When the pandemic started, our travel plans got bumped out by a few weeks. That seems so quaint and optimistic now. We didn’t understand, at the time, that the whole notion of “making plans” needed to be chucked out the window. It took several more iterations of booking and rebooking travel before it really sank in: Our travel plans were dashed.
We can’t wait to start traveling again when it's safe, but instead of reverting as if nothing had changed, we’re hopeful that with our 2021 travel resolutions, we can book and embark on trips that we wouldn’t have before, with some new perspective.
Be more thoughtful about travel choices
In previous years, I hadn’t thought much about why I was booking my trips; I just consider myself a “traveler” and had, almost unconsciously, filled my schedule with flights.
Now, with plenty of time to breathe and reflect, I see that my travel planning was haphazard and rote. I enjoy finding good deals and killer rewards redemptions so much that I let these guide my strategy. I wasn’t being thoughtful about when and how I traveled.
Part of my reflections in 2020 involved carbon emissions and how I could square frequent travel with climate stewardship. I’m still struggling with this dilemma, but I aim to give more care and attention to how much I travel.
My well-seasoned nomad friends would always tell me that I’m a “fast nomad” because instead of staying put in one place for a few months, I would change locations every month or every few weeks. I guess my wanderlust was too strong to slow me down.
When the pandemic began, I had no choice but to slow down, and to be honest, I’m kind of liking it. Having more time in one place has allowed me to get into a routine and find my favorite ClassPass studios, hair salon, coworking space and local hidden gems. Plus, I’ve been feeling better about my reduced carbon footprint when it comes to our planet.
Don’t get me wrong: I yearn to sip Champagne in first class, travel to beautiful destinations and keep thinking about where I'll spend the winter, but I do it with a newfound appreciation for staying in a place longer.
Previously, I think I subconsciously believed that the harder a destination was to get to, the better it was. I favored international travel and offbeat locations.
Prior to COVID-19, I would have never considered a staycation, or even a road trip. But I have now realized that any travel can be delightful — even if it’s not the grand, bucket-list trip you had in mind.
I actually haven’t spent a ton of time traveling outside of the U.S. It was too expensive for my big family of six when I was growing up, and I felt like there was so much to see in the U.S. anyway.
The cost of international flights will be much less of a burden in 2021 because I’ve been racking up points and miles at home for the better part of this year. It took a pandemic to make me realize what a privilege it is to be able to travel the world. Armed with my rewards from travel credit cards, I’m going to make sure cost is no longer a barrier to international trips once restrictions and quarantine rules are lifted.
Embrace the journey, stay in the moment
I got into the points and miles world because it’s fun. Finding hidden gem redemptions, sipping Champagne in first class and racking up points with obscure double-dip promotional offers is a blast (if you're of a certain ilk).
Yet over the last few years travel rewards has also been my job, which means that maximizing my own points can also carry that unsavory taste of labor. Sometimes the last thing I want to do after signing off from work is spend more time knee-deep in award charts.
Next year, I endeavor to keep my rewards game fun by focusing on redemptions that I actually care about, not just the ones that “maximize” my points and miles.
When I'm sitting in a first-class seat or staying in a gorgeous villa on the beach, I promise myself that I will document more of these experiences. As I reminisce about the most amazing redemptions over the years, most of those experiences are locked away in my memory. I realize I barely have any photos or videos of the comfy seats, the first-class food, the beautiful airplane cabin, the gigantic pool overlooking the ocean or the luxurious hotel room details.
In 2021, I will record more of my travel experiences so that when I look at my photos, I can more vividly feel the joy that those miles and points redemptions brought me.
Perhaps it was one minute too long of coronavirus doomsurfing or reading another dispiriting Instagram post, but I deleted Instagram for a good chunk of 2020, including the period during a southern Utah road trip.
Suddenly, I wasn’t rushing through my hike just to see the Delicate Arch at sunset for the perfect Instagram picture. I wasn’t ordering the most photo-worthy ice cream sundae just for my Snapchat Story. I hiked when and where I wanted to. I ate what I actually craved. I didn’t come back to my hotel each night racking my brain for a witty or inspirational caption to go with my photo.
I found that I lived in the moment, and I lived for me — not for what would get me more Instagram likes.
Back when airlines charged exorbitant change and cancellation fees, I wasn’t booking any trips unless I was absolutely certain. Because of the pandemic, those pesky fees are mostly gone and the process of canceling and rebooking is pretty straightforward.
With airlines’ new flexibility, I’m all for booking that trip without having all the details ironed out. I’m no longer scared of the hassle or cost of changing plans.
Adaptability was the name of the game in 2020, and my resolution in 2021 is to become a master in aspirational and strategic planning that sometimes works out and results in incredible trips.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card