The travel bug has never felt more real! We are yearning for the sun, beach, sightseeing, adventure and excitement away from our social media accounts and the news. Most of us are ready for a nasty breakup with year 2020. I am ready to block it from my memory and make a quick dash and turn the corner into the fall. So, where can we travel to now that COVID-19 has disrupted most of this year’s travel plans? Americans now have options when it comes to international travel. Finally! Get ready to dust off your passport as we check out what your next passport stamp will read.
Keep in mind, there are some alternative options but we all don’t have 14 days to quarantine. We need some convenient and realistic options. Since the countries listed below are currently accepting American travelers, I still like to encouraged my clients to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 prior to departure. The current situation with the pandemic is still developing so things can change momentarily.
It doesn’t take much to entice a traveler to beautiful Antigua. Antigua opened its borders on June 1 in a phased plan. Visitors are required to take a COVID-19 test 48 hours prior to arrival and be able to present documentation of negative results. Visitors are also required to wear a mask in all public places and are subject to temperature checks when arriving to the island’s airport. I loved my stay in Antigua and would go back in a heartbeat.
The “One Happy Island”, Aruba started welcoming travelers back on July 10 and in just one month has seen over 11,000 tourists! Head’s up! Residents of certain hot spot states are required to upload a negative COVID-19 test online taken within 72 hours before their flight and uploaded at least 12 hours before departing. Other U.S. travelers will have the option of uploaded their test results or taking a test upon arrival in Aruba. It will cost you $75 and require quarantining until the test results come back. Save yourself the time and headache and upload your results in time. Travelers are also required to purchase mandatory COVID-19 health insurance prior to travel.
Why work from home when you can work from Barbados? Barbados started to offer visas that allow foreign nationals to live and work in Barbados for up to one year. Those of us looking for a shorter stay can vacation as long as you show proof of a negative COVID-19 test 72 hours prior to departure. Travelers can also choose to undergo a test at the airport and quarantine until the results are ready.
It doesn’t hurt that Bermuda has an increasingly low rate of COVID-19 transmissions. Entering the island will require you show a negative COVID-19 test from no more than 5 days before departure and be prepared to fill out a travel authorization process online for a $75 fee. Here is where it gets tricky. All travelers will also take a mandatory test at the airport. You will have to quarantine in your hotel room for an average of 6-8 hours or until the test results come back negative. Visitors will then be tested every fours days while on the island and be required to take temperature checks twice each day. Clearly Bermuda is not the most convenient destination to travel to during these unprecedented times but it is doable! Keep in mind, as the temp drops in the US, it also does in Bermuda. While US travelers are welcomed to the island, it might not be the warm, tropical vacation you would think the island to be. However, if you’re look for a picturesque beach, beautiful sunsets, a little pampering, great dining and more, than leave Bermuda on the table.
Hey, fellow east coasters! This one is for perfect for us. Residents from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut are welcomed to the popular destination in Central America as of September 1. Starting September 15, residents of Colorado, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania can also enter. U.S. citizen tourists from these states wishing to enter Costa Rica must complete a digital epidemiological health pass, obtain a negative coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of their departure and purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19.
Tourists in Croatia will not have to quarantine if they provide a negative COVID-19 test taken within 48 hours. Yes, you read that right! A european country welcoming US citizens! Travelers are also asked to fill out an entry form. While the European Union has recommended that U.S. not be included in the countries allowed to resume non-essential travel, individual countries are able to make their own decisions. Croatia has its door wide open for us!
The Dominican Republic will be one of the more convenient and affordable islands to travel to! The destination lifted border restrictions on July 1 and by September 15 travelers will no longer have to show a negative COVID-19 test result. Instead, authorities will randomly administer a quick breath test to between 3% to 10% of passengers upon arrival. Sounds painless! As part of immigration and customs forms provided by the airline, passengers will be also fill out and submit a health affidavit.
The “Hawaii of the Caribbean” is open! Be prepared to present a negative COVID-19 test within seven days of travel, complete a pre-arrival registration form in advance and undergo screening, including temperature checks, upon arrival at their international airport. Saint Lucia has implemented a COVID-19 certificate for hotels, requiring them to meet more than a dozen criteria for sanitization protocols, social distancing, and more.
Known for its reasonably priced all-inclusive resorts, white sand beaches and a laid back culture, Jamaica is requiring tourist to undergo a temperature check and some tourist to undergo a COVID-19 test on arrival. Travelers from areas considered “high risk,” including Arizona, Florida, New York, and Texas, have to upload a negative COVID-19 test prior to arriving. Taking extra precautions, the island is also requiring each hotel to designate at least one employee at a time as a “COVID-19 Safety Point Person” to conduct spot checks. So pack your bags and “come to Jamaica and feel alright”.
