Steadily, our dream destinations are opening for tourism and beginning to promote travel again. This leaves anxious travelers with a couple of questions:
Where is it safe to travel and what are the COVID-19 precautions and guidelines?
Whether you are ready to travel again or simply curious about current options, I will provide you with everything you need to know about traveling during a pandemic, beginning by sharing the details of my recent trip to Mexico in July 2020. In addition to sharing my travel experience, I will provide additional resources that will help clear up any misinformation about traveling during COVID-19.
In a nutshell, I was READY to travel again! After canceling over 100 client itineraries and four destination weddings, I was yearning for some sun and beach relaxation...but with extreme social distancing. I took along my mother as a travel buddy (who is 60+). To say that she was super paranoid would be an understatement. The good news is that we had such a great experience, she already has me planning her next beach getaway very soon.
Here are some of the safety precautions that we experienced:
Airport and Flight· The airport strictly enforces social distancing and mask utilization at all times. (When I finished drinking my Starbucks frappe, I was approached by an airport personnel and reminded to put my mask back on...seriously less than 30 seconds later)
·While in line to check in our bags, we social distanced (even from each other) to send the right message to those coming behind us.*Extra tip* If you want to limit crowds even further, travel with your carry-on luggage and you’ll avoid baggage claim all together.· While walking to our gate, we social distanced. The airport was more crowded than what we anticipated, however, social distancing was absolutely taking place. Even in customs, we were shocked at how many people were also vacationing along with us!
· At the gate, we used disinfectant wipes to clean our chairs, which were also super far away from other travelers.
· Thanks to Delta – Our flight boarded by row and from back to front limiting the exposure of passing others in the aisles!
· We turned on our air vents, even though its typically not my preference! This is considered a safety measure as it filters more than 99% of airborne microbes and the air on an airplane is just as clean as the air in operating rooms! *Extra tip* Since First Class and Comfort Plus passengers can board at any time, upgrading your seat allows for even greater flexibility!
· For the time being, Delta is leaving the middle seats empty, so my mom and I had an entire row to ourselves. Again, we disinfected our seats, buckles, and tray tables prior to sitting. *Extra tip* When selecting seats, always pre-select an aisle and window if two people are traveling together.
· When the plane landed, there was an announcement to only stand up once the row in front of us had exited by six feet or more! I hope this continues even after COVID is long gone. My greatest pet peeve is getting ran over by people rushing the exit door when a plane touches ground! Please DO NOT be "that person".
*Extra tip* Stay seated and be the last to exit if this gives you any anxiety.
(We can not expect that everyone will follow the rules)
· At baggage claim, we noticed some crowding near the bags. We stood back and patiently waited for our bags to enter the belt, then we walked to an empty area and picked our bags. (Again, carrying on your luggage is an option!)
We opted for round-trip private transportation to avoid contact with other travelers. Our driver wore a mask and we sanitized upon entry. (Our "private transportation" was actually my great friend and the best photographer in Mexico, Santiago Gabay!)*Extra tip* Consider renting a car.
*Extra tip* Always check the entry requirements and COVID-19 statistics for your destination country or city prior to planning travel.
Our Stay· Upon arrival, we received sanitizing wipes and used a cleaning station that sanitized the bottom of our shoes.
· Our temperatures were taken at check-in. We did not have a fever or any other COVID symptoms, however, if guests arrive with symptoms, they would be quarantined and tested.
· Employee’s temperature are taken on a daily basis prior to the start of their shift.
· All of the restaurant’s menus were available using QR code via our mobile devices, instead of handheld menus.
· Our room was sanitized and certain pre-sanitized items were placed in sealed plastic bags for us such as the remote control, all toiletry items, in room cups, in-room coffee and tea, etc.
· All of the restaurants offered outdoor dining, but we also had the option to order 24 hour room service and eat on our private balcony. Tables at the restaurant were distanced a minimum of six feet apart.
· Hand sanitizer stations were EVERYWHERE – more than I’ve ever seen in the USA. If you get on an elevator, its expected via signage that you sanitize before getting on and again when getting off.
· Honestly, the overall level of precautions were much more heightened than what I've seen here in Atlanta, GA.
· We had full stretches of beach and poolside space to enjoy practically to ourselves!
· Instead of buffet style, all food was ordered a la carte.
· While sitting at the pool and the beach, masked bartenders served us food and drinks to our beach chairs.
· All resort staff wore masks 100% of the time, and masks were encouraged when within six feet of other guests.
·The resort was only 30% occupied, a current Cancun regulation. The good news is that the resorts are considered “sold out”, even with 70% vacant rooms as most resorts want to keep visitors safe with intentionally reduced occupancy levels.
3 Benefits of Planning Travel Now
1. FLEXIBILITY – Flight change fees and cancellation fees are waived for the time being on many major carriers.
2. PRICE - Resort and flight prices are super economical and travelers are offered "no change fees" as an incentive to travel again due to the cancellation flexibility and competitive rates.
3. SOCIAL DISTANCING - Less people are traveling now and resorts and airlines, alike, have intentionally reduced their maximum occupancy to allow for real social distancing!
My biggest advice for traveling during COVID-19 is to be patient. In order for things to flow as mentioned above, it requires the additional efforts of the already slim resort and airport’s labor staff, so please be patient with hospitality workers as they are working aggressively (while masked) to serve our needs.
To sum up my experience, I was secretly more nervous of coming home and being exposed by my husband who had been in and out of grocery stores, rather than having been exposed myself – even though I traveled. While traveling, we never felt as if we were excessively exposed any differently to the virus as compared to everyday life at home.
My heart goes out to all those impacted by this treacherous virus that has shown us a completely “new normal”. However, I am truly hopeful that some of the safety precautions that have been implemented maintain longevity, even after the virus is 100% contained. Since it is virtually impossible to avoid exposure in its entirety, my best advice is to continuously wash your hands, wear your mask, social distance, and protect the vulnerable – no matter where you are and where you decide to go!