There are currently so many conflicting opinions about travel in the age of COVID. But as a travel blogger, I felt like it was my responsibility to share with you firsthand what travel is like, and how you can prepare for it in the best, most responsible way.
The pandemic certainly threw a curveball my way, affecting both my loves: beauty and travel. I know… COVID-19 massively messed up everyone’s year, not just mine. But it’s no secret that the travel industry took one of the biggest hits. Travel will also most likely be one of the last industries to recover from COVID.
So when I was invited on a press trip with Le Blanc Spa Resort Los Cabos, I weighed my responsibilities heavily. I thought carefully about the implications my actions will have.
Why I Decided To Travel Internationally
During the spring and early summer months, I stayed put and any job I had as a beauty travel blogger and educator (Bali, Jamaica, Ibiza, and Portugal) hit pause. After nearly 6 months of lockdown and quarantine, New York City has been able to contain the spread of COVID and flatten the curve with a staggeringly low rate of 1% infection rate. So, when Le Blanc Spa Resort reached out, I knew I had to think carefully about my next steps.
Ultimately, choosing to go on this press trip came down to a few major considerations:
- My responsibility as a travel blogger to share what’s going on
- How I can support the travel and tourism industry in a RESPONSIBLE way
- The low transmission rate in NYC
- NYC’s strict re-entry regulations and fines if they aren’t followed (up to $10k!)
- Preparing for the trip by quarantining carefully
- Wearing a mask whenever I step outside of my apartment
- Always maintaining social distancing guidelines (6 ft apart)
- Living alone and not coming into contact with another person prior to the trip
- Testing immediately after the trip (negative)
Taking Extra Precautions While Flying
I wanted to make sure that I was taking the extra precautions needed to ensure the safety of those around me while in the air so I decided to try to cash in my miles to fly business class to allow for more isolation and limit contact.
Flights on American Airlines were only 58k miles in biz class – a crazy good deal compared to paying $1,300 USD for the same flight!
p.s. Currently, flights from EWR to Cabo are down to 35k mikes R/T on AA.com… Cha-Ching!
What Flying During a Pandemic Really Looks Like
We paid special attention to where in Mexico we could travel on a nonstop flight to limit the extra contact point. We ultimately chose a destination with one stop, but if you want to take it a step further, look for somewhere that you can get to on a nonstop flight.
The layover airport options were all AA hubs… and also COVID hotspots (Phoenix, Dallas, Charlotte, and Los Angeles). But I knew that airports were exceedingly clean, so we weren’t worried about taking a flight with a layover. Eventually, I was able to secure the only flight to Cabo with a layover in Chicago, only for it to be canceled 3-days prior to our flight with no warning! Yikes.
Thankfully, I was able to rebook the last 2 seats on a flight with a layover in Charlotte. The only seats left were in coach (the ticketing agent was very aloof when I asked if they were blocking seats, and he said something like: every seat is for sale”. Hmm.
I was upset that we wouldn’t have the extra room to social distance, plus I was really looking forward to the fancy upgrade! 🙁 Since our business class seats weren’t available, I used the miles I had to upgrade to an exit row seat instead (2,400 AA miles from LaGuardia to Charlotte, and 8,300 AA miles from Charlotte to Cabo), which I would highly recommend if you have the miles!
TIP: If you’re planning to travel soon, be sure to check-in regularly with your flights on the app since anything could change at the last minute.
We flew from the new LaGuardia Terminal B, which was gorgeous. All 4 flights from Newark to Charlotte and Cabo and back again were between 80-100% full. Thankfully, everyone was wearing a mask without any drama.
I must admit, the Charlotte airport was a madhouse. There were tons of people everywhere that it made it almost impossible to social distance. If you’re flying through CLT, I would recommend a very early or very late flight.
Even though I normally fly American Airlines, I can’t say I recommend them right now. Delta, Alaska, and JetBlue, and Southwest Airlines are all blocking out seats to ensure the safety of their passengers.
TIP: Keep in mind, there was a form to fill out on board and also another when you arrive. Make sure to pack a pen (or three) so you don’t have to share it with someone you don’t know.
Be prepared to wear a mask at all times during your flight, carry a bottle of hand sanitizer, and be patient while at the airport.
Staying at an all-inclusive resort was a no-brainer for my first international trip back. I wanted the ease and security that came with it so I didn’t have to worry.
