What is trip stacking and why do travelers book multiple trips?
Travel planning usually involves booking a trip to one location at a time.
Now, a growing number of 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 called “trip stacking,” and it involves booking a more aggressive trip – for example, going abroad or taking a cruise – that is supported by a trip that is less likely to be canceled.
By planning multiple trips to different geographies, travelers can also choose the trip that suits their comfort level closest to the time of departure.
Travel stacking is “a fairly new trend,” said Misty Belles, managing director of luxury travel network Virtuoso.. She estimates that it started between May and June, after the vaccinations rolled out in the United States, and Europe was starting to reopen.
The trend accelerated during the summer when new variants of Covid-19 began to disrupt travel plans around the world, said Joshua Bush, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based travel company. Avenue Two Travel.
He told CNBC that his clients would sometimes wait six to nine months to travel, only to see their plans dashed as their departure dates approach.
By early August, more than 50% of Americans had canceled or changed their travel plans due to the delta variant, according to a survey conducted by the financial site FinanceBuzz.
One of Bush’s clients booked a Silverseas cruise from Athens to Rome in October and a 10-day trip to Hawaii during the same period, he told CNBC.
“The thing is … actually Hawaii could be a bit more of a challenge than going to Greece, ”he said, referring to Hawaii Governor David Ige’s announcement last week that travelers should stay away from the state.
Joshua Bush, CEO of Avenue Two Travel, said his company has booked many travelers to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico this year.
Danny Lehman | The image bank | Getty Images
Mexico and the Caribbean islands also serve as safety net destinations for Americans because they are easy to get to, Bush said.
Belles told CNBC about a traveler who booked a trip to Portugal before it reopened, with Florida as a back-up plan. Portugal opened in time, and the traveler was able to make the European trip. She postponed the trip to Florida until the end of the year.
“Overall, cancellation policies have remained very flexible, allowing the traveler to have this choice,” Belles said. “But as the trips start to come back in a more complete way, you might see that change a bit.”
Travel stacking works for some in the industry: Travelers are more likely to take their vacations, and travel companies can make more money when they do. Travel Talk’s Australian magazine this month ran a trending article titled “What is path stacking – and how can he make you money?“
But the hotels, cruise lines and tour operators affected by cancellations may not have as much to gain.
Bush said to protect his company’s relationship with its supplies, concurrent trips were only booked for a “small group of our best customers.” Many travelers postpone rather than cancel their trips, he said, and in other cases, cancellations are met by other travelers who book at the last minute.
“Thirty percent of our bookings take place within five days of departure, which is absolutely unprecedented, “he said.” Even internally within our own company, we are able to accommodate a lot of these [canceled] Reservations. “
Bush said he had trained his agency’s 115 advisers across the country “on how we do business ethically.” He added that he didn’t think the negative impact would be significant enough to cause hotels to change the flexible cancellation policies that allowed the trend to flourish in the first place.
Jason Friedman, Managing Director of the Hospitality Consulting Firm JM Friedman & Co., said that while stacking travel can be boring for hotels, it’s “part of the game.”
“If a hotel wants to extend a 24-hour penalty-free cancellation policy, there is nothing wrong with reserving a guest and then canceling as part of the policy,” he said.
But guests must also play by the rules, Friedman said. Calling it “a two-way street,” he said guests also had to accept cancellation fees and non-refundable deposit policies.
He distinguishes the stacking of trips from “ghost bookings” – which he described as “annoyed people locked out having fun” who book trips because there is no penalty for doing so.
“There are people who don’t intend to complete the reservation,” he said. “It’s wrong.”
Tim Hentschel, co-founder and CEO of travel technology company HotelPlanner, said that while stacking trips makes perfect sense, there can be pitfalls.
“Travelers should also be aware that, unlike making three or four reservations for dinner and then deciding on hours before where you want to go based on appetite or convenience, stacking trips will lead to increased travel costs. airline and hotel prices for everyone, ”he said. “Unlike restaurants, hotels and airlines increase their prices as occupancy levels increase.”
He said he didn’t expect the travel stack to be popular with hotels.
“Some hotels can now start charging a non-refundable reservation fee up front – as airlines do – and others may simply eliminate their cancellation policies altogether to deter people from doubling bookings,” he said. Hentschel said.
To minimize the chances of hotels reacting this way, Hentschel said there is one thing travelers can do.
“Travelers who ‘stack trips’ or arbitrate their travel options should remember the common courtesy to cancel all bookings and reservations as early as possible,” he said. “It is the socially responsible thing to do.”
In the meantime, Bush has said he believes stacking travel is a short-term tactic that will end with the pandemic.
“If we do as Dr Fauci said yesterday and get vaccinated, we will be out by spring,” he said.