Vacations can be ruined by drugs, alcohol, disorderly behavior and preventable accidents, the department said Friday in a statement designed to enhance safety and a good vacation.
"Most will have a safe and enjoyable adventure," the statement said. "But for some the trip will become a nightmare."
Among unforeseen disasters, the bureau of consular affairs advised vacationing students to be wary of underage drinking, drunk driving and disorderly conduct.
"In many countries, conduct that would not result in an arrest in the United States may constitute a violation of local law," the statement said.
Don't think Americans are immune from prosecution, the department says. "The truth is that Americans are expected to obey all of the laws of the countries they visit, and those who break these laws could face severe penalties, including prison sentences."
And that is just the beginning of the things to worry about, as outlined by the State Department.
There is injury or even death from automobile accidents, drownings and falls. Americans have been sexually assaulted or robbed when they found themselves in unfamiliar locations or used bad judgment, the department said.
Beyond that, the warning said, many young people have died after falls from balconies or into open ditches, drowning in oceans or hotel pools.
"It is possible to have a safe and fun trip if risky behavior is avoided and familiarity is attained with the basic laws and customs of the country," the statement concluded on a slightly upbeat note.