US residents will no longer have to enter into a mandatory quarantine upon arrival to the capital, Male. Nor will they need to produce proof they have tested negative for COVID-19. Travelers do need to submit an online health declaration form within 24 hours before departure. With each hotel essentially on its own island, you are technically in quarantine. If only quarantining in the US was as glamorous as a stay in an over-water bungalow perched over the most beautiful blue ocean water at a 5 star luxury resort… Sigh!?!
Popular destinations in Mexico such as Cancun, Riviera Maya, Puerto Vallarta and Los Cabos, are checking all the boxes for a stress-free, sunny vacay! It’s no wonder travelers are flocking to this fun filled destination. While the land border between the U.S. and Mexico remains closed, it was never restricted via air. A matter of fact, my clients the Foxs just returned and had a blast for their last minute mini-moon. Cancun was the first destination in the Americas and one of the first few in the world to receive the “Safe Travels” global safe and hygiene stamp from the World Travel & Tourism Council. Skip the COVID-19 test for this destination as it is not a requirement. Anticipate resorts to take your temperature upon arriving!
Turks and Caicos
United Arab Emirates
If you have The UAE on your bucket list then consider flashy Dubai! Dubai has relaxed some entry requirements. Tourists must arrive with a negative COVID-19 test taken 96 hours prior to departure. However, there is a chance you may randomly be selected to take another COVID-19 test upon arrival. If you take a test at the airport, you must remain in your hotel until you receive the test result. It will be worth it once you are checking out the deserts on the back of a camel, climbing the tallest building in the world, dining at world-class restaurants and taking in the cultural monuments.
Traveling during these uncertain times means being prepared and staying up-to-date on the latest travel advisories and news. Recently my clients, the Foxs, flew into Cancun airport. They offered some great tips on traveling through the pandemic and insight on their experience in a recent Q&A blog post. With a little planning and preparation, you can still enjoy a much needed vacation. Taking time off to recharge has proven benefits for your physical, emotional and mental health. After the last several months in quarantine, we could all use some time to recharge and get the adrenaline pumping. If you are traveling during the pandemic, pack a mask, hand sanitizer and together, lets go over your options including a hotel certified in bringing guests a clean and safe vacation.
Katie, who is a dear friend and loyal travel client of mine for years reached out to me during the height of the pandemic looking to somehow salvage her honeymoon plans. With all the excitement leading up to her big day, she and her now husband needed a way to celebrate under the sun as safely and as convenient as possible. They contacted yours truly and together we planned a dreamy mini-moon. So, you are asking, is safe and convenient even possible now? I picked the brain of the beautiful bride to answer some questions in regards to their travel experience.
First thing is first: Location! We landed on Playa Mujeres, Mexico as the destination. Mexico is one of the only destinations not requiring travelers to show a negative Covid-19 test from 72 hours prior to arriving at the airports. This was a huge bonus since Katie and Breardon were leaving on a weekend and getting married just two days before, and with testing facilities only providing results 5-6 days later, this could have potentially created a big problem. Mexico is open and welcoming travelers with the right precautions to insure a safe environment for all. Add in non-stop flights, warm weather, the right price, the beautiful beaches and a brand new adult-only, all inclusive hotel and SOLD! What more could one ask for especially after quarantining for 6 months? So, here comes the questions on everyone’s mind and I couldn’t be more grateful to Katie for allowing me to dig in and bring those answers to you. While in quarantine, I have been on zoom conferences with countless hotel chains, tour companies, transfer services and airlines to understand what protocols are being taken now to be sure my clients are safe BUT there truly is nothing like a real life experience so I truly was excited to chat with Katie. Thanks, Katie!
How was the check-in process at JFK airport in NYC?The check-in process was very easy, since there aren’t many people flying right now! There is no curbside check in, therefore everyone was checking in at kiosks (bring disinfecting wipes to wipe down the screens prior to using!) and then checked our bags – very painless. There are stickers all over the airport floor reminding people to keep their distance. We gave ourselves extra time and got to the airport early in case it was a slower check-in process and security wait because of Covid, but that wasn’t the case for us at all! The only time we had to take off our masks was while going through security for them to confirm we were the people on our passports.
Did you notice any new protocols implemented that made you feel more or less safe since the pandemic? Yes! More Safe! There is hand sanitizer everywhere. All of the seating areas are marked to keep 6 feet distance.
