Beach the clean, calm area it is. BUT, unexpected rules can quickly ruin your plans, so you should at least be aware of them.

Bethany Beach Rules:

  • Tents and canopies are banned
  • Umbrellas are allowed if no more than 8′ in diameter
  • Baby tents are allowed if no more than 3′ tall, wide, or deep
  • No alcohol or glass allowed on the beach
  • Smoking is prohibited
  • No ball playing, kites, or fishing allowed from 9:30am – 5:30pm
  • Fires are prohibited
  • Digging large holes is prohibited
  • No one is allowed on the beach from 1am to 5am
  • Bicycles are only allowed on the boardwalk from  6am to 9am
  • Swimming is only allowed between the orange flags posted
  • Dogs are prohibited on the beach and boardwalk from May 15 – Sep 30

If you don’t need any of the above items/activities on your vacation, than Bethany Beach is perfect for you! If all those rules are going to put a damper on your spring break, here’s a recently updated list of all the Delaware beaches and their rules (most are less strict).

Another slight negative are the costs involved with vacationing here. The parking fees and rental prices might be more than you have budgeted for your spring break week.

#5 – Daytona Beach, Florida

Main Attraction: Warm weather and cheap hotel stays
Major Downfall: Underage drinking, alcohol aggression, and overcrowding

The Good: If you’re craving warm, salty air and soft sand between your toes, Daytona Beach might be the perfect vacation spot for you. This city in Florida is not only famous for its stunning coastline, but also for its unbeatable prices.

Daytona Beach offers 60-80 degree sunny days during the spring with hotels that start at just $40 a night! In addition to the warm sand and welcoming waves, there’s the boardwalk and hundreds of restaurants and clubs in the area.

The Bad: Daytona Beach has had a major problem over the years with underage drinking and drunken fights. As you can see in the video above, the beach fronts get rather crowded and rowdy during the prime weeks for spring break as well.

Often drinking too much leads to rage and unnecessary, dangerous fights.

Take this horrific story of road rage gone wrong: a teen on spring break struck and killed a motorcyclist then fled the scene after letting his anger take over. He went from a high schooler on spring break to a murderer facing the death penalty in a matter of minutes.

#6 – Key West, Florida

Main Attraction: The nightlife and water exploration
Major Downfall: DUI convictions and dangerous roads

The Good: As you can see in the inviting video above, Key West has much to explore both in the sun and under the sea, but it’s actually more famous for its nightlife than its gorgeous beaches.

Duval Street — the legendary drinking boulevard in Key West — attracts countless visitors every year who want to partake in its shopping, dining, and epic party atmosphere.

The Bad: All that drinking and partying doesn’t always end well.

There are often checkpoints throughout Key West that require drivers to stop, show their ID, and give visual confirmation no one is driving impaired or with open containers in the vehicles.

Don’t get swept up with the thrilling atmosphere and put yourself in harm’s way. Be sure everyone who has been drinking hails a ride and gets back to the hotel safely (and DUI free). Check out these best ridesharing apps for 2019 – download one so your safe ride is just moments away.

#7 – Miami, Florida

Main Attraction: Beautiful beaches and famous nightclubs
Major Downfall: Ranked 9th in U.S. for number of car accidents

Do you remember Will Smith’s hit song, “Miami”? It was a catchy spring break anthem back in 1998, and, even though that was over 20 years ago, much of the sentiment still rings true today.

The Good: Miami, “Florida’s cultural center,” is known for its beautiful beaches, amazing food, Latin nightlife, and year-round vacation vibe.

Clearly, this spring break spot is one-of-a-kind considering Maimi-Dade county alone attracts over 16 million tourists a year from all over the world.

The Bad: Unfortunately, Miami is also notorious for its car accidents.

According to a recent study, Miami ranks ninth in the U.S. for cities that have the most collisions. Guess what was a top reason for what caused all those car accidents? Yep, spring breakers.

