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The long road back to travel: When we'll finally be ready to fly again

Feb. 15, 2021
6 min read
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We're about to be on the road back to the airport.

Soon, we'll climb into our black Honda sedan and take Interstate 45 north into Houston, just like we've done hundreds of times before en route to Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to start other exciting adventures.

But instead of driving all the way to the airport, we'll head farther south into Houston.

Yes, we're on the road back to the airport. But we're not trying to catch a specific flight. Instead, we'll be on our way to receive our second COVID-19 vaccine injection.

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Putting travel on pause

(Photo by Buddy Smith/The Points Guy)

For my wife and me, there have been no recent trips to the airport. We are both now in our 70s — a vulnerable age group. We have adhered to and exceeded the suggested safety guidelines, which included canceling many trips and staying close to home for almost a year now.

While many people, including our daughter (TPG's Summer Hull), have been able to take precautions on the road and travel safely, even the strictest of protocols wasn't enough for us to feel it was worth the risk in our situation.

The vaccine, however, will hopefully be the game-changer that puts us on the road back to the airport. Our second dose of the Moderna vaccine is right around the corner and we were fortunate to get an appointment with a small clinic just 30 minutes from our home.

Other than some arm discomfort, we had no adverse reaction to the initial shot, and we're eager for the second — and the promise it carries of a more normal future.

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So, when will we finally take the drive all the way to the airport terminal?

Related: Will you need an immunity passport to fly? How the COVID-19 vaccine will restart travel

A slow return to travel

(Photo by Basic Elements Photography / Getty Images)

There's still a long way to go before the vaccine is widely available in the U.S., so even though we'd love to go wheels up as soon as our second shot has taken full effect, we're going to return to travel in phases.

Like most travel enthusiasts, we canceled and postponed many trips last year because of the pandemic: a journey to try and see the northern lights in Canada during the winter, a fall trip to see the golden aspens ablaze in Colorado and more were all put on hold.

While we were (or still are) disappointed in putting these adventures on pause, we're grateful we stayed healthy and have not suffered as so many others have.

We'd love to see the airline industry continue (or maybe even expand) their safety measures for the next year or two. Empty middle seats and limited capacity would make us feel safer, personally, though we recognize that as passenger numbers increase, there's a real cost to those decisions.

We will always opt for a window seat as a personal preference and also as a buffer from other flyers. In the near future, we can't imagine a travel scenario where we wouldn't wear a mask, or where we'd be indifferent to physical distancing precautions and sanitization measures. The dramatic decrease in flu cases this year demonstrates the value that self-protection can afford on many levels

We hope we'll be flying again by early summer. But, many circumstances will dictate the how, where and when of that boarding call.

Widespread vaccinations, a low positivity rate and a dramatic decrease in hospitalizations will all be factors we consider. A 5:30 a.m. midweek flight from Houston to Denver might be a good starting point for an adventure in the great outdoors.

Related: Half of Americans say travel affects their decision to get vaccinated

Dreaming of future trips

(Photo by Matt Anderson Photography / Getty Images)

Crater Lake in Oregon is still calling out to us, and our seats at the Red Rocks Amphitheater are waiting for concerts to begin again. And we know the snowy slopes up north will be groomed the next time we buckle our boots and step into our bindings. Heck, maybe we'll have unlocked even more senior ski deals by then.

We're excited about boarding the Cumbres and Toltec train on the border of Colorado and New Mexico, and we want to hike to The Wave in Arizona again and walk the winding floor of deep slot canyons. We long to hear the distant bugle of a herding elk, and the snorts from bison swimming the Yellowstone River.

After more than a year at home, we'll undoubtedly see in full color and hear in surround sound when we are out exploring the world once again.

While our car has a full tank of gas for the much-anticipated trip to receive our second vaccine, our travel bags aren't really packed just yet. We don't have a seat assignment or even a confirmation number for our first flight following the pandemic.

But, we are now confident this will happen sooner than later, and I trust that we will view our opportunities and experiences with even more joy and appreciation than ever before.

Perhaps, we'll even find joy in our own travel rustiness. At future TSA screenings, maybe we'll wonder aloud if our laptop can stay in the bag, and if we need to take our shoes off. We'll ask if our masks can stay on. We'll ask, are we still trusted travelers?

But we're not worried about that right now. Instead, we're focused on the long, but hopeful road back to the airport.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

1 - 10X points
10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases

Intro offer

80,000 bonus points
Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

Annual Fee

$550

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more