Almost Two Years Without Flying – How That’s Worked Out for This Traveler

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Travel Without Flying

Travel Without Flying – Two Years of Observations While Avoiding Planes

I vividly remember the last day I was on an airplane.  It was 26 January 2020; I had just learned Kobe Bryant passed away earlier that day.  We wrapped up our latest Disney World vacation that morning.  COVID-19 was in the news, but we were still far away from the depths of the pandemic.  Upon our return to our home airport, I exited the plane without thinking it may be my last time on one for the foreseeable future.  The pandemic has been a challenge for us all; luckily, the ones my family and I faced have been manageable.  I’ll focus on travel-related matters today, though.  Here are my primary observations after almost two years of travel without flying.

I’ve Saved So Much Time

The travel, points, and miles task that I enjoy the least is booking airline tickets.  And I’m someone who books virtually everything with miles and points.  It should be fun, right?  Indeed, for many, it is.  Even in normal times, I don’t find pleasure in tedious flight searches, futilely hoping for a high value, or even reasonable, redemption rate.  I look back at most of my experiences here as an unnecessary time suck.  A rare positive during the pandemic is I’ve largely avoided flight searches.  It’s safe to say I’ve saved tens of hours (maybe even a hundred) not doing this activity over the past 22 months or so.

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Transit Has Taken Longer, But It’s More Enjoyable

Even before the pandemic, I’ve placed an increasingly higher value on enjoying the journey to the destination as much as the end point itself.  Indeed, it’s a significant reason I’m a fan of long-haul Amtrak routes.  While our travel has significantly dipped over the last two years, we’ve focused on road trips.  For many, road trips are more stressful than flying.  We’re in a life season where family road trips fit best, though.  While we like to make good time, our open schedules make enjoying the road trips easier.  Regardless of your personal situation or transit method, ask yourself, “What’s the hurry?”  When I do this, I find myself slowing down and enjoying the current moment more.  I’ve asked myself that question for years, and it often validates a car or train trip over a flight.  Or that simple reflection ends up with me enjoying my time in airports more.

Travel Without Flying

A Time For Learning, Amassing, and Redeeming More

From my perspective, the pandemic has encouraged us all to embrace a points, miles, and travel paradigm shift more than any other event ever.  We were faced with the situation of having significant points and miles currencies without any feasible way of using them (for a time).  Before the pandemic, I had  tweaked my redemptions to methods not directly involving travel, anyway.  This was clearly the right move for me and my family.  Since the pandemic, I’ve focused even more on obtaining everyday value from points currencies over uncertain trip plans.

Beyond revalidating certain principles, others have evolved, such as elite status.  I didn’t really care about airline elite status before the pandemic.  Since, I’ve completely abandoned the concept and don’t think it’ll ever be worth obtaining again.  Unfortunately, my view of hotel elite status, something I’ve considered a bit more valuable, is negatively changing, as well.

Simultaneously, I’ve enjoyed expanded earning and redemption alternatives: temporary bonus points and miles promos, Pay Yourself Back, pandemic era Amex Offers and credits, heightened credit card welcome offers, increasing card benefits unrelated to travel, the list goes on.

I Needed the Break, Anyway

My time in the air had decreased in the years before the pandemic.  Even during my infrequent air travel, I grew tired of certain aspects.  I was focused on domestic travel, and, sadly, our nation’s facilities have fallen far behind those of many foreign countries.  I’d fallen out of love with air travel.  Going cold turkey for a few years has been nice.  Many miss air travel.  Two years ago, I know I didn’t.  But now, maybe I do.  Does absence truly make the heart grow fonder?

Travel Without Flying

I Miss Certain Stuff

In certain ways, yes.  Being away from air travel for this long, I do miss a few things – stuff I probably wouldn’t have otherwise stopped to appreciate.  Here are just a few:

  • Walking into the airport on the front end of a trip.  I miss that childlike wonder I have at the beginning of any trip, knowing that I’ll encounter new people, experiences, and events that I haven’t before.
  • Experiencing a new airport lounge, or one I haven’t visited in a long time.  What local beers are available?  Do they still have that Nespresso machine?  Will the food offering be enough to replace a meal?
  • Views from airport terminals – SFO’s the most.
  • The potential to bump into random people in airports across the country.  Before the pandemic, I caught up with an old college pal I hadn’t seen in years – about 2,000 miles from our alma mater.

Many more examples exist.  But overall, I had to remove air travel from my life to more fully appreciate what I enjoy about it.

Travel Without Flying – Conclusion

Time flies, even if I haven’t over the past two years.  I’ve enjoyed this period of travel without flying, but it’s time to get in the air again.  Indeed, my return to air travel is currently scheduled for early December.  I look forward to it, this time with a bit more life perspective than previously.  In addition to the positives, I’ll inevitably have to absorb some negatives.   I’d like to think I’ll make some new discoveries along the way, as well.  Regardless, the search will be exhilarating!  Have you avoided flying during the pandemic?  How has that worked out for you?

Benjy Harmon
Benjy is a fan of points, miles, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently focuses on roaming throughout the USA expense-free (or close to it). He enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

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6 COMMENTS

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6 COMMENTS

  1. I can relate to some of this for sure Benjy. I’ve done a lot of travel by car during the pandemic. But if I’m to be honest, the time when I truly miss air travel is when a vacation is over. I’m the type that just want to get back home once the fun and excitement has come to an end.

    What I disliked about traveling by car is when the magic is over. I hate spending 4-8 hours in a car which serves nothing more than to remind me that it’s “back to reality”. With air travel, especially at the end of a vacation, is like a band-aid…you put it on and rip it off. I don’t have much time to sulk because I live in the Midwest and most places are non-stop and take no more than 3 hours to travel (unless I headed to the west coast which is a bit longer).

    So I guess what I avoid when traveling by air is being alone with myself (my family tends to sleep within minutes of getting in the car for road travel) in a car for hours knowing that everything that I was excited about a week prior has come to a loooonnnggg end.

    • 2808 Heavy,
      Thanks for reading and chiming in. I can definitely identify with that end of vacation melancholy – just one of many reasons I opted for a permanent one. Undoubtedly, that contributes to why I enjoy road trips more now.

      • Wow! Congrats to you on retiring early. Just read your article and I’m in awe. I’m a year older than when you retired but I just don’t have the job that provides for such…at least not at 39.

        My wife and I don’t live outside our means but and make decent money but to have completely home pay off student loans and to be able to walk away from our day to day jobs is just impossible even if we had ramen and tuna as a staple diet.

        We don’t plan to work our entire lives but shy of winning the lottery or receiving a large inheritance from an long loss family member, retirement is still about about 15-20 years away for us.

        We both still enjoy what we do for a living so going to work doesn’t seem like a chore but having the option to no work would definitely be something we’d both appreciate if our situation allowed for such.

        But congrats on doing at 38 what lots of us will have to put in another 20 or so years to achieve.

        I don’t know what you did when you were employed but good for you on having a skill set that allowed for retirement at such a young age.

        We’ll continue working towards our goal and thankfully we’ve been blessed with skill sets and professions that we truly enjoy…for now. 🙂

        • 2808 Heavy,
          I appreciate you sharing! I’m glad you and your family are in a situation you enjoy – professionally and travel-wise!

  2. In the past two years I have been to the Philippines, Costa Rica, Spain, France, Mexico, California, Washington, Alaska. Pandemic really hasn’t stopped me from traveling but has definitely made it more difficult

    Cancelled trips to Japan, Philippines, New York

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