Travelers hedge their bets with double bookings

To make sure her plans don’t fall apart, Bethany Corbin, a lawyer in Charlotte, North Carolina, changed the way she books her trips: she books her trips twice.

With international travel becoming increasingly unpredictable due to changing travel restrictions and fluctuating rates of COVID-19 infection, Corbin is not alone. In a practice known as the “trip-stack”, travelers make several bookings for the same period in order to cover their bets.

If a trip is canceled or no longer feasible or desirable, travelers have a viable back-up plan.

“While it’s not that common, we’ve been seeing this trend over the past few months,” said John Lovell, president of Group of travel chefs, the largest network of travel agents in North America. Lovell estimates that this affected less than 5% of their bookings.

The typical booking windows for trips that existed before the pandemic are also changing. Some travelers opt for trips with very short booking windows and others choose long-term bookings, says Clayton reid, CEO of travel marketing firm MMGY Global. This may reflect the gap between travelers who want to book their trips before circumstances change and those who want to wait for the trip to become more predictable.

Then there are the double bookings which just aren’t safe because the travel landscape is so fluid.

Double-booking: Two trips, four itineraries

Bethany Corbin uses two different strategies. “The first is to book overlapping trips for the same period (two different routes on the same dates),” she says. “The second is to book two trips with similar but non-overlapping time periods, knowing that I will only do one.”

Earlier this summer, Corbin had planned a family trip west to visit the national parks. “When we learned that the park was overcrowded due to the closure of many international destinations, we planned another trip to Hawaii and Alaska to give us the opportunity to assess the overcrowding situation, the infection rates. and the weather at each location. ” They ultimately opted for Hawaii and Alaska.

Hoping that COVID-19 would be more under control by the time of her trip, Corbin booked a surprise trip for her mother to India, Nepal and the Maldives for February 2022. As COVID worsened in India, she feared the trip don’t be safe until then. “I decided to book an emergency trip to a closer destination,” she says. So she booked a trip to Costa Rica for the same month.

Plan B: Rx for the desire to travel

Travel blogger Trysta luhanga from Atlanta, Georgia, has been traveling overseas for over eight years. After falling in love with Australia, she had been planning a trip there since July 2020 to visit a friend but was unable to go due to travel restrictions.

“The trip has been postponed twice and will most likely be moved again until the country opens up,” she said. She plans her trips on her own, without the help of an agent, and says she books twice because she doesn’t want to “get stuck at home.” to make sure I have a plan B.

She has visited Mexico four times since March 2020 and still considers it to be her go-to safeguard due to the country’s COVID restrictions. “The airlines have been great in allowing flight changes at no cost,” she said. Instead of a refund, she was only able to get an air loan once. “It was a failure on my part not to read the fine print before purchasing the ticket, but I was able to use the credit on another flight,” she adds.

Traveling with children

Luxury Travel Consultant Terika L. Haynes, CEO of Central Florida Dynamite Travel, has double-booked a number of family trips.

Each family unit included children under 12 who are still not eligible for vaccination. They wanted an alternative in the event of a last minute policy change requiring proof of vaccination for all travelers.

With infection rates on the rise, a family (traveling with children aged 7, 9 and 10) decided to cancel a trip to St. Lucia, preferring to rent a villa with a private pool in Orlando so they could do not. must travel outside of the United States

It is complicated

Although Corbin regularly uses a travel counselor to help her plan, book and coordinate the logistics of her trips, she researches destinations on her own and identifies what she wants to do while there. “Double booking takes time as planning each trip takes effort and research,” she admits.

Working closely with her advisor, she carefully reads the fine print of the cancellation policies in advance. “And while we may lose a small deposit if we cancel, we always buy travel insurance and make our final decisions before final payment is due, usually 60 days before travel,” she says. After the pandemic peaked in January 2021, she discovered that some companies were extending their payment terms, allowing her to make last-minute decisions.

She points out that double-booking flights can be risky if a traveler tries to book duplicate flights on the same airline. “The carrier may report that you already have a conflicting flight itinerary,” she said. “To avoid this, I can use different airlines for each trip or have slightly different dates for each trip in a general time period.”

Due to the complexity of double booking, a DIY approach can lead to costly mistakes. So many travelers turn to travel counselors who are more savvy than they are about the ever-changing policies and restrictions.

“In my over 20 years of experience, we have never stacked trips at this level,” says Tania Swasbrook, luxury travel advisor and vice-president of International Travelworld Group, a Virtuoso agency. “We used to give our clients more than one option, but we never fully planned and booked multiple trips.”

Swasbrook says she does this type of double booking for her “top tier” clients, as they are likely to make the second trip at another time. “For example, when Spain and Portugal were closed but our clients wanted to leave in July, we fully planned their trips, but at the same time we planned a trip to Greece and Turkey, just in case” , she says.

“Yes, it’s double the work so as not to double the monetary reward,” she says. But she sees it as an investment in clients who are often excited to take the second trip when they can. Travel consultant Haynes notes that even supplier call times tend to be much longer than normal right now

A matter of relationships

Not all travel counselors support the practice of double booking, as it takes twice as much (if not more) of their effort. To make up for their extra time, some charge extra for stacked trips. In addition, some advisers are concerned about the negative impact this practice may have on suppliers (hotels, tourist guides, etc.) whose reservations are canceled.

Stéphane Scott, a luxury travel consultant at Protravel International in Chicago, notes that last-minute cancellations can be confusing. “It can mean rooms are empty at the last minute or inventory is not available when we need it most,” he says. “Or a client is forced to book a larger suite just to be close to their meeting, instead of the standard suite they needed.”

This raises the nagging question of ethics. Honesty seems to be the way to go. “We are very transparent with our suppliers and tell them exactly what we are doing and there is a chance that it will not happen,” said Swasbrook. She notes that they are grateful for the transparency and understand why this is happening. Like many travel counselors, she values ​​the strength of her long-term relationships with suppliers as well as her clients.

“I hope this isn’t the new normal, but it’s a sign of the current climate,” she says.

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