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.
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.
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?
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?