2020: My Travel Year in Review

It being the last day of 2020, it is time to look back at last year and post some cool statistics and highlights in this 2020 travel year review.


Needless to say, 2020 was all about the corona virus pandemic, which is likely to still be a major factor for at least the first half of 2021.

As generally I have lots of flexibility in life and I never tend to book a long time in advance, having always preferred some flexibility and more important spontaneity, I still managed to travel quite a bit this year.

That said, COVID-19 did impact my travels as well as there were some months in which I was not able to take any trip at all due to strict local lockdowns. The effects of the corona pandemic can clearly be seen when I compare my flights and travels in 2020 with 2019.

Flight logbook

One of my favourite aviation websites is Flightradar24. The general website is already excellent as it allows you to track planes, which can be super useful too in case you want to track your incoming flight which you are about to take, or to look at flight history to see the general reliability of an airline on a certain route.

Flightradar24 also allows you to make your own flight logbook on their sub-page called myFlightradar24, which was previously known as Flightdiary.

When I put all my flights of this year into the logbook, it looks like this on a map. The orange lines are routes I have flown only once (one-way), the red lines I have flown twice (two one-ways or a return flight) while the purple lines are routes I have flown multiple times this year, most of them being feeder flights to major hubs (such as Bucharest – Paris on Air France).

flight logbook 2020 travel year review
All the flights I took in 2020. ©Flightradar24/Paliparan

Statistics for nerds

There are some interesting – and telling – statistics when looking at the flights I took in 2020.

– In total I took 47 flights in 2020. Compared to 2019, this is down by 25 flights, which corresponds to a 34.7% decrease in flight activity.

– My flights in 2020 totalled 47,706 miles, compared to 73,509 miles in 2019. Bizarrely enough, this is almost a similar decrase (35,1%) as the decrease in the number of flights I took.

– In three months (April, May, December) I logged zero flights at all. The cause of this is quite obvious, as in April and May we had a strict local lockdown. At first we weren’t even allowed to leave our own neighbourhood, while later on we were still restricted to our municipality boundaries. Normally in December, I would visit family for Christmas, but travel restrictions/quarantine rules made that impossible.

– Of my 47 flights, 34 were in economy class and 13 were in business class (72.3 percent versus 27.7 percent).

– Of my 47 flights, I managed to snag a window seat 42 times (89.4%), opting for an aisle seat for only 5 flights. The fact that I didn’t have to endure a middle seat meant that 2020 wasn’t all that bad when it came to flying!

– My top airline was Air France with 12 flights, which is quite logical given I actually prefer flying with them within Europe and hold platinum status with Flying Blue, giving me quite some elite perks. This was followed by Wizz Air with 9 flights, which isn’t much of a surprise either given their strong flight network from my home airport of Bucharest (OTP) and cheap flight prices. Aegean Airlines came in third with 6 flights.

– In total I flew with 13 different airlines, of which 2 airlines I never flew before. One of them was an excellent flight with Japan Airlines in business class on the Boeing 787, while the other was a short hop from Luang Prabang to Bangkok on Thai Smile in economy.

– My longest flight this year was on Turkish Airlines from Tokyo Narita to Istanbul (5,586 miles). The shortest flight was Milos to Athens (91 miles).

flight statistics 2020 travel year review
Some more flight statistics for 2020. ©Flightradar24/Paliparan

Airports and countries

Of course, there are more fun statistics when it comes to airports and countries!

– In total, I visited 30 different airports, of which a whopping 15 airports were completely new to me. These are Eilat’s new airport (ETM), Jeddah (JED), Vientiane (VTE), Luang Prabang (LPQ), Tokyo Narita (NRT), Podgorica (TGD), Memmingen (FMM), Naxos (JNX), Kastellorizo (KZS), Rhodes (RHO), Hamburg (HAM), Porto (OPO), Milos (MLO), Malmo (MMX) and Stockholm Arlanda (ARN).

– In 2020, I managed to visit two new countries: Laos and Japan, bringing the amount of countries visited to 77 (officially) or 80 (when including some territories/countries not universally recognised).

tokyo japan
Japan was one of the new countries which I managed to visit in 2020. ©Paliparan

Travel highlights

This year, there are two highlights which stand out. First of all, I made a trip to Laos in February just before corona became a global pandemic.

I absolutely loved my stay in Laos as I really managed to slow down and relax. On the same trip, I also visited Tokyo, which was such an amazing experience as well that I really want to come back and see more of Japan.

The island hopping trip I made this summer in Greece was also special as I saw so many gorgeous places without having to face the tourist masses you would normally encounter during peak holiday season.

Although corona meant that I didn’t manage to take any other long or faraway travel after the Laos trip, I still did enjoy all the other short trips closer to home, whether it was a wine-infused trip to Porto, making a road trip across Transylvania, or visiting Bulgaria.

I also certainly enjoyed visiting old friends in such countries like Sweden, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.

mekong luang prabang sunset laos
Watching the sunset on the mighty Mekong river in Luang Prabang, Laos. ©Paliparan
poznan rynek poland corona
The Rynek (central market square) of Poznan. ©Paliparan
greece flowers bougainvillea naxos town
Exploring the old town of Naxos. ©Paliparan
moeciu de sus romania carpathians travel year review
Romania’s Carpathian Mountains basking in autumn sunlight. ©Paliparan
sifnos church cyclades
Church on the Cycladic island of Sifnos, Greece. ©Paliparan
porto portugal travel year review
The streets of Porto, Portugal. ©Paliparan

A new year

Although when it came to travel, 2020 wasn’t really all that bad for me, I only hope for normalcy to return in 2021. Planning of some these trips was hard, requiring last-minute bookings or even exploiting some (legal) loopholes in travel restrictions.

I absolutely long back to uncomplicated travels where the only thing you have to look up are basically normal entry restrictions and whether you might require a visa. I hate having to check quarantine or self-isolation laws, PCR test demands and other corona restrictions.

Alas, let’s see what 2021 will bring for us all! Have a good celebration tonight at New Year’s Eve, wherever you may are!

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Koen works as a freelance journalist covering south-eastern Europe and is the founding father and editor-in-chief of Paliparan. As a contributor to some major Fleet Street newspapers and some lesser known publications in the Balkans, he travels thousands of miles each year for work as well as on his personal holidays. Whether it is horse riding in Kyrgyzstan’s Tian Shan mountains, exploring the backstreets of Bogotá, or sipping a glass of moschofilero in a Greek beachside taverna, Koen loves to immerse himself into the local culture, explore new places and eat and drink himself around the world.

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