COVID Travels: An interview with Monga
As you are all aware we are still in a season of learning what our “new normal” is when it comes to travel. 2021 has brought lots of excitement with news of the vaccine and the reopening of different countries that we hope will continue to increase over time! For some of us though, we still haven’t had any first-hand experience traveling with COVID regulations and restrictions and I can bet that as time continues to pass it may seem daunting to plan a trip with so much unknown! That’s why we decided to put together a special blog featuring an interview with our dear friend, Monga. She, her husband, and her daughters traveled to Cabo in Mexico immediately after it opened and can share first-hand experience of what it was like taking a trip during the pandemic. I hope this encourages you to take that next step and plan the trip you’ve been dreaming about!
Tell us about your airport (which airport?) and flight experience (which airline?).
"We flew from LAX to SJD (Los Cabos International Airport). It is a relatively short flight from Los Angeles to Cabo (about 2.5 hrs), which is why we thought it would be a good flight to test out COVID travel. We booked it knowing that we may have to cancel if things seemed to worsen or Mexico closed to tourists again."
"It was a really impromptu trip. My husband and I were watching TV one Sunday morning when I received an email saying that Cabo was open to tourists. We immediately jumped at the chance and booked flights that week – we had been ITCHING to get out!"
Was it packed? Were middle seats empty? Did you feel they were paying extra mind to cleanliness?
"We flew American Airlines and were surprised that the plane was completely full! Completely full. I understand some airlines keep the middle seat empty but not American Airlines. And honestly, that made me very uncomfortable. I was sitting with the kids so we occupied a whole row but it would be quite difficult sitting next to a bunch of strangers in such close proximity. They required that you keep your mask on the whole time except while eating."
"They did not serve snacks during the flight. They handed you a little baggie with pretzels and water as you got on the plane.
I did not really see what cleaning was done during the flight as it was a shorter flight and the flight attendants did not really come around the cabin.
One beautiful thing about flying around this time is that flights are cheap so we were able to fly first class on the return trip. I would certainly take advantage of the low fares we are seeing!"
Tell us about going from the airport to the resort. What form of transit did you use?
"We pre-arranged transport from the hotel. I just find it easier to arrange transportation ahead of time so as to avoid the hassle of dealing with hawkers. Our transport was waiting upon arrival so we did not interact with anyone much at the airport."
Where did you stay? What did you notice about the "new normal" resort experience? Did you choose this destination and stay because you knew they were paying mind to COVID?
"We stayed at Nobu Los Cabos. It is a beautiful, fairly new, resort that is tucked away from the larger main resort area in Cabo. We actually LOVED the new normal – the pools and restaurants were empty giving us so much room to social distance. Everyone was required to wear a mask and the property gave out baggies of masks and sanitizer that you could grab from the lobby at any time. They also check your temperature every time you return to the property. There was a wonderful, clean, and serene pool and beaches, exceptional service, and outdoor restaurant dining. All staff were wearing masks 24/7; guests were also wearing masks. I never felt unsafe or crowded."
Tell us about the staff. What extra precautions did they take?
"The staff were very mindful of space and kept masks on at all times. I think that the staff was also happy to see tourists back because they have jobs again. I know there are different philosophies out there about travel in the time of COVID, but as travelers, we know that people depend on the tourism industry for jobs."
The food? Buffet? Full service? Fewer options?
"There was no buffet, and this was not an all-inclusive resort, so we just ordered our food from the restaurants or room service. The food options were plentiful – the Nobu restaurant on the property was top notch! No lack of options to choose from and the hotel also provided a list of recommended restaurants. All of them had tables quite far apart and outdoor seating."
Would you do this trip again?
"Yes, yes, and yes! It is a BEAUTIFUL property and the rates now are more affordable than they were pre-COVID I’m sure. The Nobu Hotel in Malibu, California is waaaaay more expensive, so Nobu Cabo is a nice way to experience the brand without paying crazy rates."
Would you stay at this resort again?
"The employees were so kind and welcoming. We really had one of our best stays at any hotel ever, especially when the world seems so heavy. All employees are always wearing masks as are other guests in all public areas, which was very reassuring. Employees were always disinfecting the tables and all restaurants are outside in the open air. Actually, the whole resort is completely open-air, from the lobby to the restaurants."
Would you travel internationally again during COVID?
"Yes, I would travel again. We figure there is risk everywhere, especially California where we have high rates of COVID anyway. At home, we limit our circle to few people and stay away from larger gatherings.
I think that it is not possible to isolate completely and all the time, but we can avoid being reckless. We do plan to take some trips next year and being that we have family in Zambia and Kenya, those trips are always on the list."
What sort of hesitancy did you feel traveling internationally during COVID? Did this trip ease your fears? Did it make you more aware of things that you weren't aware of before?
"We were ok going to Mexico because it is not too far from home. I was surprised to see that the plane was completely full, so people are definitely traveling. This trip certainly did ease fears. People can travel again – just be careful and exercise the same caution you do when you are at home. When you think about it, people in California are interacting with neighbors, church friends, attending parties, little league sports at parks, etc., so I don’t see travel as carrying extra risk…"
What was your level of risk going into this trip? Did you take COVID tests prior to the trip and upon return?
"No, we did not take COVID tests.
Mexico did not require a test, but they take your temperature upon arrival, and you have to fill out a questionnaire."
(Editor’s note: As of the publishing of this interview, a negative COVID test is now required to return to the U.S., but many resorts are prepared for this with rapid testing available on-site at the resort. Contact GlobeSage if you have specific questions about the CDC’s new U.S. re-entry policy.)
In what ways did you navigate this trip differently than you would navigate travel before COVID?
"Lots and lots of sanitizer and lots of disposable masks – especially for the kids. Disposable masks seemed better because you could throw them out after the flight and grab a new one each day. My backpack was full of hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes, masks, and our own snacks."
Who did you travel with?
"We are a family of four and then met up with two old friends. It was such a blast.
Travel is a choice, a way of life, and very much an individual choice!"
Some final thoughts from Monga:
"The new COVID testing requirement before returning to the US is a great step in creating ‘safe’ pandemic travel rather than saying travel is bad. People are hesitant to travel because they think there is no safe way to travel and may fear ‘travel shaming’. This pandemic has devastated tourism and those of us who love travel know the industry needs us to travel. People who have avoided travel may now have the peace of mind that planes (at least international flights) will now be safe."
"Travel can be safe especially if you stay within your ‘pod’. I talk to a lot of patients who have been exposed to COVID and in almost 100 percent of the cases, exposure comes from hanging out with family members, friends, and relatives. Exposure and infection happen when you have let your guard down, eating and having a good time with no mask on. Our family generally avoids large gatherings and feel safe abroad because we make sure our destination takes COVID seriously (most of them do).
We are planning a return trip to Mexico and are finding that a lot of resorts are offering rapid COVID testing for free."