Like most industries, the past year has been full of change and adaptations for all things in the travel world. Potential quarantine requirements, mask wearing, Covid testing, and cancellations/changing plans are just a few things that have become the new normal, for now at least.
Let’s zoom in on the hotel industry. Some hotel changes we’ve seen are enhanced cleaning protocols, hand sanitizer everywhere, temporary suspension of certain amenities such as shuttle service and room service, and measures to reduce crowds such as requiring a reservation to go to the pool. Most recently, a new CDC policy has resulted in the rollout of a new hotel “perk” you’re probably going to want to seek out when traveling internationally. Go ahead and file Covid testing and a free quarantine stay under “hotel benefits you never knew you needed prior to 2020/2021”.
With very few exceptions, a negative Covid test is required prior to boarding your return flight to the US
Not much surprises me these days when it comes to policy changes affecting travel, but a CDC order that became effective in late January was a head scratcher to say the least. As of January 26, all passengers entering the US from another country, including US citizens, must present a negative Covid test prior to boarding a plane.
You can read more details from the CDC here. To put it simply, you need a negative Covid test collected no earlier than 72 hours prior to your flight to the US. Children under 2 are exempt. Also, if you have had a positive Covid test within the previous 90 days of your return flight, you can provide documentation of that test plus a form from your healthcare provider that you are cleared to travel. At this time, being vaccinated will not exempt you from this requirement.
If you’re planning a trip to Mexico and the Caribbean, some hotels and resorts have found a way to make this a little less of a burden.
Some hotels are offering free Covid testing (and a free quarantine stay if you’re positive)
Several resorts and hotels will now arrange a pre-departure Covid test for guests free of charge. Most places are collecting test specimens (in other words, swabbing your nasal cavity-which is really fun) on site, but some may arrange transportation to an off-property testing site. Do your research and know exactly what you’re signing up for before booking! In addition, some places are even including a 14 day quarantine stay in the event that you test positive.
It is important to keep in mind that some Caribbean countries also require a test prior to entering, so be sure to check requirements regularly as your trip date approaches. Note that since USVI and Puerto Rico are US territories, a test is not required to return to the states under this CDC order (though your state may have its own requirements). At this time, there are testing requirements upon arrival in PR and USVI, however.
Addressing the elephant in the room
I’ve had most of this post drafted since hotels started announcing their plans a month ago, but I went back and forth about when and if I should actually publish it. I totally understand that international travel isn’t for everyone right now, and I am not trying to sway anyone either way.
I would encourage everyone to do some research and know all of the policies and details and “what-ifs” before booking anything. Not having to worry about paying for the 14 day quarantine is definitely enticing, however, the implications of staying in a foreign country for 2 weeks longer than a planned vacation may outweigh this. Contracting a virus in a foreign country plus having to be away from work/home/obligations for 2 more weeks than planned may not be a risk worth taking to some.
I think it’s important for y’all to have information to make the best decision for your situation, and if you’re comfortable with the risks of traveling to Mexico or the Caribbean, I highly suggest considering accommodations that help with this new testing hurdle.
Ryan and I have a different take on this than we would have if the CDC order was in place prior to a vaccine and prior to us getting Covid. But if you want our thoughts, here it goes:
Since we recently tested positive, we’re exempt from the testing requirements for a couple more months. After that, I would have to look at data to determine the probability of becoming reinfected given our antibody/immunization status. If I’m being honest, I’m hoping we learn that antibodies generally provide protection for more than 90 days and that policies are updated accordingly. If neither of us were vaccinated nor previously had Covid, we would have some hesitation booking a trip to Mexico or a Caribbean country even with the ease of testing and the promise of a paid quarantine stay. Being away from work for an extra 2 weeks would be tough for Ryan. Plus, we wouldn’t want to be away from our kids for another 2 weeks, not to mention the fact that the grandparents might bail on babysitting for future trips if we got stuck, lol.
