College Connect: Spring break planning calls for caution

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By Sarah Boswell

Spring break, that welcome pause before the last weeks of the semester, also offers the risk of financial pitfalls and other trouble amid the fun. Here’s our list of quick tips and lessons learned from other students.

Watch what you book
The attorney general’s office in Florida deals with consumer complaints all the time, and during spring break some of the most frequent hitches have to do with lodging.

Jerry Lockwood, a financial investigator for the state, said students are better off staying at a hotel or resort than renting a person’s home for the week. It’s easier to file a complaint and get some type of compensation when you work with a known company.

“And don’t make a deposit until you know what you’re getting into,” Lockwood said.

If you’ve already put money down, don’t expect to get out of it if you find a better deal.

“There is no buyer’s remorse in Florida,” he said, referring to the law in some states allowing a rueful consumer to cancel the deal.

Despite the warnings and imperfections, Lockwood said, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun in his state.

“All the beaches are nice and clean — no more oil issues,” he said. “It’s 80 degrees here. You’ll have a great time.”

“All-inclusive” rip-offs
Students who’ve been burned say it’s critical to be wary of hidden costs when making reservations.

Sean Connor, a junior accounting major at Ball State University, thought he had gotten a great deal at a hotel last spring. But he spent almost $600 more than he planned, tipping waiters at the hotel bar, buying food and other necessities.

“With alcohol, it was all-inclusive, but you have to tip pretty well or they won’t serve you,” he said.

Thanks a lot, officer
Lauren Hughes remembers her first spring break with friends. It was a year ago, and she was still in high school.

They had gone to an 18-and-older club in Panama City, Fla. When her friend went to the bathroom, a police officer working security immediately started banging on the door, telling her friend to leave. He thought she was an underage drinker and was getting sick.

Pretty soon, Hughes and her friend were in a manager’s office trying to explain why they deserved to stay at the club – where minutes before they had just spent $20 at the door.

She also felt she had gotten gouged in several places.

“I lost a lot of spending money,” she said, referring to the $40 all-access pass that actually didn’t work at all the clubs. Her friend was able to buy the same pass down the street for $25.

‘Legal’ drugs a problem
“Spice,” also known as K2, has been an issue in some of Florida’s vacation spots, said Jenn Meale, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Pam Bondi. Meale notes that a law was passed making the drug illegal. But a new recipe was created, and now it’s back on the shelves.

“It’s deadly,” she said. “You could buy these over the counter.”

But the fight isn’t over. In mid-February, Bondi joined state Sen. Greg Evers and Rep. Clay Ingram to support a bill that would ban additional substances found in K2. The proposed legislation would make it a third-degree felony to sell, make, deliver or possess the drug.

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Sarah Boswell is a senior at Ball State University and editor of the Ball State Daily News. As she weaves through the confusion of managing personal finances, she’s eager to share with other students.

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