How To Stay Safe on Your Summer Break Vacation
There’s no better feeling than handing your professor your last finished exam before packing up and heading off to summer vacation. Goodbye, coffee assisted all-nighters. Hello, coveted tropical destination and much-needed suntans.
You’ve been looking forward to this for weeks, carefully planning your flights and hotel stays. You have everything under control, all down to the outfits you’ll wear each day and the photo locations you’ll feature on your latest Instagram posts.
But what if I told you that no matter how much planning you do or how much you believe you have everything under control, danger could arise? Summer vacations should be some of the best times of your life, but there are risks associated with a week in a foreign city or country spent partying and heavy drinking.
Each year, more than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 become victims of alcohol-related assault or date rape. None of us want to become a statistic. While there’s no absolute way to ensure safety in all scenarios, here are five tips for staying safe during this year’s summer vacation season.
- Never Leave Your Drink Unattended
You’ve probably heard this piece of advice hundreds of times and you’re thinking, “Duh, I know that.” Yet, moments are easy to get caught up in and what seems like an obvious reminder while sober could turn into life-saving advice after you’re several drinks in.
Take this one to heart. Whether you’re at a club, a bar or a house party, your drink should be attached to you. If you go to the restroom, bring it with you. If you want to get up and dance, consider waiting until you polish off your current drink first.
Never ask someone you don’t trust to watch your drink for you while you step away. Even asking a friend to watch your drink could pose risks. With so much going on around them and the likelihood that they’re also drinking, their guard could be down.
To take this one step further, holding your cup by the tips of your fingers with your palm covering the opening is the best way to protect against someone slipping a drug into it while you’re looking away.
- Utilize The Buddy System
Typically speaking, since alcohol is a sedative and a depressant that affects your central nervous system and lowers your inhibitions, it has the ability to temporarily reduce social anxiety. This is why many people experience a gain in confidence after they’re several drinks in. Be mindful of this and the fact that you could easily end up away from your group and your friends in a place you otherwise would have exerted caution.
The buddy system is of great importance for individual safety. A study conducted by the University of Kent found that individuals who have consumed moderate amounts of alcohol in social situations are likely to view risky situations with greater caution when considering them as part of a group.
With this being said, make sure you always stay with at least one other person you trust. If you’re traveling with a large group of people but decide to split away with a smaller group, keep a group chat going with updates on your new locations. The most popular vacation destinations are likely to be overrun with people, so it’s important to keep track of your friends for your own safety as well as theirs. Doing extra research into the area will also help you determine which hotels, restaurants and bars are safer than others.
- Keep Your Phone Charged
With today’s technology, we’re fortunate enough to have friends and emergency contacts at arm’s reach. Keep your phone charged! Spending $20 on a portable phone charger is a small price to pay if you find yourself lost in an unfamiliar location with low battery.
If you forgot to buy a portable phone charger, still consider bringing your wall charger in your purse or backpack. More and more public places are adding charging stations and/or additional outlets. If you find yourself alone at a bar with a dead phone and no charger, ask the bartender if they have an extra cord you can plug your phone into until you have enough charge to call an Uber or a Lyft. Never walk home alone, especially if it means going through dimly lit alleys or back streets.
There are also several companies developing apps for people to use for general safety or emergency situations. The Find My Friends app lets you permanently or temporarily share your location with people of your choosing. The Noonlight app allows you to request emergency help to your exact location without even picking up the phone to call 911. All you have to do is press a button and the local police will be notified. Conduct some research into which apps you think fit your lifestyle and put them in an emergency folder on your home screen.
- Use the SipChip Drug Detection Device
Trust your gut feeling. I know what you’re thinking. You wouldn’t want to throw out what could be a perfectly good drink just because you have a tiny inkling in the back of your mind that something could be wrong with it. I know I’ve had the same thought. You’re already on a strict budget and that drink was like, $13. However, if your drink is spiked, it’s nearly impossible to tell.
Common drugs used in spiking such as Rohypnol, Xanax and Valium have no physical characteristics present such as color or smell once mixed with alcohol. Because of this, most victims of spiked drinks realize it after it’s too late and symptoms such as vision or motion impairment, confusion, nausea and even blackouts occur.
So, why wait until it might be too late? The founders of Undercover Colors were tired of hearing the countless tragic stories of young women and men falling victim to drink tampering. They spent four years coming up with the SipChip, the most advanced date-rape drug detection test on the market, for those situations where your gut tells you something might be wrong. With the SipChip, you can either put your mind at ease or know to get yourself to a safer place.
You don’t have to look like you’re conducting a science experiment in the middle of the bar, either. SipChip can fit inside your pocket, on the back of your phone case, or attached to your car keys. You can click here for a detailed video on how to use the device, but know that the test is so discrete that you could take your drink to the restroom, conduct the test, get the results back and be out in as little as 30 seconds.
One drop of liquid from your drink into the test is all it takes to detect whether it has been tainted or not with over 99% accuracy. The results are easy to read and are similar to that of a pregnancy test. One line means your drink has been spiked. Two lines means your drink is clear.
- If the SipChip Detects a Substance in Your Drink, Call For Outside Help
You’ve just completed the SipChip drug detection test and the results come back positive for the detection of a substance inside your drink. What do you do now? Everything you’ve read about drink tampering tells you what to do to avoid it, but not what to do when you suddenly find yourself or a friend in the middle of a potentially life-threatening situation.
First, find as many people from your trusted group as you can because remember, there’s more safety in numbers and you need to ensure that you are not in immediate danger and your friends are not targets as well. Then, reach out to someone you trust such as a parent, friend or significant other who is not at the bar or party location you are at and is able to come pick you up. Bottom line: remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible!
It is important to note that while most of the time workers at a bar such as the bartender or bouncer could offer you assistance, this is not always the case. There have been instances where bartenders have been the perpetrators of drink spiking. Also, remember that the guy you met earlier in the night who is offering to walk you home could be the one that tainted your drink in the first place, no matter how nice he seems. Trust your judgment and only leave once you’re with trusted friends or safely in a Lyft or Uber that can take you straight home.
It should be shouted for all to hear that a victim of drink tampering, sexual assault or rape is never at fault and should never be made to feel ashamed or guilty no matter what they were wearing, how they were acting, what they were drinking or who they were with. Only the perpetrator is responsible.
While we dream of a world where this greater societal problem is eliminated, until then we can serve as a reminder to all young women and men that while it is not your job to prevent these things, you can take matters into your own hands to avoid these situations and stay safe if you do find yourself in the middle of one.