A mid-pandemic Thanksgiving: How the team plans to travel this year

Nov 6, 2020

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Last month, I took to the skies for the first time during the pandemic. I decided to choose a long-haul for my first pandemic flight — in Emirates’ private first-class suite — and the experience felt as safe and luxurious as could be, even with the various health-related restrictions currently in place.

This Thanksgiving, I’m taking to the skies again. It’ll be my first mid-pandemic air travel adventure within the U.S., including a one-stop flight to Albuquerque, New Mexico (ABQ) and a nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to Newark (EWR) on the way back.

Fortunately, I was able to lock in upgrades in advance, using my United PlusPoints, and booked a paid business-class ticket for the flight home.

We’ll end the trip in United’s 787-10 business class. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

A Southwest road trip has long been on my bucket list. We’ll be driving some 2,000 miles as we crisscross New Mexico, Arizona and California, beginning our journey in New Mexico and ending the trip at Los Angeles International Airport, with many exciting stops along the way.

We’ll round out the trip with a flight back to Newark (EWR) on United’s 787-10 Dreamliner — incredibly, I was able to snag a one-way ticket in the airline’s Polaris business class for just over 400 bucks.

I’m not the only TPG staffer traveling this Thanksgiving, though. I checked in with the team to see who else is planning to travel, and what made them feel comfortable getting out on the road.

Nathan Richardson, Executive Vice President

Photo by Nathan Richardson/The Points Guy

We normally do a trip with my dad and a few friends each Thanksgiving. I wrote about London last year and how I got refunded due to a delay. This year, my dad can’t travel but I was looking for a place to go that wasn’t too far and also open to Americans. Despite my reservations around LGBT travelers, I consulted the friends who we normally go with and they agreed on a luxury Jamaican resort that sounds perfect. So I found award flights for me and the kids on American and a great offer on AMEX that allowed me to use some Membership Rewards points on a Fine Hotels & Resorts stay.

Summer Hull, Director of Travel Content

Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy

I’ll be heading with my family of four on Delta to national parks out West for Thanksgiving. But for the winter holidays, we are going to try to get together as it’s been a year at this point since we saw any of my in-laws. In this case, we rented a nice house on the beach in Florida in the 30A area as we can all get into Florida. It’s also offseason there, so nice, big houses are renting for a third of the price of peak season. We will all at least do a quarantine of some sort and/or pre-travel testing before heading to stay together in a single home, which is how my family has approached similar travel with friends this year.

Clint Henderson, Senior News Editor

Photo by Clint Henderson/The Points Guy

My turkey day this year is bittersweet as my New York City lease expires on Nov. 25. I’ll be putting my stuff in storage that week, and flying to my father’s ranch near Butte, Montana, the day before Thanksgiving on Delta Air Lines. I’m not nervous to fly. I feel like Delta along with Alaska have been the best at managing coronavirus. I appreciate Delta continuing to block middle seats through the holidays — I’ll never be too close to anyone. I’ve actually flown quite a bit this year despite COVID-19 and have felt quite safe though I take a lot of precautions. I’m very sad to be leaving NYC, but it’s just temporary until the TPG offices in New York reopen and the bonus is I get to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my father in beautiful Big Sky Country.

Nick Ewen, Senior Editor

For the last five Thanksgivings, I have traveled to Europe. In fact, my soon-to-be 6-year-old daughter has never spent the holiday inside the U.S. Sadly, we had to postpone our trip to Santa’s Lapland, and given the ongoing spread of COVID-19 in our home state of Florida, we have decided to spend a quiet holiday at home — eating good food, watching movies and enjoying quality time as a family of three. That said, we’re hoping to recreate this year’s trip over Thanksgiving 2021!

Melanie Lieberman, Senior Travel Editor

I’ll likely be reuniting with my family in Connecticut this Thanksgiving. Because of the pandemic, I made the leap and recently bought a car (I even put part of the purchase on The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn bonus points during a promotion). I’ve already been to eight states, and will likely work in a few side trips during the holiday to see friends, go hiking, apple picking and squeeze in another camping trip or two before it gets too cold! I’m not concerned about flying, but I’ve had a lot of fun driving around, and rediscovering places near me. Plus, when you’re relying on public transportation and airplanes, apple picking is out of the question: Trust me.

Andrew Kunesh, Senior Reporter

Photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy

My girlfriend and I recently bought an electric car and are taking it on our first long road trip. The plan is to drive to Kansas City and Chicago to visit our respective families and stop in Columbus and St. Louis along the way. I’m excited to hit the road and experience the EV charging infrastructure across the U.S.

Katie Genter, Reporter

Some of my family is planning to get together in Charleston, South Carolina. I currently have a four-night booking at a Staybridge Suites in the area using points to take advantage of my IHG® Rewards Club Premier Credit Card‘s fourth-night reward benefit. However, as we plan to drive our RV to Charleston, we may cancel the hotel and stay in our RV if we find campsite availability. The current plan is to get together with the family in smaller groups throughout the Thanksgiving week instead of on Thanksgiving day. I expect that most of our family gatherings will be outside with masks and social distancing to minimize risk.

Bottom line

The vast majority of my TPG colleagues have opted to spend this Thanksgiving holiday close to home, which certainly makes sense, especially given the recent uptick in coronavirus cases throughout the United States.

As for me, while it may seem like a peculiar time for my first domestic flight, studies suggest that the chances of catching COVID-19 on a plane are very low, and I booked the last row of first or business class for all three of my flights, giving my girlfriend and I as much distance onboard as possible. We’ll also be wearing properly fitting N95 masks, and don’t plan to do any eating or drinking on board, in order to keep our masks on for the entire flight.

It won’t be the most relaxing air travel experience, but our goal for these flights is to travel as safely as possible — we’ll save our fun for once we’re able to properly distance, on the ground.

Featured photo of United’s 787-10 Dreamliner by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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