Granted, you can still have an unforgettable vacation in Miami, just be mindful of the dangers during these busy weeks.

#8 – Miami Beach, Florida

Main Attraction: Parades, music festivals, and nightclubs
Major Downfall: Crowded roads, stricter rules, and noise all hours

It might be easy for some of us to confuse Miami and Miami Beach, but locals would argue they’re hardly alike. Here are the two on the map:

The Good: With its upscale shopping and renowned spas, “Miami Beach caters to the moneyed crowd.” But there’s plenty of affordable activities (some free!) this vibrant area has to offer: lounging on the sand, swimming, surfing, kayaking, checking out the art deco buildings, and visiting the clubs and bars that come alive once the sun goes down.

This man-made island, known as a “Billion Dollar Sandbar,” is also famous for its Gay Pride week (April 1-7 2019), music festivals, and Holocaust Memorial.

The Bad: Being that it is an island, overcrowding is a major problem during spring break weeks. The roads are full of pedestrians, vehicles are either stopped in traffic or hunting for a parking spot, and there’s an increase in impaired drivers, which all adds up to dangerous driving and walking conditions for everyone.

Sometimes the large crowds of spring breakers actually force roads to temporarily close until the police officers can get the foot traffic under control. 

In addition, the locals and responsible vacationers have to pay for the foolish choices made by some of the students on spring break with new rules made specifically for these weeks including no coolers, tents, or inflatables allowed on the beach.

#9 – Orlando, Florida

Main Attraction: Warm weather and theme parks
Major Downfall: Increase in deadly car accidents

The Good: Florida’s 3rd largest city has something for everyone: the lazy river loungers, museum lovers, thrill seekers, and parents with young kids – “It is the place where imagination runs wild.”

Did you know? There are 14 theme parks in Orlando! At one of the favorites, Epcot, spring breakers can even enjoy specialty foods and drinks from 11 countries around the world without an expensive flight or passport.

The Bad: A fatal car crash study examining spring break destinations in Florida found that, during these weeks, there was an increase in both of the following:

  • Traffic deaths involving out of state residents (people on vacation)
  • Traffic deaths involving individuals under the age of 25 years-old

Feeling lost? You might still be in America, but you may feel like you’re in a different country. Remember, traffic and insurance laws vary greatly from state to state. Click here for some tips to help you stay safe on your spring break road trip.

Use our free tool to ensure you meet the coverage requirements in the states you’ll be driving in:

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#10 – Panama City Beach, Florida

Main Attraction: White beaches, concerts, and cheap hotels
Major Downfall: Spike in arrests and stricter rules during spring break

The Good: Panama City must be an out-of-this-world vacation destination considering its beaches boast 17 million tourists a year.

Dubbed the “Spring Break Capital of the World,” Panama City Beach grows from its normal 12,000 residents by 2,000 percent when the 250,000 spring breakers show up.

“It’s a big local payday: March alone pumps $90 million into the local economy.” – CBS News

You don’t need to visit Orlando to find great theme parks. Panama City Beach has many amusement parks and attractions that provide fun and adventure for all ages.

The Bad: Sadly, spring break partying gets so out of control in Panama City Beach that local police stations have to set up what they call “spring break jails.” These are essentially outdoor cages since the jails can’t accommodate all those getting arrested at once.

During the busiest spring break weeks, March 1st to April 5th, 2015, there were 1,091 arrests made in Panama City Beach alone – the majority being drug and alcohol-related.

The result? Local authorities had to establish new laws and penalties in response to the spring breakers who are a danger to others. The new laws include:

  • Alcohol prohibited on the beach in March
  • Balcony climbing prohibited
  • Drinking in parking lots prohibited in March
  • Limited hours for alcohol sales in March
  • Increased penalties for open container violations

Everyone has to pay for the mistakes of the irresponsible. Stricter rules are no fun, but they are better than a life ending on spring break.

