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!

My 2020 travel goals

A tradition of mine is to write out my travel goals for the upcoming year, both to help manifest those trips into reality and to remind me of all the places that I want to go.

Back when I started writing this blog, I would only book travel out a few months in advance (my business was just getting off the ground and I wasn’t sure if I’d still be running it more than 3-4 months down the line). Now, I’m luckily able to book travel a bit further in advance, which means some of the trips below are already booked.

That said, without further ado, my goals for 2020 are below:

Laos

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Southeast Asia is a favorite destination of mine, having visited (almost) annually for the past decade. Although I regularly return to Bali and the Philippines, I’m hoping that this year I’ll get outside of my comfort zone and visit Laos, where I’m particularly interested in visiting the mountain town Vang Vieng.

Taipei

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I’ve wanted to go to Taipei for years, but can generally only go to Asia once or twice each year due to time zones (my clients are mostly in California) and so have generally been using that time to go to Hong Kong and/or Southeast Asia. That said, with the help from a friend who had a United upgrade to spare, I’ll be traveling to Taipei in March on Polaris business class and flying back in business on China Airlines.

Although I’m very excited about the flights, I’m more excited for the views and the food and can’t wait to visit.

Dubai

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My best travel deal of 2019, and perhaps ever, was landing a $18,425 First Class ticket on Emirates for 85,000 Chase points. I’ll be flying from JFK to Dubai to Milan and will have about 10 hours to spend in Dubai, which I’m very excited about.

While I know that there are ethical issues about traveling to this part of the world, I really loved my time in Doha and am looking forward to exploring.

Alaska

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This has been on my dream destination list since I first started publishing these annual posts. Truth be told, Alaska might actually be my most cancelled destination, as I’ve had 3 trips planned there in the last 3 years that I’ve canceled either last minute or within the 24-hour cancellation period that airlines allow (I just had a trip to Alaska purchased in February to see the Northern Lights, but chickened out because of the weather).

With increased non-stop service from San Francisco to both Anchorage and Fairbanks this year, I’m hoping I can finally make this a reality.

Costa Rica

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I’ve been to Costa Rica once before and it was a magical experience where I fell in love with the people, the scenery, and the weather. A dream of mine is to head back there for 5-7 days of surf camp, which I feel would be very good for my soul and body.

Where are you hoping to visit in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

Air New Zealand to start non-stop service between Auckland and Newark

Qantas just made international headlines by testing a jaw-dropping 19-hour direct flight between Sydney and New York.

Not to be outdone, Air New Zealand announced today that it will begin non-stop service between Auckland and Newark which will be introduced as early as October 2020. This will be the 5th longest flight in the world (behind Newark to Singapore, Auckland to Doha, Perth to London, and Auckland to Dubai). The flight will take 15 hours and 40 minutes eastbound and 17 hours and 40 minutes westbound.

Flying into Newark’s Liberty International Airport makes sense since Air New Zealand is a part of the Star Alliance and United uses Newark as it’s New York-area hub.

The announcement isn’t all good news, though, as the airline also announced that it will be stopping flights to London around the same time.

Since I’m based in California, I doubt I’ll be flying this route, although I’m excited for any new routes between New Zealand and the United States!

As low as $2,003 round-trip for business class between San Francisco and Europe on American/British Airways

There are some great business class deals to Europe right now from San Francisco! I recently booked one-way from Paris, France to San Francisco (via Lisbon) on TAP Portgual’s new A330neo for $1,160, which I considered to be a pretty good deal.

But if you’re looking for round-trip travel, you’re in even more luck. Using Google Flights, I was able to find the following deals:

  • San Francisco to Barcelona for $2,003 (April 6-14, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Lisbon for $2,034 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Budapest for $2,040 (January 1-9, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Brussels for $2,040 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Milan for $2,063 (January 2-9, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Paris for $2,082 (April 7-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Berlin for $2,084 (April 8-16, 2020)
  • San Francisco to Mallorca, Spain for $2,129 (April 7-16, 2020)

These are just samples, and although the lowest prices are largely for the middle of April, you can find other fares for only a few hundred more within a few months of those dates.

This would also make for a great status trip run — the San Francisco to Paris deal above would net you 23,996 elite qualifying miles (EQMs) and 9,510 award miles on American Airlines.