Traveling during a pandemic was not something we took lightly.
We were notified in August that our trip to South America in October was canceled. Now, Chuck ended up with a lot of vacation time to use up by the end of the year. So, after many discussions about what we wanted to do, we decided to take a vacation.
Our Decision to Travel During A Pandemic
When looking to travel during a pandemic we considered the mode of travel, location, mask-wearing requirements, and how much we could control our safety. Yea, we know, the safest place is home. But we all need to find a balance for what we feel comfortable with and make informed decisions. The decision to travel was not made lightly. We wear masks everywhere we go, we still only eat outdoors, and carry hand sanitizer on our belt loops.
Why We Chose Traveling to Merida, Mexico
We had a friend (originally from the Philly area) who lived in Merida, Mexico, who we had been chatting with during the pandemic. She said how much she loved living there and gave us the rundown on what precautions were being taken. So, after much consideration, we decided to go to Merida.
Merida is in the state of Yucatan and is considered the 2nd safest city in North America. Since it is not a beach city, tourism is not the crazy you would see in Cancun, Playa del Carmen, etc. The laws in Merida as they pertain to precautions are way stricter than here in Florida. Everyone is required to wear a mask indoors or outdoors. And outdoors means as soon as you leave your house. Eating or drinking, you were permitted to take off the mask while seated, just like in Florida. I’ll get back to Merida again a little further down.
Traveling – Flights and Choosing Seats
So, now that we knew the where, we had to discuss how. We were able to find a flight on American Airlines from Tampa to Miami and then Miami direct to Merida. We also decided to fly business class since seating is a little more spread out, and we would not have to share a row. Business-class also allowed us to be last on and first off. We didn’t have to worry about crowded overhead storage for carry-ons, and surprisingly the cost difference was minimal, especially when you take into consideration seat selection and luggage costs for regular fares.
Traveling and Airports: Tampa International Airport
We felt pretty safe at Tampa airport, although we flew out very early (6:30 AM) and coming home. We arrived at 7:45 PM. The airport was very quiet both times, and everyone did a good job of wearing masks and social distancing. No temperature checks, though, and limited hand sanitizer. Every other seat was taped off in the boarding area, and masks were required everywhere in the airport.
Traveling and Airports: Miami International Airport
Miami airport, in our opinion, was the complete opposite. However, it was also the beginning of peak time when we arrived at 7:30 AM. Definitely crowded, and we found ourselves dodging people quite a bit. We had a 3-hour layover, so we found a place to eat that had plexiglass between tables, and we plopped our butts down while we waited for our flight.
Coming home, Miami airport customs was ridiculously busy with long lines. We were lucky that we only had an hour between flights, so we were moved to an express line and got through quickly and much safer since our line was not crowded. There were still no temperature checks and limited hand sanitizer. Seating in the boarding area was a free for all in Miami, so we stayed clear of the boarding area until we had to board.
Traveling and Airports: Merida International Airport
Merida’s Manuel Crescencio Rejón International Airport is a tiny airport with only 4 gates. So we had no crowds, and everyone was wearing a mask. Again, surprisingly we were not temperature checked, and there was little sanitizer. But we felt safe since the crowds were low, and we had more control of where we waited. Every other seat was taped off in the boarding area, and masks were required.
Traveling on American Airlines
American Airlines did a decent job with precautions. All staff wore masks correctly, and we were each provided sanitizing wipes when we got on the plane. We used the wipes to clean our seats, armrests, and tray table and then used our own sanitizer for our hands afterward. The flights were full and everyone was packed in, so it was obvious they were not taking any precautions with overcrowding.
We should have said this earlier. Mark and I both quarantined before the trip so that we knew we were safe to travel.
Merida, Mexico During A Pandemic
Now, back to Merida. We also chose to stay in an Airbnb to limit exposure. In August, we did the hotel option when we did a long weekend in Florida and dealt with people not wearing masks. We had the whole house to ourselves, which provided us the precautions we were looking for, and we could control everything. We brought a container of Clorox wipes to wipe the place down when we got there.
Safety Precaution in Merida During The Pandemic
Everywhere we went, people were wearing masks, walking on the streets, inside stores, outside in the parks. We mean, EVERYWHERE we went, precautions were taken. Our temp was taken at every store, restaurant, and even the entrance to an outside mall. After your temp was taken, you were required to use hand sanitizer, which every establishment provided. Everyone complied without any objection. They even had sanitizing mats to wipe your shoes on.
A few places even had these tents at the entrance with a sanitizing spray before entry.
Bus stops had markers set up for people to stand on while waiting for the bus.
Plazas are always active areas throughout the day. So, the park benches had large planters in the middle of each bench to prevent people from sitting too closely. This separation helped keep some distance from you if a stranger was to sit on the same bench. The planter was a slight hindrance when having a conversation with someone on the other side—a small price to pay for safety. Merida is also known for its “tu y yo” (you and me) chairs, and they even had a planter on one of the seats.
Merida had a curfew in place, starting at 10:30 PM and lasting until 5:15 AM. So that meant all restaurants, bars, and stores closed early.
Returning Home After Travel
All in all, we felt very safe in Merida and during all of our travels, except for Miami airport. It was not that we were ever scared, but more that we had to be alert and frequently used sanitizer in the Miami airport. We actually felt safer in Merida that we do at home. We quarantined for 2 weeks after our return and got Covid tested on day 10, and all was good. Stay tuned for upcoming blogs about our time in Merida.