Spring breakers prepare for travel despite U.S. advisories

Wherever students decide to travel to for spring break, the U.S. State Department has urged all to travel with caution.

With midterms coming to a close, many Trojans have their sights set on one of the biggest travel weeks of the year: spring break.

The last few weeks have put USC students through colder than normal temperatures and an unusual amount of rain. With midterm exams on top of the weather, students are ready for some rest and relaxation.

“It gets overwhelming sometimes with work,” said Priscila Villegas, a freshman majoring in computational mathematics. “So these breaks are really valuable to me.

Many students are also planning to go back home, recalling stories of spring breaks of the past.

“I’m from Philly. I’m going back, but I’m taking three of my friends with me who’ve never been,” said Abigail Rowley, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering. “[Last year] my friends and I went to a new cheesesteak place [every day].”

Despite all the student excitement for their spring break travels, students are advised to proceed with caution no matter their final destination. Whether students plan to venture home to Philadelphia like Rowley, take a seven hour flight to Tijuana or simply stay in Los Angeles over break, dangerous situations can present themselves anywhere.

Recent events may further evoke wariness from students looking to travel during spring break, especially for those planning to make a trip down south to Mexico. Last week, four Americans were kidnapped in the border city of Matamoros by armed gunmen. Two of the Americans were found dead on Tuesday, according to CNN.

The United States Department of State has since issued an explicit travel advisory for Mexico, a popular spring break destination for students at many universities across the U.S., including USC. The advisory urged travelers to “exercise increased caution” while traveling to Cancún, Tulum and Cabo San Lucas, all popular travel destinations for spring breakers.

But while the department has advised against traveling to the country, many are still planning to make the trek.

“I’d say if you’re trying to travel there, definitely bring someone who knows their way around the city,” said Ian Santillan, a junior majoring in environmental engineering who plans to make the trip to Tijuana to visit family.

Despite the advisory, Santillan said he isn’t too worried.

“To be honest, I know the area pretty decently, and my family has been there for so long that we know where not to go and how to keep each other safe,” Santillan said. “So it really just comes down to being able to know the area or being with people who do.”

Currently, six states in Mexico are marked with a “Do Not Travel” advisory. Baja California, a popular tourism destination for Southern Californians, is marked with a “Reconsider Travel” advisory.

One fact to take into account before dubbing Mexico “unsafe” is that many of the popular tourist destinations in Mexico are located far away from Matamoros. In an interview with CNN, founder and CEO of travel company Journey Mexico Zachary Rabinor put the distance into perspective.

“Matamoros is about 1,360 miles away from Cancun — that’s about the equivalent distance from the Texas side of the border to Chicago, Illinois,” Rabinor said.

Another factor to consider is how many other popular vacation destinations also have travel warnings. France and the Bahamas are also marked with “exercise increased caution” due to civil unrest, terrorism and crime respectively.

Several countries in the Middle East popular with spring break goers also received an “exercise increased caution” travel warning. Jason Marino, a freshman majoring in business administration, is planning on traveling to Dubai — the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates — as a part of a USC-sponsored trip for his spring break. Despite the warning, Marino remains mostly unconcerned.

“I spoke to my friend who’s from Abu Dhabi and he told me that the UAE’s one of the safest countries to be in, so I actually thought the opposite [about the warning],” Marino said.

An increasingly popular destination for spring break is Miami Beach, Florida, but in the time post-COVID-19 lockdown stretch it has become a beacon for chaos. Since then, Miami has seen shootings, street brawls, crowd stampedes and public indecency, officials and locals say.

Just last year, spring break antics became so dangerous that Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber issued a city wide curfew in an attempt to tame the masses of college students. This curfew was put into action largely due to two separate shootings that injured several people, according to the New York Post.

Although these recent events should be taken seriously to encourage all students to be aware of their surroundings wherever their spring break takes them, Trojans still plan on enjoying their deserved time off.

“Hell yes, [I’m excited],” Santillan said. “I’ve been waiting for a break.”

Here are some general safety tips, provided by USC Student Affairs, for students everywhere to ensure a fun, yet safe spring break:

  1. Be sure to lock up your apartment, house or dorm if you are leaving and never leave valuable items visible in your home or car.
  2. Always remember your photo ID, passport or any other important identification documents if you are leaving L.A.
  3. Make sure you’re aware of any travel advisories or warnings about your destination prior to departure.
  4. If students are experiencing an emergency in the U.S. Port of Entry, they can call the USC Department of Public Safety (DPS) at (213) 740-6000 for assistance.