Did you feel social distancing was in play? Absolutely! The airport definitely had reminders to keep social distance, now if only everyone respected social distancing…
How was the boarding process?So, the boarding process was actually the easiest boarding process I’ve ever had. Instead of boarding in zones, they boarded people with disabilities first and then everyone else boarded based on their seat location starting with the back of the plane moving forward. The goal of this type of boarding is to limit how often people walked past each other. I also did not feel rushed at all with people cramming right up behind me while boarding as I typically feel with normal boarding. Slower, less pressured boarding allowed me to make sure our entire row was disinfected with disinfecting wipes.
What can you share about your in flight experience? We wore masks the entire flight. Jetblue does not allow masks that have air vents – just an FYI! Also, Jetblue is not doing any purchasing in flight – therefore no alcohol, blankets, earphones, etc. can be purchased. All snacks were distributed in pre-packaged bags that were “minimally touched.” The flight attendants came by once everyone was boarded to collect disinfecting wipes people had used to wipe down the seats.
How was your experience once disembarking your flight in Cancun? The airline instructed everyone form the front of the plane to disembark first, however as per usual people on the back of the plane rush up to the front to get off first. Breandan and I just waited in our seats because it wasn’t worth it trying to squeeze by people and get too close for our comfort.
Did you need to provide a negative Covid test result or fill out any forms upon arriving into Cancun?No! We checked the Jetblue website daily to ensure the requirements didn’t change just to make sure we didn’t run into hiccups during our honeymoon.
We all know customs can easily look like 5th ave during rush hour, how long were you waiting and how was your interaction with the customs agent?Mexico’s customs line actually moved pretty quickly. Again, they had stickers to remind people of social distancing. On the plane we had to fill out an additional form to hand in at customs that asked questions regarding our possible Covid exposure before the trip. Mexico has thermal cameras set up when you go through customs. If someone’s thermal screening is elevated, they have people ready to do a rapid Covid test. Additionally, they checked our temperatures as we went through customs.
It seems hard to social distance in the dreadful baggage claim areas. How was your experience? We just stood off to the side briefly until we saw our bags and then squeezed through, masks on, to get to them.
You are finally making your way out of the airport! How was the handoff and overall experience with our transfer company to and from the airport in Cancun? Handoff was so easy! Thankfully, Gina had our transportation all set up and ready to go. We showed our itinerary to one of the people outside of baggage claim and they told us who to look for when we got out of the airport. We were the only people in our transfer – so we didn’t have to worry about sharing a car with anyone. The company handling the transfer disinfected our suitcases with wipes, sprayed our shoes with bleach, gave us sanitizer to use in front of them, and we wore masks the entire drive. We were really impressed with the precautions they took – NYC taxis and Uber should take note!
You step out of the car and take your first steps in paradise! How were you greeted upon arriving at the hotel and how was the check-in process?We were greeted again with hand sanitizer and disinfecting our shoes before we could enter the hotel. They also checked our temperatures. Our hotel, The Atelier, has check in available across 4 locations, therefore we didn’t cross paths with anyone else checking in. We sat away from the woman helping us with the check in process and wore masks the entire time. The hotel used bracelets which had keys attached – I was really relieved to not be using a key that many people have used before me.
Did you have any awkward exchanges with staff where you felt you needed to disinfect yourself head to toe? Honestly, I am a complete germaphobe. I DID NOT feel awkward and want to bathe in bleach AT ALL during our stay. It was really comforting that the hotel had sanitizing stations all over the hotel. The hotel employees were constantly coming up to us offering hand sanitizer. All of the employees wore masks 100% of the time.
I always feel like it is the little things that make for the biggest impact? Did anything extra stand out? I really liked how much of our stay was contactless. Any reservations we wanted to make – instead of visiting or calling concierge, we were able to do it all through the hotel app. Whenever we wanted to have our room cleaned, we just messaged them through the app to ensure we didn’t cross paths with the maid. All of the menus were QR codes, so we weren’t touching menus other guests had been touching. The maids left hand sanitizer and masks in the room everyday to ensure the guests were never without it. It was really impressive how the hotel went above and beyond to make their guests feel safe and secure, while still ensuring we enjoyed our vacation.
Did you leave the hotel grounds?Breandan and I did a little trip to Isla Mujeres – we took a cab to the ferry and spent the day golf carting around the island. I was so impressed with how clean the ferry was, they had a capacity limit due to Covid-19 restrictions, and then when we got to the port we walked through sanitizing booths and had our temperature taken. It was so worth it!
With all the new procedures and protocols implemented, did your hotel stay actually feel like a vacation? Yes, it did! Whether we’re in NY or Mexico, I just think this is our “new normal.”
From hand sanitizer to masks and social distancing, how did this all interfere with your vacation? It didn’t really! The hotel was only allowed to have 33% occupancy. When we were by the pool or beach we never had a hard time getting seats where we could distance ourselves. Restaurants only allowed a certain number of people in them at one time due to Covid-19 restrictions. Just like in NY, we wore masks while walking around the hotel. When we were seated in a restaurant or by the pool, we took our masks off – again, it didn’t feel weird because it is just our “new normal.”
Do you feel it is too soon to travel or that the right protocols are in place to have a successful, safe trip?I definitely felt safe in Mexico and would go back in a heartbeat. NYC can definitely take notes between the readily available hand sanitizer, thermal cameras, and the constant temperature taking!
Any advice for those of us that are in dire need of a vacation but are concerned for our safety? I’d just really make sure you are prepared. Again, I am a germaphobe and was very nervous to travel (but, also desperate to go on a honeymoon after all of the Covid-19 wedding dilemmas we had faced), so my carry on was filled with items to make me feel safe – extra masks, disinfecting antibacterial hand wipes, hand sanitizer, Lysol wipes, etc. We packed our own snacks so that we didn’t have to eat anything else had touched. I also recommend printed boarding passes because I did not want anyone touching my phone. We absolutely LOVED our trip – the hotel was wonderful! The staff was so helpful, the food was amazing (and I don’t always love food on vacation because I’m so picky), and we felt really safe.
“Thank you again for your help, Gina – you make planning vacations so much easier!” – Katie Fox
Countless brides ask, “when is the best time to travel to avoid the hottest times of the year?”
Let’s face it, our hair plays a big role in how we feel. Let’s add, no girl wants to be a sweaty bride and melting makeup just isn’t the vibe we are going for. While each destination is different, December through April is relatively a cooler, drier time throughout much of the Caribbean and Mexico. Take into account, most ceremonies are held at sunset. You can have it in the afternoon but you’ll be a happier, more comfortable bride in the evening. Not only will you celebrate with dreamy cotton candy skies sparkling over the horizon but you get the cool breeze off the sea and the sun’s rays are in the far distance. For the European bride, July and August are super warm and crowded. Aim for a Fall or Spring wedding to avoid the chilly winter cold and the smoldering summer heat.
Where do you go when you are not a “sand in the toes” type of bride?
You are not limited to the beach! Many resorts are beach front properties but eliminate the beach portion and you have epic spaces like spacious ballrooms, lush gardens, ocean view terraces, open air gazebos, on-site restaurants and yes, if you want, the gorgeous beach! An option I love, a tented a reception! This can be done nearly anywhere, from the beach to the courtyards. If you want something a bit more unique, check out local event spaces and churches too. Remember, hotels are designed and built with a focus on hosting large parties and events. They are able to accommodate weddings of all different sizes and styles.
How can I budget for a destination wedding?
If you haven’t already read through my previous blog posts, what is the hold up? You are missing out on the goods! You will find there is something for all budget sizes. Take a moment to read a recent blog post on my favorite budget friendly resorts offering free and affordableweddingpackages. You will also read how a destination wedding is not a financial burden yet rather a huge savings! Even a luxurious, over-the-top destination wedding is a fraction of the cost of one in your hometown. Your dollar goes a lot further with a destination wedding. At most beach resorts, packages are created with everything you will need bundled together opposed to hiring a typical 7-10 vendors for a wedding at home. These wedding packages start FREE (yes, you read that right!) and an upgraded package can start as low as $3,000! You can also earn free nights which will definitely save you a pretty penny when you book your hotel room.
What does the average destination wedding cost?
You really could get away with one of the free packages at an all-inclusive resort but it’s rare for a bride not to want to take advantage of the “add-on’s” and the invite list can quickly grow. The devil is in the details! You can have a memorable, beautiful wedding for about $7-10,000. This will include your linens, a wedding planner, ceremony set-up, cocktail hour, 3 course plated dinner, liquor, a private reception, wedding cake, champagne toast, DJ, photographer, decor, florals and more! Try to pull that one off in a major US city. You can also choose to have a more extravagant wedding starting around $25,000+ depending on guest count.
What is the cost for the wedding guest?
