As I wrote a few months ago…my husband and I redeemed our Starwood points and American Airline miles for a trip to the St. Regis resort in Punta Mita, Mexico. We were very proud of ourselves for organizing such a recession-friendly vacation and were counting the days (literally) until we would be lounging in the hot Mexican sun. Then, the pandemic, media blitz known as swine flu hit and all hell broke loose. A few weeks before what was to be our departure date, the top story on every single news station, everyday, all day, was the outbreak and subsequent panic around the swine flu. As I’m sure you all remember, you could not turn on the TV without one media outlet or another saturating the airwaves with tales of gloom and doom, portraying this to be the end of the world as we know it. I am not ashamed to say that our panic alarm began to sound. I mean, our Vice President declared that he would not let his family members anywhere near an airplane, let alone one headed to Mexico. So…reluctantly we were ready to cancel our trip. But as days passed, the coverage became less dire and the swine flu which at first sounded like a death sentence began to look like nothing more than the common flu. Maybe it was safe to go, could it be? We decided to take our chances and instead of canceling our trip, we simply rescheduled it for three weeks later. I am happy to report that neither myself nor Scott got the least bit sick during our six day stay. In fact, the manager of the hotel told us that although the resort had been hit hard financially by the swine flu scare, there was not a single case reported in Punta Mita or the surrounding areas. As we sipped cocktails beside the sparkling infinity pool that overlooked the spectacular beach in the perfect 80 degree weather with not a cloud in the sky…I couldn’t help but feel sorry for all of the people who cancelled their Mexican getaways and missed out on their vacations because of the overblown news coverage that instilled the fear of you know who in all of us. While I do feel bad for the weary travelers who cancelled their trips…those that are truly suffering are the Mexican people who rely on tourism for their livelihood. It is estimated that that nationwide much-needed revenue from tourists could fall by 43 percent this year as a result of the outbreak. With literally tens of thousands of service employees being laid off from their jobs until business is back up which they are hoping will be in December. At our resort, we were literally one of maybe ten to fifteen guests in the whole place. (the resort has 120 rooms). Granted, it is also the beginning of the off-season-but according to the staff; the numbers were way down even for the summer months. Scott and I loved it because it felt like we had the entire place to ourselves. Needless to say, the service was unbelievable and we took advantage of every day of our vacation. Since the room and flight were essentially “free” we didn’t feel guilty about indulging in a few spa treatments, amazing meals a snorkeling expedition and even surf lessons and of course golf for Scott. But even with these extras, our trip was a third of what it would have been had we not taken advantage of our credit card rewards. In closing, while I am all for being well-informed and cautious about a potential infectious disease supposedly sweeping a nation…I hope that in the future, for the sake of tourists and proprietors everywhere, that the news media will take a beat and a breath before scaring the living daylights out of the entire world. Be smart, be careful and go out there and use your reward points!