Four years ago, in 2016, my husband Aaron and I had this great idea to make use of our 4-day weekend of company paid time off and make a vacation out of it. My parents loved the idea and so did my cousin and her husband. It was such a memorable trip and the resort we went to made our country’s holiday so special for everyone there. We’ve always wanted to do it again, but sometimes it’s hard to travel around the holidays especially since I’ve always seemed to have a job that gets super busy that time of year. Plus, not everyone in our family can be there so it’s definitely nice to celebrate Thanksgiving at home every once in a while so that everyone can be together.
After what felt like a busy holiday season last year in 2019 and after hosting my first gluten free Thanksgiving “brunch” at our house, we decided to revisit the idea of Thanksgiving in Mexico. Both Aaron and I love Mexican food. Every year around Thanksgiving time we joke about having a Mexican-food celebration instead of the traditional Thanksgiving foods. Last year, I was super concerned because most dishes contain gluten or are easy to be contaminated. If you love Thanksgiving foods and preparing all of those dishes then you’ll have a hard time relating to me, but my least favorite thing about Thanksgiving is stressing out about making a bunch of food that I personally do not enjoy and can potentially make me very sick. My second least favorite thing is how chaotic it is, how stressful it is leading up to it, how quickly the time passes and then how much cleaning and exhaustion there is afterwards. For those reasons and because we LOVE Mexico beaches, we booked another Cabo trip with my parents for Thanksgiving 2020 and even during the thick of COVID season it did not disappoint.
When to book – In our experience, we’ve found that the best time to book for a Thanksgiving trip is early in the year. Our first trip, we found great deals between January – March and ended up not booking till April or May and both the resort costs and airfare costs went up greatly. This year we booked in January as soon as we saw the rates post for Marquis Los Cabos. Since this was pre-COVID, flights were pretty expensive. Later on in the year we were able to upgrade our flights to first class on the way to Cabo for under $20 for each seat.
Airfare – In my experience, you are either a Southwest Airlines fan or an American Airlines fan. I have family and friends who cannot understand the thought of standing in line and waiting to pick your own seat. The stress of it is too much. On the other hand, I’m in the group of people who have mastered flying Southwest. I set an alarm exactly 24-hours before my flight to check-in and end up getting an A or a low B placement. I prefer to choose my own seat because I have control of which side of the plane, middle or aisle, and who I sit next to in real time. Plus, from flying Southwest for work I automatically get A-status so I don’t have to worry that much about checking in exactly 24-hours beforehand. I’m used to flying Southwest, but I can understand why someone wouldn’t enjoy it if they don’t fly it often.
Opinions aside, Southwest now flies directly to Cabo! We already had airfare through American Airlines and I have to admit the first class seats were better than A-status in Southwest, but the number of times I’ve flown first class in my life including this trip is 4 times and I’ve flown Southwest hundreds of other times.
Airport Shuttle – I highly recommend pre-planning your airport shuttle to the resort beforehand. That way as soon as you get off the plane (usually after a drink or two on the plane) all you need to worry about is your next drink – lol! Aaron always handles this part of our trip, but you can ask your resort concierge for recommendations as sometimes they have partners they recommend or you can check Trip Advisor, which is great for international reviews. The drive is about 30-45 minutes depending on how far into Cabo you’re going. If you’re traveling in a big group, it’s nice to all be in the same shuttle. Once you land at the Cabo airport and walk out of baggage claim there are always tons of vendors who are trying to sell you on signing up with them for transportation, a time share, dinner, etc. so it would be pretty confusing or stressful to find a recommended shuttle service in the moment.
Packing – When people say, “all you need to pack for Mexico is a swimsuit”, they are usually right! I came to Cabo in June for a bachelorette party and it ended up getting a little one afternoon, but I checked the weather beforehand and knew that at least one day we’d be in the hot tub or maybe we wouldn’t be laying out. Other than that I will pack a different swimsuit each day (I hate putting on a wet swimsuit and it seems like it takes forever for them to dry), a cover-up to wear over my swimsuit for breakfast and a cute dress that night for dinner. I’ll throw in there my pj’s, airplane clothes and maybe a light jacket depending on weather (which I used once over this past Thanksgiving trip) and my toiletries. I used to wear makeup down to the pool each day, but this trip I was very concerned about proper use of sunscreen that instead of makeup I kept my sunglasses and a hat on instead so I didn’t need any makeup.