It depends on destination, dates, hotel, flights, etc. Airfare can range between $350 to $500 and a 4 star, all-inclusive hotel can run guests about $170-$220 per night on average. The soon-to-be Cuomo’s just booked airfare to Punta Cana for their wedding for $350 and I negotiated a nightly rate at a 4.5 star hotel for only $200 per night! A 3-night, 4 day vacation can run their guests around $950 with all their meals, beverages and activities included! For guests on a budget, they can always choose to share a room to bring the overall costs down. Give your guests far enough notice to save up. The longer they can save, the better, and we offer payment options to help! An all-inclusive resort is cost effective for everyone. All meals and beverages will be included and guests won’t have any other costs to worry about. An all-inclusive resort is not everyone’s style, so anticipate for the overall cost to be a little higher when all is said and done with a traditional hotel. Remember, hotel guests will accumulate a bill during their stay to be paid at check-out when it is not an all-inclusive resort. There are some traditional hotel’s that offer travelers the option to select a meal and beverage plan ahead of time. This is another alternative! Give guests the option. We all love options!
What if I want to fly down my own vendors or book one not on the vendors list?
You are not limited to the hotel’s vendors, although, they have countless recommendations and well qualified connections. If your local make-up artists or family DJ is available and willing to travel, that is an option worth exploring! You’ll be surprised how many vendors such as photographers are willing to travel. Check the hotel to make sure they don’t have outside vendor fees. Although, the fee is typically minimal. If you need recommendations, ask yours truly. Through the years I have come up with quite the little black book for reliable, talented wedding vendors!
Should I block hotel rooms?
Almost always! Save yourself the headache! Not only is it practically a must but it is worth it to you! By booking a room block you will earn great incentives. Who doesn’t want something for free? Free rooms (great for the wedding guest who can’t afford to travel or the outside vendor you hired), upgrades, comped events such as a welcome party are just some of the great concessions you and your guests will earn. Besides the great concessions, you’ll also want to make sure everyone can be accommodated. A sold out hotel is not rare and the more affordable room accommodations are always the first to get snatched up. I have had guests of a wedding stay at an alternative property because there was no availability left at the hotel the bride and groom booked. This is truly unfortunate for all parties involved. Guests will miss out on all the festivities and the action. Not to mention, traveling to and from the resort on the day of the wedding is not ideal. This requires guests to purchase a day pass to get on property. If you don’t have a room block, you might be forcing Aunt Sally to book a two bedroom beachfront suite if it is the only available room option. And, if the weekend becomes popular, the reasonable nightly rate that you found when you first reserved your wedding could triple in price. The list of concerns doesn’t end there. Play it smart, play it safe. The right thing to do is to be sure your guests have a room waiting for them at a good price! Keep it classy, keep it simple.
Should I be skeptical of travel and planning a wedding during Covid-19?
Anyone that’s planning a wedding whether it’s near or far has mutual feelings. New Jersey just limited their gatherings to 25. An engaged couple in New York continue to battle state and county officials in court over orders that restrict weddings to 50 individuals or less. Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, California, Florida, just to name a few more, also have limited the amount of people that can attend a gathering. Staying home doesn’t make planning any easier. In fact, it appears traveling might be in your best interest, and, as if you need a reminder, we all could use a vacation after this! The destination wedding market is now booming. Some couples are opting for a smaller, more intimate wedding just to take the pressure off of planning a local wedding with all the evolving restrictions while others are going full speed ahead with faith that the spacious, open surroundings at a resort with the beach and outdoor accommodations are a safer bet and requires little to no compromising. No need to limit the guests list with endless space and without the worry of the city and state limitations. As odd as it may seem, you can’t have gatherings of more than 25 in New Jersey but you can have four times that number on a plane. I know, it makes you wonder but this is the reality we live in right now. Another helpful reminder, resorts are going all out to ensure the safety of their guests. Countless hand sanitizer stations are spread out throughout the grounds, temperature checks per each and every employee prior to entering the property, no buffets, spaced out seating around the pools, restaurants, bars and beaches, less person to person contact and deep cleaning of all surfaces including in guest rooms. This is just a peek into what measure they have taken to be certain they can welcome you and your guests to paradise safely!
Finally, one of the most common questions, “what is your cost?”
My answer: nada, zilch, niente, nothing! If you’re booking a room block, I will go the extra mile as a good faith gesture to get your wedding reserved for you. Having the extra eyes and ears on your “best day ever” deserves it! I am extremely proud to say, you won’t find another travel agent that will do what I do, make the calls overseas, get you the right pricing, negotiate the deal, send the emails, do the research, reach out to my contacts, give advice and recommendations, and get you all set up. A personal assistant you didn’t know you could have! As you can see from my blogs and social media, I have behind the scenes knowledge and years of experience that I can’t wait to share with you!
