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Wednesday, July 1, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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The temptation to travel: Before booking, check restrictions and consider pros, cons of trip

UPDATED: Sun., May 31, 2020

The adult pool at Grand at Moon Palace Cancun in Mexico. To entice reservations, Palace Resorts is offering 2-for-1 deals for tourists. (ADBE / Courtesy)
The adult pool at Grand at Moon Palace Cancun in Mexico. To entice reservations, Palace Resorts is offering 2-for-1 deals for tourists. (ADBE / Courtesy)

Life has been kind of cinematic since the pandemic has altered our existence. It’s been akin to an episode of “The Twilight Zone.” When we walk out the door, it looks fine, it smells normal, and it sounds familiar. However, thanks to the novel coronavirus, our world isn’t what it seems. It’s all been turned upside down.

For many, it smacks of the classic film “Groundhog Day.” Each morning starts the same as the last due to state restrictions. However, there is hope as the next phase is on the horizon. Palace Resorts announced that it’s offering deals to those who would like to fly to their destinations in Mexico and Jamaica. The reopening promotion is two stays for the price of one.

For stays booked now through Dec. 20, guests reserving their first room will receive a second room of the same value for free. Guests also will receive $1,500 in resort credits, which can be used at the hotel spa, for land and sea tours, and golf.

Palace Resorts is a luxurious destination I experienced two years ago in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The Palace impressed with its fine-dining options, particularly at Bocelli, an elegant Italian bistro, and Momo’s, a Pan-Asian restaurant. The views of the picturesque Gulf of Mexico and pristine beaches with fine, white sand are a huge part of the resort’s appeal.

According to Cessie Cerato, Palace Resorts vice president of public relations, the reservations department has been busy over the last two weeks. “The promotion has been very successful,” Cerrato said from her Miami office. “We have seen a huge jump in bookings from people. The value in our 2-for-1 is exceptional because you can gift the added room to a friend, family member or even a first responder or simply use it to come back at a later date.”

But the question travelers must ask is there a chance any vacation they embark on will turn into a Walley World experience. Chevy Chase starred in a number of forgettable ’80s films, but the comic actor made his mark as the bumbling Clark Griswold in 1983’s “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Chase embarks on an epic journey leading to the mythical theme park Walley World. After traveling across the country, Chase and his family discover that Walley World is closed for maintenance.

A number of attractions are opening in June such as Caesars Palace, Flamingo and Harrah’s in Las Vegas, Miami beaches and hotels and Sandals Resorts in Barbados, Grenada and St. Lucia. The airport is open, and there are flights to myriad destinations, but is it worthwhile to book a trip right now? Could you arrive and discover that your experience is unfulfilling? The uncertainty is the reason Hugh Himmelreich, vice president of Spokane’s Travel Leaders, is reluctant to give the green light to clients.

“What travel agents are best at giving now is information,” Himmelreich said. “The information I’m giving is that you don’t know what you’re going to get when you plan to visit another state or especially another country in June or July or at any point this year. A crystal ball didn’t come with this job. You might want to go fishing in Mexico but the border is closed, and it’s probably going to be closed next month (June).”

Himmelreich, who has been in the travel industry for 50 years, is advising clients to wait. “It’s iffy now,” Himmelreich said. “What if things change over the next couple of weeks? What if you book a flight for Florida or Jamaica and they won’t let you on the beach? What if you can’t rent a car? What if things change and they won’t let you off the plane when you arrive? Is it worth taking this chance to save a few hundred bucks?”

Some folks are hell bent on embarking on trips since they’re sick of being sequestered, and they want to take advantage of a bargain. Check out guidelines before cementing plans. Visit the state website of wherever you’re planning to visit to see what travel restrictions are in place. “You don’t want to be surprised,” Himmelreich said.

Cerrato concurs. “We recommend travelers always check each country’s government restrictions for detailed information,” Cerrato said.

It’s best to be armed with knowledge. Contact a travel agent and spend time researching, or you might have a Walley World experience. “Alaska is closed until June 2,” Himmelreich said. “You can go to Alaska, but don’t go if you want to see glaciers. Most of their cruises are canceled, so you can’t see the glaciers.”

There’s another aspect to consider. Will it be fun visiting a tropical resort if you’re one of the few on the beach?

“You don’t want to be the only white tourist in Jamaica today,” Himmelreich said. “What I mean is that everyone will want to sell you something. It will be the same in Hawaii. Also, there is safety in numbers. You also need to take health in consideration.”

Like many hotels, Palace Resorts is limiting hotel occupancy, practicing social distancing and removing buffets. Employees must walk through a disinfecting tunnel.

“Each team member will have their temperature checked upon entering the premises, then will walk through the tunnel, where their uniform will be sanitized,” Cerrato said. “Additional measures are in place to sanitize their footwear, as well. Team members will also be equipped with face masks, which will also be replaced every four hours.”

Some people are avoiding the airports and hitting the road. “If you think you’re the only one driving to Yellowstone, you’re wrong,” Himmelreich said. “I understand that everyone wants to get out, but it comes down to what’s possible and what’s best for you.

“I had people (clients) going to Mexico to renew their wedding vows since they wanted to be on the beach at sunset. But that’s not happening. They’ll be renewing their vows in a park in Spokane, and that’s OK. A vaccine will eventually open up the world. You can either be patient and wait for that or go out and travel soon. If you do travel soon, just know what to expect and decide whether it’s worth it.”

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