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2020 Year in Review

I’ve traditionally always written a Year in Review post at the end of every year, where I usually look back on some of my most memorable trips, the best flight and hotel experiences of the year, the best points redemptions, etc. – and invite you to share with me your own.

This year, I debated whether or not to put together the usual Year in Review, because after all it really hasn’t been a great year for travel of any kind.

But in the spirit of keeping an optimistic outlook as we leave 2020 behind us, I’ve decided to proceed with a brief summary to draw a line under this rather dreary year as we look forward to the next.

Best Overall Trip

For me, the best overall trip of 2020 is a no-brainer: a trip to the Maldives in early March, where Jessy and I got engaged under the pink Maldivian sunset on the deck of the JW Marriott Maldives’s Duplex Overwater Villa.

This was the culmination of over five years of effort in collecting points and maximizing my rewards – and the craziest thing is that if the trip had been scheduled for merely one week later, there’s a good chance it wouldn’t have happened at all.

It’s really thanks to an unbelievable stroke of serendipity that I got to take one of the most memorable and defining trips of my life.

A happy fiancée at the JW Marriott Maldives

On either side of our unforgettable JW Marriott Maldives stay, I’m also very proud that I had been able to put together a trip that involved Cathay Pacific First Class on the outbound and the Etihad A380 Apartments on the return. In terms of lining up all the puzzle pieces perfectly for a very special trip, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to match this one in the future!

(Again, the timing here was also impeccable now that I look back, because Jessy and I were on one of Etihad’s last Airbus A380 services to London before those flights were down-gauged or cancelled, and the A380 would be eventually be grounded indefinitely.)

Best Flight Experience

Besides Cathay First and the Etihad Apartments, I was also lucky enough to check off Korean Air 747 First Class from my aspirational travel bucket list in early 2020, as well as sampling two of the world’s best business class products in quick succession in the form of ANA 777 new business class and Qatar Airways Suites.

However, if I had to pick one single best flight experience, it would still have to go to the Emirates First Class extravaganza that I took in November 2020 as part of my first international trip of the pandemic era.

I realize it’s not the right type of trip for everyone, but for me, there’s something beautiful about the very idea of flying Emirates First Class flights three times for the price of one.

Emirates 777 New First Class

I think it perfectly encapsulates one of the things I love most about Miles & Points: the fact that it lets us do things that appear downright ridiculous at first glance, things that uninitiated travellers could only dream of, things that we’ll look back on fondly for the rest of our lives.

I know many of us are sitting on a significant balance of Alaska miles, trying to figure out the best way to redeem them before Alaska joins Oneworld in March 2021 and the program potentially undergoes negative changes. 

With limited award space in Cathay Pacific First Class and a technical glitch blocking awards in Japan Airlines First Class at the moment, the Emirates First Class three-for-one deal will certainly make for a journey you’ll never forget if you can rack up the required balance of 150,000 Alaska miles by March 31.

Best Points Redemption

Speaking of redemption sweet spots… the Emirates one was certainly a tremendous use of my Alaska miles, and I have absolutely no regrets about reducing my Alaska balance to virtually zero after booking that behemoth of a trip.

I’ve also made several bookings under Aeroplan sweet spots, both old and new, for travel in 2021: I’ve arranged one more Aeroplan Mini-RTW under the old rules for 150,000 miles to Africa and South East Asia, as well as a couple of bookings under the new sweet spots like Vancouver–Sydney direct or a low-cost creative trip to South America.

And going back to the JW Marriott Maldives, paying 340,000 Bonvoy points for a five-night stay was a fantastic deal compared to the nightly cash rate of US$1,000+, and certainly made me feel rewarded for my loyalty to Marriott at a time when I do in fact pay cash for many hotel stays (unlike the good old days back in 2017–18, when the old SPG program was still around and it was a lot easier to rack up points for free nights). 

However, I wouldn’t call any of these the best-value points redemption that I made in 2020. That honour goes to the British Airways Avios multi-carrier award, which I successfully tested out earlier this year and came to realize the sheer value that lies in this redemption. 

I never managed to take the second flight of that itinerary, though, since Euro 2020 was postponed until next summer. I guess I’ll be giving the Avios multi-carrier award another go in 2021 and hoping for a better outcome!

