On January 26, 2021, the CDC implemented new requirements for proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 for all international air passengers, ages 2 and older, arriving in the United States.  Within a matter of days of the order’s announcement , Mexico’s popular beach-side resorts had begun implementing their own testing programs and quarantine policies.   Per a WTTC report in 2018, Cancún is the world’s most tourism-dependent city in the world, with tourism making up at least 50% of the  city’s GDP. So, no wonder they were quick to the draw to get these protocols in place for their guests. 

I retuned from an annual girls’ trip to Cancún on January 26th, the first day the new order went into effect.  We had become aware of the new requirements about a week prior to our departure, and collectively made the decision not to change our flights to get back before the order took effect.  We packed our work laptops in the case of worst case scenario:  testing positive and having to quarantine at the resort.  We also had purchased trip insurance that did include  a “sickness” policy, that happened to cover COVID-19.  I highly recommend trip insurance for MANY reasons, but also be sure to check into what their policies are on health coverage and covering costs of a longer/unplanned extended stay. 

Like most of the resorts in the Mayan Riviera, our resort began offering on-site testing from a visiting laboratory on specified days of the week.  The resort covered the cost of an antigen test, but a rapid PCR test would be out-of-pocket for those wishing to take it.   Luckily, the CDC does currently allow the antigen test results  (Negative, of course) as suitable documentation for boarding your flight.   Hotel guests signed up for their test date (within 72 hours of our departure flight) through the concierge upon check-in.  On the date of the test, they reported back to the concierge, where they were then taken to a  sanitized testing room with lab professionals in haz-mat-like suits. The antigen test through this particular lab was a nasal swab test, as was the PCR test. The test results were back within 3 hours, and guests were directly emailed  a link to their results portal where they could screenshot the results; however, the concierge also printed a  hard copy for the guest. 

When our group kicked around the risks of staying until the 26th and testing positive, most of us laughed and said “ I can think of a heck of a lot worse places to be quarantined!” , thinking  “ we are at the BEACH…how bad can it be?!”  Had anyone in our group actually tested positive for COVID-19  through the on-site tests, our particular hotel offered a 14 day quarantine stay gratis.  Doctor visits would be at an additional cost to the guest, however.  We did see the hallway where the quarantine rooms were located, and it was noted that even if you had been in a different room category for your regularly scheduled stay, these are the only rooms to be used for quarantine patients.  Note:  to no surprise, they faced the  jungle and had no  beach view or swim-out features. Room service would deliver meals to guests doors and rooms would be cleaned periodically, with quarantined guests having to stay on their balcony while housekeeping crews were in the room. Quarantined guests are not permitted to leave their rooms.

Upon departure day back to the US, we approached hotel check-out and were advised to gather a packet of information to hand the airport attendants when we arrived at the airline ticket counter.  This “packet” would include test results, doctor’s clearance to travel for those who had had COVID in the last 3 months, the US attestation form, and a copy of our passport “just in case” they wanted it.

We arrived at the airport the be greeted in the airline queue by two airline representatives who took our “packet” of information, inspected it, stamped it, and gave it back to us, less the attestation form.  We then took the rest of the packet to the ticket counter, provided our passport, as usual, and were able to get checked in, check bags, etc. there in no time.  We were then advised to download an app to complete the Mexican attestation form for departure, which would then generate a QR code upon completion.  We would need to show the TSA  attendant the QR code to get into the TSA line, and it would be scanned at the TSA agent’s podium, as well. This concluded all protocols for COVID clearance, so we proceeded through the airport from that point per usual. 

I should also mention that, at the time of our trip, Mexico had shifted back to only 50% hotel occupancy allowed, which also meant city bars and clubs were closed. At half-occupancy, we truly felt like we had the run of the hotel and  the complete attention of the staff. The cleanliness protocols were very evident in the hotel and we felt like we almost never came within 10 feet of ANY other people except our group and waiters (who were wearing masks like all of the staff).  It felt incredibly safe.  Our room even had our very own PPE kit with hand sanitizer and masks in it!

All in all, an incredibly easy, comforting experience, with surprisingly no hiccups on DAY ONE of the new order!  Incredible!  I am sure when travel picks back up and the masses are at airports again, this process could take more time, as they  deal with  passengers who are not equipped with the correct documentation, etc, but honestly, a huge “kudos” to Mexico and the airlines for shifting it into gear to make the travel experience as  smooth and pleasant as possible for anxious travelers! As requirements and protocols continue to evolve during the pandemic, my best advice is to stay in touch with your travel agent, as they are working hard to stay up-to-date on all of the latest changes and solutions. Never has a travel agent been more valuable to you than now!

To help you find the forms referenced above, I have added a quick summary below of the things to have ready for travel to and from Mexico based on the  orders in place to date: 

Traveling from the US to MX:

  • Download  the Mexican entrance attestation form ahead of time.  They ran out of forms on the plane,  but you could get one one you got off of the jet bridge in Mexico. It saves time getting through Cancún’s airport if you have them done already, so here is the one they need upon arrival in Mexico:  https://www.aeromar.mx/files/Cuestionario_de_viajero.pdf

Returning to the US from Mexico,  you need to ideally bring a nice, neat “packet” to the airport containing:

  • If you have NOT had Covid and tested in Mexico within the 72 hours prior to return to the US:  your digital and printed version of your NEGATIVE test results (they will accept one or the other, but they recommend to bring both versions). The hotel was happy to print the results for us.
  • If you HAVE had Covid in the past 3 months:, you need to have your doctor’s “clearance to travel” letter and the digital and printed version of the POSITIVE test result.  Here is the verbiage my doctor used in my letter, which the airline said was absolutely acceptable:  

      “Mary Anne Lucas (DOB)  is a patient of mine. She had COVID-19 on ( date), made a full 

recovery and is now cleared for travel”.

  • Photocopy of your passport;  but in our case,  they did not ask for it.  

For more information about CDC requirements: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/testing-international-air-travelers.html

Atelier Playa Mujeres ( Cancún)