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.
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.
On Monday the 9th of March, the Dayton airport seemed a little empty as we left, but nothing too unusual. We were just starting to get news of the Italian lockdowns.
On the evening of Wednesday the 11th, I stopped at a grocery store in the Denver suburbs, and noticed that their bottled water aisle was completely sold out, as was the over-the-counter cold and flu section of their pharmacy.
When we flew home on Thursday the 12th, the gate agent was handing out sanitizing wipes to everyone as they boarded, and the flight was about half empty.
When I checked my work email the next morning (of course it was a Friday the 13th), my organization had issued a stop travel order, and I had to cancel a work trip I had scheduled for the following Monday.
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).
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
|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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- My longest flights were Detroit (DTW) to Los Angeles (LAX) and the same route in reverse coming home, at 1 974 miles (3 176 km) each way.
- My shortest flights were my six flights between Dayton (DAY) and Detroit (DTW) in either direction, at 165 miles (265 km) each.
- Our first hotel stay with a cat was during our Cincinnati staycation in September. The hotel was running a special where pets were permitted for no additional fees, and the hotel was close enough to home that we decided to bring Maxwell along to see how he’d do staying in a hotel (reasonably well, though we had to pack so much stuff for him that this likely won’t become routine).