Spring Break Safety: 17 Items Every College Student Needs to Pack

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image: group of male and female college students in swimsuits and sunglasses near the oceans edge on a sunny day jumping exuberantly in the air

Every year around the country hordes of college students swarm together to celebrate Spring Break. Sometimes it’s all fun and games, and everyone comes home well rested and ready for their final weeks of the semester. However, in many cases, kids end up in the ER or worse. We don’t want that. Just like you prepared them to be ready for campus emergencies, you can prepare them for spring break hazards. Hopefully, these spring break safety tips will help keep your kids and grandkids safe while they have a fun-filled break from school, exams, and stress.

When is Spring Break?

Check  the dates of Spring Breaks around the country.

17 Items for Spring Break Safety

If you have a college kid doing “the spring break thing” this year, here are a few survival items they should have packed in their suitcase.

  1. A water bottle with a good filter, like this one from Life Straw, the LifeStraw Go. This is especially essential if your Spring Breaker is heading to Mexico to soak in the sun.
  2. A flashlight or other light source. I always have at least one LED flashlight with me, no matter where I go. Your college student might like the UVPaqlite, which doesn’t depend on batteries for its light. Dark, unfamiliar areas can be dangerous, and having a dependable light source is highly recommended. Even a tiny keychain LED light is better than nothing.
  3. A bandana. Use it as a head or neck covering from the sun, an emergency bandage, a quick washcloth or towel, or a waist pouch to hold small belongings.
  4. Sunscreen. Sunburns are no fun on vacay (or any other time for that matter!). If your college student has sensitive skin, they should test one or two brands of sunscreen, maybe even more, to ensure they find one that doesn’t cause an allergic reaction.
  5. A whistle. Young women, in particular, can find themselves in precarious situations and in need of help. My own personal choice for self-defense is not a whistle, but if this is all that can be legally packed in a suitcase, it’s better than nothing. Additionally, this article by a former CIA officer shares methods to help women to spot and avoid trouble in the first place.
  6. A small solar charger. Your college student should never leave home without a cell phone and battery charger. If their phone’s battery is running low and they can’t get to an electrical outlet, a solar charger can save the day. Make sure they also have a charging cord.
  7. A good book. Flights can be delayed and canceled. Travel almost always brings various inconveniences, and a paperback book is a great way to pass the time. I don’t recommend bringing a Kindle or Nook because they are easy items for a thief to pocket. (A Kindle app on a cell phone is a great option. Just make sure that your cell phone doesn’t get lost or stolen!) Hey, if your kid is survival-minded, they might like my survival manual, Survival Mom!
  8. Travel-sized sanitation products: hand sanitizer, a small packet of tissues (emergency TP), a packet of Clorox wipes. I’m not exactly a germaphobe, but you never know what bacteria and viruses might be lurking, especially in a very large group of people. Moreover, if your kid is going on a cruise ship, I recommend wiping down all surfaces of the stateroom, including phone and TV remote control, with a few disinfecting wipes. Oh, and if you fall on that side of the fence, include a few masks, just in case. Here’s a longer list of hygiene items to consider.
  9. Anti-diarrhea medicine. Stomach flu, too much alcohol, food poisoning, and stress can cause tummy problems, and who wants to spend their vacation stuck in the bathroom?
  10. Any necessary medications, such as an inhaler or prescription meds. clearly label this if you’ll be going through customs.
  11. Small, basic first aid kit.
  12. A pair of cargo pants or shorts. There’s no point in packing a few emergency supplies if you have nowhere to carry them that is both handy and secure.
  13. Pepper spray. A small canister can fit almost anywhere, including that pair of cargo shorts. This pepper spray pistol is pretty cool and effective. If they’re flying, they must pack this in checked luggage since it’s not allowed in carry-on luggage.
  14. Foam earplugs. If your Spring Breaker shares a hotel room with multiple people, there will surely be at least one snorer. These are also handy when you’re stuck at an airport and just want some peace and quiet.
  15. Bug spray. Travel-sized, if you can find it.
  16. A bodyguard. When my daughter is old enough to go out of town on Spring Break, I’ll do my best to send along a well-armed bodyguard for my own peace of mind! If you can’t afford a bodyguard, then take a friend who will watch your back. Use the buddy system. It’s not just for the littles.
  17. Common Sense. Pack a truckload of this, please. Whatever happens on Spring Break does NOT stay on Spring Break. Every year kids make poor decisions during this supposed-to-be fun-filled week that affect their lives well beyond those seven days. This is your mother speaking!

Sfrog self defense kit

Additional Safety Tips

It’s not the world we grew up in, but we can teach our kids to enjoy and navigate through it with wisdom and discretion. Therefore, here are a few more bonus tips for Spring Break safety:

  • Practice situational awareness. This helps your child avoid trouble in the first place.
  • Protect information about your location. This includes sharing it verbally, which could be overheard, and sharing details on social media like Instagram, TikTok, or Facebook. Likewise, guard your hotel room number also.
  • Create a code word for your group as a way to communicate distress and the need for help.
  • Drive carefully, especially if going to a popular spring break destination. This study about traffic fatalities over the weeks of Spring Break is from 2015 but I doubt much has changed.
  • Coach them to think through what they would do in an emergency evacuation. The “What if…?” game is easily adaptable to college-age kids.
  • If your children are flying, go through our Ultimate Survival Guide to Canceled Flights with them to prepare them for that possibility.


We’re parents. We’re going to worry. However, if we can better prep our kids for spring break, maybe we’ll worry a little less.

Do you have a college student heading out on Spring Break? What would you add to this list?


This article was originally published on March 7, 2014, and has been updated.

7 thoughts on “Spring Break Safety: 17 Items Every College Student Needs to Pack”

  1. printed list of emergency contacts – name & phone numbers & email addresses. for emergencies when phone is not available. also consider emailing this list to yourself in case you lose all bags but can get to internet.

    1. I used to travel 100% for work. I printed out (in the smallest size I could still read) my kids phone numbers. Then I used clear packing tape to affix it to the back of my passport and/or phone. It stayed on really well as long as tge paper was covered by the tape on all 4 sides.

  2. Solar-Run Car Battery ChargerA solar powered automobile battery charger is a handy product of tools to have in your auto, notably when you
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    or months at a time.
    The solar run auto battery charger contains a photovoltaic panel which
    is generally put on top rated of the vehicle dashboard to choose
    up the offered daylight that arrives by way of the vehicle’s
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    inside of of your car’s windscreen.
    There are also roof-mounted PV panels out there to go on
    the roof of RVs. And these roof-mounted solar panels can also also used on motor-residences,
    trailers and caravans to keep an auxiliary battery charged..

    A wire runs from the PV panel to a cigarette lighter plug which
    goes conveniently into the cigarette lighter electricity socket in your car’s dashboard.

    With compact photovoltaic panels a battery regulator is
    not expected since the PV panel’s wattage is much too minimal to overcharge
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    of as those people mounted on the roof of a tenting
    trailer or motor-residence, a charge controller is highly recommended to
    make absolutely sure your battery is not damaged
    from far too considerably of a great point.

  3. #16 and especially #17.
    And that’s why I like the Survival Mom. Now that I’m older I realize mom’s in general do know what they’re talking about.

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