#11 – Tampa, Florida

Main Attraction: Water activities and affordable hotels
Major Downfall: Most dangerous highways in the U.S.

We have arrived at our 7th and final Florida spring break location on this top 19 list. Thanks to its warm weather and affordable prices, Florida is the state where many choose to spend spring break.

The Good: Tampa is a hot spot for spring breakers due to its location (it has its own international airport) and affordability. Clearwater Beach – voted “Best Beach in America” in 2018 –  offers white sand, warm waves, kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, and even dolphin cruises.

“…quality museums, excellent restaurants, and the nation’s top craft breweries. With attractions like Busch Gardens, the Florida Aquarium, Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo, The Straz Center for the Performing Arts, and Tampa Museum of Art – We ARE a destination. And every year we throw the world’s greatest party, Gasparilla.” – Tampa Mayor, Bob Buckhorn

The Bad: If you plan to travel to Tampa this spring, take note that there are a shocking number of car crashes: 32,000 in March 2015 in Florida alone.

According to the CDC, on average, someone is killed every 31 minutes by a drunk driver. During spring break weeks those numbers increase by 23 percent!

That’s not all! If you spend your spring break in Tampa, it will be hard to avoid driving on the most dangerous highways in America.

For those planning to travel to Tampa by car, Florida is home to three of the deadliest highways in the country. Here are those rankings and stats:

  • Interstate 4: (1st) 132 miles running from Tampa to Daytona Beach – 1.41 deaths per mile
  • Interstate 95: (5th) 1,926 miles running from Miami to Maine – 0.89 deaths per mile
  • Interstate 10: (7th) 2,460 miles running from Jacksonville to Santa Monica – 0.85 deaths per mile

In the last few years, Tampa has ranked in the top 20 cities for best places to live, best for college students, best for food, best for beer, even best place to start a business, BUT, with nearly one and a half deaths for every single mile of highway, this popular city has some major work to do in its road safety department.

#12 – New Orleans, Louisiana

Main Attraction: History, culture, and alcohol availability
Major Downfall: Dangers associated with lenient laws

The Good: New Orleans is an area busting with culture and heritage. The city celebrates its history in ways that invite tourists to become a part of the adventure.

Known as “The Big Easy,” New Orleans offers a refreshing average of 70-degree temperatures during the spring when it hosts events. New Orleans quickly became famous for Mardi Gras and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, both of which fall right around the most common weeks for spring breaks across the country.

Another reason people love Nola is no secret – the lax drinking laws. 

Here are some examples why New Orleans is super appealing for spring breakers:

  • Drinking in public is legal (must be plastic container)
  • The drinking age is 18 and over (with a parent/guardian/spouse that is at least 21)
  • Bars are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Alcohol is served at both walk-up and drive-thru venues

The Bad: The same reasons New Orleans is the perfect party spot give it the potential of being wildly dangerous.

In February 2017, a 25-year-old drunk driver (BAC of 0.232) plowed through a crowd during Mardi Gras hitting 32 people including a 3-year-old child.

There is a reason Mardi Gras is referred to as “the deadliest state holiday in Louisiana.”

#13 – Las Vegas, Nevada

Main Attraction: Gambling, clubs, views, and lax laws
Major Downfall: Pedestrians struck and killed by cars

The Good: With 104 casinos, countless nightclubs, over 2,250 restaurants, bottomless booze, pool parties, helicopter rides, thrill rides, and even mule rides, Vegas truly has something for every spring breaker to enjoy.

“Everyone needs a good ‘remember that time’ Vegas story…Vegas is a place of myth and legend, a city defined by its own The Hangover, ‘what happens in’ hype machine.”Thrillist Travel

Like New Orleans, loose laws draw vacationers to Vegas as well. Here are some examples of liberties spring breakers can enjoy in Vegas:

  • Drinking in public is allowed
  • Alcohol can be purchased 24/7
  • Recreational marijuana is sold here

The Bad: Las Vegas is called “Sin City” for a reason. People are not always on their best behavior in Vegas to say the very least, and the liberties listed above are often enjoyed to the extreme.

