Spring breakers begin arriving in less than a month

Spring break or reading week as it is known in Canada begins in less than a month. For Costa Rica beach communities this may mean more visitors.

U.S. and Canadian youngsters more and more are headed to foreign lands, in part because of the availability of alcohol and other substances.

In Costa Rica, the beach community of Tamarindo is a big draw.

The real flood of Spring Break revelers begins March 2. The firm Inertia Tours keeps track of the dates during which colleges and universities are off. The firm also sells trips, and Costa Rica is one of the destinations. However, the firm also urges students to consider locations, like South Padre Island, Texas, to which they can travel by car.

Municipal regulations and a higher drinking age have made the traditional Florida communities like Fort Lauderdale more sedate. The city was featured in the 1960 movie “Where the Boys Are,” and two decades of spring break parties followed.

S-Trip!, another tour company, even encourages U.S. high schools to travel for spring break or perhaps for a graduation trip.

The Mexican resorts continue to rank high among students, in part because of their proximity and also because of promotions.

Students on spring break will taper off this year after the end of March, although some schools have week-long vacations a week or two later.

The last week of March is Semana Santa, a traditional vacation time, so resort operators will have a good month.

So just how bad are the spring break crowds?

Popular culture says that students leave their morals and good sense on campus.  But a new study says that activities at most spring break destinations may not differ significantly from typical weekend behavior on campuses. The study was summaried by the Penn State University news staff:

“The more you are part of the party atmosphere in the university, the more likely you are to engage those behaviors during spring break,” said Benjamin Hickerson, assistant professor of recreation, park and tourism management, Penn State. “You probably won’t completely deviate from your campus behaviors, and those behaviors are a very good predictor of how you’ll behave on spring break.”

While some studies show that substance abuse and promiscuity increase during spring break, other reports indicate that there is little change between behaviors on spring break and behavior on campus, the researchers said.

The researchers reviewed 29 academic studies on spring break and also considered media reports and other written sources.

Studies that focus on certain party spots may also over-emphasize the amount of self-indulgence, according to the researchers, said Nuno Ribeiro, who added that most research on the spring break phenomenon ignores alternative spring trips for college students, such as mission work, service trips and study abroad programs. He is at the University of Regina, Saskatchewan, and his doctoral research centered in spring break.

The spring break experience also changes over time for students. Risky behaviors tend to peak in the first year as students experiment with drugs, alcohol and sex, and then decrease as students find their limits in subsequent years. The behaviors rise again in the last year of school for the students, which Ribeiro calls the last hurrah effect.

“The variety of spring break experiences is huge,” said Ribeiro. “In certain spots and in certain cases, the stereotypes of spring break excesses are correct, but in other areas it’s not as extreme as the media seem to present.”

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