Travel is back, and it is not as scary as you might think

ABOVE: The RIU Dunamar Playa Mujeres, Mexico has adapted to ensure the safety of guest including daily cleaning all of the lounge chairs.  

In early September, my daughter and I decided to escape to the beaches of Mexico for a week of R&R. It was a last-minute decision made easier by the vacation providers’ offer of extra Covid-19 Emergency Medical Insurance that is available on all-inclusive packages until the end of October 2021. We chose to stay at the RIU Dunamar Playa Mujeres in Mexico.

We’ve travelled to RIU resorts throughout the Caribbean for years and have never been disappointed. RIU have beautiful resorts with comfortable rooms and amenities, incredible food, and exceptional and friendly staff. I was a little nervous but comfortable all the same knowing my destination was a RIU resort — I knew they would be right on top of things for their customers in these early days of post-Covid international travel.

As fully vaccinated, healthy adults we were confident that hand washing and mask wearing would protect us from other vacationers at the resort who might not be vaccinated. Even though we were so excited to be travelling once again, we had a tingly feeling that maybe we should do as Uncle Doug has been repeating for the last 18 month: “Folks, just stay home!”

I don’t recall having to show any proof of vaccination to access the airport—odd given that the night before our departure, the bars and restaurants in Montreal required proof of vaccination with a corresponding ID—and the flight check-in and security screening was the same old procedure. I had my proof of vaccination ready but never had to show it.

It was very exciting to be back at an airport, but the half empty Montreal-Trudeau Airport was eerie, and the closed Starbucks didn’t help calm any pre-flight jitters. But the sunny south was calling so we headed to the gate to board our flight.

Aside from having to wear a mask during the flight, at the airport in Cancun, and during our shuttle ride, everything seemed quite normal.

Stepping off the bus at the entrance to the RIU Dunamar, it was fantastic to feel the hot, humid air and the ocean breezes. Upon arrival, all guests must be screened for temperature and sanitize their hands before entering the hotel—the procedure is also repeated every time guests enter indoor dining rooms. The RIU staff where all fully masked and the bathing-suit-clad guest passing through the lobby area where also masked, but aside from the masks, it felt like completely normal.

I had checked-in online the night before, so we picked up the keys and headed to our room to change into our beachwear.

ABOVE: The Covid protocols at the RIU made us feel safe and did not detract in any way from our enjoyment of the resort or from our ability to relax. (LEFT) Each arriving guest is scanned with a thermal scanner. (RIGHT) Each time diners enter the buffet area their hands are squirted with sanitizer.

For the rest of the week we ate, swam, sunned ourselves on repeat. We were completely relaxed and felt very comfortable with the extra cleaning and sanitizing measures being taken at the resort.

RIU offers free rapid antigen testing for guests, but the Canadian government requires that all returning travellers obtain molecular PCR text up to 72 hours before heading home. In fact, you must show proof of your PCR test to check in for your return flight. The PCR test involves having your nose and throat swabbed and the samples sent to a lab for testing.

ABOVE: You can't see their smiling faces behind the masks, but all RIU staff are friendly as ever.

Our RIU resort reception desk booked our tests, and they were done on-site. The cost is US $130 per person, which is paid upon booking the test. It seems a bit steep, but it is a small price to pay for the confidence of spending five hours on a Covid-free flight home.

Once the lab results are back, travellers must download the ArriveCAN app, fill out and submit the Covid screening information. Proof of both individual vaccines is required as well as proof of a negative PCR test. The app is easy to use. I recommend downloading and submitting your info before leaving the hotel.

ABOVE: The resort coordinated the mandatory US $130 PCR molecular test that the Canadian government requires for returning travellers. It took 24 hours to receive the test results via email. (RIGHT) Once you have the result, fill out and submit the ArriveCAN app that must be shown when checking in and upon arrival in Canada.  

Once back in Canada, we deplaned at hit the immigration queue, which seemed the same except that non-vaccinated passengers were pulled out of the line and sent to a different end of the arrival area. I assume that these passengers would be subjected to on-site Covid screening at the airport.

Compared to the almost non-existent leg room and the lack of in-flight service, the experience of travelling during Covid was painless and I imagine that the few extra protocols will be with us for a while. I feel completely confident travelling and once again, RIU did not disappoint. I am looking forward to heading south again this winter, maybe this time I will head to a RIU in Jamaica!