Vegas attorneys aren’t complaining. During March Madness and spring break weeks, they benefit from increased business thanks to all the drivers needing to lawyer-up after collisions they cause.

Beware! There’s a deadly problem on the rise in Nevada that spring breakers should know about – pedestrians struck and killed by vehicles.

There were 101 pedestrians killed in Nevada traffic accidents in 2017 – up 26 percent since the previous year!

#14 – Atlantic City, New Jersey

Main Attraction: Cheap hotels, the boardwalk, gambling, and nightclubs
Major Downfall: Higher crime rate than surrounding cities and the U.S. average

The Good: Atlantic City has definitely had its ups and downs, but, since 1854, it has had many reasons to be known as “America’s Favorite Playground.”

What started out as a resort location for the rich is now Vegas’ little sister for the east coast where (as explained in the Fox News report above) “the boom is back.”

With the boardwalk, acclaimed restaurants, welcoming beaches, live music, waterfront rides, gambling, nightclubs, and cheap hotel rooms, there’s lots to love in AC for spring breakers.

The Bad: For 14 consecutive years, Atlantic City has had a higher rate of both violent crime and property crime than the U.S. average.

Chilling Reality: Atlantic City has had, on average, much higher rates of the following crimes compared to the rest of the U.S.: thefts, burglaries, assaults, robberies, rapes, and murders. 

Here’s an alarming comparison visual of the robbery and assault rates for every 100,000 residents:

Robberies and Assaults in Atlantic City vs US Average 2014 to 2015

And, more shocking, even scarier crime rates are below. This time the number of murders and rapes for every 100,000 residents across the same two years:

Rapes and Murders in Atlantic City vs US Average 2014 to 2015

Apparently, Atlantic City is a “playground” for more reasons than one. You can still have fun in this favorite vacation spot of the East, just be mindful of these dangers.

#15 – New York City, New York

Main Attraction: Buildings, monuments, parks, shows, and tours
Major Downfall: Panhandlers, pickpockets, and swindlers

The Good: “The City of Dreams” is the perfect spot for a nonstop spring break full of history, inspiration, and exploration. New York City has much to offer the more sophisticated vacationer including:

  • 9/11 Memorial Museum
  • Empire State Building
  • Statue of Liberty
  • Helicopter Tours
  • Broadway Shows
  • Central Park
  • Times Square
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • Big Bus Tour

That’s all in addition to eating at one of the award winning restaurants or the electric night life in “The City that Never Sleeps.”

New York City, once known as “the murder capital” of America, went from 2,262 homicides in 1990 down to 290 in 2017, which was the lowest number recorded for 70 years.

Finally! In this industry, we seldom get to report such impressive drops in fatalities. 

The Bad: Those visiting New York City need to be wary of panhandlers, pickpockets, and swindlers. It is a hectic city with many distractions—cons use the commotion to their advantage.

“…visitors should be aware that many swindlers and thieves are skilled at identifying ‘out of towners’ and folks that may seem disoriented or confused to prey upon.” – TripSavvy

Chinatown has had its fair share of trouble with thieves. Here’s mug shots of 12 repeat offenders in the area.

#16 – Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Main Attraction: Long coastline, parks, rides, and restaurants
Major Downfall: Teen mysteries, balcony deaths, and sharks

The Good: Myrtle Beach, voted a top ten spring break destination in 2018, offers 60 miles of gorgeous coastline where there’s no shortage of fun.

Señor Frog’s, Pirate’s Cove Lounge, House of Blues, and Bourbon Street are just a few of the popular places to eat and party here. In fact, there are nearly 2,000 restaurants in Myrtle Beach.

For those who have vacationed here, it’s no mystery why Myrtle Beach gets over 19 million visitors every year. 