Who Are You? 2020 Prince of Travel Site Demographics

It’s nice to take a moment and look back fondly on some of the trips I was able to take in early 2020 before the pandemic set in. At the same time, so many of us not only had to cancel some very carefully planned Aeroplan Mini-RTWs this year, but also faced much more significant challenges in our lives than travel being put on hold, too.

With that in mind, I wanted to shift gears a bit and bring a new angle to the 2020 edition of the Year in Review.

I’ve enabled the Demographics tracker on our analytics dashboard this year, which gives me some insight as to the demographic makeup of Prince of Travel’s site visitors in 2020, and I thought it’d be interesting to share and get some of your takes on it. 

First up, geography.  68% of website visitors are based in Canada, with 16% from the US, and the remainder scattered across the rest of the world. 

The topics we cover are definitely very North America-centric, and even though I’d like Prince of Travel to become more global in the long run, I can really only see the US proportion growing larger rather than the other countries.

If we look at geography by Canadian province, 47% of visitors are from Ontario, 21% from BC, 12% from Alberta, and 10% from Quebec – with the other provinces making up the remainder. 

When you account for each province’s population, the stats align very well with the expectation. Quebec’s percentage is a bit lower than their population would suggest, presumably due to the lack of French-language content (but we have Milesopedia for that). 🙂

Then let’s look at the age profile of website visitors. The predominant category is the 25–34 age range, making up 26.70% of the total. 

I’m not surprised by this; generally, young professionals who are hungry to see the world while operating on a modest but ever-growing budget are naturally likely to be attracted by what we do.

That’s followed by the 35–44 age range with 20.22% of the total: more established folks, often with young families, looking to leverage their spend and credit health to maintain their appetite for travel.

The rest is pretty evenly divided between the older demographics, although I’m a little surprised that the 18–24 age range only counts for 7.89% of the total. I need to do some more work attracting the younger folks to the game! 

Finally, the gender breakdown is what I’m most mystified by. 69.5% male and 30.5% female: what is it about Miles & Points that makes it a male-dominated pursuit? 

(Not just here at Prince of Travel, but generally speaking on many other sites and communities across the space too.)

Is it the fact that the analytical side of Miles & Points (crunching the numbers, tracking your results, etc.) tends to attract more men than women, perhaps because men are more commonly encouraged towards analytical pursuits from a young age?

Or could it be that the desire to optimize points towards one’s travel goals is closely aligned with the qualities of ambition and aspiration, which society generally encourages more in men compared to women?

I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below. Regardless of the underlying reasons, one thing is clear: women who are passionate about travelling the world on points – we need more of you! 😉

Top 10 Articles on Prince of Travel

I’ll conclude with a little bit of a summary for the website itself.

2020 was easily the most challenging year of Prince of Travel’s existence. The industry-wide cratering of website traffic in March and April was the first major external shock that I’ve had to contend with in over three years of running the site.

Thankfully, persistence paid off throughout the harder months, and things have recovered fairly well since then. And even though I’ve deferred many of the grand plans I had originally envisioned for 2020 into future years, I’m still proud to have launched our new-look website and our membership program on Patreon this year.

I’ll leave you with a look at 10 of the most-read articles on Prince of Travel over the past year:

  1. Air Canada Introduces New eUpgrades for Aeroplan Members

  2. Air Canada’s New Aeroplan: Everything You Need to Know

  3. The New Aeroplan Credit Cards by TD, CIBC, and American Express

  4. New Aeroplan Credit Card Offers by TD, CIBC, and American Express (75K Points, Buddy Pass, and More!)

  5. A Newbie’s Guide to Miles & Points

  6. Getting US Credit Cards for Canadians [2020]

  7. Analyzing the New Aeroplan Flight Rewards

  8. Head-to-Head: Amex Platinum Card vs. New Premium Aeroplan Cards

  9. American Express Credit Card Flowchart

  10. New Aeroplan: What to Book Before November 8

 

After a clean sweep of the 2020 Prince of Travel Awards, it should come as a surprise to no one that the new Aeroplan program has dominated the news cycle this year, which was very much my expectation going into 2020.

The week of August 11, in particular, saw major interest in all of the new articles surrounding the details of the soon-to-be-relaunched Aeroplan.

