Millions of teenagers are ready for their dream spring break vacations, while their parents could be facing some sleepless nights.
For many parents sending their children on that first solo vacation can be a little nerve-wracking.
Ruth to the Rescue has checked with some experts about steps that can increase safety, without sacrificing the fun.
One West Bloomfield father told Ruth to the Rescue his worst spring break fear can be summed up in two words, "Natalee Holloway!"
Bob Goode has sent three daughters on spring break. While he trusts his girls, he's mindful of the fact that traveling comes with risks.
"You're going out of the country. You're going on your own," Goode said.
"It's a nightmare for any family, you know, any parent to send their kids on a trip and not come home," said Lisa Rosenberg of West Bloomfield.
The story of Natalee Holloway:
The mysterious disappearance of Natalee Holloway captivated the nation's attention back in 2005.
She vanished while on a graduation trip to Aruba. The story of her disappearance resonated with parents and teenagers around the world, giving them a grim reminder of the potential dangers students face while on spring break. "It's always in the back of a parent's mind but I think the kids are very aware of the situation, and hopefully they've learned from that situation," said Liz Barker, another West Bloomfield mother who is sending her daughter on spring break this year.
Location is Key:
These parents chose a chaperoned trip to the Bahamas through the Cadillac Travel Group. Owner David Fishman has supervised the trip for 15 years, and he puts a premium on safety.
"The number one thing that we talk about is where you go, you never go alone and you always have someone with you," said David Fishman, owner of the Cadillac Travel Group.
Ruth to the Rescue also checked with Melanie Duquesnel the CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan. She says there are important questions to ask before you choose a chaperone. How many chaperones per child? What are their backgrounds? What will their involvement be during the trip? Will the chaperones accompany the students everywhere?
Duquesnel says qualified chaperones certainly help teenagers stay safe during spring break, but she also has some other advice. For example, she suggests you also carefully consider the location of your teenager's hotel room. "You do not want to put your four young women at the end of the hallway next to a stairwell because its too convenient for an abductor to escort them down the stairs," said Melanie Duquesnel, CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan.
She also says teenagers should be very careful about sharing hotel information or specific plans with people they've just met. "Anybody that is truly a stranger, even though they may be very, very cute, I would highly recommend keeping that information as close to the vest as possible," said Duquesnel.
Keep in Touch:
If phone contact is possible, Duquesnel says it's a good idea to set expectations about how and when to touch base. Make sure your teenager knows that if you call them, you expect some kind of communication in return, maybe not immediately, but set an agreed timeline to make sure you know
your teen is okay. Plus, Duquesnel suggests you have a backup plan. "Get their best friend, if they're going, and get their contact information. So, if heaven forbid, you can't get a hold of your child you can call the best friend and say, 'Hey, what's up?'"
The parents that spoke with Ruth to the Rescue were at a mandatory meeting with David Fishman of Cadillac Travel Group. They were about to pick up key documents and receive Fishman's annual spring break safety presentation. Even before they heard Fishman's presentation, the parents already seemed to agree on the most important advice" Never go anywhere by yourself, always have a buddy system," said Liz Baker of West Bloomfield.
"That's why its so important that they stay together in a big group, and know where each other is at all times, even if its going up to the room to take a nap," said Rosenberg, as she sat with her daughter Ryan. Ryan Rosenberg is a senior at Andover High School. She's looking forward to having fun with her friends, but also seems to be taking her mother's advice to heart.
"I know that there is.... the possibility that something could go wrong, but I think I'm a smart kid, who knows what's right and wrong," she said.
Cadillac Travel's safety checklist also includes these items:
- In addition to making sure you never go off alone, don't let your friends wander off. If you feel someone is heading into an unsafe situation, contact a chaperone.
- If you go to a club, do NOT leave your drink unattended, as someone could try to spike it with drugs. This warning includes water, soft drinks, or alcoholic beverages.
- Never buy or sell drugs.
- Educate yourself about local customs if you travel out of the country. Be sure to follow local laws and social norms to avoid trouble.
- Put all your valuables in the room safe. (extra cash, phones, tablets, credit cards)
- Remember photos you post online can live on the internet forever. If you wouldn't want your parents, teachers, or prospective employers to see the photo, keep it to yourself.
The Better Business Bureau also warns spring breakers about two scams that can pop up once you're at the hotel. The first is a pizza delivery scam. Duquesnel says she's heard about scam artists sticking fliers under hotel doors promising cheap pizza, and saying 'We even take credit cards".
Hungry teenagers may be thrilled that they can used their credit/debit cards to pay, but the pizza place may not exist. It's simple an attempt to grab the customers' personal information. So, beware of pizza fliers shoved under the door. You can cross-reference the fliers against the phone book, or call the front desk for confirmation the place actually exists. Remember, if the pizza offer seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Also, Duquesnel warns spring breakers (and anyone who travels) to beware of calls allegedly coming from the front desk, that claim there's a problem with your credit card, and they want to verify your information. Scammers often place those calls to the room in another attempt to gain personal information.
If you receive that type of call, tell the person on the line, you will come down to the front desk at your convenience to sort through any issues. Don't be fooled by a phone call, no matter how official it might sound, or how they might try to pressure you. "It actually happened to be in Boston two years ago." said Melanie Duquesnel, CEO of the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Michigan. "I got that kind of call and I said, 'No, I'm not giving you that kind of information over the phone'".
No doubt, this is a lot of information to think about, but if you stick with some simple safety steps, teenagers can have a good time on spring break, and parents will sleep better at night!