In addition to the white, pristine beaches and big, warm Atlantic Ocean waves, Myrtle Beach also has amusement and water parks, thrill rides, 90 golf courses, and over 400 affordable hotels—many starting at under $50 a night.

The Bad: In the past ten years, multiple teens have never come home from their spring break trips to Myrtle Beach.

Several heartbreaking tragedies have occurred at this beloved spring break spot including the 17-year-old girl who went missing in 2009 (story above) and the 16 and 17-year-old girls who died after falling about 90 feet off a hotel balcony in 2017.

Foul play involving teen girls isn’t the only thing to worry about in Myrtle Beach either:

Fortunately, in the case of Hilton – the 12 foot great white shark – you can verify his location before getting in the water.

#17 – Nashville, Tennessee

Main Attraction: Famous restaurants, auditoriums, and theaters; rich music history
Major Downfall: Traffic and road safety problems

The Good: If you’re a true music fan, any level foodie, and/or an outdoor adventurer, Nashville might just be your spring break paradise.

After analyzing 125 metro areas throughout the country, U.S. News ranked Nashville 7th for best place to retire and 11th for best place to live.

“The metro area has a blossoming job market and an exploding entertainment scene fueling an appetite (and thirst) for all things locally sourced and artisanal in craft – everything from handmade marshmallows to small-batch gin.”

Just one spring break isn’t nearly enough time to properly visit all the historical, fascinating places home to the capital of Tennessee.

Nashville is full of gems, but here are some for your must-explore list: Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, The Parthenon, Ernest Tubb Record Shop, Ryman Auditorium, Printers Alley, and Bridgestone Arena.

The Bad: On the downside, traffic in Nashville is a major problem especially during the busier spring break weeks when tourists flood in.

INRIX performed a global traffic study in 2017 and out of 1,360 cities worldwide, Nashville ranked 150th! Just comparing U.S. cities, Nashville was ranked 27th for the most traffic in the nation.

89 percent of all the cities in the world have less traffic congestion than Nashville! Those are downright horrible stats for our beloved “Music City.”

And traffic isn’t the only problem you’ll face on Tennessee roadways. Our research experts conducted a nationwide study comparing 2016 crash totals in all 50 states and D.C. to determine how deadly drivers were in each part of the U.S.

Here’s how Tennessee did (it’s not good, folks!):

  • Deadliest Drivers in the U.S. Ranking – 11th
  • Road Fatalities per 100,000 Residents – 15.9
  • Total Fatal Crashes – 966
  • Fatal Crashes Involving Alcohol – 23 percent
  • Fatal Crashes Involving a Distracted Driver – 13 percent

15.9 might not sound bad, but four states had traffic death rates that were under six (over 38 percent better)! Clearly, Tennessee’s roads are some of the deadliest in the country. Keep that in mind if you decide to vacation there.

Look below and see for yourself what state sticks out like a sore thumb. This is how Tennessee compares to the six states surrounding it on the map:

TN & Surrounding States - Traffic Deaths 2014 to 2016

The above graph illustrates the total number of traffic deaths for the most recent three years. The death totals are available from NHTSA’s fatality reports.

If you plan to visit Nashville, we suggest you take advantage of the public transportation options going in and out of the city.

#18 – Austin, Texas

Main Attraction: SXSW Festival, great food, trails, and museums
Major Downfall: Violent crimes, pedestrian deaths, dangerous hot spots

The Good: Austin is an emerging party town with average springtime temperatures in the 70s, rave-worthy restaurants, and plenty of cheap – some totally free! – activities for students on a seemingly nonexistent budget (great ideas above).

Another big draw for spring breakers is the South by Southwest hosted in Austin that brought in 308,970 attendees in 2018. This impressive 31-year-old music and film festival is happening March 8-17th 2019.

Texas’ state capital has more than just incredible museums and gorgeous trails. Spring break is the perfect time to see for yourself why U.S. News awarded Austin the title: “Best Place to Live” in all of America.

