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COVID-19 tests, social distancing and mask-wearing: The new destination wedding in Mexico

March 02, 2021
7 min read
Hotel Xcaret Mexico wedding
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While now isn't the time for everyone to visit Mexico or travel internationally due to the pandemic, it was important for me and my family to travel to Mexico recently for my brother’s destination wedding. That said, the wedding came just a few weeks after the U.S.'s new COVID-19 testing policy for international travel went into place, so my family took several safety precautions to allow for a smooth trip.

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Image courtesy of Hotel Xcaret Mexico

Before departure

For the entire month of January, I kept to myself in my New York apartment and remained as socially distant as possible -- only going to the grocery store and on short walks with my dog. The day before my flight, I got a rapid COVID-19 test from the CityMD in the East Village to ensure I was COVID-19 negative prior to the trip.

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Related: Traveling soon? Here’s where you can quickly get a COVID-19 PCR test for travel

After the new COVID-19 testing policy for international travel was announced, the resort we were visiting was fairly quick to communicate its new safety measures with guests. It sent an email alerting us that we could get free rapid tests at the resort three days before departure to the U.S., as well as PCR tests available for $140. Additionally, the resort let us know that in the event we test positive, we'd be able to quarantine in our hotel room free of charge for 14 days.

Of course, traveling to Mexico with this new U.S. re-entry policy in place is still a risk, but my family and I were relieved that the resort would offer free testing. About a week before the wedding, the wedding planner sent out a Google spreadsheet for all guests to fill out with our preferred date and time to get tested.

Our stay at Xcaret

Hotel Xcaret opened in 2017 and was built to be a tribute to the Mayan culture. Its 900 suites are distributed in five buildings -- Casa Espiral, Casa Viento, Casa Aqua, Casa Fuego and Casa Tierra -- with names inspired by important symbols of the Mayan worldview.

No matter what casa you stay in, you are guaranteed a spectacular view of either the wide-open Caribbean Sea or the property’s beautiful rivers and cave network. For my first Xcaret visit back in December, I stayed in Casa Espiral with a swim-up ladder into the river. For my most recent stay, I booked a room in Casa Tierra with a beautiful view of the treetops and the Caribbean Sea. The most popular is Casa Fuego -- the exclusive and sophisticated adult-only experience with the most iconic rooftop in the Mayan Riviera.

The resort is all-inclusive with 12 restaurants, including Ha*, with chef Carlos Gaytan, the first Mexican-born chef to receive a Michelin star, as well as several others with different cuisines such as Italian-Mexican, Asian fusion, vegan, Oaxacan, an international buffet and more. (*Note: Ha is not a part of the all-inclusive experience and costs $150 per person.)

But Xcaret is best known for its nine nearby parks in Riviera Maya and Cancun, including Xcaret, Xplor, XSenses, Xei-Ha and Xavage. These parks offer a variety of experiences, from zip-lining and ATV excursions to tours of Tulum and the ancient Mayan ruins.

Related: 3 best Mayan ruins in Mexico’s Riviera Maya to visit with kids

My favorite part of the resort, though, was the Muluk Spa. Nestled in natural rock deep in the jungle, every treatment room is in a different cave. Before my massage, I enjoyed spending time overlooking the river on a swing bed and in the hydrotherapy pool.

Muluk Spa (Photo by Mary Kate Heaney/The Points Guy)

The on-resort COVID-19 test

After arriving at the hotel, we still hadn’t received confirmation of the testing appointments we’d requested in advance. We checked with the front desk, but they didn’t have a record of any appointments. Luckily, tests were still available on a walk-in basis. I went to get my test on Friday morning, three days ahead of my Monday afternoon flight.

After waiting in a socially distanced line for about 30 minutes, I went inside a meeting room that was turned into a makeshift testing space. My temperature was taken and I was asked to fill out a form with my name, date of birth, preferred email to receive my test results and acknowledgment that I have not been in contact with anyone with COVID-19 nor experiencing any symptoms.

From there, I went into a curtained-off area and received a single nostril rapid test. About six hours later, I received my negative results via email. It ended up in my junk folder, so be sure to check all folders when awaiting your test results!

Related: Forget free breakfast: The hottest hotel amenity is a nasal swab

The journey home

The resort is about 50 minutes away from Cancun International Airport (CUN), so I left about four hours before the flight to ensure we got there with ample time -- especially with the additional COVID-19 processes. American Airlines does not allow you to check-in ahead of time due to the new COVID-19 testing policy. So, once I got to the airport -- even though I did not have any checked bags -- I headed to the check-in counter to show my passport and COVID-19 test results via my phone to the attendant.

Airport check-in. (Photo by Mary Kate Heaney/The Points Guy)

From there, I was asked to fill out a brief paper form acknowledging that “I received a negative pre-departure test result for COVID-19.” Overall, filling out the paper form and showing the attendant my negative test results on my phone was a very simple process.

In my opinion, the worst part of the process was what followed. Before heading into the security line, you are asked to fill out one more form through the airport Wi-Fi. The form has you acknowledge what country you were visiting, for how long and that you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms.

Crowds at the Cancun airport. (Photo by Mary Kate Heaney/The Points Guy)

The issue with this step of the process is that everyone is crowded around the same area filling out this form. There are no designated areas to stand while you take care of this task, so it is a mosh pit of folks reading off the same sign for directions – all social distancing went out the window. I encourage the Cancun airport to rethink how to administer this information-gathering process.

Related: What it was like flying home now that the US requires a negative COVID-19 test

Overall experience

It was clear that in the two months since our last visit, Xcaret had stepped up its safety measures. Before entering any indoor area, such as a restaurant or the lobby, you were required to sanitize your hands, your feet and get your temperature taken. Staff members were dispersed throughout the entire property, holding signs to enforce mask-wearing and social distancing -- even on the beaches and at the pool.

Despite the anxiety we felt when a new COVID-19 testing policy was announced just weeks before the wedding, I was incredibly impressed by how well Xcaret adapted to serve its guests. We were very fortunate to have all 52 wedding guests test negative before the day of the wedding.

Featured image by Featured image courtesy of Hotel Xcaret Mexico
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases