Two recent studies, led by Liza Berdychevsky, PhD, from the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign found that women are much more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior when traveling (versus while hooking up at home), including unprotected sex and going back to a total stranger’s place.
“When people are on vacation, they often leave some of their usual boundaries behind,” explains Anna Kress, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Princeton, New Jersey. This can, of course, feel liberating and wildly exciting, but if you don’t properly prepare (or exercise a little caution in the moment), a hot vacay fling can put you at risk.
When Safety Doesn’t Come First
Sexperimenting in new time zones can have more dangerous consequences than doing so in your real life, says Kress. Your local drugstore stocks condoms and probably emergency contraception, but your all-inclusive resort or hostel may not, and locating these things quickly can be tough if you don’t know the language or lack transportation.
“Finding a condom or Plan B in an unfamiliar city or country can be extremely difficult,” confirms ob-gyn Sherry Ross, MD, author of She-ology. It doesn’t help that the latter goes by many different names abroad (including NorLevo, Optinor, and Postinor, all brands of levonorgestrel, the drug that’s in Plan B). Some countries don’t have emergency contraception at all.
Meanwhile, a visit to a foreign urgent care center to squash that sextastic UTI may leave you with out-of-network medical bills. And there’s also your physical safety to consider. If you’re solo (or abroad without a local phone number or contact), you may not have someone to call if you get a bad feeling from someone you’ve gone home with.
Why Girls Still Go Wild
Surprisingly, in one of the studies, 47 percent of women knew about these dangers but were still open to risky sex while traveling.
Yup, that YOLO mentality is strong. Study participants said being OOO made them more likely to experiment because they could do so anonymously, without fear of judgment. Sasha, 30, said hooking up with strangers while backpacking in Thailand made her feel sexually empowered: “It freed me from self-consciousness during sex.” This is a good thing. But when you feel relaxed and happy on a trip, you’re also less likely to think something bad might happen, says Kress, which can lead to unsafe choices.
The booze factor also contributes. Your being DTF in a hotel hot tub may be directly related to that third inhibition-squashing piña colada (many study participants didn’t set out to go all the way, but drinks and chill vibes changed their plans). A separate 2016 study found that, on average, people on vacation drink twice as much as they normally do.
Bottom line: Vacay sex can be fun and empowering if you prepare. Always BYO sexytime swag, and set boundaries (e.g., only get busy in your hotel room after telling a friend where you’ll be). Do these things and you’re less likely to make mistakes that outlast your jet lag.
Get Laid, Not Laid Up
These four essentials will help you have all the fun with way less risk.
Always carry your own condoms. On the Pill? Stay on schedule regardless of your time zone by setting an alarm on your phone, and make sure you have enough pills to last your entire trip.
If you’re prone to UTIs, pack antibiotics and an OTC urinary-pain reliever. Ask your doc for an antibiotic prescription for just-in-case situations.
Okay, so it won’t prevent pregnancy or STIs, but being slippery during sex is still beneficial, since dryness can cause pain, vaginal tears, and burning sensations. Bring a condom-safe water-or silicone-based tube.
- An Exit Strategy
Before leaving the bar with that hot dude, tell your friends where you’re going.
*Source: Sherry Ross, MD, OB-GYN, and author of She-Ology.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.