The Bad: A favorite nightspot spring breakers flock to, Sixth Street, is typically avoided by locals because it has become a dangerous area that is now commonly referred to as “Dirty Sixth.”

Here are some examples of deaths that have occurred on Sixth Street in Austin:

The dangers to locals and vacationers alike aren’t isolated to this one street either. Pedestrian deaths have been a serious problem in Austin for many consecutive years now.

Did you know? Austin, Texas was where the serial killer known as the “Servant Girl Annihilator” brutally killed eight young girls in the 1880s. But, don’t let those horrific details from the 19th century dictate your spring break plans.

#19 – South Padre Island, Texas

Main Attraction: Live music, affordable hotels, and high rankings
Major Downfall: Fines, arrests, and dangerous partying

The Good: Named by Trips to Discover as the best spring break spot in Texas in January 2019, South Padre Island has a lot to love. In fact, SPI is ranked high in all five of the following U.S. News and World Report travel studies as well:

  • 1st for Best Beach in Texas
  • 3rd for Best Spring Break Destination
  • 4th for Best Cheap Spring Break Destination
  • 5th for Best Place to Visit in Texas
  • 14th for Best Affordable Family Vacation

This popular island used to be known primarily for its nightlife and bars that encourage character over class – where you go for “a really lit vacation filled with debauchery and hedonism – but with new rules and more law enforcement involvement, it is being promoted as a great family vacation spot for 2019.

“Our miles of white beaches shine during the spring season with a variety of offerings in wind and watersports, local dining, live music venues and affordable lodging to make for the ideal Spring Break spot for both college students and families.” – Convention Director, Keith Arnold

The Bad: The need for rule-tightening and citywide ordinances was in response to the dangers being caused by SPI’s wild spring break partying.

During the spring break season of 2017, the humble 3,000 resident South Padre Island had 137,000 people on its beaches. Three people died and police responded to 762 high level offenses.

Here’s a breakdown of the police assistance that was needed in South Padre Island from March 1 – April 1, 2017:

  • 5,176 calls made to the police
  • 1,123 incidents reported
  • 721 arrests processed
  • 234 traffic accidents

In the month of March alone, South Padre Island has collected over $83,000 in fines for alcohol-related offenses. These offenses are so common that there are 18 signs posted throughout the island stating the SPI police accepts all major credit cards for the fines they strictly enforce.

Unfortunately, the local businesses in SPI aren’t keen on the new rules and are pushing back. The beachfront hotels and bars don’t want to lose their booming business during spring break . . . so the dangers will likely prevail.

Simple Safety Tips for Your Spring Break

As you can see in the Inside Edition video above, many students on spring break don’t use their best judgment.

A college student shares: “I’ve had a friend halfway off the balcony – almost falling off – and I’ve had to grab them and be like: ‘hey man, we can’t be that dumb’.” 

So, ask yourself this: how “dumb” is too dumb??

Below are some tips (including links to more resources) that can help you, your friends, and your loved ones have a spring break that is unforgettable for all good reasons.

If you’re not careful, you could end up paying for one poor decision you make on spring break for the rest of your life.

Have the Right Coverage

If you plan on driving to your spring break destination or renting a car and driving around while you’re visiting, take a few minutes now to compare auto insurance quotes from a few companies online – this will help you save money just in time for your trip!

You want to ensure not only that you have the lowest rates available but also that you have the coverage you need in case of an accident.

Don’t forget! Minimum insurance requirements are different in every state.

Whether you plan to drive a car that’s not yours, share your car with friends, or rent a car—confirm with your provider that you and your vehicle are fully insured in the case of an accident.

If for any reason you’re not happy with your current coverage or company, now might be the best time to make the switch!

Do Your Research

Yes, the fun spring break research involves checking out pictures of the beach and pool and getting a list of the top places to see. But what we mean by “research” goes beyond that and ensures you and your friends and/or family members stay safe on your vacation.

