Take Advantage Of The Extended Companion Pass With These Destinations For Every Season – Forbes Advisor

The Southwest Companion Pass remains one of the best airline perks available. Southwest Companion Pass holders can fly a designated companion with them on any Southwest flight for just the cost of taxes and fees. The benefit applies both to cash flights and flights paid for with Southwest Rapid Rewards points.

Southwest recently extended the expiration date for anyone who earned the 2020 Southwest Companion Pass (excluding promotional Companion Passes) through the end of 2021 to make up for all the lost travel from last year. That means if you earned a Southwest Companion Pass in 2019 or 2020 it likely remains valid all the way through the end of 2021.

On top of that, Southwest has made it even easier to earn a Companion Pass in 2021. All Rapid Rewards members active as of Dec. 31, 2020 automatically receive 25,000 Companion Pass Qualifying Points (CPQPs) in 2021. That means you only need 100,000 CPQPs to earn a Southwest Companion Pass to use through 2022. Don’t forget you can not only earn CPQPs through flying, you can also earn them through welcome bonuses from Southwest cards like the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card and from spending on your Southwest-branded credit cards.

As travel rebounds in 2021, Southwest offers exciting destinations for existing Companion Pass holders to take advantage of the extension or for potential Companion Pass holders to earn some Companion Pass Qualifying Points. Looking for ideas for where Southwest can take you in 2021? Here are some of our favorite destinations for every season of the year.

As with all travel in 2021, be sure to keep local and state regulations in mind. Many states now require a quarantine period either when you arrive or when you return home. An impartial source of information regarding current Covid-19 statistics is available on the Johns Hopkins website. Use this post as inspiration for your future travels if you aren’t comfortable traveling right now. With each season comes a passage of time, and hopefully an improvement in the health situation on the ground.

Winter Destinations for your Southwest Companion Pass

Hit the Slopes in Salt Lake City (SLC) and Denver (DEN)

If you’re looking to hit the slopes, Southwest services two popular ski hubs: Denver (DEN) and Salt Lake City (SLC). The proximity of ski resorts to Salt Lake City (most are within a 40-minute drive) make Salt Lake City a convenient option, especially if you like to try different resorts. You can use points for a vacation rental and resort hop to different mountains. If you own the popular multi-resort Epic Pass you’ll likely be visiting Park City, but you may also want to spend a day checking out other popular Utah ski resorts like Snowbird, which is available through the Ikon Pass (along with a few others in the area).

Denver is a much more well-known ski destination, but that of course comes with crowds. Flying to Denver gives you the ability to hit resorts like Vail, Breckenridge and Keystone (all also on the Epic Pass) which are all in the same general geographic area. If you’re willing to drive further you can visit Aspen, another popular destination amongst skiers and snowboarders. Ultimately, if you’re looking to enjoy some fresh powder this winter, you can rely on Southwest to get you and your companion there for less.

(Tip: Different ski resorts have different policies for the season, be sure to check before you travel. Most require reservations in advance.)

Take a Winter Getaway in Hawaii (HNL, OGG, LIH, KOA)

If you’re looking to visit somewhere warmer, Hawaii has reopened to visitors from the continental U.S. Although you will need to either be tested or quarantine before you reach Hawaii’s tropical shores, Southwest makes it easy to visit with direct flights to Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH) and the big island (KOA) from the mainland. Be sure to check the latest requirements for travel to Hawaii before you depart. Kauai has a “resort bubble” program that could make travel there less stressful than the other islands.

Right now is the perfect time to visit Hawaii due to the lower numbers of tourists. Enjoy beaches, swimming and nature trails with a lot of social distancing. You’ll also find flight and hotel prices to be much lower than average, making it the perfect time to take advantage of your Southwest Companion Pass to fly to paradise.

Spring Destinations for your Southwest Companion Pass

Visit the Most Magical Place on Earth in Orlando (MCO)

Since Disney World reopened last July, crowds have been much lower than normal, making it an ideal time to visit the most magical place on earth. April and May have traditionally been pleasant times to visit Walt Disney World in Orlando (MCO) due to lower crowds and mild weather. Every spring, Disney also celebrates the fan-favorite Epcot Flower and Garden Festival, a food and drink festival celebrating the spring season with beautiful topiaries and colorful flower beds.

Disney World is currently offering aggressive discounts for visits in the Spring of 2021. You can save on your hotels and tickets with Disney’s discounts and save on your flights with the Southwest Companion Pass. If you’re concerned about health and safety, rest assured that Disney World has some of if not the best health and safety protocols of tourist destinations in the U.S. Reservations are required for each park visit, so be sure to plan your park days ahead of time.

