Good riddance 2020; What I’m hoping for from travel in 2021

Jan 1, 2021

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Normally this time of year, I’m recapping another long list of flights and new countries I’ve checked off my list. This year? Not so much.

It’s been pretty bleak for travel across the board. I only left the U.S. once in 2020. In 2019, for comparison, I visited 11 new countries!

I don’t think there’s a year I’ve traveled less than 100,000 miles in the past decade. This year? Just over 64,000 miles — and much of that was before the pandemic.

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(Screenshot courtesy Great Circle Mapper)



Maui, Hawaii Feb. 29, 2020. (Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy)

My travel year started off great. As I wrote about at the end of 2019, I decided to change up my loyalty strategy.

Instead of trying to make Executive Platinum on American Airlines, I did a status challenge to Delta Platinum.  You can find out how to do that here: Delta Air Lines status challenge.

I got a great deal on a Delta business class flight to Rio de Janeiro for early January. I’d never been to Sao Paulo, so it was a great opportunity to fly in business class to Rio and then take a connecting flight.

It would turn out to be my only international trip of 2020.

I also reached out Alaska Airlines to see if I could also enroll in a challenge for its top-tier status. That ended up being really fun, and that’s where most of my 2020 travel ended up coming from. I said at the time 2020 “would be an interesting year.” Boy did that turn out to be the case.

Related: Alaska Airlines transcon 737-900 review

I managed to do several domestic trips on Alaska Airlines before things shut down due to the pandemic, including swings to Seattle and a visit to my father’s ranch in Montana.

Related: Alaska Airlines first class to Seattle

That’s also how I ended up in Hawaii in the first part of the year before things really shut down. I flew Alaska Airlines to Maui and stayed at the Hyatt Regency Maui. I was only there for two nights, but I’m so glad I went because Hawaii shut down to tourism not long after that trip. Even now, Hawaii is not exactly easy to manage.

Related: Here’s everything you need to know about Hawaii’s ever-changing rules

From March onwards, I mostly stuck to my father’s isolated ranch in Montana, although I did manage to check some states off my to-do list with road trips. I got in trips to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. I also got a look at a much-changed Las Vegas.

Related: Complete guide to Yellowstone

I also did end up doing some airplane travel over the summer. I wrote about how much the flying experience had changed here.

I will say that I was able to visit Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, Michigan and Wisconsin for the first time in 2020, but those definitely aren’t the exotic locales I thought I’d be writing about in 2020.


Palm Springs Rainbow (Image by Getty Images/ Gary Weathers)

I was really looking forward to turning the page on what has been a challenging year. The slow rollout of several vaccines for the novel coronavirus has me excited about the possibilities. I’m pretty low down on the priority list for vaccination, though, so I’m not expecting I’ll be able to really hit the road again until the second half of 2021.

A new strain of COVID-19 that spreads more easily may further crimp my travel style this year. Just today, the New York Times reported it has been found in 33 countries already.

Still, I do think I will be able to begin planning second half 2021 travel soon. So what’s highest on my list?

(Photo by jared lloyd/Getty Images)

My first priority is Alaska. I’ve never been, and it’s an easy trip from my temporary home base in Montana. Testing requirements and the winter weather will keep me away, however, until springtime at the earliest.

Related: How to visit Alaska in age of coronavirus 

(Photo by Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images)

My international goals for 2021 are more ambitious. I’m hoping I can reschedule a trip to Chile that I booked last spring when we thought the coronavirus pandemic would be well past (how wrong we were!). In fact, I was supposed to be in Chile this month after my co-worker found a great deal on business class flights.

I won’t go until Chile opens up Patagonia and Easter Island. Americans can go to Chile again, but you’d need to mostly stick to Santiago. Most of the country remains shut to tourism.

Hammock in Bora Bora between two palm trees. (Photo by wilar/Shutterstock)

I’d also love to finally be able to take a twice-cancelled trip to Tahiti. I had a trip all booked in March when things really fell apart and borders began shutting down. Thankfully, I canceled that trip at the last minute as borders shut down when I would have been there.

Tahiti was canceled a second time when the hotel I was set to stay in announced it was shutting down temporarily. I am bound and determined to do that trip, and I’m hoping back half of 2021 will be ‘third time’s the charm.’

Indeed, I love that airlines have rolled over status to 2021. I’ll end up with top tier status on Alaska Airlines, and mid-level status with both Delta and American Airlines due to rollovers. I did a status challenge to Hyatt and so will enjoy Globalist status to boot with World of Hyatt. I’m really hoping I can find ways to maximize those perks.

Related: Elite status extensions

Still, I haven’t booked anything as things are still so subject to change. Normally one of my favorite activities is looking at the ‘upcoming trips’ section of my airline accounts. Right now, they are all pretty sad.

I wrote about how awful 2020 was for the travel industry, and there’s good news there. Most analysts and executives think there will be a big rebound this year. I’m counting on it.

I’m hoping that 2021 is going to be a much better travel year. After all, I still have more than 100 countries and eight states to check off my to-do list!

Bora Bora, Tahiti. (Photo by Erik SAMPERS/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)


Featured image courtesy Paul Gauguin Cruises.


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