Wedding planning or not, Covid-19 has us all unified with our feelings and concerns. We are anxious, worried, frustrated and a feeling like a hot emotional mess. For engaged couples, you have a whole list of concerns on top of what we are all feeling. How do you navigate wedding planning in the midst of a pandemic? It is probably hard to even get excited with so much uncertainty surrounding us. Your goals need to be: stay home, stay healthy and focus on activities that are a good distraction! The good news is, the destination wedding industry is built for communicating from afar and with the right team, it will be stress-free! More importantly, this too shall pass. Celebrations, traveling, and a simple handshake will become normal interactions again. After every storm there is a rainbow! Plus, we will all need a SERIOUS vacation after this and take it from me, a travel agent, people are looking forward to traveling again soon!
BUT MY WEDDING WAS CANCELLED
You’re not alone! Countless couples are trying to salvage their wedding day plans. Travel agents, event planners, vendors, airlines and hotels too are all stressing over the Covid-19 outbreak. We are all on pins and needles trying to steer through these unsteady waters. Whether your wedding was overseas or at home, we are being forced to resign to plan B. Who said Plan B couldn’t be better than Plan A, though? If your wedding was canceled, although hard to see the bright side of things, you do have it a bit easier than couples who have to wait to see if their wedding date is even in the clear. It is a waiting game for them, but for you, you have time on your side. You have the option to postpone and lock down a date ASAP or better yet, take a breather and see where we are in a month or two. You might want to jump on a Fall wedding of this year or plan for a whole year later. For now, contact your travel agent, your wedding coordinator and any vendors you booked on your own. You do not need to have all the answers but touch base with them so you are all on the same page and so you know how to proceed when you do decide to lock in a new date. Kat over at Paper Love Spell is offering a free digital download for couples to share with guests on their change of plans. I love the headline and design! This is the perfect way to reach out to your loved ones.
BUT MY WEDDING IS SOON
For the couples that are stuck in limbo due to travel restrictions, hotel and airport closures, take a deep breath. I know, that’s easier said than done but over the next few weeks we will have a better idea on how to proceed. I am assessing the situation every day and waiting to see if travel restrictions are lifted and if the virus has at least been contained. The best case scenario, your wedding will go as planned! If you have to move your wedding date, some couples are postponing their wedding date to 2021. Your travel agent will be able to make the necessary adjustments to your guests’ reservations and work with your hotel, the airlines and transfer companies to make a seamless change. Together all outlets in the travel industry are waiving change fees. I know the situation is not ideal but all good things are worth the wait, including your wedding day!
BUT CAN I PLAN A WEDDING NOW
There is no better time to lock down a 2021 wedding than now! The early bird gets the date and with 2020 brides shifting to 2021, you might want to lock down a date asap. Locking down your date and your room reservation is simple. After a room block and wedding date is set, you have plenty of time to plan the other details. I assist my couples with all the information they need and then introduce them to their on-site wedding coordinator. The wedding coordinator will be happy to help with any questions and concerns but won’t look to start planning until months before. Did you know most wedding day packages will immediately hold vendors for you? So, no need to hunt down a florist in another country or find a caterer on the island. No additional contracts, deposits or unnecessary homework required! If there is a specific photographer you would like to work with or DJ, you can absolutely book them. You are not restricted to the hotel’s vendors! While being quarantined is anything but fun it is great timing to find inspiration on Pinterest, a bridal magazine, reruns of “Say Yes To The Dress” and social media while practicing social distancing. A little time away from reality could be a good thing during stressful times.
I always recommend that you focus on solutions and alternatives. Things are changing every day so if your destination wedding is coming up, check in on any updated travel advisories. You might have to celebrate under a different sunset but I promise the view will still be amazing!
It’s no secret that I adore Mexico, the Caribbean coast in particular. Maybe I’m partial to the eastern side because of the Caribbean sea and, well, direct flights into Cancun via JFK and Newark don’t hurt either. While, I’m hoping the direct flights return to Cabo and to Puerto Vallarta from JFK, I can’t deny the Pacific side is also very attractive. Both ends are shaking up the hotel scene. Mexico is where it’s happening. It does have a bad rep, but being from New York, I can tell you, you have to be careful pretty much anywhere you go. Be a smart traveler and don’t scratch Mexico off of your list. If you do a google search for the hottest, new beach resorts, you’ll land yourself staring at countless pictures and websites of properties in Mexico. From resorts adding complimentary spa treatments and hotels with gourmet restaurants, up to par with the best of the best in New York and Paris, to cutting edge technology and architecture that will zap you into the future, Mexico has a wide range of options and it’s continuing to push the boundaries.
