Coming into 2021, the world had no idea what travel was going to look like. We were all wondering, “Will things get back to normal?” Many people started to return to travel this year, including the 10xTravel team. While 2022 is still a bit unclear, here are the things we learned this year, a summary of big wins we had and the hopes we have for the year ahead.

Anna Zaks

I had high hopes for 2021, both in terms of traveling and earning points and miles, and it didn’t disappoint! Let’s talk about travel first. In spite of all the travel restrictions, there were still quite a few places where Americans could travel, and if you were ready to deal with some degree of uncertainty, your reward was fewer crowds, no huge tour buses and somewhat empty planes (at least in the first half of 2021).

Our first trip of 2021 was to the wonderful Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana in the Dominican Republic. Both my husband and I love the beach and the sun, and the resort is so beautiful that we’ve already booked another trip there for January 2022.

 

Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana

Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana (Image Courtesy of Hyatt)

I have family in Israel that I hadn’t seen for more than a year, so I booked a trip to visit them as soon as I got my vaccine in April 2021. I like to combine my trips to Israel with trips to Europe, so I waited for Greece to confirm that the country would indeed reopen for tourism in May and immediately booked our flights. Greece without tourists is going into my personal Hall of Fame as one of the best trips of my life!

I also added another country to my list, a place that’s been on my radar for a couple of years—Uzbekistan.

And because I love Europe so much, and as more countries were opening up, I booked a trip to Berlin and Vienna. These are two of my favorite cities, and I couldn’t wait to get back to Europe again.

Then United Airlines had a cash fare sale to Europe, so how could I pass up an opportunity to fly in business class to Europe for just $1,500? My lifelong dream of visiting Christmas markets in Europe has finally come true! That trip was also amazing and included a stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna. As a newly minted Globalist, I was upgraded to a gorgeous suite that exceeded all my expectations.

Between my husband and I, we also earned a lot of points in 2021. There were a lot of elevated credit-card bonuses from various issuers, and American Express in particular was eager to get new business. Between the new welcome bonuses, the spending and the authorized-user bonuses, we’ve earned more points in 2021 than in any other year.

I am looking forward to more travel in 2022 and, hopefully, fewer travel restrictions. I have a couple of trips on the books, and I continue to plan future travel. If circumstances change, I am fine with changing my plans on short notice and dealing with the many big and small inconveniences that seem to be inevitable for now, such as filling out multiple forms and taking COVID-19 tests required for travel.

Josh Alfred

Despite COVID-19 dominating our lives in many ways throughout 2021, I was fortunate enough to travel frequently. As an educator, I’m used to being tied to school breaks for my trips. However, my school was fully remote for the entire 2020-2021 school year, so I was actually able to travel quite a bit while still doing my job during the first half of the year.

My first trip was to Sacramento, California, to visit friends in February, and we added on a couple of days in Miami because why not? Unfortunately, Miami was experiencing heavy rain while we were there, but I got to experience The Confidante Miami Beach hotel (booked with World of Hyatt points), which didn’t disappoint.

 

The Confidante Miami Beach

The Confidante Miami Beach (Image Courtesy of Hyatt)

My husband and I got married in late February, so we went to Turkey for our honeymoon in March. At that point, Turkey had reopened to U.S. travelers, so we were able to experience the country for the first time with minimal crowds.

We absolutely loved Istanbul and enjoyed staying at the Conrad Istanbul Bosphorus. Turkey has some of the best food and hospitality I’ve ever experienced, and I can’t recommend it enough! This was also the first trip when I’ve redeemed points and miles for long-haul business class (Lufthansa on the way there and Turkish Airlines on the way home).

In April, we went to San Juan, Puerto Rico, and stayed at the Caribe Hilton using Hilton Honors points. I took advantage of the 5th Night Free promo that applies to award reservations for Hilton Honors members with elite status.

In May, we were fortunate to visit Cabarete, Dominican Republic, to visit a friend, and I can’t recommend this off-the-beaten-path destination enough for its extremely affordable accommodations, food, friendly people and gorgeous beaches.

In July, we had our belated wedding celebration with 35 of our closest family and friends in sunny Cancun, Mexico, which was definitely a highlight of the year!

Throughout the fall, we had several long weekends away in U.S. cities, including Fort Myers, Florida; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Chicago; and Dallas. My husband and I are avid runners, so we often find ourselves on the road for races. In all of these locations, I redeemed World of Hyatt points or booked cheap cash rates.

I earned a lot of points in 2021. Some highlights include getting the The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, getting the Bilt Rewards card to earn points on monthly rent and taking advantage of several bank account bonuses (both cash and points).

While COVID-19 is still a huge factor in our lives, I’m looking forward to more travel in 2022. I feel lucky to have found this hobby that allows us to travel for very little money, and I’m excited to see what next year brings!

Emily Jaeckel

2021 was the year of the cross-country road trip for me, so I didn’t spend any time traveling internationally. Instead, my boyfriend and I lived in a 25-year-old van for more than six months while we toured as many national parks as we could.

Although we didn’t splurge on any big trips, we frequently took advantage of our Southwest Companion Pass to visit Denver, Los Angeles and Austin, Texas. Using the pass alone saved us more than $1,000 in travel expenses.

Another great thing to have in our back pocket was a hefty stash of hotel free night certificates. Between the two of us, we had a total of eight free nights varying in points value and hotel brands. Most often, these were cashed in on any old hotel just to give us a more comfortable place to rest and shower, but we did get some amazing value out of a stay at the Hyatt Place Portland, Maine, where cash rates were more than $700 per night, and we used only 15,000 World of Hyatt points.

Hyatt Place Portland-Old Port

Hyatt Place Portland-Old Port (Image Courtesy of Hyatt)

Because we were on the road for most of the year, it made it difficult to sign up for new cards without having a mailing address to send them to. Instead, we used this inconvenience to focus on maximizing the points we could earn on our existing cards. Let me tell you, the points we earned on gas while driving across the country added up quickly!

Thanks to focusing on domestic travel this year, I still have a big stash of points that I’m eager to redeem for a luxurious trip in 2022. I’m thinking Greece and Croatia.

Anya Kartashova

Although we’re still not where I thought we’d be in terms of travel restrictions, border closures and vaccine distributions, 2021 was a heck of a lot better year than 2020 for those of us looking to feed our wanderlust addiction.

With the help of miles for flights, points and free night certificates for hotel stays and some fortunate travel deals, I visited Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, Mauritania, Côte d’Ivoire, Uzbekistan, Georgia and Jordan, plus a handful of domestic destinations within the United States, including Austin, Texas; New England; Keystone, Colorado; and Hawaii.

Highlights include a $480 business-class deal from New York to Sao Paulo on American Airlines, a round-trip economy flight from Salt Lake City to Cairo for about 46,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points booked through the Ultimate Rewards travel portal, round-trip economy flights from Salt Lake City to West Africa for 80,000 Delta SkyMiles and a combination of Marriott and Hyatt free night certificates for a few otherwise-expensive nights in Portland, Maine.

 

Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor

Exploring the Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor. | Photo courtesy of Anya Kartashova

Other wins for the year include not catching the infamous virus at any of these destinations, few trip disruptions and a kind Air France agent in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, who rebooked my flight for the following day with no questions asked after a COVID-19 test wasn’t ready in time to travel back to the United States.

I’d say the most memorable travel experience was riding on top of a fully loaded freight train in the Sahara for almost 14 hours. Few things can compete with seeing the sun rise above the horizon in the middle of a desert, and seeing it from a moving train is even more unforgettable.

Overall, I’m pleased with how 2021 went and am crossing my fingers for 2022. I have a couple of trips on the books, including Finland in February, which I booked for $275 round-trip in economy class, and a week in the Maldives in May, using a Travelzoo voucher that my husband and I optimistically bought in 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic. Here’s to hoping that next year sees even fewer international travel restrictions.

Jeffrey Lucas Jr.

This year we welcomed our fifth child into our family and our first boy!

Having a baby slowed down our travel pace slightly, but we are no strangers to lugging an infant through an airport. We are still a little unsure about international travel with all the added logistics with the virus and the little ones, but points and miles continue to allow us to take several domestic family vacations per year.

We spent time in Corpus Christi, Texas, and in Phoenix and used our Hyatt points for drivable weekend trips to visit family that we had been unable to see during the previous year. My wife was also able to get away with her sister to Asheville, North Carolina, for a long weekend fully paid for with Marriott points and United miles, while I stayed home with five kids.

 

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi downtown skyline along the banks of the Gulf of Mexico at night. Corpus Christi is a coastal city in the South Texas region of the U.S. state of Texas. Corpus Christi is the largest coastal city in Texas. Corpus Christi is known for its spacious beaches, waterfront beauty and great fishing.

I’m planning on a big earning year in 2022, and will likely be over the Chase 5/24 card count for the first time. I’ll knock out a few more Chase business card spending requirements and secure the Southwest Companion Pass first. Then, I’ll tear through a series of cards to stack points for an international redemption for my whole crew.

Already we’ve secured a Companion Pass for my wife, and I’ve opened my first card to earn the benefit for myself. We are looking forward to a lot of domestic travel and flying seven people for the price of four (with two Companion Passes and an infant).

So far we have a trip booked to Gulf Shores, Alabama, and are planning one along the coast of Maine.

This year, my third daughter turns 7, which means she gets to go on a mom/daughter solo trip with my wife. She’s still deciding on where she wants to go. This is a really special time of bonding with each of our kids and something we couldn’t do without the benefit of points and miles.

Despite the costs and logistics of having a large family, we’ve been able to adopt a fun rhythm of family travel, thanks to points and miles, and I don’t see any signs of that slowing down in 2022.

John Tunningley

As everyone else has alluded to, 2021 was an interesting year for travel. It started off with a lot of restrictions still in place, but those gradually faded as vaccines became available and the numbers of those infected started to drop going into summer.

Early on in the year, I had a chance to go to be a part of my friends’ engagement and spent a few days gorging myself on drinks and crepes at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. We stayed at the Secrets Cap Cana Resort & Spa, and although we ended up paying cash for the trip, it was worthwhile to stay with friends for their special celebration.

The most interesting thing about the Secrets resort is that it shares a beach with the Hyatt Ziva and the Hyatt Zilara Cap Cana where I traveled in January 2020 just a few short months before COVID-19 took hold.

As winter started to fade and the summer warmth started to take hold, most of my time and focus shifted to a wedding. For me, the biggest win of the year was being able to host our dream wedding without anyone getting sick and still being able to go on a honeymoon trip.

We hosted our wedding in my hometown of Cincinnati at a brewery. Although our original honeymoon plans had to change slightly, we were able to utilize a flight credit from last year’s cancellations to travel from New York through Mexico City and on to Peru in business class for less than $500 each.

We spent the first two nights of the trip at the Park Hyatt New York booked on points. From there, we flew on Aeroméxico to Mexico City and on to Lima, Peru, where we spent a night at the airport hotel. Then in the morning, it was on to Cusco, Peru, where we spent six nights exploring the Incan ruins, the Sacred Valley and, of course, Machu Picchu.

 

Machu Picchu, Peru
Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Sacred Valley of the Incas in Peru

We utilized five free night certificates from last year’s Marriott Bonvoy Boundless® Credit Card sign-up bonus for stays in Peru along with a costly overnight stay in the Skylodge Adventure Suites that was 1,000% worth it.

To wrap up the year, we went to Hawaii for the first week of December almost entirely on points to relax a little after an adventurous honeymoon. We utilized our Southwest Companion Pass that is expiring at the end of this year along with Hyatt points to travel to Kauai where our only expenditures were food, the car rental and souvenirs.

Looking forward to 2022, we have a trip to Los Angeles planned for January, a trip to Las Vegas in October, and we are trying to figure out how to book a round-the-world-trip around two full time work schedules. This was originally planned to be our honeymoon trip but now has turned into a one- or two-year anniversary trip.

We’re also considering a trip to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup 2022, and I’m sure we’ll find a way to sprinkle in one or two weekend trips, too. Most of all, we’re hoping that the world continues to open up as we hopefully approach an end to the pandemic.