Before you book your stay, make sure you’ll have reliable transportation options to and from the various places you plan to visit – especially if you’ll be consuming alcohol while there.

Also, just about every favorite spring break destination will have tips for visitors that you can read up on ahead of time. For instance, here are “10 Mistakes Most Tourists Make in New York City.” This article shares helpful tips including the best way to see the Statue of Liberty and when not to take a selfie.

Go Easy on the Alcohol

Alcohol is a must for many vacationers, especially spring breakers, as history proves, but drinking too much can be very dangerous for a whole slew of reasons.

The first major problem arises when drinking is mixed with driving. Alcohol-related car crashes kill someone every 31 minutes and injure someone every two.

But, you don’t have to be in a car for drinking to be deadly. The more you drink, the more likely you are to make poor decisions and do something dangerous. Plus, as your responses slow and judgment become impaired, you quickly become an easier target for getting mugged, molested, or raped.

The dangers don’t end there! Take away all outside factors, and binge drinking all by itself can actually kill you!

“Binge drinking is probably one the most concerning of all activities that college students engage in while on spring break.”
–  Dr. Collins, Chief Physician in CT

Each year 1,825 college students aged 18 to 24 die 100 percent preventable deaths with just one reason: alcohol.

Did you know? Alcohol can shut off the message from your brain telling your body to breathe – meaning instant suffocation and death. Alcohol can also stop the gag reflex from working, leading to death by vomit entering your lungs.

Scary stuff. No amount of “feel good” alcohol can deliver is worth risking your life.

Use the Buddy System

Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you should ignore a wise lesson we were taught as kids: there’s safety in numbers!!

The #1 rule for the Buddy System: don’t go alone!

You should never go anywhere by yourself in a new, unfamiliar place – especially if you’ve been drinking.

The buddy system concept is so important that there are even apps available now that notify your friends/family when you’re alone and will contact them if you need help.

If you go somewhere with a group of friends, stay with them and leave together.

Another one you’ve known since you were a kid: “Stranger danger!” This is an essential phrase to remember on spring break.

If you decide to leave with someone you don’t know very well (this is NOT recommended!), at the very least, tell your friends where you’re going and when you’ll be back. Be sure to regularly check in with your friends/family members while on vacation.

Protect Yourself. Know Your Boundaries.

Yes, young women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault, but everyone should be careful. And, assault isn’t the only thing you should be worried about.

“Love is all around, and so are sexually transmitted diseases. The only 100 percent sure way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy is by not having sex.” CDC: Health Equity

Before leaving for spring break, establish your boundaries; determine what you are and are not comfortable with.

Setting clear boundaries ahead of time will help you stay focused, and reinforce them later on when alcohol and peer pressure will likely be added to the mix.

If you choose to be sexually active on spring break, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of two “C’s”: consent and condoms!

“Silence NEVER equals consent. Consent can never be implied or assumed regardless of any previous history of sexual contact. No matter what a person verbalizes, consent can never be given when a person is severely intoxicated or impaired…”

A sexually transmitted disease will likely affect the rest of your life and every single romantic relationship you make in the future. Either don’t have sex or don’t risk it!

It’s simple: If you don’t feel comfortable discussing sexual history and boundaries, you shouldn’t be having sex.

Keep Your Guard Up

There are countless ways you can safeguard yourself on spring break. Below are some highlights.

Out Sightseeing:

  • Leave the expensive jewelry at home
  • Keep your cash hidden away
  • Don’t carry much cash on you
  • If uncomfortable or lost, find a store owner or police officer for help

“Avoid drawing attention to yourself as a tourist: don’t stand on street corners looking at maps and do your best to walk confidently, as this will deter many criminals.”Trip Savvy

On Public Transportation:

  • Keep your wallet/purse in front of you
  • Keep your purse and bags closed
  • Sit near other people
  • Try not to be isolated or in the dark

Out at Night:

  • Walk on main, well-lit streets
  • Hail a cab, Lyft, or Uber when possible
  • Stay with who you came with
  • Eat before you drink; pace yourself

“If you are new to drinking or have very limited experience, a party setting away from home isn’t the best place to start figuring out your limits. Remember that, in pacing, while you can feel the effects of alcohol in as little as 10 minutes, sometimes it can take longer, so, go slow, and see how you feel before ordering a second drink.”