TRAVELING DURING COVID
To Mexico – My experiences that I’m sharing are very specific to me and the people I traveled with. I do not urge anyone to travel if they do not feel safe during these COVID times. Days after returning from Mexico this news article, CDC Urges Americans To Avoid Travel To Mexico, was published. Both Aaron and I scheduled COVID Tests after 72 hours of returning home, we stayed quarantined for 7 days like the article said, which resulted in cancelling all plans within that time frame and past that time frame as I’m choosing to quarantine until a holiday get together this weekend with friends.
Airport – Flying out of the American Airlines terminal at Sky Harbor in Phoenix felt pretty crowded compared to the two others times I’ve flown during COVID. I know that travelers were at a record high on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving since March when the COVID outbreak started in the US. Plus, American Airlines is selling out their flights and filling the middle seat, so that contributes to more foot traffic in their terminal. It was challenging to be socially distanced by 6 feet at all times if you weren’t paying attention. I’m very aware of my surroundings, so I made sure to stay socially distanced and did not touch anything. If I did, I either had hand sanitizer ready or would wash my hands. Also, everyone I saw was wearing a mask. When I get to my seat I always wipe down my entire seat, arm rest, seat belt, tray table, etc. before sitting down. I understand that it seems unnecessary if flight attendants are also disinfecting seats, but this is helpful for my own peace of mind. I’d like to say that I don’t use the restroom, drink or eat on the flight, but that is not humanly possible for me. I try to keep it to a minimum and make sure that I clean my hands regularly and reduce the amount of things I touch. All in all I felt safe flying there and back. I will say that waiting for our flight leaving Cabo on Sunday the airport was even more packed than in Phoenix. It did not seem like anyone was aware of socially distancing or maybe there wasn’t enough space to. I would hang back in order to keep my distance as much as I could.
Resort – I was very impressed by our resort, Marquis Los Cabos in many ways, especially their health and safety protocols for COVID. On their website they share a PDF that outlines how they’ve increased their cleaning and disinfecting, and they emailed this to us 3-weeks prior to our stay. When we arrived to the resort, we walked through something that looked like a metal detector. It had a disinfectant spray that sprayed around you. Then they took your temperature before you’re able to check in. There is hand sanitizer throughout the property included at every restaurant (they give you some before seating you every time) and have it in the elevator too. All tables and groupings of chairs are spaced apart and they require a mask be worn when you’re away from those areas. The entire resort is outside/open air except for three restaurants, but they also have patio seating. Our room opened up to the outside and we mainly hung out with our family at the pool and stayed distanced from other parties. We made friends with two other couples and stayed distanced while in the pool from them too. All of the staff wore masks and clear glasses throughout the entire time. I never saw a mask or the glasses removed. They kept their distance as they dropped off food and drinks too. I always saw someone constantly cleaning public restrooms and public areas too. I never felt as though the resort was packed or full. Saturday was probably the busiest day and even then it was nothing like it usually is pre-COVID. I never felt like there were too many people or that other guests weren’t following protocol. I was very happy with the safety at this resort and the seriousness the staff showed in keeping their property clean.
MARQUIS LOS CABOS RESORT – ALL INCLUSIVE – ADULTS ONLY
Resort – Being an adult only resort means that it’s hard to travel with families for Thanksgiving. I don’t have kids and my parents kids are adults (obviously), so it works for us, but if our family with kids wanted to join on a Thanksgiving Mexico vacation we’d definitely look into other options. Without having kids in our party, it really doesn’t make sense to go anywhere but an adult-only resort. It’s nice to have the pool as a wading area rather than a play area and honestly a lot of our vacation was drinking alcoholic beverages, listening to tunes and just hanging out.
