My 2021 travel goals

Given all of the uncertainty around travel, it seems silly to even think of travel goals for 2021. Reflecting back, I was only able to hit one on my list for 2020 (and I’m thankful for being able to go on that trip — a nearly week-long surfing expedition). It’s a tradition of mine to draft up a list of travel goals for the upcoming year, though, and I wanted to get 2021 started with what I’m sure will turn out to be unrealistic optimism.

Bora Bora

This is my first trip planned for 2021 and I’m really excited about it. I’m currently set to spend 7 nights at the Conrad Bora Bora, booked entirely with Hilton points. This hotel is usually very hard to book on points (I had been trying to find availability for years), so when COVID restrictions started going into effect, I began looking for availability and dates here and I was lucky enough to find an opening in early February.

Sri Lanka

Thanksgiving is usually my big southeast Asia trip. In 2020, I was supposed to go to Bali (my 3rd trip there) and to Sri Lanka for a few nights after. Unfortunately that didn’t pan out, but I’ve already booked my flights and hotel to Sri Lanka for Thanksgiving 2021. I’ll be flying there and back on the Qatar QSuite (70,000 American miles each way) and will be staying for 5 nights at Ceylon Tea Trails, which is supposed to be a truly luxurious all-inclusive experience, including each room having its own butler. After Ceylon Tea Trails, I’m considering staying at either Cape Weligama or Amangalla, although am also considering a few more budget-friendly options.

Switzerland

In early April of 2020, I was supposed to fly to Milan on Emirates First Class, but as Milan closed off due to being the center of the pandemic, I rescheduled my flight to Switzerland in August 2020. Unfortunately, the 2nd trip didn’t happen either, so I rebooked and am now set to visit Switzerland in June 2020. I’ll be flying there on Swiss business class (booked with 55,000 Aeroplan miles from my Capital One Spark Business card) and flying home on Emirates First Class (booked with 85,000 Emirates miles from my Chase Preferred Business card).

I’ll be staying 2 nights in Bern followed by 7 nights in Wengen, Switzerland, high up in the Swiss Alps. My plan is to spend my days hiking and going down Swiss mountain coasters and then working remotely from the late afternoon until later in the night.

Dubai

Part of my big trip to Switzerland includes 2 nights in Dubai. Since I’ll be going in June, it may be too hard to do too much outside, but if the weather is bearable, I’m hoping to go on a 4×4 Jeep ride in the desert dunes and possibly do a sandboarding excursion.

Big Island, Hawaii

I have 5 nights paid for at the Hilton Waikoloa through a Hilton Grand Vacation timeshare offer. Through the offer, I paid $699 for 5 nights and will receive 50,000 Hilton points (valued at $300) provided that I attend a timeshare presentation. Originally I was supposed to go in May 2020 and then rescheduled for January 2021, which I recently canceled. I haven’t decided when to rebook for, but I’m hoping to get there before the end of 2021.

Tallinn, Estonia

Air Canada’s Aeroplan, one of my favorite loyalty programs, recently devalued its points and I wanted to book as many flights as I could before the devaluation took effect. One of my favorite Aeroplan redemptions is Swiss Air business class (which was previously only 55,000 points between LAX and Europe, although now is at least 70,000 points). A few days before the devaluation occurred, I booked my flights flying to Tallinn, Estonia and back from Naples, Italy on Swiss Air.

Tallinn, which is a remote work haven, has been a dream destination of mine for years and I’m really excited to finally visit.

Helsinki, Finland

After Tallinn, I’ll be hopping on a boat and crossing Baltic to spend 2 nights in Helsinki. I’m especially excited to be visiting in August, as the capital city of Finland can get quite cold and I’m not great in that type of weather. Although I don’t have much planned for the trip, particularly since it’s during the week and I’ll be working remotely at night, I am hoping to get out on the water and stroll the city streets.

Amalfi Coast

While I’m excited about both Tallinn and Helsinki, they are both relatively flat cities and, from a photography aspect, I can’t say that I’m especially thrilled about either (although hope to be pleasantly surprised). So, I decided to add a topographically beautiful destination to my August jaunt through Europe and am guessing that the Amalfi Coast will more than meet my expectations. I currently have an Airbnb booked in beautiful Positano.

Taipei

Taipei is the first trip that I had to cancel in 2020 due to COVID. I was set to visit in February 2020 and, although travel was still allowed, there was an outbreak of the virus in China and I didn’t want to have to face a 2-week quarantine when I returned (little did I know that it would be January 1, 2021 and I’d still be mostly quarantined, but I digress….). This is the only trip in my list that I don’t have booked yet, but I am hoping to make it a reality as I would love to see the stunning skyscrapers of Taipei juxtaposed against the mountains.

Final thoughts

While it feels odd to write a list of 2021 travel goals, I wanted to keep up my annual tradition and I had fun dreaming of visiting these incredible destinations. Do you have any 2021 travel goals? Let me know in the comments!

