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How Growing Up Changes Your Spring Break Plans

If you went “full send” in college the best memories really aren’t memories at all, more like tales that are passed around the beer pong table. And because you had to attend a class every now and again, spring break was a week of outright blasphemy. The mentality, for a good portion of collegiates, was how to spend as little cash while getting as inebriated as possible … and generally within proximity to the beach. MTV Spring Break had paved the way for scantily clad beach parties and the idea that the week had no consequences. And now, as another spring break approaches, what do you plan for now, especially if you’re decades removed from those glory years?

people on spring break at the beach
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Admittedly, I was in college once, I was even in a frat but of course, we were the cool frat mirroring The Animal House stigma and no member or guest was ever empty-handed. And with the ability to legally buy fun juice, spring breaks only got that much better. By senior year the trip was set for Playa del Carmen, Mexico. A once smaller, quieter option to the full-on, take your top off, if it’s not alcohol I’m not drinking it mayhem of Cancun. We had found a house to rent about a half-mile from the beach and I guess it begs the question of why anyone would want to rent a house to six college “gentlemen.” Nonetheless, in March of 2007, the team was headed south for some relaxation and above all else, to get absolutely obliterated and put 3 years of Spanish 101 to the test.

There were no plans in place beyond get on the plane, clear customs, find a taxi to the house, and buy the necessities. And within a few hours of being in Mexico, mission accomplished. We even had managed to squeeze in a few extra minutes to call home and let our moms know we had made it safely. But a safe return was still up in the air. The first night went as expected with shitty tacos and way too much tequila from Señor Frogs, but the evening set the tone for the rest of the week. The house had a pool, beds for almost everyone, and provided just enough of a sanctuary for when the forthcoming hangover set in.

beach chairs on beach
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The rest of the week proceeded as we hoped with beach chairs and Sols on the beach, tacos everywhere, and if there was an empty barstool between the house and the beach it was quickly occupied. Days were filled with sun, drinks, and body surfing followed by a quick hour or so back at the house to recoup before back on the bars. One night concluded with a walk home and the mission to climb a tree to acquire a coconut. The coconut was claimed but then brought on the real event of the night, cracking open the palm fruit. Hours passed, sweat was broken and anything that seemed to be sturdier than the shell was now an active tool. It goes without saying, given the night’s beverage intake, we ourselves weren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, but before the sun rose we were victorious. We drank the water from the coconut, high-fived in exuberant satisfaction, took some celebratory shots and then lights out.

There were some sober adventures including a trip down to neighboring Tulum to explore the Mayan ruins of yesteryear. But beyond that single afternoon, the purpose of the trip was to replicate every spring break we’d ever seen on TV or in a movie. And knowing that our actions would most likely not follow us back to the U.S. and any single person, group, or family that tried to get in our way … well, they weren’t even in the peripheral. It was senior spring break, in Mexico, with the best friends. It was a farewell tour to four years of debauchery that would not be broken by some family’s raised brow of disgust or questionable food wreaking havoc on the GI with no reasonable bathroom in sight.

Fast forward 15 years and that same group of hooligans is still getting together every year, but now trying to maintain that adult status with 9 kids in tow and one more on the way. Since graduating in 2007 we’ve maintained our friendships and have made an effort to get together every year, but oh how the tables have turned. We’ve traveled to Michigan, Denver, Portland, Hamburg, San Juan (of Washington), Budapest, and Salt Lake City. We have organized and attended bachelor parties and stood on the right side of the altar through all the respective weddings. But what makes each gathering different from the rest and especially when we gather around spring break, thanks to our kids’ schedules, the events and actions of Playa del Carmen are not only long gone but almost impossible to obtain.

Now trips are planned around family and the ability to enjoy meals cooked at the rental. The idea of going to Cabo San Lucas or somewhere that may be infested with Gen Zs sounds absolutely appalling. This is not to say that we’ve become those parents that were shielding their young children’s eyes from us back in the day because of course, we’re all the cool dads — no white New Balances and cargo shorts for us. But now when spring break comes knocking, it’s all about catching up and orchestrating chicken fights with the kids in the pool. But once the stories have been read, brace yourself, we might gather around the table for a final glass of wine or even a nightcap. The hangover just hurts too much now and there is no telling where it comes from anymore. It used to be gone by lunch or not appear at all, but now it lingers through the day and maybe even into the next.

parents and children at a pool on vacation
Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Case in point, spring break of 2019 we all gathered in Palm Desert for a long weekend. The first night was just the dads, free of any children and per usual we tend to think that we can hang like we once did. Too much fun was had by the pool before dinner, too much was drunk while making and eating dinner, and lo and behold, a few unnecessary drinks were had as the night closed. The first night ended in a blur and further distancing ourselves from the college years, we all got up between 7 and 7:30 am looking for coffee and to clean up the mess we’d made. We only had hours before the little ones and significant others arrived, and with age or lack of recent practice, the ensuing headaches stuck around well beyond their welcoming.

And even within our group of six, two remain single, and no one is deterred from from the path we each choose to take. The ages of 35 and 21 are two very different stages in life, with different priorities, and the ability of your body to handle nights of excess. Spring break is always going to be great, it’s going to bring back memories from when it was actually a break versus now, where it takes a year to set aside enough cash to pay for Disney World tickets or prepare your body for a week-long adventure with the boys. You just have to be smart about your actions and if you end up with family or friends in South Padre Island or the Bahamas, just remember that the events of the first night may very well detail the emotional and physical constraints for the rest of the trip.

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