Taking Spring Break to the extreme

Students discuss XtremeTrips

The Spectrum

Downing bottomless drinks at the beach, tanning by the pool and dancing at clubs until 5 a.m. may sound like just another unattainable Spring Break paradise.

But for the approximately 12,000 college students who use XtremeTrips to travel to "top spring break destinations," this paradise is a reality. Xtreme Trips, a national student travel company, recruits students from top-ranked party schools, including Penn State, University of Maryland, Syracuse University and University of Florida.

This year, approximately 100 UB students are attending XtremeTrips' Spring Break trip to Puerto Vallarta - a Mexican resort city - according to Jake Frank, a senior communication major and an XtremeTrips recruiter for UB.

The trip costs about $2,000, and it includes a seven-day all-inclusive vacation - with meals and unlimited alcohol - and airfare. Puerto Vallarta's resort has two pools, each accompanied by a fully stocked bar, and a beach where students can jet ski, have their hair braided and receive henna tattoos.

Over the past few years, thousands of UB students have joined the Spring Break craze. During her sophomore year, Hannah Hilton*, a senior communication major, went to Mexico through XtremeTrips with several of her UB friends. She said it was "one of the craziest weeks" of her life, and "the open bar really made the trip worth every dollar."

But other students aren't as impressed with these types of trips.

This year, Talia Schwartz, a sophomore psychology major, is going on Spring Break with XtremeTrips because many of her friends are going. But when she was a high school senior, she went on a Spring Break trip with XtremeTrips High School (which is a different company) and found the experience frustrating.

"I think they blow," Schwartz said. "They advertise themselves well - they make themselves seem cheaper and more convenient than their competitor company, Gradcity. But my experience with them was a hassle from Day One."

She is unhappy with the flight Xtreme Trips, the college company, scheduled for her and her friends. They arrive in Mexico at night, which takes a day away from the vacation.

Still, Schwartz is excited to enjoy the unlimited food and alcohol. But she hopes more companies start offering Spring Break trips because XtremeTrips is "monopolizing" college students' Spring Break trips.

During Hilton's Spring Break in Mexico, she said she and her friends enjoyed games of beer pong and flip cup by the poolside; they were surrounded by tables of nachos, guacamole, melted cheese, hot dogs, French fries and hamburgers.Live disc jockeys played music throughout the day as students danced on the dance-floor area near the pool; others lay on beach chairs to tan.

And while she and her friends enjoyed the 18-year-old drinking age - as they woke up at 10 a.m. and started drinking until dinnertime - and then go out to Mexican clubs with the thousands of students - she also pointed out the dangers she and her friends encountered while vacationing in Mexico.

Some of her friends took drugs and thought it was "comical" to get drugs like ecstasy and Xanax, also popularly referred to as "bars," in the midst of a Mexican drug war.

Though Hilton said she would never take drugs, especially in a foreign country, she still had fun dancing drunkenly throughout the trip. It's a week to let loose and forget about the stresses of the outside world, she said.

"Yes, it scared me when my friends took pills and got on a bus to leave our resort and party in some villa in another part of Mexico," Hilton said. "But I let them do as they pleased and I stayed behind with everyone else who wanted to have a safe time on our resort. We drank before we even had breakfast most days and danced on the pool bars all afternoon."

Such extreme drinking can have negative effects, according to Sharlynn Daun-Barnett, the alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention specialistfor UB's Wellness Education Services. She said the mindset of "stereotypical" spring break vacations can make students sick.

"Drinking alcohol in extreme, hot temperatures can more rapidly dehydrate you, raise your blood pressure, increase your chances of developing hypoglycemia and increases your chances of heat stroke," Daun-Barnett said in an email. "Pace yourself to about one standard drink per hour, and alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic beverages."

Daun-Barnett suggested students reduce their time outdoors, drink water and avoid caffeine.

She also encourages students who are vacationing during spring break to never drink while driving a boat. She said the same things that make drinking and driving dangerous can be as deadly on water.

"Boating, windsurfing, jet skiing and waterskiing - anything that involves speed and skill - can be dangerous," Daun-Barnett said. "It is also dangerous to swim or dive if you have been drinking. Alcoholwill inhibit your swallowing and breathing reflexes."

Some students have other concerns. I'm Schmacked, a group that records documentaries of college students partying, films students at Xtreme Trips. Shelby Lebo, a junior communication major, went to Mexico two years ago and was featured in an "I'm Schmacked" video. She said she did not appreciate being filmed drinking and partying.

Despite the risks, UB students are excited to head south for a brief break from winter.

Alex Levy, a sophomore communication major, is going on an XtremeTrip vacation for the first time. He said the company has been organized and makes the process of planning a spring break trip easy.

"I'm excited to leave the 4-degree snowy weather in Buffalo to go to an awesome city in Mexico where there's sun and warmth," Levy said. "It's going to be a great time hanging on the beach and drinking watered-down alcohol with my best friends."

Wellness Education Services recommends students use their time over Spring Break to rejuvenate and get ready to finish off their semesters at their best.

Daun-Barnett said most college students do not have the money or time to go on these trips, noting that 93 percent of 1,000 college students interviewed by Century Council about Spring Break either go home to visit family, work, study or participate in service work or Alternative Spring Break.

*The Spectrum has changed this source's name at her request to protect her anonymity.

email: features@ubspectrum.com