Trip Stacking – thought the term hasn’t made it the urban dictionaries yet, it has quickly become a big trend among travelers and vacationers. The best definition that we’ve seen so far is one in a [CNBC](https://www.cnbctv18.com/travel/explained-when-covid-19-derails-travel-plans-vacationers-resort-to-trip-stacking-10594661.htm) article that defines ‘trip stacking’ as a trend that “involves booking multiple trips to different locations so that travelers have the option to pick what they want closer to the vacation date, based on the ever-changing travel restrictions, reported TravelTalk.”
In the pre-covid times, people used to plan and book their trips one at a time. They used to plan it ahead and make the required reservations, especially for the next major business trip or upcoming vacation. But now thanks to the ever-changing and unpredictable restrictions and regulations that governments impose due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a growing number of people are booking two or even three trips over the same travel period. They fear that Covid-related problems could ruin their preferred trip, and plan ahead to book alternatives in order not to miss out in case of a travel ban or service cancellation.
Among business travelers, we see the trend particularly among those that travel more frequently. The salespeople, for example, stack multiple meetings prioritizing the destination of their big clients and then back it up with a plan B or even C involving smaller clients or review meetings. Among holiday travelers it involves booking a more aggressive trip — say, going abroad or taking a cruise — that is backed up by a trip or two that’s less likely to be canceled. By planning multiple trips to different geographic areas, travelers also have the choice of picking what suits their comfort level closer to the time of departure.
The trend began sometime around the end of May this year while vaccinations were still being rolled out in the United States, and Europe was beginning to reopen. It gained popularity over the next few months when new Covid-19 variants started to disrupt travel plans again around the globe. Perhaps the most concerning was the news of the Delta variant along with the seasonal slump in travel in the northern hemisphere. Fear of the variant and the possibility of change in travel regulations have prompted travelers to plan more cautiously.
Many would have thought that these factors would dissuade passengers from traveling. And that’s when the trip stacking trends really caught on. Although the uncertainty raised by the new variants prompted some travelers to adopt a wait and watch approach by delaying bookings or opting for flexible tickets, most were not ready to miss out on their time anymore. The trend was further fulled by the airlines reintroducing flexibility for passengers on basic economy class and other restricted fares, who would not normally be allowed to change their tickets.
Bookings have already started to pick up even for 2022. Many travel agents say that bookings created so far this month for travel early next year are up 30 percent compared to the same time in July. This is again made popular due to the flight and hotel cancellation policies that have stayed flexible even after the early pandemic phase. Another major factor that’s prompting travelers to make this choice is the fear of quarantine rules that might be imposed due to Covid-19. Who would want to spend 10 days of a two-week or even month-long trip on quarantine?
Trip stacking also works favorably for travel agents as it allows them to make more money as they book multiple trips for their clients. In most cases, customers are expected to ultimately end up taking most of the stacked trips. What matters is which one is going to be taken over the planned dates. Since most providers are now flexible with changes, the other trips will most likely end up getting postponed rather than canceled in order to ‘save’ the cancellation charges.
For this reason, experts advise corporates and budget travelers thinking of trying this strategy to think twice about the second and third trips in the stack. They need to have a clear plan for what happens to the flight tickets, hotels, and other services that they won’t use. Usually, the passengers are only entitled to a refund if the airline cancels the flight or there is a significant delay. If the cancellation is initiated by the passenger, however, the airlines will typically offer travel vouchers for future use. So the strategy should be clearly planned and executed.
While most standard airlines rely more heavily on business travel, which continues to be growing cautiously, budget airlines are offering direct flights to popular vacation destinations and appeal to casual leisure travelers who are paying out of pocket. These budget airlines are really trying to not only bounce back quicker but really make a play to gobble up market share away from the larger players in their sector, although have not been immune to the challenges the industry is facing.
Even as the prices are expected to fall during the next three months (fall season in the northern hemisphere), it’s expected to hold or go up for sectors that are just being reopened, especially between the West and developing nations of the east. This also means that the prices are expected to go up for hotels and car rentals. Many international destinations still remain closed, so there’s a high demand for what’s open.
Travel insurance providers are another segment that’s getting huge gains from this arrangement. They were considered unnecessary by many corporate and most budget travelers in the past. Today they have become an active purchased item for most travelers either directly from insurance providers or as part of the flight or hotel bookings. It is also being actively recommended and promoted by travel agents, hotels, airlines, and almost every other service provider.
But as businesses across the travel industry continue to struggle to restart and rebuild their workforce, many services including car rentals, transfers, airport assists, etc are still being cut back and limited. Many of these service counters in airports have closed and those that had multiple brands are now operated by one or two providers. There has also been a shortage of rental cars and transfer services in most destinations. These factors need to be carefully considered too by travel managers and travelers while planning their stack.
So, if you’re Trip Staking, understand that you’re planning some trips that aren’t going to happen over the same dates. You’re also having multiple bookings and even deposits with different providers at the same time. Although you can rest assured that you’ll be going at least to anyone place and you will be spending some quality time there. But be mindful of cancellation policies for each portion of each trip, so you can cancel them in time without penalties. Also be considerate, once you’ve finalized a trip it’s good to inform the other providers at the earliest so that they can book those services for someone else.