I’ve stayed at a few all-inclusive resorts in places like Le Blanc Cancun back in 2018 with my friend (and fellow Pangea Alum!) @britneywilson of Pretty Little Hangers, and the Moon Palace Resort in Jamaica last summer. I knew what I was getting into (delicious food, welcoming, and incredible staff, and a gorgeous and luxurious spa, of course!) and couldn’t wait to go back.
Le Blanc is taking extra, extra precautions with their special new sanitation program called Purely Le Blanc.
They’re implementing over 250 preventative measures around the resort and going above and beyond with cleanliness for everyone’s safety. There are seals of disinfection on all the doors of the rooms and we constantly saw employees cleaning every surface.
Employees are required to wear masks at all times. Guests are not required to, but we did anytime we were in public. The only times we were spotted without a mask was in our room or at the pool when no one was around.
And at a maximum 30% occupancy rate, we pretty much had one of the 4 pools to ourselves!
Sunrise yoga on the rooftop was heavenly, and of course, I had to take a (private!) spin class since I miss my beloved SoulCycle more than ever.
The resort’s infinity pool was where most people were hanging out, and being that it was more of a party pool (and I’m a grandma) we didn’t feel like we were missing out on anything at all. All 4 pools emptied around 6 PM and we were able to have a little golden hour shoot with no one around!
Dining at the Resort
The resort’s six restaurants each provide you the option of ordering from a classic hard copy menu, or the new addition of a QR code menu – the winner to eliminate touching an additional surface.
The resort’s normal buffet, Blanc International, was turned into a classic restaurant, with moveable acrylic dividers when requested, and tables 6’ apart. Being a New Yorker where tables are crammed in a space and everyone can hear your conversation, I loved being apart from everyone else!
The Le Blanc app was a must. It’s a well-designed, user-friendly hub for guests to do everything from ordering room service, booking spa appointments, and making dinner reservations. A dream come true for lazy pool-loving people like me (although our Butler was always nearby to land a hand too).
It seemed like the resort was especially accommodating to specific requests. We met a couple in their late 30’s at the resort from Oregon. The wife, who had MS, needed to be extra careful during their 10-day stay. They never dined in restaurants and were exclusively served via room service. Although I’m not sure if this arrangement was specifically due to her medical condition, it’s important to note that the resort can make arrangements if need be.
The Blanc Spa
No trip is complete for me without a trip (or two) to the spa! I was invited in for a 50-minute Serenity massage (a classic Swiss-style relaxing massage) at the hands of a lovely and very talented therapist named Ana. She wore PPE including glasses and a mask at all times, and I saw her wash her hands thoroughly before we began.
Something else I love about Le Blanc and Palace Resorts is the Water Journey, inspired by Greco-Roman rituals. Get this – it is totally complimentary with your stay. Do you know how sometimes you just never want to leave the spa? Well, this is your chance! It begins with several steps including a sauna, an ice room to promote circulation (and sunburn – oops) plus vapor steam, and my favorite seat in the house: the perfectly warmed thermal loungers. Then, it’s off to the blue-hued pool area to swim and float until your heart’s content.
If you’re planning to travel internationally any time soon, I recommend taking the time to do the appropriate research. If you’re planning to take a trip to Mexico, here is a list of resources I turned to in preparation for my trip:
- Mexico Travel Warning (Travel and Leisure)
- Mexico Travel Advisories Broken Down by State
- Resource for Unique Travelers (women, LGBTQ+, journalists, travelers with pets, dual nationality, etc)
- US Embassies
- Most Up-To-Date Health Info in Mexico for US Citizens
- Local Phone Number for COVID-19 Assistance in Each State
- Travel Restrictions Fact Sheet Between US and Mexico
- Global Travel Regulations Map (IATA)
The decision to travel during the pandemic has to be made with lots of considerations in mind. Yes, it’ll be more expensive to book business class seats, but there will never be a better time to cash in all those miles to get the most bang for your mile. Plus, hotels and resorts like Le Blanc are offering incredible deals and flexible cancellation policies, leaving the only question left is – where do you want to go first?
Blog post written by Tulum Retreat 2017 Alumna Julie Kandalec.
Julie has also attended the Pangea Dreams Alumni Retreat in Costa Rica, and the 2020 Alumni Retreat in Palm, Springs California!
Personal IG: @julieknailsnyc and @julie.off.duty
Business IG: @masterclassnailacademy
Website: www.nailmasterclass.com and www.julieoffduty.com