Getting Away From Winter―Safely

Our Wealth editor carefully planned how to travel safely to Playa del Carmen (pictured) and to Texas.

Writer: Steve Dinnen

The temperature here on the outskirts of Fredericksburg, Texas, right now is 56, and it’s cloudy, with a few sprinkles. Woe is me; I am missing 34 and a wind chill in Des Moines. Yes, I’m hiding from yet another Iowa winter by taking up temporary residence in a rented (and tethered) Airstream travel trailer in the Texas Hill Country near Austin. And I tacked on a week in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. But I’m doing so in what I consider to be as responsible a manner as I could select and abide by social distancing and COVID-ducking protocols.

I first drove myself to Dallas, and hopped a flight to Cancun. I specifically booked a 787 aircraft, which in the front of the plane has single seats (no sharing). Once in Mexico, I rented a car – no sharing a shuttle ride to the resort. I selected a Hilton Hotels property, figuring they would protect their reputation with frequent sanitizing and spacing at meal and drink sites. It was an all-inclusive resort, so I had no need to leave the property.

The beach was wide open. The salt water, too. They had a great, vastly underused swimming pool – I was typically the lone swimmer in the 100-meter-long pool. The only bad behavior I spotted was at the whirlpool spas that ringed the main pool, as some partiers clustered and ignored mask or distancing guidelines.

The airport at Cancun was swarming with freshly tanned/burned Americans. Unlike virtually every other country, Mexico has no restrictions on travel, which serves to funnel to it anyone interested in a foreign vacation. (The U.S. may soon mandate for a negative COVID test for travelers from Mexico.)

Back in Texas, I drove to my trailer. I chose Texas so I could bring my bicycle. I wanted a warm and COVID-free area, and, oddly enough, I was able to assess both qualities at the Weather Underground, www.wunderground.com. Plug in any city in the country and it will give you the forecast, plus historical temperatures for any given past January. Most important, on the main page for each city, it lists the number of COVID cases and deaths for the county where the city is located.

I wanted southernmost Texas. But COVID counts there were relatively high; my measuring stick was Polk County – 45,000 cases for a population of 493,000. I wanted to beat that rate, and among a dozen communities I considered, I found it at Fredericksburg. It’s an attractive town of 10,000, with a big dose of German food and culture that honors its founding fathers. The county’s COVID case rate is half what it is in Des Moines.

So far, I’m healthy. And a little tanned. The tan will fade. I hope I’ve chosen correctly so that my health will not.

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