Puerto Vallarta, Mexico during COVID-19

Before I start on the trip recap, I want to be very clear on our timing related to this trip. We left for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on March 8 and returned home to Arizona on March 14. We have now been home for two weeks and have quarantined ourselves at home, minus a couple trips to the grocery store, ever since. However, when we left for our trip on the 8th, we had no idea that COVID-19 would change the world completely half way through our spring break.

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To be honest, I’ve been thinking about writing this blog post every single day for the last two weeks. I didn’t do it as soon as we arrived home for a number of reasons. Not only was I trying to figure out the new normal for our family, it felt wrong to share photos of our fun beach trip when everyone was trapped at home. We did choose to travel during what ended up being a very scary time. While we never experienced any COVID-19 symptoms, I was well aware they can take up to two weeks to appear. What if we had the coronavirus? I also didn’t want to put myself out there for criticism since we were out of the country during a global pandemic. Being trapped at home is hard enough!

Prior to leaving for spring break

Let me rewind a few weeks. Like I said above, we left on Sunday, March 8. Prior to leaving for Mexico, I read hundreds of articles about the coronavirus (now called COVID-19). I’ve been following it closely ever since the cruise ship was stuck off the coast of Japan at the beginning of February. For my blog, I work closely with a few companies in China and several of those partnerships were put on hold back in late-January/early-February since many in China were forced to stay home. I felt like I was well-informed about the potential of what might happen.

It drives my husband crazy, but I obsessively read the news on my phone. I can’t tell you the last time I’ve watched the news on TV, but I read it online. I knew at some point, coronavirus was going to hit the US. I wasn’t ignorant to that fact. However, no one had a clue what the timeline would look like, so we continued on with our daily lives the best we could. That included our plans to go to Mexico for spring break.

The first case was announced in Arizona on January 26, but that case seemed isolated at the time. There were a few more cases announced, but it wasn’t impacting anyone’s day to day lives just yet. At the end of February, my husband and I found ourselves at Costco on a random Saturday, which seemed insanely crowded for no reason. I talked to my mom about it later that week and she said she saw a news segment about people starting to hoard supplies for the coming of COVID-19. I was shocked everyone was having this response. So what did I do? I came home and read more news articles about it.

On March 6th, we had our third confirmed Coronavirus case in the Phoenix metro area. The illness didn’t seem to be coming at a fast pace just yet. I went to Target to buy a few snacks for our airplane flight and figured it couldn’t hurt to buy a few extra pantry staples. Just in case, I grabbed some pasta and sauce, mac and cheese for the kids, Lysol wipes, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper, all of which was still in stock and available at that time. I likely knew something would change in the coming weeks, but I had no idea it would be in the next few days.

I’m a total worrier and I never once was worried leaving to go out of the country at that time. After all, other than China, there were no travel restrictions, schools were all still in session, Italy wasn’t locked down, and terms like social distancing, COVID-19 and self quarantine weren’t part of our daily vocabulary just yet.

March 8 – Leaving for Mexico

On March 8th, we left to go to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The airports were busy with spring break travelers. I saw maybe 2 people wearing face masks, but otherwise it was business as usual. I did pack Lysol wipes and made my kids wipe down their airplane seats and tray tables, you know, just in case. We washed our hands, used extra hand sanitizer when necessary, and were excited to go have some fun.

In Mexico, we stayed at the Marival Distinct resort, which is located in Nuevo Vallarta, a hotel zone in the area. Kurt and I have both been to Puerto Vallarta before, so we decided to make things easy this time around and go with an all-inclusive plan. The resort got amazing reviews for their food, facilities and service. For this trip, we didn’t want to deal with scouting out restaurants or dealing with transportation, as our main goal for this trip was to just relax.

We checked into our hotel mid-afternoon, had a late lunch at the beachside restaurant and then hit the pool. With margaritas (Kurt and I) and virgin pina coladas (Carter and Kenzie) in hand, we had that fantastic first day of vacation feeling. I went to bed that night without a care in the world and slept a solid 12 hours straight that evening. Little did I know that would be the best night of sleep I’d get the whole vacation.

March 9 and 10 – On Vacation

On Monday, March 9, we hit the beach and as I relaxed into my lounge chair, I checked the news on my phone. I learned northern Italy had been locked down the day before and, that day, the Italy lock down had been extended to the entire country. Scary stuff for sure, but that didn’t seem to mean a lot for the US and Mexico just yet. We splashed in the waves, built sand castles and had a great day.

Tuesday, March 10 was the only time we left our resort. We planned a full day excursion to Las Caletas with the tour company Vallarta Adventures. I was familiar with the tour company because many years ago, I went ziplining through the same company. We got up early, boarded a boat and headed off to the private island getaway.