Chase Reserve offering $100 Annual Fee credit

As a travel and spend has fallen dramatically in the past months, those with premium credit cards are having difficult getting enough value to help justify the fee. The Chase Reserve is one of the most popular travel credit cards and Chase has just announced that cardholders whose renewal dates fall between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020 are eligible for a $100 Annual Fee credit. Here’s the statement from Chase:

We recognize this is a difficult time for everyone. As a way to help, we’re providing you a one-time $100 statement credit toward the 2020 $550 annual fee on your Reserve credit card. On an upcoming billing statement (based on your renewal date), you’ll see a $550 charge for the annual fee, followed by a $100 statement credit. We will continue to bill the $550 annual fee in 2021. Because this credit only applies to open Reserve accounts, if you’ve closed your Reserve account or traded to another credit card before your renewal, you will not receive the $100 statement credit. We know COVID-19 has affected people in many different ways. Please check chase.com/StayConnected for updates and helpful ways to stay connected to your accounts.

I think this is a helpful offer and would encourage readers to take Chase up on this if they have a qualifying renewal date.

Alternatives for travelers putting off trips to Asia due to coronavirus

In my latest article for NerdWallet, I wrote about how I’m considering cancelling an upcoming trip that I have to Taipei due to concerns about the coronavirus. Right now, after discussing it with my doctor, I’m still planning to go to Taiwan (although I will keep monitoring the news and may change plans if the situation deteriorates).

That said, concerns for the coronavirus has travelers around the world re-thinking their Asia travel. While I do not think it makes sense to avoid Asia entirely, I wanted to compile a list of alternative destinations you could travel to if you were considering postponing your Asia trips.

Instead of Singapore, go to Dubai.

Both Singapore and Dubai share a passion of futuristic design, safety (at the cost of personal freedoms, but that’s for another post), skyscrapers, and cleanliness.

Dubai2

While Dubai is technically still in Asia, it’s much closer to Africa and even Europe than where the coronavirus outbreak is occurring, which is why I’ve included it on this list.

Instead of Ho Chi Minh City, go to Istanbul.

Looking for a bustling city on a river that is full of culture? Well, if you’re travel is going to take you away from Ho Chi Minh City, a good alternative would be Istanbul.

Istanbul2

Located on the Bosporus River and straddling Europe and Asia (but again, far enough away from the outbreak to make this list!), Istanbul is an affordable city with great food, wonderful people, and a rich history that makes the city worth discovering.

Instead of Koh Samui, go to Mallorca.

Thailand is one of my favorite places on the planet but, luckily, so is Mallorca. If you were planning on going to Koh Samui and are looking for crystal-clear blue water, beaches galore, warm weather, and a fun experience for either solo travelers or families, you should consider going to Mallorca instead.

Mallorca

I’d recommend getting out outside of Palma and traveling to the beach downs of either Port de Sóller or Port de Pollença.

Instead of Beijing, go to Mexico City.

If you’re looking for a sprawling metropolis with impressive man-man architecture just outside the city, you may want to consider swapping Beijing for Mexico City.

Mexico City

Mexico City is home to just about 9 million residents and just outside of the city you can find Teotihuacán, a complex of temples is known for its two massive pyramids, Pirámide del Sol (Pyramid of the Sun) and Pirámide de la Luna (Pyramid of the Moon)

Instead of Hong Kong, go to Rio.

There is perhaps no skyline in the world as beautiful as Hong Kong… except, maybe, Rio. I’ll just post the picture below and you’ll be able to see why Rio may be a good alternative to those looking to enjoy the city lights of Hong Kong.

Rio

At the end of the day, I’d recommend speaking with your doctor before rescheduling any travel to Asia. That said, for those who have already decide to cancel a trip or are too hesitant to book one, the cities listed above provide great alternatives for your Asia travel.

Alaska Airlines joining oneworld alliance

In breaking travel news, Alaska Airlines will be joining the oneworld alliance sometime in summer 2021.

This news is both huge and surprising, as Alaska has been cutting ties in recent years with former partner American Airlines. I’m sure the news is especially well-received among oneworld members, as they recently lost LATAM (which was a significant loss, since it was their only Latin American-based carrier).

My thoughts: I’m a bit uneasy about this change, as my fear is that the following will be (negatively) affected:

  • How you earn status on Alaska (currently, pretty easy and based on the actual miles you fly regardless of how much you spend on your tickets)
  • Redemption rates for Alaska partners (an example of a redemption rate that I don’t want to lose is that you can redeem 55,000 Alaska miles for business class to New Zealand or Australia on Qantas)
  • Alaska partners (currently Alaska has a hodgepodge of great airline partners and they may lose some, like Emirates and Singapore, by joining oneworld)

That said, as a San Francisco-based traveler, this makes the prospect of status on Alaska makes a lot more since it’s hubbed in SFO and I can fly American Airlines for my international trips with oneworld status.

What are your thoughts on Alaska joining oneworld? Let me know in the comments!