Well, things have escalated quickly. France drastically restricted travel to and from the UK, where cases of COVID-19 are surging. Japanese officials have indefinitely extended an entry ban on foreigners. Ireland announced a nightly curfew for hospitality. Internal border restrictions are back in force in Australia. I have a sense of deja vu – here we are again, a similar situation as we were this time last year.
And with the WHO saying Omicron is in 89 countries and cases are doubling every 1.5 to three days if there is community transmission, it doesn’t look like we will be getting out of this situation anytime soon.
The fast-changing regulatory environment we are living in is a nightmare for travellers and the travel industry. But, as I sit in my apartment in my little sunshine bubble in the South of France, I feel I escaped the worst of the travel disruptions the past week or two has thrown at us. How did I do it? With something called Trip Stacking.
What is Trip Stacking?
If you’re a frequent reader of any mainstream media travel columns, you may have come across the term trip stacking – a new trend that started earlier this year, but made headlines this fall. In short, trip stacking is your “plan b” – or even “plan c” – travel plan, except it’s also booked alongside your “plan a”. Essentially, trip stacking is all about attempting to counter pandemic travel disruptions.
Thinking about giving it a try yourself? Here are my recommendations.
- Trip stack with high-risk and low-risk travel plans. Vacations abroad or cruises carry more risk of cancellation these days, and often at a moment’s notice, if borders suddenly shut or quarantines are reintroduced. Having a backup plan of a domestic trip or even staycation potentially has more chances of going through.
- Read the fine print. While cancellation policies are getting more flexible these days, some industry suppliers like hotels are asking for non-refundable payments, especially for rooms booked at a lower rate. Make sure you read all the terms and conditions and choose options that have free cancellation and no upfront payments.
- Keep organized. Planning one trip can be overwhelming let alone two at the same time. Have all your bookings and itineraries in order and in one place. Set reminders on your phone or calendar for the appropriate cancellation time, whether it’s 24- or 48-hours out, so you don’t end up getting charged for the plan b trip you didn’t end up taking.
However, trip stacking doesn’t come without its risks, especially if it catches on as a long-term trend well into next year – and let’s face it, the pandemic isn’t going away anytime soon, so it very well might. Some suppliers may consider charging a non-refundable booking fee upfront, and it could cause fees for things like airplane tickets to go up since they increase their prices as booking levels also go up.
In my situation, I had an inkling that my plans and the event I was due to attend in Berlin would fall through because of climbing Covid cases, so I extended my stay in London for a few extra days so I wouldn’t be left scrambling. An airplane ticket I had to Copenhagen for a trip also didn’t look like it would be happening, so I was able to cancel this and get a full airline credit which I then applied to another journey. When it was clear that the fate of my “plan a” trip was done for, I was able to cancel everything and go forward with my “plan b” which was already booked.
So far, trip stacking has worked out well for me. But what if the problem isn’t making sure your vacation plans – wherever they may be to – go ahead, but getting stuck somewhere and not being able to get back home. With the Canadian Government recently issuing an advisory against all non-essential travel abroad, and recommending Canadian citizens return back home…I can only imagine how this saga may turn out, and I’m worried it’s with cancelled flights, border closures and a quarantine.
Suzanne Sangiovese is Riskline’s Commercial and Communications Director.