For people who love to roam, one of the best parts of traveling is the spontaneity and adventure of it all. When you travel, you don’t always know what is going to happen from one day to the next (especially in the time of the COVID pandemic!)l what great people you are going to meet, or what amazing things you are going to see. So what better way to increase this sense of adventure than by booking a surprise trip?
While people have long been booking a surprise trip for their friends, family, or significant others, these are usually just a surprise for a part of the group. However, in recent years, surprise vacations (as in, vacations that are a surprise for everyone going!) have started to rise in popularity. It is no surprise why. The thought of being able to pack your bags and head to the airport while having no idea where you are going but being sure that everything has already been planned and booked is exhilarating!
To put it into perspective, think about when you were a little kid and your birthday or Christmas was coming up. Imagine the excitement that you felt in the lead-up to Christmas Day wondering what goodies “Santa” had in store for you. Now, who says that only kids should get to feel that? Surprise vacations are kind of like your birthday and Christmas surprise all rolled up in one!
Enjoy the Surprises in Store on a Scavenger Hunt
If you enjoy surprises, you’ll love a scavenger hunt! Whether you’re looking for some city sightseeing, in the mood for a pub crawl, hoping to explore some street art, or want to be spooked on a ghost hunt, you’re bound to find an experience that inspires and excites you! We cover over 400 locations worldwide. Find your next adventure today!
So what is a surprise trip?
Surprise trips are just as you would imagine. They are trips that are planned by a travel agency including flights, hotels, and activities and all you need to do is show up at the airport with your bags and your passport. It is great for people who crave spontaneity and want to put a bit of spice back into their travel life!
Is a surprise trip right for you?
Have you ever felt that weird combination that you have too many choices of places to go yet have no idea where to go? You may even get to the point that there are so many options that you begin to think that whatever you choose will be the wrong one and you start to second-guess yourself. Choice paralysis is a very real thing and can make it surprisingly difficult to make plans. Sadly, in these situations, people often just end up not going anywhere.
Mystery trips are also great for people who love planning absolutely everything in detail. While planning a vacation can feel very exciting sometimes, some of us may find ourselves going a bit overboard and feeling super stressed out as we try to make sure that everything falls perfectly into place during the time that we are supposed to be relaxing. If you have experienced this, it may be time to take a break from your overplanning tendencies and let someone else take the wheel so you can finally relax and enjoy your vacation.
A surprise vacation is a perfect way to overcome choice paralysis and trip planning burn-out knowing that your vacation plans are being put into the expert hands of a travel agent. This can be a huge weight off of your shoulders and will let you really relax and enjoy your trip. However, it is important to keep in mind that a surprise trip isn’t for everyone and it is important to go into it with an open mind about the experience.
If you are a little unsure as to whether or not this is something that is right for you and your travel partners, you can try out one of our great scavenger hunts, found in more than 400 cities around the world, or uncover an experience in one of our scratch-off adventure books, which offer you and your partner or family over 50 challenges and other interactive elements. Either would be a great way to see how everyone handles the element of surprise and could even be used to get everyone excited for your big surprise vacation that is coming up!
What is a surprise travel agency?
Just like there are many different types of travelers, there are also many kinds of surprise travel agencies. Some focus on short, two to three-day weekend getaways around North America focusing on mid-sized cities that you may have never even considered exploring. Meanwhile, other agencies focus on much longer tours that can last upwards of two weeks and include destinations both within the US and to international destinations.
The agencies will generally charge a flat rate based on the duration of the trip and the number of people traveling (there may be a surcharge if you are a solo traveler so make sure to shop around and compare rates) or a percentage of the overall trip budget. This is generally the case with most travel agencies and considering that they normally have access to better rates than the general public does when putting together vacation packages, you usually end up spending roughly the same or just a little bit more than you would have if you would have arranged the same trip yourself. If you want to read more about how useful travel agencies can be, don’t forget to read up on why you should still be using a travel agent!
While some people may be concerned about doing this for their next trip due to the endless COVID restrictions that keep coming and going, this is actually one of the easiest ways to explore as the travel agency should be aware of any restrictions or potential COVID flare-ups around the world and can help you plan your trip accordingly. This saves you from the headache/heartbreak of spending time researching a destination and searching for flights only to find out that the borders are closed or that the COVID restrictions make it just not worth it in the end.
How does it work?
