The beach was pristine. The clear blue water of the lagoon-style pool beckoned. The food was fabulous and the room exquisite.
After years of planning, Brian Mayers was finally able to escape the pressures of his job with the Anne Arundel County, Md., Fire Department to take a well-deserved break from his three kids. He had arranged for the pet, house, and baby sitters. He and his wife were finally headed to the paradise called Cancun to celebrate an anniversary.
But when Mayers landed in the tropical paradise on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, he found he wasn’t alone.
Thousands of spring breakers were also there, waiting to spoil his dream. “They took over the pool, and when they weren’t in the pool they were taking over the bars,” he remembers. “Kids passing out and vomiting all over this luxury property was not what I had in mind. The hotel even removed all of the fire extinguishers because the kids were stealing them.”
Mayers went on to describe the other antics he encountered, ranging from being flashed from the balcony to having other guests pound on his door at 4 a.m., to enduring food fights at the buffet.
What’s an adult to do?
Avoid hot dates. Spring break comes into full swing every year in early March and continues through early May and it is no longer limited to the college crowd. Today’s spring breakers are younger and more apt to be inexperienced in traveling, and in the case of the spring break ritual — drinking. When you book your trip, keep these two months in mind. Your travel agent can discretely inquire about the guests and get a good feel for you. Some subtle questions to ask your travel planner might include:
How many rooms will accept four people? (Most spring breakers pack as many people in a room as possible.)
Are there any groups that are booked into the resort? (Sometimes schools and travel agencies will sponsor spring break trips.)
How many vacant rooms are there now? (Spring break is a coming of age ritual and is typically planned at least 5 to 6 months in advance.)
Grow up. There is a growing segment of the vacation market that caters to the adult community. While spring breakers are technically considered adults, many of these properties require that you be at least 25 to book your trip, and many will not allow more than two per room. You will see very few spring breakers at resorts such as Sandals, Secrets, The Grand Lido or Couples resorts. If you are looking for a family oriented trip, Beaches or Breezes might be the best choice. What tends to separate these from the rest of the pack are inclusions and price. Any of these resorts will set you back a bit, but if you are seeking a civilized vacation, especially during the danger months, look to an adults-only resort that advertises itself as a resort for adults or couples.
Go to sea. Sometimes, the best way to avoid the spring breakers is to get on a boat as they are getting off of a plane. Again, most cruise lines do not accept individual passengers under 25. While a land-based resort may have hundreds of acres and many buildings, a cruise ship is a big floating hotel with 2,000 people. While they are very spacious, they are still relatively small and the crews are not very obliging towards behavior that would disrupt another guest. Cruising is still a growing business and they want you to return time and time again, and will go to the extreme to disembark a happy sailor.
Avoid the hotspots. While you probably want to go to a beach, think about avoiding the hot spots for spring break. Currently, Cancun, South Padre Island, Daytona Beach, and Key West are the “in” places for spring break with close to 70 percent of all spring breakers heading to one of those destinations. Why not avoid it entirely and head someplace else? To steer clear of the crowds, look to Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico’s Riviera Maya, or even the Bahamas or Bermuda if it is a little later in the season. Hotspots will change, however. Fort Lauderdale went to great lengths to shed its spring break image after the city realized that it did more damage to its reputation than good. Any competent travel consultant will be able to give you a good idea where the kids are heading in any given year.
Complain now. If you somehow end up amid a throng of kids, make your dissatisfaction known at the time. Speak to the manager and ask to be relocated to another part of the resort or to another hotel if needed. It is always best to complain at the time of your displeasure. When you return, it is likely that the details will not be fresh — and possibly embellished since you have been stewing for a while and you will not get the resolve you want. The people who have the power to make you happy and correct the situation are on the boat, or in the hotel. If you still can’t resolve it, then get your agent involved when you return.
With a little common sense and some good planning, you can avoid a spring break disaster. There is no reason that your vacation should end up with pool full of anything more than the crystal clear water and other well-behaved guests.
John Frenaye is the president of JVE Group, Inc., a diversified company which operates the Carlson Wagonlit Travel associate office in Arnold, Md. With a background in business management, he writes about the travel industry as an insider with an outsider's perspective.