Don’t share what hotel you’re staying in, the details of your group, or your daily plans. This is especially important if your group doesn’t have any adults or is all females.

We hope you’d never need it, but it’s helpful to carry pepper spray and/or have an assault alarm on your phone to deter a predator.

Stay Safe in the Elements

Over 50 percent of college students head to warm weather locations for their spring break.

Wear sunscreen even if it’s greasy, dorky, or a pain to apply.

According to the American Association for Cancer Research, if you get five or more bad sunburns before you turn 20, you increase your risk for melanoma by a whopping 80 percent!

And sunburn isn’t the only danger of being out in the sun all day. You also need to be aware that these conditions increase the effects of alcohol and can quickly cause deadly dehydration and heat stroke.

“If the core body temperature isn’t cooled down quickly enough, a heat stroke victim could suffer long-term complications such as cognitive problems like memory loss; an intolerance and inability to cope with heat; muscle damage; and kidney and liver problems.” U.S. News and World Report

Again, one bad decision over spring break can affect the rest of your life – or worse, kill you.

You have to be careful indoors and once the sun goes down, too. In a hot tub, the effects of alcohol and dehydration are much greater, which can quickly lead to unconsciousness and drowning.

In addition, it’s essential you know the flag system that’s in place in regards to the ocean’s currents:

  • Red – Stay out of the water because of strong undertow and riptides
  • Yellow – Use caution, as there is a possibility of undertow and riptides
  • Blue – The water is calm; swim safely

Plus, when you’re overheated, tipsy from drinking, or tired from partying all night, you won’t be as strong of a swimmer as you normally are. Don’t mess around. Even if you don’t get knocked over by a wave and drown, there’s still dry drowning you should be aware of.

Use Common Sense: International Trips

Plan ahead! You can’t leave the country without a passport. During busy months, processing a passport application could take over 12 weeks!

Check for travel alerts or warnings before leaving for your destination. Make sure you aren’t headed somewhere that is expecting deadly weather like the category five hurricanes that devastated the Caribbean Islands in 2017.

Before you leave the U.S., get the contact information for the U.S. Embassy where you’re headed. Also, tell friends and family members your specific itinerary and check in with them throughout your trip.

DECLINED. It’s a horrifying scenario to be in a foreign country without means to buy food or pay for a safe room. Suspicious withdrawals will likely freeze your accounts. Before you leave, inform your bank and credit card company of your travel plans.

No Comprendo! You are the foreigner who probably doesn’t speak the local language. Be mindful and respectful of that. Have your hotel address (written in the local language) available to show a taxi driver who may not understand you. There are also several smartphone apps that could help you speak to locals in their language.

Don’t be Afraid to Get Help!

“38 percent say they’ve done something they regret on spring break and the other 62 percent don’t remember.” Ellen DeGeneres

It’s only funny if you, your friends, and loved ones all make it home safely.

It might not seem “cool” at the moment, but things can turn from funny to deadly in an instant. It is better to be the “dorky” friend and do the right thing than let partying get out of hand and ruin – or end – someone’s life.

If you or a friend has an alcohol or drug problem, thoughts of suicide, or is in crisis for any reason, get help. Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Call 911 for emergency services, 800-662-4357 for substance abuse help, and 800-273-TALK (8255) for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Just one accident over spring break could bankrupt you! Without the proper insurance, you could be forced to pay for damages and full price medical bills out-of-pocket. Securing sufficient coverage is simple with our free tool!

Media Inquiries About Our Study

– For all media inquiries, please email: Josh Barnes

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