Learning from experience

  • The scene in Cancun, Mexico after Hurricane Delta, where Newton, New Hampshire resident Kristy Lacroix traveled to check out COVID-19 restrictions for her clients. —Courtesy

  • Kristy Lacroix, a 71-year-old travel consultant from Newton, recently traveled to Cancun. Courtesy

The Eagle Tribune
Published: 10/14/2020 5:32:29 PM

There was only so much research travel consultant Kristy Lacroix could accomplish from her home in Newton.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the 71-year-old was faced with new client concerns: Is it safe to travel? Will the airport be clean? How about the plane and the resort?

Lacroix discovered those answers and more by taking herself to a 5-star resort in Cancun, Mexico, earlier this month.

By then, the U.S. Department of State and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were urging travelers to reconsider visits to the country. Lacroix said her colleagues were sharing their own, varied insights.

“You read all these stories about what’s going on in travel. A lot are really conflicting,” Lacroix said. “The best way to get the answer was to do it myself.”

For 19 years, Lacroix has made a living in the travel industry, specializing in planning trips with handicapped accessibility at the forefront. The inspiration is her husband, who has multiple sclerosis and has not walked for nearly 30 years, she said.

Lacroix, who said she is adamant about wearing a mask when out in public locally, said she was impressed with others who did the same during her international trek.

“At the terminal everyone had masks. On the plane everyone had masks. JetBlue (airline) is still keeping the middle seat open, unless it’s family sharing the row,” she said.

Before entering the resort, Lacroix’s temperature was taken by masked staff – but not on her forehead, as she was accustomed to back at home.

“In a lot of the warmer climates they’re taking your temp on your wrist. I hadn’t heard of that or seen it before,” she said. “But when it’s so hot out, your forehead may not give the most accurate reading.”

No stranger to overcoming obstacles, Lacroix was also faced with a natural disaster – Hurricane Delta – during her pandemic trip.

“The storm came kind of out of the blue, evidently,” she said. “I hadn’t seen it in the weather before I left.”

All seemed well, according to Lacroix, until murmurings of the storm started. She quickly learned of “safe rooms” both on- and off-site.

“We were bused to an old technical school that I was told was where people were taken for (Hurricane) Wilma. And that was a Category 5,” she said.

Once inside, Lacroix and the rest of the resort guests were given inch-and-a-half-thick exercise mats, and a bag with a pillow, blanket and roll of toilet paper.

“You were spaced six feet from each other, with family pods closer together,” she described. “There were about 50 people in the room. We had (air conditioning), we had lights. They had food and drink for us.”

Together, the group watched daylight disappear as protective paneling was put up to reinforce the windows.

Five-start resort expectations took another turn, when Delta knocked power out later that night – making the room warmer, and the single bathroom downstairs at the end of the hall seem farther in the dark.

After local government leaders gave the all-clear – 24 hours after the guests were bused off-site – Lacroix saw the storm’s damage first hand.

“We ended up with a Category 2 storm,” she said. “We could have stayed on the property, but the damage was clear.”

Water, palm trees and sand were where they should not have been in some instances – inside the resort and in the sprawling property’s pools.

Now, “I can share this procedure with my clients, about how hotels have safe rooms, et cetera. If someone’s going to travel to Mexico during hurricane season I can share details of this with them.”

Despite the risks of traveling during the pandemic, Lacroix said she does not regret her experience.

“I travel as much as I can. When I have an opportunity to go, I go. Over the years I’d call places, ask my questions and trust the answers,” she said. “Sometimes, you pack up and get there and it isn’t right. I guess I have my father’s voice in my head telling me that if I want something done right, I should check it out myself.”

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit collaborativenh.org.

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