At this point, I’ve stayed at three different all inclusive resorts in Cabo and I have to say this one is probably my favorite. I’ll have to compare the other two in another blog posts, but for Marquis Los Cabos I loved the infinity pools that wrapped around the beach views of the resort. In those pools they are fairly shallow with seats and beach front entries that makes lounging in the water so enjoyable. There is a bigger more central pool that you could swim at if you want more activity, but having the long skinny pools on the perimeter of the beach makes it so everyone has a lounge chair with a view. The waiters have a lot of surface area to cover with servicing everyone, but I never felt like I had to wait too long. Aaron on the other hand drinks quicker than I and occasionally would get two drinks at a time just in case. There is not a swim-up bar at this resort, which didn’t bother me, but is definitely a favorite feature for Aaron. I’d rather not have the obstruction to my ocean views than the swim-up bar. Plus, this way seemed to be more COVID-friendly and safe than everyone crowding around a bar.
Just like the pools are along the perimeter, the actual resort was parallel to the beach too. It made it super easy to get to our room and our parents were right next door too. There were some casitas that had their own plunge pools, which looked nice. The lobby, main restaurants and spa was very centrally located and easy to get to. The infinity pool seemed to be a decor theme as there were a couple decorative ones on property. Everything was perfectly decorated for a modern adobe style resort in Mexico that played off the gorgeous terrain without being kitschy.
Restaurants – Onsite there were four restaurants that we could go to. The first night we ate at the Italian restaurant, which was amazing! Being all inclusive, we shared bottles of wine at the table without thinking about it since we weren’t paying an individual bill. I was a little weary of the wine at first, but it was really good! I was impressed. For Thanksgiving dinner, they had a very nice celebration for the entire resort. They set-up large round tables that were distanced and offered one to each family. They had a live band playing American Hit Music, which was really nice. Everyone was dressed up nicely and the food was similar to a traditional Thanksgiving meal, but elevated like it would be if you went to a restaurant. There was a carving station, roasted vegetables, salads, potatoes, breads and desserts. Although you walked up to the stations, the staff served you and you were asked to keep a distance and wear a mask. Friday night there was a similar set-up for dinner as the resort had a Mexican Celebration for their guests. There were street tacos, churros, and more traditional Mexican food with a performance and story of indigenous people in Mexico. Our final night was Saturday night and we decided to go to the Japanese and Teppanyaki restaurant. They require reservations are made the morning of and we were able to get our family at our own Teppanyaki table with another couple. This night I probably ate the most food than another other night. I love sushi and Teppanyaki and I thought it was great! For breakfasts, we went to the Mexican restaurant where you can eat from a served buffet or have items to order. For lunch, we ordered poolside every day and sometimes would go into the coffee shop for snacks. The all inclusive included snacks in our room and room service too.
Service – I’m not sure if traveling during COVID and the amount of attention the resort put on safety and health or the fact that the total guest count was cut in half had anything to do with Marquis Los Cabos’ service levels or not, but their service was the best I’ve ever received at any all-inclusive that I’ve stayed at in all of Mexico. The outstanding service started three-weeks before our trip with a very thorough email from the resort’s concierge. The email asked when we were arriving from the airport, if we have any allergy or dietary restrictions and if we were celebrating anything. It also went into detail about their COVID protocols, restaurants, spa and special experiences that we could have purchased at an additional cost, like dinner on the beach, couples massages, private terrace dinner in the Presidential Suite, etc. Once we arrived it seemed like every staff member who we came in contact with knew our names and we knew theirs. It was very special and felt very personal. There was one employee in particular, Giovanni, who was with us during most of our vacation who I felt like we got to know and it was sad to say goodbye. This experience of creating a bond with the staff is something that is very common for my dad because that is the type of person he is, but this was something that was a little new to me. The crazy thing is when I share on social media about this resort I had a friend mention the same experience about two other staff members, one of which I met on our last night. It seems as though the staff and service is second to none at this resort for not only me, but for my friend’s experiences too!
CELIAC DISEASE + ALL INCLUSIVE
This vacation at Marquis Los Cabos all inclusive resort was my first experience at an all inclusive resort since finding out that I have celiac disease, which is a very severe gluten allergy. (You can read more about my experience with celiac disease and navigating through a gluten free lifestyle in other blog posts under “gluten free“.) I was super nervous that I would be limited to eating salads for 4-days start and with all inclusive alcoholic drinks that would not be fun! Also, I was worried that I would get sick from contamination if the resort wasn’t careful or didn’t understand the allergy. After seeing that they take allergies and dietary restrictions very seriously based on the initially email they sent us, I was put at ease. Also, my celiac friend went to an all inclusive resort in Cabo a year prior and to a wedding in Mexico City before that too, shortly after she found out about her allergy, so I reached out to her and she shared some great information with me. She said that in her experience and the locations she went to in Mexico that she had more options and felt safer than most of the restaurants in her backyard in Arizona.
