Like many Americans, the family vacation we planned 8 months ago had to be cancelled due to the COVID pandemic. In July, we were supposed to be relaxing on a beach and making new family memories of our travels. Instead, we found ourselves at home, looking at our back yard, yearning for a change of scenery and some time away from everyday life.
Choosing a Destination
We initially looked at a domestic vacation and started to plan a trip to Arizona. As the date of our departure approached, the state was increasingly in the news – our Plan B was now a hot spot for the COVID virus. So, a week before we were supposed to leave, we decided to reclaim our beach vacation. It was time to switch to Plan C – Cancun.
Mexico had US visitors. here was still a level 4 travel advisory in effect for international travel we were willing to follow the 14-day stay at home advisory upon our return . We did our research and quickly realized an all-inclusive resort was a safer alternative to the domestic road trip we . Because the resort was awarded the #safetravels stamp by the World Travel & Tourism Council, we were reassured protocols and procedures were in place to minimize our risk of exposure to the virus . ll we had to do was get there safely.
On a normal day, the airport would have been full of life – people standing at the curbside waiting for their rides, porters offering to take your luggage, shuttles coming and going picking up and dropping off passengers. Instead, there were just a couple cars and an empty sidewalk. Upon entering the airport, more of the same
e were greeted politely agent who was hiding a smile behind her mask. There was a plastic barrier between us, just like I’ve seen at many stores since the pandemic started. We were asked to fill out a declaration form stating we were not sick and had not knowingly been exposed to the virus. Once all the paperwork was done, we were off to TSA.
there was no line at security. We were the only passengers transiting at the time. The TSA officers are now wearing masks or face shields. Other than there being no one else in line, those were the only differences I noticed. We made it through swiftly and went to our gate.
At the gate, there was lots of signage reminding people to social distance and wear masks. People were compliant and kept their distance. My family found a spot away from people and patiently waited for boarding to begin. I looked around and everyone in the boarding area was wearing their masks except for a few who were eating or drinking. All in all, I could tell the folks that we were going to be flying with were taking the situation as seriously as we were.
During the boarding announcement, the gate agent reminded everyone they must have their masks on (covering their mouth and nose) at all times for the duration of the trip. Boarding was done from the back to front of the plane (no priority boarding) by row in groups of 10. People waiting to board did stand like always but there was a noticeable effort to maintain distance from fellow travelers. Upon boarding the aircraft, we were given a bag that contained a single disinfectant wipe to clean our seating area. We wiped down our seats, media screens, armrests, and tray tables and settled in for the first leg to Atlanta.
As promised by Delta, all middle seats were vacant, giving us plenty of room and comfort during the flight. There was no food or beverage service during the flight, other than a prepackaged snack bag with water, I periodically looked around at my fellow passengers, just to see if everyone was complying with the mask mandate, and they were. Upon touchdown, the flight attendant advised everyone to stay in their seats, that we would be deplaning from font to back, one row at a time. Once the plane was parked at the gate, and followed the flight attendant’s instructions.
Once in ATL, I saw more of the same – very few people, lots of reminders about social distancing, and strategically-placed hand sanitation stations.
Once at our gate in Concourse F, the experience was much like in Richmond. Seats were marked reminding people to social distance and the few people that were there were all wearing their masks. Delta used all the same precautions as our first flight and everything went just as smoothly
Customs & Baggage Claim
Going through customs in Cancun was quick and easy. No lines, but there were marks on the floor to indicate 6 feet between passengers if there was a queue. We gave the customs officer our tourist card and he removed the top portion and gave us back our exit portion of the form. Quick tip, youneed this when you leave Cancun, so don’t lose it! Otherwise, you have to go through an additional process to obtain another form when leaving the country.
We collected our bags, and upon walking out of the baggage claim area, we noticed a guy wearing what looked like a hazmat suit. That caught my attention, so I took a second to look over his shoulder at his screen. He was in charge of taking everyone’s temperature via a large sensor over the exit door. I’m not sure how it all worked, but definitely thought it was a pretty cool way of checking everyone entering the country, without having to stick a thermometer to each person’s forehead.
Before we could check in, the bellboy took our luggage and sanitized it using an aerosol spray. And we were required to have our temperatures taken and clean our shoes by stepping into a cleaning solution.
During our week at the resort, we felt every precaution was taken to ensure our safety. The resort was operating at 30% capacity so there was ample space for everyone to keep their distance. All employees always wore face masks. Even the beach towels were individually wrapped in plastic wrap.
The experience in the restaurants was wonderful. We were always greeted by someone offering hand sanitizer and required to clean our shoes using the provided sanitation station before we entered. They limited the number of diners at each seating to ensure each party was adequately distanced. Each table had a sign that was placed on top of the table indicating that the table had been properly sanitized, and place settings were not done until the guests were seated. There were no menus; we simply scanned a QR code to view the menu online. All buffets had plexiglass covering the food and a resort employee (masked and with gloves) served all the food. Queueing areas for food or whatever all had clear markings on the floor indicating 6 feet apart.
Returning to the U.S.
The check-in process in Mexico was a bit different. Our temperatures were taken and we were asked some questions: if we were feeling ill, if we had knowledge of being in contact with someone who had the virus, etc. The agent checked that we had our exit form before taking our luggage and completing the check-in process.
Before entering the immigration area, we had to download an app onto our phone and fill out a questionnaire. We had to show the verification screen before being allowed to enter the security area for international departures. Fortunately, everyone in my group had a cellphone, I’m not sure what the process looks like if you don’t have the capabilities to fill out the questionnaire electronically.
The return flights were the same as the outbound – boarding back to front, all middle seats unoccupied. All in all, it was a great trip. My expectations were certainly met by all the vendors we utilized during our trip. Because of their commitment and dedication to providing a safe travel experience, we all returned home happy and healthy.
If you decide you are ready to travel, here are some suggestions:
- Use a travel advisor to assist in the planning and booking process. It is of the utmost importance that you are use reputable vendors that are complying with best practices concerning sanitation, mask requirements, and social distancing. Plus, it is very helpful to have an advisor to assist with schedule changes that may occur prior to your departure.
- Pack yourself a travel kit. Include a couple extra masks, hand sanitizer, wipes, a thermometer, and some snacks.
- Beware of what you touch and how close you are to other people.
- Bring plenty of patience. Expect schedule changes and delays. Hopefully, you won’t experience either, but during this time where flight frequencies are way down and schedules are changing frequently to meet demand, travel with the understanding that you may experience some delays.
- Invest in a comprehensive travel insurance plan to cover you in case you must overnight or stay an extra day at your destination due to flight cancellations.
How do you get started?
Fellowship Travel’s experienced agents are excited to help you navigate the ever-changing travel landscape. If you’re ready to get started on your next trip, call (800) 235-9384 to speak with one of our tour coordinators or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also take a look at our Corona-19 FAQ page for answers to frequently asked questions.
We look forward to assisting you!
Your FTI Team