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

Jan. 01, 2021
6 min read
Paul Gauguin Cruises - Bora Bora
Good riddance 2020; What I'm hoping for from travel in 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)

2020

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.

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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.

2021

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 by The scenery in Bora Bora is stunning. (Photo courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises)

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

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

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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 unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023