For what it’s worth, I conducted a very scientific study (via Instagram poll, duh!) to see if the free Covid testing/extended stay makes people more likely to travel internationally right now. 77% said yes, and I was a little surprised to see it that high. Of the feedback I got via direct messages on those who said No, the most common concern was being away from work and other obligations for 2 extra weeks.
Mexico/Caribbean hotels and resorts with free Covid testing
(and a free or discounted stay if needed)
All properties in this list offer at least one free test*. With the exception of Hyatt and Marriott (which I’ll discuss separately), these properties also offer a free 14 day quarantine stay if necessary. Again, be sure to read the terms before booking anything. Also, some places may require you to book directly to receive these benefits. If you book through a third party (Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal, Expedia, etc) make sure to look into this.
*subsequent tests may be subject to charge
Speaking of Chase Ultimate Rewards…
You can book some of these properties with Chase Ultimate Rewards points
While my favorite Chase transfer partner, Hyatt, is offering free testing, the quarantine stay (if needed) is not free but Hyatt is offering up to 50% off of the extended stay. More on Hyatt and Marriott at the end of this list. You can book several of the properties in this list with Chase Ultimate Rewards points by booking through the Ultimate Rewards redemption portal, though.
How to save lots of money on your Mexico/Caribbean vacation
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a welcome bonus of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you redeem the points earned from your Chase Sapphire Preferred in the redemption portal, 80k would be worth $1000. But you may get more value out of those points for a Mexico/Caribbean trip by redeeming them with transfer partners. For example, you can transfer the points to United to book your flights and the value could easily be higher than what you would get in the redemption portal. Always check availability and pricing before transferring points. You can read more about Chase’s airline partners here.
Current offer: Earn 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Check out our list of 36 ways to spend the bonus!
As of August 16, bonus categories have been added and/or improved!
- Earn 5 points per dollar on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Earn 2 points per dollar on other travel purchases
- Instead of the old earn rate of 2, you can now earn 3 points per dollar on dining (including eligible delivery services and takeout)
- 3 points per dollar on online grocery purchases (this excludes Target, Walmart and wholesale clubs)
- 3 points per dollar on select streaming services
- Earn 1 point per dollar on all other purchases
Also, receive credit of up to $50 annually on hotel stays purchased through Ultimate Rewards. New cardmembers will receive this credit immediately and existing cardmembers will start earning after the next anniversary.
Each anniversary, you’ll receive bonus points equal to 10% of total purchases made the previous year. This excludes any sign up bonus points, so it’s only on points earned from spending.
The annual fee is $95, but the welcome offer alone is worth a lot more than that.
Important: Cards such as the Chase Freedom and Chase Freedom Unlimited earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but they aren’t the same as transferable Chase Ultimate Rewards points. They are basically cash-back cards. Points earned from these cards cannot be transferred unless you also have a CSP, CSR, or CIBP. With that said, pairing the no annual fee Chase Freedom Unlimited with a CSP, CSR, or CIBP is a great way to boost the amount of Ultimate Rewards points you earn on everyday spending. Click here for more information.
This is not a complete list, but I’ll try to add to it as more places announce similar plans.
Palace Resorts (Mexico and Jamaica)
All Palace Resorts offer one free test and 14 day stay if needed. Testing is conducted onsite. To qualify, you must stay a minimum of 3 nights.
See more Covid details here.
Palace Resorts in Mexico
Palace Resorts in Jamaica
Le Blanc Spa Resorts (Mexico)
Karisma Hotels & Resort (Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Mexico)
- Margaritaville Island Reserve Riviera Cancún
- Azul Beach Resort Riviera Cancun
- Azul Villa Casa Del Mar
- Azul Villa Esmeralda
AM Resorts (Mexico, Jamaica, Dominican Republic)
All AM Resorts offer one free pre-departure test and a 14 day stay if needed. Testing is conducted onsite. To qualify, you must stay a minimum of 3 nights.
