You’ve tied your bikini strings, packed your bags, and put the finishing touches on your airbrushed abs. It’s finally time for spring break! If you’re one of the millions of young adults gearing up for some fun in Cancun or the Caribbean, chances are you’re saving every penny to fund a great tropical vacation.
But while you’re hunting for great spring break deals on travel, clothing, discount hotels, and more, make sure to keep your guard up. Scammers take advantage of the spring break crowd because college students and other young party-goers often have lower budgets and tend to make more last-minute arrangements.
Plan Your Spring Break and Travel Smart to Avoid Scams
While it’s tempting to just fly by the seat of your pants until you’re lounging on a hammock drinking a Corona, following your smart consumer instincts is a safer bet.
It could save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in fraudulent charges and other travel nightmares.
During popular vacation periods, criminals selling fake plane tickets or overpriced hotel vouchers often operate with impunity because local law enforcement are overwhelmed by the spring break chaos. According to consumer watchdog site Fraud.org:
Police in many tourist areas…are often so busy trying to perform their normal duties while maintaining order during the often wild spring break period that they cannot track down all fraudsters, who may keep under the radar by swindling a relatively small amount of money compared to other criminals. Knowing that this lowers the chance of being caught, scammers have become increasingly bold.
That’s why it’s up to you to protect yourself in your pursuit of warm-weather fun!
One good rule of thumb: “too good to be true” is usually just that.
Do Your Homework and Pay More Now to Skip Financial Fraud Later
Maybe you got a high score on that online quiz, but you and five friends probably did not win an all-expenses paid trip to Costa Rica or Hawaii.
Keep an eye out for absurdly low prices on five-star hotels or expensive rental vehicles. If you spot a crazy deal, be sure to vet the company making the offer — are they real, and do they have a positive track record on Yelp, Google, and other consumer review sites?
Remember, you can always search Scambook to see if other consumers have lodged complaints about a business.
Make sure to get all contracts and orders in writing and leave an electronic trail whenever you pre-pay for anything.
For example, when you reserve your shared poolside cabana online, make sure you get a list of rules and regulations detailing all costs.
Also, use a credit card instead of mailing cash or a check — that way, if you run into any unscrupulous trip brokers, authorities can more easily nab them by examining your financial records. You’ll also be able to dispute unauthorized charges, like hidden fees, for up to 60 days.
Finally, as we noted above, some basic research is vital for spring break travel safety. It’s also important to keep your travel documents on hand and take safety precautions if you go abroad.
4 Spring Break Safety Tips for College Students
- Make sure you’re booking a stay at a hotel that actually exists. Verify the lodging online and call the front desk.
- If you see an airline offering a great discount, give them a call to verify.
- Get a confirmation code, contact name, etc. whenever possible in order to keep tabs on the arrangements. Keep this information with you when you’re traveling.
- Arrange transportation ahead of time. Many spring breakers travel a long way, often across state lines or entire oceans — you’ll want to make sure you don’t become stranded.
With these safety tips in mind, go forth and be merry this spring! Remember to plan ahead and budget well. Keep a sharp eye on all your spring break transactions.
When you make reliable travel and hotel plans, you’ll be free to lose your dignity without losing your savings. For the smart consumer, spring break is a breeze!
What are your spring break plans this year? What’s your dream vacation? Tell us about it in the comments.