2020 Year in Travel

It feels odd to be continuing my annual tradition of writing a year in travel post during a year that’s been defined by the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve stayed healthy and been able to work from home this year—so when I say that my travel’s down substantially this year, please understand that it’s not meant as a complaint. Instead, reporting my travel statistics is an attempt to maintain some semblance of normalcy, even if those numbers are themselves clearly much lower than normal.

A chart with January 1 2020 through December 31 2020 on the x-axis, and the distance from home on the y-axis. Up until mid-March, there is a lot of time spent away from home; afterwards, there's very little.

If anything, the first ten weeks of the year involved slightly more travel than typical; I had six trips, including three transcontinental trips to the U.S. west coast.

I first noticed a small number of people starting to wear surgical masks at the airport on my late January Orlando trip, but travel otherwise felt pretty normal through February.

I was traveling right up to the end of “normalcy” with a trip to Denver on 9–12 March.

From there, I had my longest time at home since I started work travel in 2009.

I did eventually end up having three more work trips in the latter half of the year; that work travel was pretty weird. We also did a few in-state hotel staycations (one weekend in Marietta, Ohio, one in Cincinnati, and one in Cleveland).

Hotel Nights

A chart of my hotel nights by year. 2020 shows 36 total nights (25 business, 11 personal). 2020 is much lower than recent years.
2020 Nights Away from Home
Personal 11 nights
Business 25 nights
Total 36 nights

I spent 36 nights away from home—less than a third of last year’s total. 25 nights were for work and 11 for myself.

A map of the United States with circles showing how many nights I spent in various locations. The three largest circles are Seattle, the Mojave desert near Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

Over the course of the year, the destinations I spent the most nights were Seattle, St. Louis, and the Mojave Desert/Antelope Valley north of Los Angeles.

With as much time as I normally spend in Oklahoma, I did not end up visiting the state at all this year. All but one of my trips were canceled or postponed due to the pandemic, and the one remaining trip ended up getting cancelled by (surprisingly) an October ice storm in Oklahoma.

Flights

A chart of my flights nights by year. 2020 shows 33 total flights (27 business, 4 mixed, 2 personal). 2020 is much lower than recent years.
2020 Flights
Personal 2 flights 554 mi 891 km
Mixed 4 flights 4 054 mi 6 524 km
Business 25 flights 20 621 mi 33 187 km
Total 33 flights 25 229 mi 40 602 km

I flew on 33 flights, totaling 25 229 miles (40 602 km). Again, both my number of flights and my total distance were about a third what I flew last year.

A map of all my flights in 2020.

I never flew into the northeast, but otherwise had a pretty good geographic distribution of flights throughout the contiguous United States.

However, I did not visit any new airports this year. My last year before this with no new airports was 2006, so I just broke a 13-year streak.

A directed graph with airports as nodes and flights as edges. Airport nodes are sized proportional to the number of visits, and flight edges are color coded by airline.

Besides the much lower number of flights, this year was unusual for having the majority (25 of 33) of my flights on Delta. My work travel involves contracts with airlines for specific city pairs each fiscal year, so usually the airline I have to take is chosen for me by where I’m going, and the places I travel the most were rarely on Delta. (For the last decade, my most flown airline has alternated back and forth between American and United.)

The Wilmington NC ✈️ Charlotte ✈️ Dayton (ILM–CLT–DAY) trip on American was coming back from a New Year’s trip (so the outbound flights were in 2019). These flights were supposed to be Wilmington NC ✈️ Washington Dulles ✈️ Cincinnati (ILM–IAD–CVG), but a broken seat on the plane meant they were suddenly overbooked after everyone had already boarded, so I gave up my seat in exchange for a $1000 voucher and a same-day rebooking on American into a closer-to-home airport. Oddly enough, I’d bought that United ticket with another voucher from a previous trip.

Delta jets stored at ILN.

Wilmington, North Carolina (ILM) wasn’t the only Wilmington airport I visited this year; Wilmington, Ohio (ILN) is near my home, and Delta was using it for storage of jets unused during the pandemic. Though I didn’t fly out of ILN, I did drive down in April to see all the parked tails.

Driving

A chart of my driving mileage by year. 2020 shows 20057 total miles (17109 personal vehicle, 2948 rental car).
2020 Driving
Rental cars 2 948 mi 4 745 km
Personal car 17 109 mi 27 534 km
Total 20 057 mi 32 279 km

Obviously, my rental car mileage was much lower than usual. A good portion of the rental car driving came from my two Antelope Valley trips; there’s no commercial air service, so I have to fly into Los Angeles area airports (for these two trips, LAX and Ontario) and drive a good distance each time. I also extended my January Seattle work trip with a couple of vacation days and personally rented a car to drive down to Portland, which gave me another few hundred miles.

A map of the United States with driving tracks. A large cluster of tracks covers Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, and northern Kentucky. There are also smaller driving tracks in Orlando, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Denver, and a track from Seattle to Portland.

Despite working from home since mid-March, mileage on my personal car slightly increased this year (my only travel stat that increased in 2020!). My commute to work was only 5 miles (8 km) round trip, so avoiding a daily commute didn’t significantly decrease my driving. Also, in a normal year, my car would spend a third of its time sitting unused in the Dayton airport parking lot. Since I wasn’t traveling as much this year, I was using my own car for many more days than usual.

My odometer, showing 100000 miles.

In fact, my personal car rolled over 100 000 miles (160 934 km) on 25 October 2020.

Without much else to do while social distancing, I did do a fair bit of driving around Ohio (and its neighboring states, as conditions permitted) just to get out of the house.

Visited States

A map of the United States. First visited in 2020: Oregon. Visited in 2020: Washington, California, Colorado, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida. Visited: Nevada, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, Puerto Rico.

When I extended my January Seattle trip to visit Portland, it was my first visit to the state of Oregon. That ended up being the only new state I visited this year. Including both Oregon and my home state of Ohio, I visited 13 states in total in 2020.

I had no international travel this year.

Frequent Traveler Status

A chart of my frequent traveler status in various programs by year. For 2019, I earned American AAdvantage Platinum, Hilton Honors Diamond, and IHG Rewards Club Gold.

With business travel in general down so much this year, major frequent flier and hotel programs have been making a lot of temporary changes in how status is earned and maintained. Many of the programs have essentially extended status levels for an additional year, so even though I did not travel enough to maintain my American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum or Hilton Honors Diamond status (though I did earn HH Gold due to rollover nights from last year), I’ll still enjoy their benefits in 2021.

As discussed in the Flights section above, I had an unusually high percentage of flights on Delta this year. Even with so much less travel this year, I did manage to earn Delta Medallion status for the first time ever, finishing the year with Silver.

Trivia

Paul, Amy, and Maxwell the cat in front of the 21c Hotel Cincinnati.
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