Coronavirus
Empty beaches have been a sign of the times. Empty beaches have been a sign of the times.

To go or not to go: how the virus has affected expats’ travel plans

'A virus is not going to get the best of me,' said one, who plans to travel to Mexico in August

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As Mexico and the United States report thousands of new coronavirus cases every day, air travel options are increasing and cities throughout Mexico are welcoming visitors with open arms.

So we wondered: are you changing your travel plans?

The question was posed on the MND Poll June 8. With almost 1,500 responses, it showed that nearly twice as many folks are putting travel plans on hold until at least 2021 as are set to go this year.

But an informal poll in a popular expat Facebook group said exactly the opposite: many more are planning to return or travel to Mexico this year and have not changed their plans.

“A virus is not going to get the best of me,” wrote JC. “Come hell or high water, if I can travel in mid-August like I usually do, I’m gone!”

A quiet street in San Miguel de Allende.
A quiet street in San Miguel de Allende.

Others were less adamant, but still calmly determined to return to Mexico in the coming months as usual.

“We’re looking forward to our trip to Mexico this year,” wrote another reader from the U.S. “Our area has flattened the curve. We’ve done our research and feel safe with the safety measures put in place for us … we’re basing our personal decisions on facts and research, not fear and opinions.”

For folks with homes in two countries, the decision is more complex. Many feel the pull of their Mexican communities, which are as much “home” as their residence north of the border.

“We’re hoping for a short trip in October or November to check on workers, the village and our house,” wrote Kevin and Chris. “Our town is still closed, and homeowners are raising funds for the needs of the population. We love our pueblo and our friends of Costa Brava, Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa.”

That sentiment was echoed many times over.

“Our second home is Mexico, and we plan to go this year as usual,” said Gillian. “If the community needs help, we’ll work to help them. We love our friends and neighbors and want to see them.”

Health considerations, age and available medical resources figured strongly in your decisions, and many of you said you were doing extensive research using information from all sides of the border. Those waiting till 2021 to travel are hopeful, but choosing to err on the side of caution despite the heartstring pull of life in Mexico.

“Our 20 years of a winter stay in San Miguel de Allende depends on a cure for the virus,” wrote Vic.

“As a Canadian,” shared Gregg. “I have no plans on traveling to Mexico (or anywhere out of the country) until there’s a vaccination/cure for Covid-19.”

Despite the Mexican government opening up tourist destinations like Puerto Vallarta and Cancún, some potential visitors are also feeling cautious.

Regretfully, wrote one reader, “We’ve pushed out our vacation in Playa until August 2021. This year is a complete wash-out; can’t plan or chance anything.”

David, who splits his time between Ajijic and Denver, said he had planned to visit Madrid and Portugal in May but put that trip off until next year. “A Mexican beach vacation sounds appealing now, but I think it will be months before I feel it’s safe to go,” he added.

Airports have been quiet but that may soon change.
Airports have been quiet but that may soon change.

Many who live full-time in Mexico are re-evaluating travel plans too.

“We’ve been in San Miguel de Allende for 17 years and travel a lot in Mexico, the U.S. and internationally,” shared Patricia. “We canceled four trips and don’t plan on traveling until it’s safe.”

Connie, who finished building a house on Lake Chapala this past September, said she won’t return to Mexico until a vaccination “is available to the masses.”

“After living there, I decided the Covid-19 crisis was going to hit harder than I’d hoped, and being a pensioner gringa in a foreign country was not comfortable for me on many levels,” she wrote. Connie, who has taught and lived abroad for much of her life, said she knows countries are desperate for tourist dollars.

“But I can’t risk it,” she said. “So I donate to charities that support my communities abroad and hope we all survive.”

Puerto Vallarta resident Wendy is waiting until 2021 to travel anywhere. “I’ve only been to one friend’s house and the Costco parking lot since March 7 and don’t see things changing for the better any time soon.”

“We’re canceling all our plans to travel around Mexico until after it’s safe to do so,” shared Elaine. “We live here in Mexico and are self-isolating and social distancing at present, and will continue to do so for the next several months.”

Reader David shared what’s probably a common sentiment among full-time expat residents of Mexico. “I live here and ain’t going nowhere.”

Some say the choice is basically six of one, half dozen of the other. Mexico’s Covid-19 situation may be worrisome, but it’s the same in most parts of the U.S. without the added factors of the tumultuous politics, increasing police violence and turbulent protests. (Editor’s note: Yes, that’s all going on in Mexico as well but as foreigners we can’t get involved.)

“We own homes in Mexico and in the U.S.,” wrote Phil from Washington, D.C. “Have been stuck in the U.S. but are headed back to Mexico in 10 days. Absolutely cannot wait. Neither place is “more open” than the other but I’ll take Mexican air, food and culture over what we have here in D.C. all day long.”

Billy, who’s lived in Chapala with his family since last year, says they’re eager to return, hopefully next week. “All good, no worries!” he wrote, noting that Puerto Vallarta has opened “beaches, bars, everything. What could be a safer place than the beach with few people? We’re not afraid and use common sense when necessary.”

Many are waiting and watching to see what happens in the next few months before deciding to travel.

“I love Mexico and I’m looking forward to visit in 2021,” said Michelle. “I’m really hopeful that everything will be ‘better’ around that time. I can’t wait!”

Nancy, who’s hoping to make her annual visit to Mexico in January 2021, feels like there’s still time for “some of the problems” to be resolved.

“The reports are a bit daunting now,” she wrote. “Probably no vaccine by then but maybe treatment? I’m hoping for the best.”

The most philosophical (and maybe logical) outlook came from Diane in Veracruz.

“I live in paradise, so no need to travel until there’s a vaccine.”

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