Spring Break Confidential

With less then one month to go before Spring Break 2006, I have been asked by this reputable publication to take a few moments to share my thoughts on what is arguably the greatest American invention of all time. Yes, Spring Break, perhaps the foremost reason behind my going to back to school in the first place (well, aside from intramural football and spicy tuna rolls).

As a Spring Break veteran, I have bathed with spider monkeys off the southern coast of Jamaica (with Hansel), drag raced on the strip with locals in Panama City, Florida, gotten wobbly at Cabo Wabo in Cabo San Lucas, and been carded along side high schoolers on Paradise Island, Bahamas (I was 26 but that’s besides the point).

It is with the experience of these week-long sojourns escaping the frosty Northeast, as well as countless hours watching “Taradise” on E!. that I have gained the insight to provide you with a few do’s and don’ts of Spring Breaking as you decide where to go and what to do in 2006:

DO: Leave the country. Panama City is neither Panama, nor a city, but it is a rough choice for Spring Break. Florida in general is a wonderful destination for any vacation, but just not for Spring Break. Go there for Spring Break when you need a break from bingo and arthritis. You need exotic and that does not mean seeing every piece of Abercrombie & Fitch clothing ever created on the local high school and college crowd.

DON’T: Choose to do a cruise.ever. So you and your buddies hear of a booze cruise from a local fisherman at the marina. Sounds like a great deal at $30 a person, 3 hours of unlimited Tecate, and bountiful co-eds, all trapped on the floating equivalent of Mardi Gras. Awesome idea, right? WRONG. Whether it’s avoiding the half-drunk skipper and/or crew, dodging the seagull guano from the sky (wasn’t so lucky last spring break), running out of ice within minutes, or finding more men on board then the local penitentiary, the booze cruise is anything but the love boat. Stay on land. You’ll thank me.

DON’T: Go somewhere with a casino. Bad, bad, bad. You gamble on enough things on Spring Break (e.g. your health, your safety, your reputation, just to name a few) that adding actual money gambling to the mix is a recipe for disaster. Penniless on day one, with no one picking up at the local Citiassist office, can only lead to bad times.

DO: Go to a Spring Break destination that is not considered recess for America’s high schools. High school kids are great-energetic, fun, and as the old adage goes, never get older. But they are not ideal for Spring Break. I assure you that tales of Meg Whitman or Porter’s Five Forces will mean little to the Ashlee Simpson set. Therefore, don’t go to the Bahamas, Cancun or any other locale with a juvenile reputation.

DON’T: Negotiate with cab drivers in any Spring Break location. These people will rob you regardless of place, time of day, medical emergency, etc. Resistance is futile and you should instead relish your role of helping sustain the local economy. In fact, bring this feeling of generosity to any commercial transaction – whether it’s paying at the nightclub or the local Subway sandwich shop (and there will be one, guaranteed – it’s apparently okay to “eat fresh” even on Spring Break) – and you will feel a lot better about your trip.

DON’T: Gossip. Go to a mirror, stare (take note of how good looking you are, or I am, either works) and then say, “What happens on Spring Break stays on Spring Break.” Again. One more time. Good. Great.

DO: Believe that the previous gossip rule will be cast completely aside the minute you step on Spring Break soil. Who are we kidding, you go to HBS and all your classmates will be faxed, emailed, smoke signaled, text messaged, paged, telegraphed and called within minutes of your transgression.

DON’T: Drink and dive. Or for that matter drink and do anything mildly aerobic. Danger. For example, cliff diving is a popular Spring Break pastime in Negril, Jamaica. Places like Rick’s Caf‚ and the Pickled Parrot not only function as full-service bars and night clubs, they also sport cliff diving from heights as high as 60 feet over the ocean. Sounds fun, right? But now let’s play my favorite Sesame Street game, “Which of these things doesn’t belong?”: 1) beer 2) tequila, and 3) death-defying stunts. Maybe I’m accustomed to a lot of “3s,” but it’s clear to me that death-defying stunts may be out of place in this crowd. It is bad enough that most of us at school have suffered career-ending sports injuries completely sober. Stick with snorkeling, golf or just plain relaxing.

DO: Go somewhere that has an active Spring Break. Spring Break is a special time if done right at the right place. Unholy amounts of alcohol, undrinkable water, “beauty” contests at every bar, and much more are in store for student adventurers. So put the job hunt on hold, grab your Speedo or two-piece, and head out to Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, or wherever fits the aforementioned criteria. Enjoy and see you in Puerta Vallarta.

March 13, 2006
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