trip stacking in yellowstone national park

One epic way to get a nature fix is at Yellowstone National Park. (Photo: Getty Images)

Tips + Trends

Curious About Trip Stacking? Here’s What to Know and Where to Plan Your Next Trip

Ever-changing travel restrictions, closures and Covid protocols have created a topsy-turvy world of uncertainty around travel. Under the looming threat of cancellation, booking a vacation has become fraught with anxiety. That’s why it’s never been more important to have a plan B.

These days, instead of booking just one trip, many travelers are booking two different trips, over the same dates, at once. The trend, known as “trip stacking,” involves booking a “risky” trip A (one that has a chance of being canceled, such as an international cruise) alongside a “safe” trip B (perhaps a road trip close to home) and therefore having a backup plan that’s ready to go.

woman looking at train board
Weigh your options and plan for multiple outcomes. (Photo: Getty Images)

The key to trip-stacking success is to make sure that all your bookings are changeable or refundable — fortunately, those policies are at their most traveler-friendly right now. Considering the financial burden of waiting for a refund, it’s also a good idea to prioritize trips that have low upfront costs. And for the sake of courtesy to travel providers, you should cancel or change your reservations as early as possible so that they can fill your spot.

While your plan A and plan B destinations of course depend on where you’re based, here are some starter ideas for trip stacking over the next few months.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

A Wildlife Watching Trip

Plan A: Tanzania

In Tanzania, the “short rains” season of November to December promises cooler weather and migrating wildebeest herds moving toward the plains of the Serengeti’s southeast, where they calve. Those herds attract predators, so December visitors are also likely to see big cats in action.

Check Tanzania’s entry requirements here.

Plan B: Yellowstone National Park

Certainly, winter in Yellowstone National Park requires a significantly different wardrobe than Tanzania does, but the opportunities for wildlife watching are comparable.

The crowds that clog Yellowstone’s roads in summer have long gone, leaving you with plenty of space to enjoy the spectacle of steaming geysers and free-roaming herds of bison, elk, bighorn sheep and wolves.

Check the U.S.’s entry requirements here.

Go Wine Tasting

Plan A: Maipo Valley, Chile

Backed by towering Andean peaks, Chile’s Maipo Valley is a particularly picturesque spot for a wine-tasting getaway. Famed for its reds and home to some of the best-known names in Chilean wine, from Concha y Toro to Undurraga, the valley makes for an easy day trip from Santiago — if you make it to Chile.

Check Chile’s latest entry requirements here.

wineyard in okangan valley
Try wine tasting domestically or further afield. (Photo: Getty Images)

Plan B: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

One of Canada’s sunniest regions, the Okanagan Valley is quickly making a name for itself as one of the hottest wine regions in North America. Late fall is the perfect time to sip on a pinot noir at a winery, such as Quails’ Gate, that overlooks the picturesque Okanagan Lake or a syrah in the southern, semidesert Osoyoos subregion — try Indigenous-owned Nk’Mip Cellars.

Find Canada’s current entry requirements here.

A Beach Vacation

Plan A: Maldives

U.S. travelers looking for some tropical weather during the winter can do worse than the Maldives, with its white sand beaches, turquoise water and dreamy overwater bungalows. Diving is great at this time of year and promises plenty of whale shark and manta ray spotting.

While the Maldives welcomes foreign tourists, there are entry requirements, which you can find here.

st. regis maldives
Warm weather beckons from near and far. (Photo: Marriott International)

Plan B: Miami

For an easy-breezy winter sun escape, you can’t beat Miami. Hurricane season and summer’s oppressive heat are over, and it’s the season of perfect beach weather, basketball, Art Basel and extravagant New Year’s Eve parties. Also, some of the country’s best snorkeling and diving is just a short road trip away in the Florida Keys.

Check the U.S.’s entry requirements here.

Christmas Markets

Plan A: Germany

Christmas markets are a big deal in Germany, where the medieval squares of cities from Nuremberg to Dresden to Hamburg are dusted with snow and lit up in twinkling fairy lights. Wherever you travel during the festive season, you’ll find a nearby market where you can get your fill of gluhwein (mulled wine), stollen (fruit bread), lebkuchen cookies and Yuletide magic.

Check here for the latest on Germany’s entry restrictions.

germany christmas market
Get into the holiday spirit, wherever you may celebrate. (Photo: Getty Images)

Plan B: Quebec City

If Europe’s ever-changing regulations strike it off the list for a festive getaway, European-accented Quebec City is an excellent substitute. Of course, the flavor here is French rather than German, but the city’s German Christmas Market does a great job of recreating the magic of Germany’s Christmas markets with traditional music and choirs, German treats and plenty of activities for kids.

Find Canada’s current entry requirements here.

To Party

Plan A: Bahamas

Between Boxing Day (December 26) and New Year’s Day, the streets of Nassau typically erupt in a riot of color and sound in celebration of Junkanoo, a spectacular street parade of music, dancing and colorful costumes. Should any events be canceled or scaled back, you can postpone your trip until next year.

Check here for the latest on travel to the Bahamas.

junkanoo bahamas
Celebrate Junkanoo in the Bahamas. (Photo: Getty Images)

Plan B: Accra, Ghana

From December 26 to January 4, Afrochella takes over the Ghanian capital’s El Wak Stadium with a celebration of millennial African culture. The theme for 2021’s celebration is Afrofuturism, which will be brought to life through music, art, fashion and food.

Ghana has been open to foreign visitors. Find out more on entry requirements here.