Well, yes, these are extraordinary times.  The pandemic has affected us all and we yearn to travel, to stretch our wings and horizons. To engage with other lands and people, change up our normal, and have time to chill, explore and reflect.

Like many, I have prioritized stayed home during the pandemic. The extent of my 2020 travels has been local, including a couple of wonderful camping trips.

For over a year I’ve been attending Zoom calls as a member of the One&Only Mandarina Virtuoso Agent Board. So when invited for an in-person visit November 2020, I decided to go.

My Covid practices were pretty solid and colleagues reported good travel experiences. Being a travel agent, I loved researching and planning the trip.

I added on some additional time to explore the area before and after Mandarina for a total of 9 days. I rented a car at the airport which was easy and inexpensive.

Here is my experience traveling at airports, on planes and in Mexico.

My trip was easier and safer than I had imagined.  I used a free service from Denver’s airport, FlyDenver.com, to make a time reservation for an express lane at security and special car on the train to the terminal to minimize density.  It was great!  I wore a N-95 mask–the first I’d ever worn.  We should all be able to wear these comfortable, safe masks!

My direct United flight to Puerto Vallarta (PVR), 3:30 hours, was very chill,  No one was on my row going or coming; flights about 60% full.  You can modify your seat selection online up to time of departure and most airlines have waived change fees.  

To enter and exit Mexico I had to fill out a Covid-related form: no test nor temperature check at PVR or Denver.  As a precaution, I took rapid and PCR Covid tests before I left home, and when I returned, with results being negative.  Very happy about that. 

On the return, it was the fastest I’ve ever gone through U.S. immigration and out to pick up my Lyft ride home. In the car, the windows were down, a plastic shield separated the driver and me, and we wore masks. 

The places I stayed and explored in Mexico were in the open-air, outdoors. The government currently limits hotels to 30% occupancy.  All employees wear masks.  And it is a nice time to visit when there are fewer people.  Weather is divine!

There are some wonderful long-term or staycation and shorter term options at attractive prices/terms right now.  Here are where clients have stayed recently:

If you are ready to try travel, what international direct flights depart from your airport and what appeals to you?  Lush, desert, beach, mountains? What do you like to do? Do you want to be in a hotel complex with a restaurant or secluded villa with kitchen?

A good  rule of thumb is to check out Covid data for where you are considering.  What is the area’s current status?  Rate of growth?  Puerto Vallarta had an outbreak of Covid; it is a compact, old, cobblestoned town.  Punta Mita, where I was mostly and is more spread out, has very few cases.  And of course check out Covid restrictions and policies.

This is my itinerary over the 9 days:

I love the ocean and was able to dive twice, once reforesting coral with Mexican actor Aaron Diaz who is making a documentary series on Mexico’s natural treasures.

This trip was wonderful for me physically, mentally and socially.  A secluded beautiful spot is a great way to take a reprieve, to recharge. And to explore and be active in nature. 

Most of the Caribbean, Mexico, Hawaii, and Central America are among destinations open to US citizens with relatively short flight time. It’s important to work with operators and partners whose mission supports environmental respect and action.  And who support and engage the local community.

The choices we make during the pandemic are very personal and unique. I would never make assumptions nor give advice on what is right for you. Stay safe and keep exploring in your mind, in your own backyard or even beyond. And of course, I’m here to help navigate if/when you might go.  Above all, stay safe!