- Secrets Akumal Riviera Maya
- Secrets Aura Cozumel
- Secrets Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort
- Secrets Huatulco Resort & Spa
- Secrets Maroma Beach Riviera Cancun
- Secrets Moxché Playa del Carmen
- Secrets Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort
- Secrets Puerto Los Cabos Golf & Spa Resort
- Secrets Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa
- Secrets Silversands Riviera Cancun
- Secrets The Vine Cancun
- Secrets Vallarta Bay Puerto Vallarta
- Dreams Acapulco Resort & Spa
- Dreams Bahia Mita Surf & Spa Resort
- Dreams Huatulco Resort & Spa
- Dreams Los Cabos Suites Golf Resort & Spa
- Dreams Natura Resort & Spa
- Dreams Playa Mujeres Golf & Spa Resort
- Dreams Puerto Aventuras Resort & Spa
- Dreams Riviera Cancun Resort & Spa
- Dreams Sands Cancun Resort & Spa
- Dreams Tulum Resort & Spa
- Dreams Villamagna Nuevo Vallarta
- Dreams Vista Cancun Golf & Spa Resort
- Dreams Dominicus La Romana
- Dreams Macao Beach Punta Cana
- Dreams Palm Beach Punta Cana
- Dreams Punta Cana Resort & Spa
- Dreams Royal Beach Punta Cana
Meliá Hotels (Mexico and the Dominican Republic)
Free Covid testing and insurance is included in every booking at the Meliá Hotels properties below. The insurance covers up to 15 nights at the hotel if quarantine is required. Terms apply and you can read more here. I tried to see if the stay must be booked directly in order to receive the insurance, but it was unclear. If you book through a third party (Chase Ultimate Rewards redemption portal, Expedia, etc) make sure to look into this.
Playa Del Carmen
- Paradisus Punta Cana Resort
- The Reserve at Paradisus Punta Cana
- The Grand Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real
- The Reserve at Paradisus Palma Real
- Paradisus Palma Real Golf & Spa Resort
- Meliá Caribe Beach Resort
- Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort – Adults Only – All Inclusive
- The Level at Meliá Punta Cana Beach Resort
Eden Roc Cap Cana (Dominican Republic)
Eden Roc Cap Cana provides one free test to guests returning to the US or other countries with testing requirements. Testing is conducted on the hotel property.
The Dominican Republic provides a free health coverage plan to tourists arriving on commericial flights and staying in hotels. According to the Eden Roc website, this coverage would include a quarantine stay if needed.
Hotel Xcaret Mexico
Hyatt is offering free on property testing at the resorts listed below. If an extended stay is needed for quarantine, rates are up to 50% off. You can read more here. Some Central and South America properties also have these benefits.
- Thompson Playa del Carmen Beach House, Mexico
- Thompson Playa del Carmen Main House, Mexico
- The Cape, a Thompson Hotel, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico
- Andaz Mayakoba Resort Riviera Maya, Mexico
- Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Thompson Zihuatanejo, a Beach Resort, Mexico
- Hyatt Ziva Los Cabos, Mexico
- Hyatt Ziva Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
- Hyatt Zilara Cancun, Mexico
- Hyatt Ziva Cancun, Mexico
Marriott is offering free testing prior to your return flight to the US at select properties in Mexico and the Caribbean. Also, guests who tests positive can extend their stay for up to 50% off Flexible Rates. A minimum 3 night stay is required to qualify for for free testing/reduced extended stay rates.
You can read more information here.
After almost a year of
the travel industry everything being flipped upside down, we’re used to curveballs. But it’s nice to see some hotels adapting to said curveballs. If you’re planning to travel to Mexico or the Caribbean any time soon, you may want to consider staying somewhere that offers Covid testing and a free/discounted extended stay if necessary.
Here’s to getting vaccines in arms ASAP and kissing this virus goodbye. SALUD!!
If you don’t already have a Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can save lots of money on your next trip by opening a CSP and earning the bonus of 80,000 points!
The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a welcome bonus of 80,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points. If you redeem the points earned from your Chase Sapphire Preferred in the redemption portal, 80k would be worth $1000 towards airfare or a hotel stay. But you may get more value out of those points for a Mexico/Caribbean trip by redeeming them with transfer partners.
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