SASKATOON — After almost two years away from one of her favourite Mexico sun destinations, Jamie Milton didn’t know what to expect when she returned for a visit last month.
She just knew that she was ready to travel – and ready to share her trip experiences with her clients, to help prepare them for travel too.
Now, she says, having experienced a sun getaway at this point in the pandemic, “I have absolutely no hesitation in travelling again myself and recommending travel to our clients,” she tells Travelweek.
Milton, who is co-owner of Uniglobe Carefree Travel in Saskatoon, SK, says her recent trip to Puerto Vallarta “was amazing and gave me so much confidence in the safety protocols and overall travel experience.”
“THE MORAL OF THE STORY: TRAVEL AGENTS ARE WORTH IT”
Milton’s accommodation in Puerto Vallarta was AMR Collections’ family-friendly Dreams Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort and adults-only Secrets Bahia Mita.
After returning from her trip Milton posted detailed and informative blogs so that clients could benefit from her experience. She shared those blogs with Travelweek.
First she outlined the practical requirements, from passports, immigration forms and health questionnaires for entering Mexico, to the full vaccination requirement for the return to Canada, the ArriveCAN app, and of course, the 72-hour PCR test requirement for coming back to Canada too.
She also reports on the outbound flight and arrival in PVR: “The flight from Calgary to Puerto Vallarta was 100% sold out with WestJet. The arrivals/immigration hall was as busy as I have ever seen it in Puerto Vallarta. There were a lot of snowbirds heading down to their winter homes and lots of couples. Very few families at this time. From what I understand, most hotels aren’t seeing a lot of families booking yet as families are waiting for kids to be able to be vaccinated to ease travel for them.”
She outlines every detail in her blogs, providing links, PCR testing price points, and helpful tips.
It’s this kind of information that makes travel agents indispensable to their clients, as Milton notes: “The moral of the story is this – travel advisors have been knee deep in the pandemic travel experience for 18 months. They live this day and night. They understand the requirements for your destination and stay on top of changes. They will guide you through the entire experience and make sure you have crossed all your t’s and dotted all your i’s and that you are prepared.”
Milton also makes a point of reminding clients about travel insurance, and says a trusted travel advisor more than earns their service fee: “They will also provide you the proper insurance options and the peace of mind of knowing someone has your back. They are absolutely worth an extra fee for the value they provide.”
ON-SITE EXPERIENCE AT DREAMS BAHIA MITA
What was it like staying at Dreams and Secrets Bahia Mita? Here are some of Milton’s key points:
- Masks were required indoors in public spaces. “Masks are not required to be worn outdoors and since the main area, several dining areas and hallways are open air, we did not have to wear masks a lot while on resort.” The resort was spotless and there was constant cleaning of public areas and bathrooms, she adds. “I was very impressed with the cleanliness and protocols in place. All staff were wearing masks at all times.”
- When Milton checked in at Dreams Bahia Mita, the front desk person advised her what time her PCR test was scheduled for. “Dreams has a doctor at the hotel every day starting at 7: 30 a.m. and they would conduct the PCR and antigen tests there. They emailed us the PCR test results about 48 hours later.” She advises clients to make sure they can access their email and make sure that they print their email address legibly on the PCR test form to ensure there is no delay in getting the results. A helpful tip: “Once we had the results emailed, I just took a screen shot so it would be handy.”
- Milton reports that resort staff were exceptionally friendly and very happy to be back at work and have the hotels busier again: “They were very welcoming.” Hotels are currently operating at up to 70% occupancy in Puerto Vallarta.
- As Milton notes, some Canadians are concerned about what happens if they test positive for COVID while at the resort. “Most resorts are offering complimentary or very inexpensive quarantine accommodations, if it becomes necessary (please check your hotel website or with your travel advisor to confirm for your specific hotel). My mind was very much put to ease when I asked the manager of Secrets / Dreams Bahia Mita how many guests had tested positive since they opened in July. The answer was 2. It is a large hotel, so even at 70% occupancy, this is a very, very low number. The odds are very much in the traveller’s favour in this regard.”
- For dining, “the restaurants were operating normally for a la carte. The buffet was slightly changed where all hot items are behind glass and you let an attendant know which items you want and they dish them up and hand you the plate. It worked very well.”
- Milton’s overall impressions of the new Secrets and Dreams Bahia Mita: “Very modern and clean. The hotel rooms are beautiful and large. There are many unique event spaces with gorgeous views and outdoor areas. There was a swim-up pool / bar that is beachfront on the Secrets side that was hopping and seemed very entertaining. On the family side the Kids Club was very quiet – not many kids, but a beautiful area with a playground, indoor areas and nice kids splash park / waterslide area. The spa is the biggest one in Puerto Vallarta. I had a massage and it was incredible. The service was very good. The restaurants were plentiful and food was good. As with all AMR Collection resorts, WiFi was included.”
- The only downside for Milton was the beach: “It was small and a bit rocky with rougher water. It is known for surfing in this area and they offer surf lessons at the resort. If you are a pool person, or looking for surfing – this smaller beach won’t be a concern.”
- She also makes a recommendation about the location, as the hotel is about 90 minutes from the downtown / Malecon area, and 45 minutes from the airport. “However, it is close to Punta de Mita and Sayulita – two charming Mexican towns. I personally really liked the area and proximity to some different towns, but if you want to be closer to old town Puerto Vallarta or the Malecon or if you want a nicer / longer beach, then Secrets and Dreams Vallarta Bay would be a better selection.”
“I CAN’T WAIT TO RETURN TO MEXICO AGAIN”
Pre-pandemic Milton used to travel to Mexico at least three or four times a year. Before her trip, she says, “I was very excited and nervous to see what the experience would be like. Would Mexico still be the same? My answer is a resounding YES! Mexico is still the same destination you know and love.”
Her quick trip to Puerto Vallarta “felt like coming home and I can’t wait to return to Mexico again. I have no reservations after my recent experience.”