Spring Break seems pretty straightforward: Find some friends and a beach, and have yourself the haziest, sleaziest week of your life. But not so fast, beaver-eager. There are some bad people, and badder deals, lurking out there. We spoke to Rocky Berndsen, New York regional manager of STA Travel and frighteningly knowledgeable Spring Break expert, to get the low-down on vacation scams and what not to do on vacation.
Always book your trip with a reputable company. If a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The worst scammers will take your money and disappear without a trace by the time your so-called flight is scheduled to take off. Others will change your flights without telling you, forcing you to return to the airport day after day until they finally feel ready to board the plane. And don’t even get us started on those hidden fees (which, Berndsen helpfully points, STA doesn’t do).
Be safe. When traveling to foreign countries, don’t hang out by yourself at night. First of all, that would be lame. And, second, a lot of popular vacation spots aren’t necessarily situated in the safest cities. Local criminals often prey on unsuspecting tourists. That’s why they call them ‘criminals.’
Purchase travel insurance. In STA’s case, a mere $48 covers lost bags, a refund in case you fall deathly ill the day before your flight and hospital expenses (in case you stumble over a balcony while trying to take an upside-down body shot).
Start planning NOW. Most package deals won’t sell you a ticket for a specific date. You’ll have to be flexible within a few days, and you might not know until a week before your trip whether you’re leaving on a Friday or Saturday. If you’d feel more comfortable choosing your own dates (*cough* control freak *cough*) and want to fly on a major airline, you can invest a little more money on a custom package.
Get the extras. Definitely go with the party package if your travel company offers one. For about $100, you get VIP entry (no lines, no fees) to all the best clubs, drink deals every night and entry to a bunch of all-you-can-drink parties. Most companies offer inexpensive three-meals-a-day plan, and they can still make money doing it, because hardly anyone actually eats the slop they’re serving. If you really don’t care about what you’re eating and want to save all your money for drinks, go for it. Otherwise, shell out a little cash for something edible.