However, I’m a little surprised that the announcement of the new eUpgrades ended up taking top spot, since I wouldn’t really say it’s the most interesting part of the new program to me. But hey, the people want what the people want – and there’s no doubt that the eUpgrades are still a bit of a mysterious nut to crack!

There’s little time to dwell on the past, though, because 2021 promises to be a defining year for the recovery in global travel.

New developments, products, airline partners, award charts, welcome bonuses, and optimal strategies will be coming at us thick and fast, and I look forward to being here to guide you every step along the way.

Conclusion

2020 may not have turned out the way most of us had envisioned at the start, but it’s finally time to draw a line under the year and look ahead at 2021.

Were you fortunate enough to take a few trips in the early months of 2020 that you can look back on fondly? Or was this year more about cancelled trips and fighting for refunds than the usual joyful emotions we typically associate with travel? 

And as a reader of Prince of Travel this year, what do you make of the overall site demographics that we’ve collected, and how do you fit in? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

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13 Comments
  1. Kyrie English

    Ricky, what analytics tool did you use to track gender and age?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Google Analytics.

  2. Mario

    We were fortunate enough to take a trip last March just before the outbreak. We spent six fun filled days at The Ritz Carleton, Key Biscayne. This was my first experience at the Ritz. My elite status with Marriott was Titanium at the time so we enjoyed all the perks including a very elaborate breakfast. We were even served sparling wine at check in. I have since been demoted to gold status so I’ll be looking forward to registering for a platinum challenge as soon as we’re vaccinated.
    Thanks for all your good work Ricky. Best wishes to you and Jessy!

  3. murrayf

    As part of the sub 1% of your readers from New Zealand and alas over 50 what keeps you on my must read list is the intellectual depth of Your writing. Your analysis is great and trip reports make me salivate. Top read for me was getting USA credit card which I will try this year. The idea of Syd to jfk providing I can do a stopover in auh is something i hope to do post June . Good work and enjoy married life in course

  4. Richard

    Ricky, how did you get YVR-SYD direct to be a sweet spot for the new aeroplan, it is over the 7,500 mile band. BNE and AKL are less than 7,500. Am I missing something?

    1. Ricky YVR

      BNE and AKL are even better sweet spots. I consider SYD direct for <80,000 points and no fees to be a sweet spot in comparison to the old program, when it was 80,000 miles + $500 in fees.

  5. tom

    in my case the male being the search and book guy (using Ricky’s tips and point accumulation advice) is a way we both do things we do best, she fine tunes and does more of the logistics of the packing, taxis, etc, of the trips and i get to take the blame if anything goes wrong. Maybe a reason for the male female % spread

  6. BG

    Wonder why you picked BA over Cathay for RTW? Same alliance, seems to have similar charges, stops, etc.

    1. Ricky YVR

      If you need to ask, you need to study the sweet spots further. 😉

  7. Fernand

    The minuscule bonuses on the new Aeroplan cards was probably the biggest disappointment (other than « no travel », obviously). I was awaiting 50k+ on the mid level cards.

    Most of us have quite a few points, just waiting to be used – so that would be a positive, as we might be able to capitalize before next NYE !

  8. AllanIceman

    I did manage to squeak in a mRTW in feb-mar this year. YYZ-LAX-TPE-HKG-FRA-LIS-YYZ. 2 days after I got back, ON went into lockdown. Been collecting a waiting for some light at the end of the tunnel to make my next booking for 2021.

  9. Bruce K.

    I had never heard of the miles and points activity until my son directed me to Ricky’s web site and then introduced me to him. So, I want to start the new year with a heart felt “Thank You” to Ricky for opening the door to some wonderful travel experiences. First class hotels, business class flights that I thought would never be within my reach, and the benefits from Marriott’s Platinum Elite status. It has been quite a ride for someone who has been involved in this activity for less than three years. So, as we look forward to the travel landscape improving in 2021, I want to give credit to the person who has made it possible for so many of us. Thank you Ricky, and may 2021 be a great year for you, Jessy, and all of your travel devotees.

  10. Josee

    The age profile over 45 seams to be 50% ? maybe just a little more work on us;)

Ricky Zhang

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