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Your Safety Handbook for Hooking Up on Vacation

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If you've ever gone a little wild on vacation, you're not alone. A recent study from the University of Illinois looked at why women are more likely to take sexual risks—like having unprotected sex with a stranger—while they're traveling to exotic locales.

Researchers surveyed 850 women and found the main reason they let down their inhibitions when they're in paradise is thanks to one too many poolside drinks. Alcohol, according to study author Lisa Berdychevsky, Ph.D., provides women with just enough "liquid courage" to transcend usual sexual boundaries. Makes sense, since alcohol is a substance many of us use to relax—and vacation is the ultimate relaxation time. (These 6 Day Drinking Dangers Will Make You Rethink "Rosé All Day".) But even non-drinkers may take sexual risks when they're traveling: Other behaviors that influenced risky sex included wearing revealing clothing, feeling sexually confident, and "feeling disconnected from everyday life and social expectations," according to the women surveyed. "People feel more entitled to give themselves pleasure on vacations because they feel like they've earned the right to relax fully," says New York-based clinical therapist Sari Cooper. Cooper points out that women, especially, are still judged for one-night stands, and so they may feel freer to engage in no-strings-attached sex when they're away from their community.

But even if no one knows about it or judges you, risky sex is still, well, risky. There's nothing wrong with having a fun little fling with that hottie you just met at the bar—but don't compromise your safety. Here's how to have your fling and stay safe too.

1. Sip the smart way. On vacation, you're probably going to have a few drinks by the pool or let that cute guy at the luau buy you a beer. But you can let loose without getting drunk, says self-defense expert Jarrett Arthur. "Women need to be safety-minded when they're drinking," Arthur says. "Take your drink with you everywhere, even to the bathroom, and always keep it in front of you when you're talking to someone."

If you're on your own, it's not a bad idea to buddy-up to the bartender so you'll have someone keeping an eye on you if you get too tipsy to make solid decisions. (Of course, bartenders can also have ill intentions, Arthur says, so remember that bottled drinks, like beers, are safer than mixed cocktails.)

2. Bring your own protection. Nothing kills a spur-of-the-moment hookup like trying to find an open drugstore at 3 a.m. (on an island, at that!). "Always bring your own condoms on vacation, even if you don't plan on having sex," says Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., marriage, family, and sex therapist and author of The Married Sex Solution: A Realistic Guide to Saving Your Sex Life. "If you know you have them, you'll be much more likely to use them." (What should you bring? Have Better Sex with One of These 5 Condoms.)

Van Kirk also suggests keeping other types of protection on hand (such as Plan B in case the condom breaks), and learning about what medical resources are available to you in your destination. "Know where you can get STI testing and always bring your insurance card with you, just in case," she says.

3. Know your limits. Before you get on that plane or head to that Tiki bar, take a moment and think about what you are and aren't willing to do sexually if the right guy comes along. According to Cooper, giving explicit thought to your limits before you end up in an intoxicating, sexy situation makes you more intentional about your behavior. You're more likely to stick to your limits if you actually know what they are.

"If you have any specific limits, like no penetrative sex, let your partner know before you end up alone with them," Cooper says. "That way there's clarity that you are consenting and around what you're consenting to." (Learn How to Say No to People (and Mean It!).)

4. You don't have to have sex. Guess what? You can have an exciting sexual encounter without actually having sex. "There are ways to push the envelope sexually without actually taking a guy to bed," Van Kirk says. "Go skinny-dipping in the ocean or head out to a club and dance sensually with the locals." Just make sure that whatever risks you do end up taking are legal. (If you do choose to have vacation sex, enjoy it—safely—to the fullest! Try these 5 Moves to Orgasm Tonight.)

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