Once we were on the boat, we learned we were stopping half way to pickup more people from one of the cruise ships, as most of those were still sailing as normal at the time. Kurt and I couldn’t help but discuss the fact that we actually tried to book a cruise for this spring break. Some of you who follow me on Instagram might remember me polling my followers about their thoughts on cruises back in January. The cruise we were looking at was fully booked for their balcony rooms, so we decided it wasn’t meant to be. Clearly that was a blessing in disguise.

Back to our beach excursion. We had a nice little spot in the corner of our boat, rode out to the private island, and enjoyed our day. The excursion had a kids area where Carter and Kenzie zip lined, rode a donkey, did some crafts and planted a coconut tree. Kurt and the kids went kayaking and paddle boarding while I relaxed on the over water hammocks. We ate our lunch and headed back to the dock to go swimming with dolphins. Overall we had the best day.

March 11 – The world is forever changed because of COVID-19

We woke up on Wednesday, March 11 and quickly learned that the world changed overnight. Our relaxing vacation turned into a stressful one full of worry and concern. I read online that President Trump was suspending all travel from Europe and the Department of State suggested all US citizens reconsider travel abroad. Scary words to hear when you are in a foreign country. That’s when US universities started cancelling live classes and the NBA suspended the season.

We had scheduled massage appointments at the spa and did our best to try and relax, putting the news out of our minds. After that, we hung by the pool, read more news articles and texted our friends to try and understand what this meant for us, especially since we were out of the country.

March 12

Thursday, March 12 was a tough one. I woke up to Kurt asking if we should end our vacation early and head home because of everything that happened the day before. Logical question for sure, but it made me worry even more because Kurt is not a worrier. I probably worry enough for the both of us, so this caused my stress levels to shoot through the roof.

Side note – I’ll never look at a Corona the same after this trip.

We found the earliest we could leave Mexico would be the next day (Friday), which would cost us over a thousand dollars in change fees and rate differences, as the airlines hadn’t yet started waiving those fees due to the virus. We considered spending the money, but made the decision to wait and go with our previously scheduled flight. It didn’t at the time seem like that much would change over a 24 hour period of time. Well, we hoped that was the case.

Throughout the day, Disney World and countless other attractions started closing their doors throughout the U.S. The list kept growing by the minute. I don’t know if it was a good or bad thing, but there wasn’t much of a reaction to everything going on in Mexico. We made small talk with others by the pool discussing the news, but again, it felt like business as usual.

Friday, March 13 – National Emergency

I learned the United States declared a national emergency while I was sitting at the beach in a foreign country. Scary stuff. Most cruise lines suspended departures, TV shows quit doing live filming and people flocked to the stores, hoarding supplies like crazy. Remember how I said I bought some extra pasta before I left? I knew that wouldn’t be enough to be stuck at home for weeks on end. My parents in Arizona ended up buying a few essentials for me so we’d have a couple things in our fridge when we returned home since ours was sitting there empty.

We ended the last night of our trip by attending the beach party put on by our resort. While at the party, I learned my kids’ school would be closing their doors for at least two weeks, maybe more. I spent most of the beach party texting with my mom friends, trying to understand what this meant for our kids. After all, homeschooling my kids has never been something I’ve even remotely considered.

Saturday, March 14 – Heading Home

When I woke up on the 14th, the first thing I did was check the news to make sure Trump hadn’t closed the border between the US and Mexico. Thank goodness there was no change there. We packed our bags, grabbed some breakfast and headed to the beach for an hour or two before we had to go to the airport. Kurt took the kids on a jet ski for the first time, we wrote our names in the sand and said goodbye to the weirdest vacation of our lives.

Similar to our experience flying to Mexico, it was still business as usual at the airport. When checking our bags, the airline attendant did ask us if we have been to Europe in the last two weeks (clearly we had not). Otherwise, there was no health test or any other changes throughout the airport. We boarded our flight and landed home right on time.

March 15 – Back at home

I know, this post is already crazy long so I’m cutting things off here. However, I do want to address that we have been staying home and quarantining ourselves since we returned to the US. We did have to make a few trips to the grocery store, which I would have skipped if the grocery delivery services were readily available and able to deliver what we needed. Since then, none of us have experienced COVID-19 symptoms. We are adjusting to cooking at home, home schooling and keeping ourselves busy. I’ll share what we’ve been up to in a future post.

Again, I never saw the world changing quite that quickly. It goes without saying that COVID-19 has made 2020 a year we will never forget, We are grateful to be home safe and sound, and have zero plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

Check out my prior Mexico posts here and here.