When planning a trip, a trip to a specific location is usually booked at the same time.
Now more and more people are booking two or even three trips in the same travel period in case Covid-related issues ruin their preferred plans.
The trend is known as “trip stacking” and involves booking a more aggressive trip – such as overseas or a cruise – backed by a trip that is less likely to be canceled.
By planning multiple trips to different geographic areas, travelers can also choose the trip that suits their level of comfort closer to the time of departure.
Trip stacking is “a pretty new trend,” says Misty Belles, executive director of the luxury travel network Virtuoso. She estimates it started between May and June after the US got vaccinations and Europe started reopening.
The trend took off in the summer when new variants of Covid-19 began to disrupt travel plans around the globe, said Joshua Bush, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based travel company Avenue Two journeys.
On the whole, the cancellation policy has remained very flexible so that the traveler has this choice. But as travel gets bigger and bigger, you can find that this changes a little.
Managing Director, Virtuoso
He told CNBC that sometimes its customers would wait six to nine months to travel only to ruin their plans just before their departure date.
By early August, more than 50% of Americans had canceled or changed their travel plans due to the delta variant, according to a survey by finance website FinanceBuzz.
One of Bush’s clients booked a Silverseas cruise from Athens to Rome in October and a 10-day trip to Hawaii over the same period, he told CNBC.
“The thing is … actually that Hawaii could be a bit more of a challenge than actually going to Greece, “he said, referring to the announcement made last week by Hawaii Governor David Ige that travelers should stay away from the state.
Joshua Bush, CEO of Avenue Two Travel, said his company booked many travelers to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico this year.
Danny Lehman | The image database | Getty Images
Mexico and the Caribbean islands also serve as a safety net for Americans because they’re easy to get to, Bush said.
Belles told CNBC about a traveler who booked a trip to Portugal before the reopening, with Florida as a backup plan. Portugal opened on time and the traveler could start the European trip. She put off the Florida trip until the end of the year.
“By and large, the cancellation policy has remained very flexible, giving the traveler that choice,” said Belles. “But as travel gets bigger, you can find that that changes a little.”
Trip stacking works for some in the industry: travelers are more likely to get their vacation, and travel agents can make more money from it. The Australian agency magazine “Travel Talk” published an article on the trend this month entitled “What is trip stacking? – and how can you make money with it?“
But the hotels, cruise lines, and tour operators on the receiving end of the cancellations may not have that much to gain.
Bush said to protect his company’s relationship with its supplies, concurrent trips are only booked for a “small group of our very best customers.” Many travelers postpone their trips instead of canceling their trips, he said, and in other cases, cancellations are filled in by other travelers booking at the last minute.
“Thirty percent our bookings are made within five days of departure, which is absolutely unheard of, “he said.” Even in-house at our own company, we can replenish many of them. ” [canceled] Reservations. “
Bush said he had trained his agency’s 115 advisors across the country on “how to do this ethically”. He added that, in his opinion, the negative impact will not be big enough to cause hotels to change the flexible cancellation policy that made the trend flourish in the first place.
Jason Friedman, the executive director of the hotel consulting firm JM Friedman & Co., said that while trip stacking can be annoying for hotels, it’s “part of the game”.
“If a hotel wants to extend a 24-hour toll-free cancellation policy, a guest booking and subsequent cancellation within the policy is fine,” he said.
But the guests also have to obey the rules, Friedman said. He called it “a one-way street” and said guests would also have to accept cancellation fees and non-refundable deposit policies.
Trip stacking will cause airline and hotel prices to rise for everyone.
He differentiates trip stacking from “ghost bookings” – which he described as “bored people in lockdown, having fun” who book trips because there are no penalties for doing so.
“There are people who have no intention of finalizing the booking,” he said. “That’s wrong.”
Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of travel technology company HotelPlanner, said that while trip stacking makes sense, it can also have pitfalls.
“Travelers also need to know that as opposed to three or four dinner reservations and then deciding hours in advance where to go based on appetite or convenience, travel stacking causes airline and hotel prices to rise for everyone,” he said. “In contrast to restaurants, hotels and airlines raise their prices with increasing occupancy.”
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He said he doesn’t expect trip stacking to be popular with hotels.
“Some hotels can now start charging a non-refundable booking fee in advance – as airlines do – and others can simply abolish their cancellation policy altogether to avoid double bookings,” said Hentschel.
To minimize the likelihood of hotels reacting in this way, there is something travelers can do, according to Hentschel.
“Travelers using their trip stack or arbitrage options should remember the customary courtesy of canceling all reservations and bookings as early as possible,” he said. “That’s the socially responsible thing.”
Meanwhile, Bush said he believed trip stacking is a short-term tactic that will end with the pandemic.
“If we do what Dr. Fauci said yesterday and get vaccinated, we’ll be out in the spring,” he said.