I traveled to Cabo with my husband, then boyfriend, several years ago. We found $1 tacos being made by a little old lady in town. They were so good that we made a trip back two more times that week. That brings me to good food! Mexico will tempt and spoil your taste buds. More recently, we were lucky enough to eat at the first Michelin Star restaurant in Riviera Maya, Mexico. Every bit of the 9 course tasting menu created by famed chef Carlos Gaytán, was not only delicious but a piece of art on a plate. When you hear Nobu, you probably will think of the renowned Asian-fusion restaurant located in some of the hottest cities all over the world, attracting celebrity names, trendy crowds in a sleek, sexy atmosphere. The new Nobu Los Cabos is bringing all this and more to the tip of Mexico’s Baja California peninsula. It is sure to satisfy the toughest of critics with its famous dishes. The hotel chain is also opening a farm-to-table concept from a popular spot in Malibu. The on-site garden provides a number of fresh ingredients for the hotel’s restaurants and bars. Can you say “fresh to death”!? Grand Velas Riviera Maya will change your mind about the all-inclusive experience. An all-inclusive, 5-star resort with gourmet food, YES, they really do exist! The Chaka menu features a variety of international delights, specialty coffees, international wines, mouthwatering desserts and entrees, that are natural and healthy.
Mexico is also one of the destinations to celebrate the LGBTQ community. This vibrant, gorgeous country definitely shouldn’t be off-limits for gay travelers, especially with the upswing in LGBTQ rights in Mexico. The Almar Resort located in Puerto Vallarta in specific, offers an upscale, adult-only experience for everyone in the community to gather without any labels or stereotypes. Mexico also recognizes and celebrates marriage between a man and a man, and between two women. A great spot for those seeking a destination wedding. The Hard Rock hotels openly invite gay travelers and host beautiful, same sex weddings. For some serenity during your stay, the sister property, Heaven is an adults-only hotel right next door. Playa Del Carmen is a vibrant destination and hot spot for the LGBTQ community. The friendly destination host many gay bars, hotels and clubs.
We all like to look at pretty things and, well, design and architecture in Mexico is not lacking in that department. The Chileno Bay Resort uses indoor-outdoor living to create a California vibe in the Baja California. Each luxurious room accommodation features amenities like outdoor showers, private terraces and deep soaking tubs with custom hand-made tile accent walls and marble flooring. You’ll never want to leave your room! A few months back, I visited Unico 20°87°. The exteriors, designed by Mexican architecture firm Artigas and interiors by design firm AvroKo basically had Instagram in mind when creating this masterpiece with it’s beautiful backdrops. The property utilizes materials from the surrounding region with natural finishes, think, stone, wood, sisal rope, handcrafted pieces and art by local artisans. It was one of my favorite hotel stays and it is always on my list of recommendations for the area. The Andaz Mayakoba’s structures were also designed by an acclaimed architect. Ronald Zürcher created a contemporary, timeless resort with the wow-factor. It seems like he took a page out of 50-Shades of Grey with its sexy, masculine vibe. I couldn’t possibly end off without mentioning The Viceroy Los Cabos. The brand new resort is something you would picture in a sci-fi movie. The designer in me, is having an OMG MOMENT. The hotel screams drama, loud and clear! The aesthetic for the resort created by one of Mexico’s preeminent architects, Miguel Angel Aragonés and designer Al Arquitectura de Interiores, is sleek, cutting edge and minimalistic. That’s saying nothing of the chic rooftop club that opened last year.
Speaking of clubs, Mexico is home to one-of-a-kind nightlife, pool parties and nightclubs. Whether you’re hitting up infamous COCO Bongo on the strip or chilling at the rooftop of The Cape, a Thompson hotel, there is always a good time to be had. The Cape is home to the only rooftop lounge and a separate beer garden fueled by award-winning mixologist Osvaldo Vazquez and live DJ sessions. Another lively hotel that attracts a fun crowd is Breathless Rivera Cancun. The hotel publishes a live calendar to keep guests informed of the upcoming parties and events, from DJ Pool parties to Black light pool parties! The Live Aqua in Playa del Carmen is a boutique property right above the fun on famous 5th avenue. Guests of the resort, enjoy preferential rates at two of the most popular beach clubs in the area which host some of the world’s hottest music festivals. Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas has taken their stellar production abroad and Mexico makes the list of destinations! Insomniac Events is known for throwing some truly spectacular music festivals, and their EDC edition in Mexico City is not be missed! Ultra Mexico is a 2-day event boasting the world’s top EDM DJs. Arena Festival promises an unforgettable week, with a stellar artist lineup for this world-class house music event. The dance parties are endless. Mark your calendars!
