Travel was virtually impossible last year, and that’s why this year you should spend all of your frequent flyer miles. All of them.
That Was A Very Long Year
No one is saying we are out of the woods. Daily COVID-19 results continue to hover around 50-60,000 positive cases, but there is reason to be hopeful. Positive results had been as high as 240,000/day in January in the US alone. Cruiselines are putting dates back on the calendar, countries are opening up to receiving tourists that have been vaccinated (though they should still include those with antibodies.)
We have all spent a year teaching our children about social distancing and operating from distracting home offices with Zoom calls that make us long for unnecessary meetings in person that could have been an email.
Some lost loved ones and 2020 will never be forgotten for the personal toll it took on the lives of their families and themselves. For those that didn’t get sick this year with COVID-19, the mental strain and exhaustion was significant as well. And it was an election year that saw everything race riots in the street to the storming of the Capitol building.
We have never needed a vacation more than we do right now.
Too Much Opportunity
I found myself sitting on millions of frequent flyer miles and hotel points with no ability to use them and an unabated desire to just get away. For those of us who have whined about the difficulty of using upgrade certificates or the ever-moving goalposts of earning elite status in our favorite loyalty programs, the amount of points members earn – here’s our perfect year. There’s never been an easier time to score an upgrade, and there’s never been an easier time (in the modern era) to earn or maintain status with an airline or hotel chain.
Have you wanted to try switching carriers? Maybe American Airlines flyers will finally give Delta’s Medallion status a try. This year is your chance with just about every airline offering a status match. If you’re one of the few who have a chance to earn status in 2021, bonus miles will be so plentiful that you may not have to pay for a cash ticket for a long time.
Alaska Airlines has one of the best loyalty programs in the world with some of the cheapest award ticket rates on incredible airlines like Cathay Pacific. Spend them. Spend them all, and spend them right now. Airlines couldn’t possibly change the game in the current environment, and we have all spent a year realizing how useless those points are if we can’t get on a plane.
I’m reminded of Germans using Deutsch Marks as wallpaper in the 1920s because the currency had fallen so drastically that it was cheaper to attach the currency to the wall than it was to use it to buy purpose-built wallpaper. Money is just paper if you can’t use it to deliver value, and miles and just a number on a screen if they can’t be spent.
There’s never been a time in history where this many employees could work remotely. There’s also never been a time where this many employees have had so much unused paid time off.
It Could Happen Again
Europe is experiencing another wave, and we may in the US again too. But if we finally beat COVID-19, or at least down to a manageable level whereby life can resume, it should remind us all that nothing is guaranteed. If not COVID-19 or its variants then something else, something worse may come along. If it does, we will all regret sitting on our mountains of points and the things we didn’t see, or do, taste, or experience.
For a traveler’s soul, the last year was a dark glimpse of hell. But like Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, perhaps this view will be enough to remind us all that it could happen again and if it does we shouldn’t have regrets because this was our great warning.
Go out, spend your miles. Spend them all. There will be time to earn more from co-branded credit card offers and “limited time promotions.” Spend them like you’ve never spent them before because we almost saw what it would like to never be able to spend them again and that’s not a world I want to live in.
What do you think? Will you spend all of your miles in 2021? Do you have a reason to hold on to them instead?
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