The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the travel industry in countless ways.
As people began to emerge from lockdown, there was growing interest in campervan trips and road trips to allow distance from others. National parks began to see record numbers of visitors and vacation rentals were in high demand. Then came talk of the “revenge trip”, with the rollout of vaccines and renewed optimism about exploring the world again.
Today, with viral variants and outbreaks around the world continuing to shape people’s travel plans, another practice has taken hold: cumulative travel.
What is trip stacking?
“Travel stacking is a coined term for designing a solid travel backup plan,” travel blogger Rocky Trifari told HuffPost. “This practice has grown in popularity amid the pandemic due to ever-changing travel restrictions surrounding global travel. Even the US State Department recommends developing a backup plan.
Basically, trip stacking refers to the strategy of booking all your reservations ― from flights to accommodations to restaurants and activities ― for multiple vacations during the same time period. This way you have backup options if something disrupts your main travel plans.
“By booking two or more trips, it becomes much easier to avoid getting stuck when sudden travel restrictions necessitate a last-minute change of plans,” Trifari noted.
Why is it popular now?
While highly prepared travelers may have indulged in this practice prior to 2020, the volatility of pandemic life and the increased flexibility of travel providers has made stacking travel quite attractive.
“The pandemic has forced the travel industry to be more flexible with bookings,” said Jessica van Dop DeJesus, founder and editor of The Dining Traveler. “For example, many airlines no longer offer change fees and hotels offer free cancellation up to the last minute. Since restrictions can change overnight, it’s good to have a plan. backup, especially if your vacation days are not flexible.
Vacation time is precious, especially at times like these when so many workers feel exhausted. With COVID creating a high risk of disruption to travel plans, people don’t want to waste the time they have booked for a special trip.
“Rather than placing all their vacation eggs in one basket, travelers are hedging their bets by planning multiple trips at once,” said Katie McIntosh, travel blogger and creator of The Katie Show. “For me, it shows how important holidays are for people, maybe more than ever.”
Ben Julius, founder of travel platform Tourist Journey, pointed out that there is no shortage of destinations people want to visit. There’s been plenty of time to imagine trips on the to-do list as people curl up at home in 2020 and 2021.
“People have become desperate to travel after essentially missing out on two years of travel,” he said. “They are determined to travel more than ever and are not ready to let anything get in the way of their next vacation.”
What should people know about trip accumulation?
Before you jump into trip stacking, there are a few things to keep in mind. One is the question of how likely you are to even vacation in either destination once your travel time arrives.
Booking multiple trips to the same foreign country will not be helpful if border restrictions or quarantine requirements are put in place just before your visit. And it’s probably best not to plan in two different countries that aren’t yet open to foreign travelers, even if that’s expected to change before your trip.
“For trip stacking to work properly, the person booking the trip needs to make a bet on where they think they can travel at some point in the future,” Triafri said. “It should be noted that as travel restrictions ease and become less frequent, the need to stack travel becomes much less prudent.”
It is also crucial to pay close attention to the conditions of all your reservations as you make them.
“Make sure your flight and hotel reservations are fully refundable,” Trifari said. “Read the fine print. You wouldn’t want to end up paying the price for two getaways when you can only enjoy one!”
Travel blogger and TV host La Carmina takes advantage of free cancellation offers on booking sites when she spots good deals.
“I will lock a hotel and cancel it free of charge before the deadline if I change the trip,” she explained. “Just be sure to write the cancellation date on your calendar and set an alert, so you don’t miss it and get charged. I recommend canceling at least a day before the end of the time, just in case you misunderstand the time difference or cut off time, or the cancellation is not done immediately.
Should we all combine our trips?
If you can meet the change and cancellation deadlines, travel experts back this decision to ensure you can truly get away from it all when your vacation days roll around.
“With a multitude of pandemic X-factors that can emerge – from staff shortages, airline cancellations, cruise outbreaks, delayed test results, to the country changing mask laws – it makes sense to ‘Have one or even two backup travel plans (foreign and local) if you’re determined to travel,’ said Stephanie Huston, travel blogger at Steph Explores The World.
As long as airlines, hotels and tour operators maintain their flexible pandemic policies, you can also take advantage of the options they offer. Or find another way to give yourself options.
“Personally, rather than booking two different trips, I’ll book the trip I really want to take and make sure I have solid insurance,” said Claire Summers, the travel blogger behind Claire’s Itchy Feet. “Then I’ll make a plan B for a vacation closer to home in case something happens and I can’t go. I will normally choose somewhere I can drive, rather stay, choose accommodation and save it as a favourite, or book with free cancellation.”
Konrad Waliszewski, co-founder and CEO of Tripscout, doesn’t think the travel hoarding trend is here to stay in the long term — at least not for most travelers.
“We’ve just had two years of reduced options and great unpredictability with ever-changing travel restrictions,” he said. “Travellers want to make up for lost time and overcompensate after burning themselves out again and again for trips they’ve been desperately looking forward to.”
“Cumbling trips is a great way to give yourself some flexibility and mental assurance that you will travel,” he added, “but I certainly expect that trend to die down soon once all the remaining travel restrictions will have been lifted and we will have fully settled into a normalized post-pandemic world.