Guidelines for Spring Break

Each spring, thousands of college students make an annual migration to various spring break hotspots. The most common destinations are the various beaches of Florida, South Padre Island, Texas, Las Vegas, Cancún and other resorts in Mexico.

Spring break can be a joyous and memorable experience; it can also become a miserable disaster. There are a number of ways to avoid the spring break from hell that apply no matter what hot spot your destination is.

Tips to Avoid Disaster – Travel Scams

Spring break travel packages start advertising on internet as early as October. Some are reputable agencies, but many are scam artists. To avoid being ripped off:

  • Get the name and street and postal addresses of the Travel Agency – an email address is NOT good enough!
  • Get the name of the airline and flight number before buying the spring break package.
  • Get the name and phone number of the destination hotel and confirm they exist before you buy the package.
  • Know how many people have been booked as hotel “roommates” and get this in writing.
  • Look out for hidden charges, such as hotel damage deposits, which are rarely mentioned until you arrive and it is too late to turn back; local hotel/motel taxes that are not included in the quoted price; and special spring break parking fees if you rent a car.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the travel agency has complaints.
  • If the price sounds too good to be true, it usually is too good to be true.

Spring Break and the Law

Many spring break revelers assume that the laws that apply at Urbana-Champaign some how don’t apply or are greatly relaxed at their spring break destinations.

The iron hand of the law does apply, although some communities do relax enforcement for minor offenses, but are vigorous in dealing with more serious matters, such as possession of marijuana.

Tips for Florida Beaches

  • No alcoholic beverages on beaches
  • No glass containers on beaches
  • No sleeping/camping on beaches
  • No fires on beaches unless in designated areas
  • Many communities prohibit sleeping in cars

During spring break in Florida, University of Illinois students are commonly arrested for underage drinking, providing alcohol to a minor, urinating in public and fighting.

Tips for Las Vegas

In recent years, Las Vegas has become a major spring break city. There are many myths about “Sin City” that you should be aware of:

Myth: Prostitution is legal in Vegas.
Truth: Las Vegas is in Clark County, Nevada, and prostitution is absolutely illegal, and this law is enforced.

Myth: Anyone can drink and drink for free.
Truth: You must be 21 to drink alcohol in the State of Nevada, just as in Illinois. Free alcohol is only given to those of age who are actually engaged in gambling at a casino.

Myth: Casinos let anyone gamble regardless of age.
Truth: Casinos, especially during spring break, vigilantly enforce the law that permits only those 21 and older to participate in games of chance.

Myth: Pot is legal in Nevada.
Truth: As of 01/01/2017, recreational use of marijuana is legal and can be bought only from recreational marijuana shops, NOT medical dispensaries. It must be consumed in private, by law, NOT in public.

Laws are stringently enforced during Vegas Spring Break!

Tips for South Padre Island

  • The rules in Florida and Las Vegas apply on South Padre Island, with variable enforcement.
  • Marijuana laws are enforced to their fullest extent.
  • Do not assume that you can obtain pot in Mexico for personal use and cross the border to Texas and not be searched.
  • Probable cause is not needed by authorities to search your vehicle or person at an international border.

Tips for Cancún and other Resorts of Mexico

  • When you are in Mexico, the laws of Mexico apply to you. Your U.S. citizenship does not immunize you from prosecution, nor will you have the same rights you have while north of the border.
  • If arrested, you should contact friends who are with you so they can post bail and obtain a local attorney to represent you.
  • Your family attorney back home is not likely to be Spanish-speaking or licensed to practice in Mexico, so don’t waste time calling a U.S. attorney.
  • Arrest is easily avoided by simply accepting the fact that if an activity is illegal in the U.S., it is 99% of the time just as illegal in Mexico.
  • Enforcement of drinking and drug laws may be relaxed during spring break, but they are generally not ignored altogether.

Useful Websites

This pamphlet does not constitute legal advice. Students who are confronted with legal problems or who need specific advice are encouraged to seek assistance from a licensed attorney at Student Legal Services.


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The information on this page is also available to download in brochure form.