Enjoy Gaming and Entertainment in Las Vegas (LAS)

In the springtime, you might want to consider using your Companion Pass for a trip to Las Vegas (LAS). You’ll avoid the summer crowds and, more importantly, the summer heat by going in the cooler months of spring. That will give you the opportunity to explore popular destinations such as Red Rock Canyon and the Hoover Dam. After a day of hiking in the canyons and exploring the surrounding regions, enjoy nightlife and gaming at the casinos on the Las Vegas strip at night. The Las Vegas tourism board has detailed information about casino operations.

Summer Destinations for your Southwest Companion Pass

Hike the Pacific Northwest (SEA, PDX)

The Pacific Northwest gets a bad reputation of being cloudy and rainy, but the region is rewarded for enduring months of gray with delightfully sun-soaked summers. Use your Southwest Companion Pass to fly into Seattle (SEA) or Portland (PDX) and after you’ve finished exploring the cities themselves you can venture out and enjoy all the region has to offer.

You can visit the famous Mt. Rainier, which towers over the whole region. Take one of the many different hikes available which allow visitors to wonder at the natural beauty of the region, like Summerland in Mt. Rainier National Park. If you’re up for a bit more challenging hike boasting breathtaking views consider Dog Mountain near Portland or the Chain Lakes Loop near Seattle. To minimize crowds, avoid the weekends.

Finally, if you like being out on the water, consider taking a whale watching tour on the Puget Sound. The Pacific Northwest is the perfect destination for nature lovers to utilize their Southwest Companion Pass.

Relax on the Beaches of Mexico (CUN, PVR, SJD)

Summer typically is the slowest time for tourists in Mexico, which might be a good thing in 2021. While summer might not be the time to be out hiking and exploring in Mexico, if you enjoy laying out on a beach the Southwest Mexico destinations of Cancun (CUN), Puerto Vallarta (PVR) and Los Cabos (SJD) deserve a look.

You can find all-inclusive resorts like the Hyatt Ziva or the Grand Park Royal Cancun and not have to worry about anything except relaxing on the beach. Or, venture out to visit some of the ruins early in the morning when the weather is cooler and enjoy the beach in the afternoons.

Note that summer is the rainy season in Mexico so you probably want to avoid the month of June, but the hotel discounts might make a trip to the beaches of Mexico a worthy use of your Southwest Companion Pass. Travel insurance is also a good idea, especially when tropical storms are possible. At time of writing, a COVID test is required to get back into the U.S., but over 60% of hotels in the Riviera Maya are set up to help you with this requirement.

Fall Destinations for your Southwest Companion Pass

Take a Fall Foliage Tour of New England (BOS, PVD, MHT, PWM)

Nothing says fall like the vibrant color changes of fall foliage and New England remains one of the best places in the country for “leaf-peeping” tours. Southwest services many destinations in New England including Boston (BOS), Providence (PVD), Manchester (MHT) and Portland (PWM). Visitors can follow regularly updated fall foliage websites to plan the best time to go.

The nice thing about visiting New England for fall foliage is that even if you miss peak colors in one area, you can likely find a nearby location within driving distance that is at its peak. It’s even a good idea to sometimes wait until the very last minute to plan out your driving itinerary to adjust to current conditions. You can of course fly into Boston (BOS) with your Southwest Companion Pass if you’d like to enjoy the big city. But an alternative to consider is to fly into smaller cities like Portland, ME (PWM) and Providence, RI (PVD). Both cities have vibrant art scenes and plenty of activities for children making them solid bases for your fall foliage tours.

St. Louis

St. Louis, MO is an underrated destination for fall foliage that also offers a lot of Southwest flights, perfect for your Southwest Companion Pass. You can enjoy the foliage along the Mississippi River’s riverbank under the Gateway Arch on foot or via riverboat cruise. St. Louis also has lots of fun fall activities including Oktoberfest and Halloween events. Visit Brookdale Farm’s corn maze or enjoy thrills and scares at Six Flags Hallowfest. St. Louis also offers outdoor activities like hiking and outdoor concerts if that’s more up your alley. With so much to offer and beautiful foliage to boot, St. Louis is a hidden gem of a destination, worthy of your Southwest Companion Pass.

Bottom Line

The news of the Southwest Companion Pass extension and the reduced requirements to earn a new Companion Pass have us dreaming of where we can travel in 2021. The best thing about the above destinations? There’s something worthwhile to see during every season and with the Southwest Companion Pass visiting these spectacular destinations got that much easier. Happy travels!

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