She also shared this blog post with me titled, Gluten-Free Travel Resources. This blog post was a life saver! The blog post is more geared towards international travel not at an all inclusive as it outlines gluten free snacks and kitchen utensils to take with you, but the section that I found invaluable is the Gluten-Free Restaurant Cards. This blog post is linked to five different restaurant cards that are written in a specific language so that you can print these cards and show the card to your waiter or restaurant staff. I used the Spanish card, which costs $8.99 and I showed it to the concierge and the first couple waiters I came in contact with. Each staff member read the card, showed that they understood, repeated it to me in English and would speak to the chef and report back what was safe from any contamination. Plus, the menus were marked as gluten free along with other allergens, which made it super easy to order.
The most important thing that my friend told me was that if I don’t feel someone understands me or if I’m questioning contamination to speak up or order something where I feel safe. I’m glad she said that to me, because often times I don’t want to feel like a burden so I’ll go along with what the restaurant staff says as I believe them to be the expert and often times thats when I get sick from contamination because I didn’t ask the right questions or I didn’t reword a question to confirm understanding. When there is a language barrier that is very common. However, I always felt very safe, the staff was very serious with providing me with food that I could eat, and I could tell they understood my needs. For breakfast, I ate off of the buffet one day and was fine, but mainly I ordered a special omelet just to be safe. For lunch, I had fresh ceviche everyday as there wasn’t a ton of lunch items that were gluten free, but I also love ceviche so I wanted to have that everyday. For dinners, we would all order our own plates, which made it easy for me, but there were two nights where the food was served as buffet. Thankfully the staff was serving the food so there was no contamination. I did challenge the restaurant manager during the Mexican Celebration night. The corn tortillas were in the same container as the flour tortillas. The manager understood my concern and grab separate tortillas from the restaurant and brought a pan to heat the tortillas on the grill safe from the flour tortillas.
To ease my mind and make sure that I took necessary precautions, I brought two different supplements that help me if I think I might be contaminated or if I have been contaminated. GlutenEase is a digestive enzyme that you take before eating something that could possibly be contaminated. It’s one of those things that is hard to know for sure, but in my experience it’s best to be safe than sorry. However, it might aid your digestion if you eat something that usually is hard on your body to digest, but it’s not going to protect you from having celiac disease if you suffer from that. I would imagine if you ate something that has gluten after taking a GlutenEase pill that you’ll still experience the migraines and other side effects, but the side effects relating to digestion might not be as harsh. The second supplement is Activated Charcoal by Nature’s Way. I take this when I wake up and if I feel as though I may have been glutened from something I ate. I’m beginning to be able to tell pretty early on. The key with the charcoal pill is that you do not want to take it unless it’s been a couple hours since you’ve eaten and it’s a couple hours before you plan to eat. Also, do not take it with any other medication or supplements. The charcoal helps to flush out the toxins from your body, like gluten, and you need to drink a fair amount of water with it too. These charcoal pills have saved me from a glutening completely ruining an entire day for me. Also, this brand is totally gluten free, which would obviously go against what it’s trying to accomplish if not, but someone who doesn’t have celiac disease would never worry about their supplements containing or not containing wheat! I purchased both of these supplements on Amazon and have linked them for you if you’re interested. I gain a commission for anyone who shops at my Amazon store, so I appreciate your support and want you to know I never promote anything that I don’t use and love myself. I’ve also seen these supplements sold at Sprout’s, which I am a huge fan of too! (TMI, but by the end of the trip and with the amount of supplements I took, the alcohol and my body not being used to eating that much and that rich of foods so regularly, my digestion was definitely excited to get back to a normal schedule, so beware!)
To wrap this up, Thanksgiving is a celebration to show gratitude to your loved ones. This year, I found Mexico to be the perfect place to do that for Aaron and I. There will be years that we won’t be able to make this trip, but for 2020 I am very thankful that we did, especially being there with my parents again. <3