Another reason I adore Mexico, they are kings of the “suite life” as I like to say. Mexico is offering room accommodations that you won’t find anywhere else. I recently stepped out onto the balcony of my suite and dove right into a lake surrounded by waterfalls and jungle at the most out of the box hotel, Xcaret. I felt like I was in an exotic place like Bali minus the lengthy flight. Cheileno Bay Resort in Los Cabos and the Banyan Tree Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen have celebrity style villas with multiple bedrooms, private pools, chefs, butlers and all the good things we should all have on a vacation. What do you do if you have a large family or a big group? Kick up your group travel a notch with the two and three bedroom suites at the Villa La Estancia in Nuevo Vallarta. Perched at the top of this luxury resort and over 4,316 square feet is their Presidential suite with jaw dropping ocean views, three large bedrooms, four large bathrooms, a kitchen complete with everything one could need to prepare a gourmet meal and spacious living room. Not to mention, state-of-the-art outdoor grill, jacuzzi and a tremendous terrace. If extra space is needed, the Nizuc in Cancun, offers 274 luxurious suites and private villas, the majority include private plunge pools. No need to leave your room, seriously, everything is at your fingertips! Over-water-bungalows are the epitome of a luxurious vacation. We have all fawned over pictures of those dreamy bungalows perched over the water. Once only available by 20 hours of traveling is now located right in the Caribbean Sea of Mexico. El Dorado Maroma is not only located on one of the best beaches in the area but the over-water bungalows are equipped with glass bottom floors, outdoor showers, private pools and the privacy and water views that we all imagine from these unreal accommodations. The Rosewood Mayakoba is set in an eco-complex near Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The overwater suites are what honeymoons are made of. You’ll want to spring for this room category where you have direct access to the lagoon from your terrace. Each of these overwater suites comes with a private plunge pool among many other 5-star amenities.
While a 5-star vacation sounds absolutely perfect, our wallets may disagree. Mexico boosts some of the largest selection of all-inclusive hotels. If you’re on a budget, an all-inclusive is the best value. All you can eat, drink and play, included! Dreams Resorts are amongst some of the more affordable properties. Enjoy spacious rooms, countless pools and retsaurants and great service. The Riu properties, keep immaculate, lush grounds and have almost the most real-estate in the game. The hotels are typically 3.5 stars and offer great bang for the buck. From Cancun to Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Mexico City, you can almost find a Riu anywhere in Mexico, and they’re still expanding! NOW Resorts are also on my go-to list for a budget-friendly trip. Great for families, couples and group travel, NOW Resorts do not disappoint. Opening soon is their second property, the NOW Natura after the great success of the NOW Jade. I traveled with my girlfriends when the NOW Jade first opened. The hotel delivered a fun stay for a girls’ getaway so I am very excited about the opening of the Now Natura. Tip: if you aren’t traveling with kids, the Preferred Club is worth the upgrade. The added services and amenities were a great touch. Plus, the peace and quiet did not hurt!
Speaking of the NOW Natura, like so many of you, I am always intrigued by something shiny and new, and Mexico is one of the fastest growing destinations. What is super exciting about the NOW Natura, is the design. The chain is going for a new vibe, rather than chic and modern, Now Natura is inspired by the surrounding Mayan jungle, bringing the outdoors inside. The much sought after Majestic Resort chain is a hot-spot in the Dominican Republic so there was no surprise that when the hotel opened in Mexico that it would draw crowds. The Nickelodeon hotel is another hotel in Punta Cana, DR making an appearance in Mexico. Opening soon this year, the family-friendly hotel will drench kids in slime and have them chasing after their favorite Nickelodeon characters. Le Blanc is an adult-only oasis in Los Cabos with unparalleled service, just like its sister property in Cancun. The hotel earns high scores in design, food and service. Atelier Playa Mujeres and The Haven Resort in Cancun, opened nearly at the same time just a few months back, pampering the adult-only guests in luxury. Big names like The Fairmont, Ritz Carlton and The Four Seasons are also expanding and getting skin in the game. I can promise you, it will not stop there.
There are so many reasons why Mexico’s tourism industry is booming and it does not look like it will be slowing down anytime soon. Enjoy amazing beach resorts, immerse yourself in the culture, take your foodie passion to the next level, find your inner wild child with an outdoor activity and dive into the country’s history. There’s much to see and experience so together let’s craft your perfect trip south of the border.