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Charlie Myers and his family wanted to get away. But they had a few challenges facing them: First, they live in Florida, so they were likely to run into travel bans and quarantines in some U.S. states. Second, they didn’t want to be on an airplane for too long. Because of their location, they were able to look internationally—to Mexico.
We checked in with Mr. Myers after he, his wife, and their two school-age kids returned from their week-long excursion to Merida and the Riviera Maya, where they stayed in two different resorts, planned with the help of WOW List travel specialist for Mexico, Zach Rabinor. As a frequent traveler, a veteran user of Wendy’s WOW List, and a professional who works in the fever-screening technology industry, Mr. Myers had a lot of insight into what it’s like to take a family trip now.
First, a note: While we at WendyPerrin.com do not encourage travel at this time, we believe it is possible to travel responsibly during this pandemic. We have done so ourselves—and we trust our community of global citizens to make smart choices for themselves and the people they’ll encounter. While most travelers want to wait until there is a vaccine for their next trip, some have asked us to help them travel safely and responsibly now—and we are happy to provide the intel and support they seek. We answer their questions every day at Ask Wendy. And we request their post-trip feedback as part of our effort to provide you with a realistic and useful view of the travel landscape right now. We are grateful to Mr. Myers for sharing his family’s experience with us and with you.
We were considering going on a trip internally in the U.S., but at that moment—the start of July—there were so many state regulations changing so quickly that it became unclear whether we’d have to quarantine for 14 days when we arrived in the places we were considering.
We are very well traveled, and Mexico seemed like a very simple trip from Miami, mainly based on the one-hour flight time. We didn’t want to sit in masks for many hours, so flying somewhere where you’re off the plane before you know it was appealing.
How did you narrow in on Merida and the Riviera Maya?
We were very nervous about flying and I’d recently been to the Cancun airport, and it was busy and I wanted to avoid that. Flying into Merida instead was a great recommendation from Zach. It was quiet and easy.
I’d been to the area, and I knew that it was going to be the right place for my family. If anything, it was slightly disappointing because a lot of the attractions that are fun for kids were closed. But we still managed to do day trips that felt adventurous and that the kids loved. We did quite a few excursions organized by Zach’s team that felt 100% safe.
What kind of activities did you do?
My family doesn’t really love beach trips; we live in Miami, so the beach is nothing special. My kids are really nerdy. They love museums and history and archaeology and cities. I thought the Mayan ruins would fascinate them—but, as it turns out, we weren’t able to see them. The cenotes were closed too. But Zach found us things that were open that we could go and see, like a fantastic trip into caves. Normally that would have been a touristy experience that I wouldn’t have enjoyed, but because of the restrictions, we were able to do a private trip.
How were the resorts?
Merida was a little underwhelming, if I’m honest, because everything was closed. The hotel itself, Chablé, had several experiences for the kids to enjoy, like chocolate making and a little farm with deer, and they spent some time doing local Mayan cultural immersions. They were simple and quick but still felt special, even though they were on-property. I can’t say enough good things about Chablé. We stayed in a private family villa. The staff were wonderful, the resort was beautiful, and they upgraded us. It was quiet, and there were only a handful of other people staying there.
Then we rented a car and drove to the Riviera Maya. I’m not as passionate about the Rosewood Mayakoba, but I chose it because it seemed right for the children.
In every resort, all of the staff was wearing masks. Not all of the guests were, because there was enough social distance, but the staff did. It was never an issue because Zach’s team helped select resorts that were spacious.
What were your concerns about the trip?
The concerns were obvious: Will my family be safe? Are we taking unnecessary risks by traveling? Will we be in certain situations that will be beyond our control? In terms of meeting those concerns, the recommendations that the travel specialists made helped—especially the first resort, Chablé, because it’s such a large property and the accommodations were stand-alone villas. It felt 100% safe. The safety protocols at both resorts and both airports, and even with the car rental, made me feel like they were taking it very seriously.
How did WOW List travel specialists Zach those concerns?
In non-Covid times, I probably would have done this trip without using a travel planner because it was a very simple trip. I’ve had a number of trips planned with WendyPerrin.com travel specialists, but a week in Mexico—I would normally do it myself.
But I am very glad I picked up the phone and spoke to these guys because their recommendations, especially Chablé, were not on my radar and made the trip.
In your trip review, you mentioned that they messaged with you while you were traveling?
They were super-professional, particularly during such a scary moment, and they checked in with us during the trip. We had a little bit of an issue with the car rental; it was a benefit to be able to text somebody who was immediately on the phone with the car rental agency to get it resolved very quickly.
This was one of the more simple trips that somebody could have planned for a family, but I still felt the benefit of having somebody there in case we ran into unknowns. We didn’t know what to expect. And when we were planning the trip there were some questions we had and some concerns whether the border would remain open; without their involvement, it might have led me to postpone the trip, but they were very reassuring that they had the correct information. And they were right.
What did you observe in terms of safety protocols as you traveled?
We found the safety protocols in Mexico were well in advance of anything we’d seen in Miami. They seemed much more together and on it than the U.S.
I’m in the fever-screening technology business, so I was very aware of it. At the airport they have fever-detection cameras, and they are checking temperatures everywhere you go, whenever we entered a property or the car rental place—and the car rental would only allow me to go into the building. It was more the consistency of every single place doing the same things to keep people safe. And all of that led to a layer of feeling confident that we weren’t going to get sick.
What was it like driving?
It was not the recommendation of Zach’s team to rent a car, but I wanted to do it. The health and safety precautions were present and consistent and felt appropriate.
We drove about four hours, and even at the gas stations they have the same protocols as elsewhere, so you couldn’t go into a gas station without somebody taking your temperature or asking you to sanitize. That made you feel very comfortable, and it wasn’t intrusive in any way.
What do you wish you knew beforehand (and therefore would tell other people)?
When we got to the beach at Rosewood Mayakoba, the kids’ club was actually open. There was a level of normality on vacation that caused a little bit of stress because we weren’t quite emotionally prepared for it and weren’t sure how to navigate it. Our kids made friends, and it felt fantastic to see them playing normally, but I think we were under the impression that all of these touch points were closed. So it was kind of challenging to navigate those moments on the spot, to try and understand what the appropriate thing to do was. I think everyone is facing these kinds of challenges we’re not really programmed to make. So that is something to consider: If you go to a resort, there will be situations that may not be compliant with social distancing, and they will be almost impossible to control. All that being said, I felt everyone who worked at the resorts went above and beyond to ensure that protocols were being met.
We can help you figure out how to safely plan your own trip and direct you to the right travel specialist for your needs. Write to us at Ask Wendy.