While our neighbors abroad figure out the best way to move forward with travelers coming from the United States, Mexico is great alternative to getting that European feel without the lengthy travel time. But what safety precautions are in place and what should you know before heading southbound?

First, you should know that Mexico is currently at level 4 according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). That means COVID-19 levels are very high and the department is strongly encouraging people to stay out of the country until further notice.

But for those willing to take the chance, be advised: land crossing from the U.S. to Mexico is still restricted. The rule is that only essential travel is allowed. That ban is scheduled to lift on June 21, 2021, but that is not ironclad. This rule does not apply to Americans returning home.

Air travel is allowed and is probably the least complicated to understand. Still, masks are required on flights and some airlines are adhering to social distancing rules. Airports do health screenings and temperature checks. Those showing a high temperature or COVID symptoms may be subject to further safety measures.

So keep in mind, you may not need a COVID vaccine to enter Mexico by air, but you must have proof of vaccination when you return. This rule does not apply to people traveling by land or sea or children under two years old.

Per the CDC: a negative COVID-19 test taken within the 3 calendar days prior to flight departure, or documentation of recovery from a COVID-19 infection within the last 90 days is required for air passengers entering the United States.

As with most travel to Mexico during the pandemic, guidelines and directives have reportedly been loosely followed so you should do your research thoroughly before realizing your dreams of Cabo. That's not to say that all of Mexico is roughly following guidelines; high tourism areas are imposing mask usage and social distancing measures.

You also need a valid passport with enough space for visa stamps.

In summary if you are an American planning to go to Mexico you should know:

The CDC strongly recommends not visiting the country at this time due to high cases of COVID-19.

Land entry is not permitted unless it is a special circumstance.

Air travel is permitted without proof of vaccination, but you must provide proof upon returning to the United States.

You need a valid passport with enough space for visa stamps.

Some airlines still implement COVID-19 safety measures.

COVID-19 cases are on the rise in Mexico.

Mexico is a wonderful place full of culture, heritage and some of the best scenery in the world. This makes it a popular international vacation spot for Americans since it can be accessed in less than a day depending on where you go. With current restrictions abroad, Mexico seems to be a national staycation for vacationers in 2021, but safety should be your first consideration.

Be sure to check the CDC website for current alerts about Mexico. There is also extensive information on the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico site.

For more great travel info go here.

Photo courtesy of Michael Feinstein.

Michael Feinstein

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Gilles Toucas

Michael Feinstein will commemorate Judy Garland’s life on March 20 at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts.

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I think it’s fair to say we all want that #fitlife, especially with Spring around the corner — as well as Gaypril on the way. Whether it’s pool season yet or not, everyone would choose to look fit over not looking fit, if they could have it with a snap of their fingers. OK, the vast majority of us would.

If you’ve met me, or have been reading my articles, you know that I live, sleep, eat and breathe fitness; it’s my heart and soul. That being said, I’m here to tell you that the concept of “fitness” is oftentimes tragically misunderstood.

Before you get too aggressive with your goal for pool season, let’s dive a bit deeper into what fitness means on the inside versus what it looks like on the outside, and common misconceptions around this concept.

1. Beware of the cultural pitfalls and misleading information around fitness.

Most of the bodies you see in the media are probably not real, they just look very convincing. As a trainer who also moonlights as a photographer and Photoshop wizard, I’m telling you that it is incredibly easy to alter pictures in materially misleading ways. Once you know the tricks of the trade, the imposters are easily spotted. But that’s not what this is about.

The point is: to the untrained eye, it can be devastatingly defeating to see such impossible standards. It seems as though the cultural pressure to look a certain way, to look perfect, has spread all the way from runway models to fitness novices with the help of smartphone apps.

The truth is that we fitness models look that cut, and that lean for only a couple days at a time. That’s it! In many cases, months or even close to a year of training, dieting and programming all go into looking like that for ONE day. Let that sink in for a second. Day to day, I am less cut, less tan and much flatter muscularly than what you see in some of my pictures. That’s just the nature of the beast. So, when you have a bad day on the scale, in the mirror or in any other scenario, remember that we’re all human and that the most legitimate photos you’re comparing yourself against were from someone’s very best day. That should help to keep things in perspective.

2. Most people want the results, without actually doing the work.

Fitness is not six pack abs, it’s not superficial, it is not temporary and it’s not an isolated phase in your life. Further, fitness is not something you do for someone else, do to spite someone else or even to impress someone else.

Fitness is confidence, toughness, dedication, coordination, power, balance, speed, strength (both literally and figuratively) and persistence in the face of all obstacles. This includes control over your attitude, your mood, your sleep, your schedule, your diet and other aspects of your life. This means getting that workout in when you least feel like it.

It’s not easy, and it’s definitely a grind that has good and bad days. You must show up and keep working on the days you’re tired, stressed, rushed, defeated, doubtful, afraid and so on. The days you actually have to overcome something instead of just checking your workout off your to-do list are the days you have the greatest opportunity to really make progress, push your body and see the most improvement.

3. Fitness is really an internal mindset. The external physique is the fringe benefit.

I’ve said this time and time again, and it might sound strange coming from such an aesthetic-focused trainer, but you are not your body. Your body is a tool, it’s a means to an end, to express your internal mindset, belief system, discipline and dedication to your workout program. Your physique will come and go. Your strength will come and go. Your abilities will wax and wane depending on what you’re training for at the time.

The outside will, and should, be always changing, but the inside is what we’re really after here. Good trainers want to train you to believe in yourself when sh*t gets hard. We want to train you to be resilient in the face of injury, obstacles and other setbacks. We want you to set ambitious goals and shoot for the moon because you can get there with smart programming and relentless will (do yourself a favor and ditch the crash diets and the photo editing software).

So, as you make your spring preparations for swimsuit season, try focusing on developing a sterling, unshakeable internal character and the muscles will come along the way, this I promise you.

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