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I promised myself I would travel differently post-pandemic — it was a lie

April 21, 2022
7 min read
A view of the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana.
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During the darkest days of the coronavirus lockdown, I promised myself I would travel differently after the pandemic.

Internally, I committed to staying at smaller, offbeat hotels, exploring unique destinations, slowing down to immerse myself in each location and taking concerns about my environmental impact into consideration.

But as I look up from my poolside cocktail at a large all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, I'm afraid that none of that has happened. Instead, in some sort of self-imposed race to make up for lost time, I seem to have doubled down on all the things about the way I travel that I told myself I needed to fix.

(Yes, the pandemic is still ongoing, but the travel industry has seemingly moved on. Social distancing and mask requirements are essentially gone, although you still find plenty of hand sanitizer being offered.)

There have been numerous one-night business trips to reconnect in person, each more of a blur than the last. With surprising ease, my travel muscles quickly remembered how to pack a tiny carry-on bag, navigate airport security and type away on a laptop at 35,000 feet. Even the art of efficiently checking into lounges and swapping flights to miraculously make it home in time to tuck my daughter into bed came back fast, as if I'd never stopped traveling.

I've spent a lot of time away from home, yet since getting back out there, I've hardly experienced anything beyond airports and chain hotels other than the occasional meal.

This is not the fresh approach to travel I envisioned as I daydreamed during the 2020 lockdown in my Manhattan apartment.

Was I lying to myself then? Am I breaking my promises now? Or, are the changes I've made just more nuanced and slower to integrate into my overall routines than I'd hoped?

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A return to the classics

There's no doubt my personal trips have been slower than the fast pace I kept up before, but they're not exactly far from the masses either.

We got all four grandparents together for my daughter’s first trip to Walt Disney World in Florida, a destination that very clearly shoots straight down the mainstream. Nevertheless, it was a moment I had been looking forward to for years.

Then, three weeks later when we found ourselves in Southern California, we decided to also visit Disneyland.

My daughter meeting Minnie at Disney World. (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

It wasn't long before I found myself skiing in Vail, Colorado, too. Sure, the Vail experience is a far cry from the rustic roots of skiing, as its exclusivity and level of pampering make it one of the country's most expensive mountains, but I couldn't resist the urge to visit one of my favorite ski resorts.

And now I find myself at the Dominican Republic's Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana.

Is it the local, one-of-a-kind look at a place I committed myself to finding just a couple of years ago? No. But who can complain about a beautiful beach, an amazing water park and a seemingly endless supply of food, beverages and activities for the whole family?

It may be a sprawling all-inclusive resort in a gated community — the furthest possible thing from an immersive cultural experience — but I'm actually OK with that for now.

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Seeing so many large groups gathering together for the first time in over two years, including an extended family of 18 in matching T-shirts I met during the flight down from New York, warms my heart.

I can't help but smile when I pass the room doors with banners announcing birthdays, anniversaries and even a honeymoon, despite questioning why the guests inside that last room chose the kid-friendly Ziva instead of the adults-only Zilara next door.

So while my latest work and leisure trips may be to tourist-packed destinations and familiar, impersonal hotels affiliated with big-name brands, that's not necessarily a bad thing. All that matters is that people are traveling again to be together. We can’t lose sight of that, myself included.

The sold-out summer

I hate the phrase “revenge travel.” I’m not really sure that there’s anybody we need to get back at.

But as Wall Street analysts say, there’s a lot of pent-up demand. I'm not the only one with a laundry list of places to go and people to see as quickly as possible.

Hotels, theme parks, national parks and most top-tier attractions are rapidly filling up for the months ahead, sparking a rise in prices that will do little to deter many Americans from hitting the roads and taking to the skies.

We’re already returning to long lines at airport security checkpoints, and at the gates, folks are back to jockeying to board first.

Now that airline mask rules have changed yet again, it won't be long before fights over mask compliance revert back to overhead bin disputes.

I don’t want to ruin the joy of travel or say that it’s going to be an ugly summer, but amid all the Zoom calls, we seem to have forgotten how to interact with others face to face, especially in large crowds.

Pair all of that with a major labor shortage at airlines, hotels, restaurants and just about everywhere else and it’s going to be challenging. One bad thunderstorm will cause cascading delays nationwide, and it could take days for airlines to fully recover.

Travelers will be wise to have backup plans.

Regardless of how ready we all are to forget about COVID-19, it doesn't change the fact that the virus is still looming out there. While we may be eager to return to pre-pandemic travel habits and norms, the need to get a negative coronavirus test the day before flying back to the U.S. remains for all travelers, including those who are vaccinated.

This summer may be the year we once again return to local trips, not because of a global pandemic but because everything else is sold out or priced beyond reach.

My new travel promise

Now that I've hit those big family trips and used up my stockpile of 2020 vouchers, I'm reevaluating my travel strategy in this post-pandemic world we're entering.

There’s probably no way to change the nature of quick work trips. Meeting with people, rather than exploring your surroundings, will remain the goal. But instead of focusing all my time on those I'm connecting with, perhaps I can try a little harder to add in some local flair. For instance, on an upcoming Chicago trip, I plan to sneak in a Cubs game at Wrigley Field between meetings.

I accept that my family trips are probably going to remain at sprawling beach resorts with nice pools and plentiful plates of chicken fingers and fries, too. But for other trips, I want to try harder.

I’m currently eyeing state fairs in Iowa and Minnesota or a rodeo out West — activities that are both interesting and different from anything else I’ve ever done. Now may also be the time to find a small town somewhere for a brief escape from my hectic reality.

Wherever I end up, I'll do my best to remember what makes travel so rewarding: its ability to educate and unite people. I am by no means the perfect traveler, but I can do my part to keep the beauty of travel top of mind without adding to concerns around overcrowding historical sites and ruining local environments.

Maybe I just needed to get the "greatest hits" out of the way before shifting my focus to more unique adventures.

I'll let you know how it goes as I get farther down the road.

Featured image by (Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)
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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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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  • 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.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees