As with last year, our annual 2021 Year in Review article takes on a more melancholy tone than in years past, as travel continues to be affected by the ongoing global pandemic.
Still, in a year when the big banks’ appetite for all-time-high welcome bonuses was outmatched only by Canada’s appetite for noncommittal travel restrictions, there’s plenty of ups and downs to look back on.
I’ll share with you some of my favourite trips, deals, and redemptions from this past year across myself and the team, before wrapping it up with a bit of a summary for Prince of Travel itself.
Best Overall Trip
I haven’t taken many trips at all this year for obvious reasons, so my favourite would have to be the trip to Calala Island and Nicaragua that Jessy and I embarked on in November 2021.
I’d say there’s two reasons that Calala Island had left such a spell on me. For one, there’s the sheer incredible value of round-trip transfers, gourmet dining, unlimited drinks, and daily activities being included in the points redemption rate of 40,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
In my books, that beats out most of the Marriott Bonvoy high-end redemptions we like to focus on, such as Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai (where drinks aren’t included) and the various Maldives and Bora Bora resorts (where the surf and turf with champagne that we had indulged in on Calala would’ve otherwise run us US$500+).
Then there’s also the fact that I found Calala Island to be perfectly aligned with my ideal style of travel: a certain degree of luxury, sure, but also offering its fair share of adventure and rustic off-the-beaten-path touches in the form of the exhilarating boat transfer and the remote location off the coasts of a somewhat underrated destination like Nicaragua.
I’m thankful I had the opportunity to make Calala Island one of my standout trips of 2021 – via a stroke of good luck, might I add, thanks to reward space on the island opening up only two months in advance – and I look forward to returning at some point in the future.
Best Flight Experience
You already know the answer here, don’t you? 😉
I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to fly Air France La Première on a very cheap US$472.05 one-way fare that I’ve held onto since early 2020 – a story told in nine acts, in case you’ve missed it.
While December 12 and 13 had turned out to be an extremely hectic few days for me – the craziness of which I don’t believe will ever be topped, nor would I like it to be – it was all worth it in the end upon sitting in the BMW car transfer across the tarmac at CDG, indulging in high-end French gastronomy in Seat 1A, and especially experiencing the payoff from the emotional investment of my shenanigans across Western Europe that weekend.
Look forward to the video and review from the La Première experience coming early next year.
Best Points Redemption
Despite Air France coming through for me with an unforgettable First Class flight, that one was ultimately booked with cash under an unlikely set of circumstances. What about my biggest wins when redeeming points?
As mentioned above, Calala Island would be an easy shout, given the sheer value of everything that’s included in your stay for 40,000 Hyatt points per night.
However, there’s no denying that Hyatt points are harder to come by for Canadian-based travellers, and I only managed to book my stay by combining a multi-year process for getting Chase credit cards as a Canadian with buying Hyatt points to top-up.
(Speaking of which, Hyatt’s best-ever points purchase bonus of a 30% discount ends today, and you might want to consider buying some points if you have your eye on any high-value Hyatt stays in 2022!)
I’ll also give an honourable mention here of a trip that I had booked to Songyuan, China under the old Aeroplan program prior to November 2020, which I then parlayed into a one-way Air Canada business class flight from Toronto to Shanghai for my China trip in the spring at an incredible value.
When I think about my best points redemptions for 2021 overall, though, I’ll give the title to a more modest set of bookings that I made very frequently throughout the year: travelling between Vancouver and Toronto as a new Western Canada resident with continued ties on both coasts.
Often times, when I’d look to book a one-way transcontinental business class flight, I’d be asked to pay a staggering 60,000+ or 100,000+ Aeroplan points for a five-hour ride in Air Canada’s lie-flat seats.
That’s certainly a far cry from the 25,000 points one-way that we used to be able to book for under the old program, as long as we were able to find availability.
However, that’s where the “Latitude Attitude” strategy – newly rising in prominence for 2021 – delivered almost every time, without fail.
By taking advantage of our household’s Aeroplan Elite Status and eUpgrade credits (earned thanks to generous promotions like “Spend Your Way to Elite Status”), I was able to book the Economy Latitude fare for not much more than the cheapest Economy Standard amount, and apply 4 eUpgrade credits per direction for an instant upgrade.
Worst case, the “R” space was fully booked up on the flights with lie-flat seats. In that case, I’d book a Boeing 737-8, Airbus A220, or Airbus A321 flight as a backup and then set an alert for “R” space opening up on a widebody.
Combine these strategies with the best practice of booking sufficiently far in advance for peak-season travel (such as when we flew the in-laws over to Vancouver for the holiday season), and the “Latitude Attitude” is my choice for Best Points Redemption of 2021 thanks to its sheer volume of usage alone.
Top 10 Articles on Prince of Travel
I’ll conclude with a little bit of a summary for the website itself.
For those curious, here’s a look at 10 of the most-read blog articles on Prince of Travel over the past year:
- Aeroplan Credit Cards: Convert the Buddy Pass into 30,000 Aeroplan Points!
- Aeroplan’s Flexible Change & Cancellation Policy
- Getting US Credit Cards for Canadians
- Neo Mastercard Launches in Canada
- Crypto.com Visa Card Now Available in Canada
- Buy Aeroplan Points with a Bonus
- Aeroplan Elite Status: Guide to Qualifying & Privileges
- How to Access Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounges
- How Does the Air Canada Buddy Pass Work?
- My Experience Using the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kit
With Air Canada and Aeroplan continuing to remain unchallenged as Canada’s leading loyalty program, it comes as no surprise to see our resources on all of our national carrier’s offerings ranking among the most-read pieces of content – particularly the Buddy Pass conversion opportunity, where no information was ever published by Air Canada or the financial issuers themselves.
Meanwhile, our coverage of the Neo and Crypto.com Visa Cards – which aren’t necessarily central to our Miles & Points strategies as a whole – reflects an undeniable wider interest in newer disruptions in the credit card, prepaid card, and fintech spaces, of which we hope to remain on the cutting edge as we see more and more of these products enter the market.
And finally, a shout-out to our writer T.J. for penning the definitive guide to the Switch Health RT-LAMP Test Kit on the very day that it was released, helping thousands of Canadians embark on smoother international journeys during these challenging times for travellers.
Looking Ahead at 2022
For us here at Prince of Travel, 2021 has been a year of recovering beyond the lows of early 2020 and building momentum for the full resumption of global travel, whenever that may be.
As I look back on the year, it’s apparent to me that we’re in a very different spot in our journey than at the same time last year.
We’ve grown our team significantly since first bringing on Josh Greenberg in January, we’ve launched our own bespoke membership platform, and we’ve hosted our first in-person event of the new era with the Prince of Travel Signature Event Vancouver 2021.
With more offerings, events, new faces, and of course travel, aviation, and Miles & Points content coming thick and fast in 2022, I’m incredibly excited as I look ahead at the new year.
2021 may not have been the year of swift recovery from the pandemic that we all would’ve hoped for, but we’ve at least witnessed the first signs of that recovery and can draw a line under this year in better spirits than we did the last.
Did you embark on any memorable trips this year, despite the challenges that you would’ve necessarily faced? Or have you been holding steady in earning and planning mode, waiting to deploy the points you’ve earned from a wide range of impressive promotions this year for future travel in 2022 and beyond?
On behalf of the entire team here at Prince of Travel, I wish you and your loved ones a happy new year and safe travels in 2022.