Most agencies follow a similar process. First, future guests complete a quick survey that gives their travel agent an idea of their trip preferences. They then get to work planning an epic vacation to a surprise destination for you. You will get sent sealed envelopes that you are supposed to open when it is time to leave that will tell you everything that you need to know about your trip. We know that it may be hard but try to resist opening the envelope—this is all part of the fun!
While most agencies are able to handle last-minute travel requests, they do recommend scheduling your trip as early as possible so that they have plenty of time to plan an epic adventure for you!
Which agency to choose?
This depends a lot on the type of trip that you have in mind as certain agencies specialize in particular types of surprise vacations. If it is your first time going on a mystery vacation, make sure that you take a look at the most recent reviews and read any testimonials that you can find where people give insight into the type of trips that you want to have. While it is nice to read about a family’s adventure to Pittsburgh or a solo trip to New York, it may not necessarily reflect what you would experience if you are looking for a romantic sojourn in San Diego.
The other thing that is important to check for making a final decision on an agency is what is the booking window for different surprise travel agencies as some may not take booking requests outside of a certain time frame. If you are trying to book a surprise vacation last minute then it is best to find an agency that is geared toward that as they are probably more likely to give you a better experience than an agency that focuses on trips with long booking windows.
Below you will find a list of some of the most popular surprise travel agencies located within the US.
Pack Up + Go
Founded by Lillian Rafson when she was just 23 years old, this fantastic agency is dedicated to helping people explore destinations across America while helping to promote responsible tourism. According to their site, “Pack Up + Go is a celebration of our country’s expansive resources, and embodiment of open-mindedness, spontaneity, and excitement.” Sounds pretty great right?
Like most other agencies, Pack Up and Go builds an itinerary based on your travel preferences and budget with accommodation rates that can change if you are on a road trip, urban adventure, or staycation. A week before your departure, you will get an email with a weather forecast, recommended packing list, and departure point. A few days before departure, you will then get an envelope that you are to open the day of departure.
The internet in general and social media, in particular, has completely changed the way that we travel in the past few decades. You are now so inundated with so many (heavily-edited) photos of destinations that it sometimes feels like there are no more hidden gems just waiting to be discovered.
Jubel is one travel company that aims to put mystery and adventure back into travel and offer more than 2,000 different “experiences” (which is great news if you love them after your first trip and want to take many more in the future!). They tend to focus on experiential travel and may even skip some of the most popular tourist destinations in a location to give you a more authentic way to discover a destination (think visiting New York City and skipping Times Square and instead exploring the city’s most up and coming neighborhoods).
The Vacation Hunt
The Vacation Hunt gives you the option to choose between different types of vacations (the United States, worldwide, Europe, and all-inclusive resorts throughout Latin America) as well as how long you want to travel for. You can also choose where you don’t want to travel to which can be very helpful if you want to make sure that you haven’t been somewhere you have traveled to before. They often post little hints on social media as well which makes it all part of the fun—imagine thinking that you are going to Los Angeles and then find out you are actually going to D.C?
If you are feeling really adventurous, you can even have them plan a surprise honeymoon for you. Considering how stressful planning a wedding can be, this may not actually be a bad idea! What makes this option even more appealing is that they offer gift certificates on their website so this could be the perfect wedding gift request if you decide to have a surprise honeymoon.
**The Vacation Hunt is currently planning trips commencing in January 2022 and beyond. However, it is a good idea to keep checking back to see if they resume their services earlier.
Whisked Away gives you the option of a surprise road trip or a surprise trip with flights. Like the other agencies, they give you the opportunity to describe the type of vacation that you want and they will provide a curated plan including activity and restaurant recommendations.
The way that Whisked Away charges is a bit different than the other agencies. The starting price for a seven-day road trip is a steep $1700 while the flight package is close to $3,000 for a destination within the United States and just over $3,500 for Europe. The planning fees are included in this price and can range from $750 to $1,000 which means that $1,000 of a road trip is spent for the trip itself while $750 is the agency profit. This may not be as good of a value for money as some of the other agencies on this list but it is still worth looking into to see if they are right for you.
Magical Mystery Tours
Like the other travel agencies on this list, Magical Mystery Tours put together great, fun-filled mystery tours based on your own preferences (hot climate, cold climate, great nightlife, and culture, etc) that are sure to wow you. They purposefully make it so that you don’t need (and actually can’t) waste a lot of time reading up on a destination which gives you the opportunity to simply arrive and have the destination knock your socks off. In their questionnaire, they ask you things like places you have visited and loved (and which ones that you haven’t liked so much!) and whether or not you are willing to do red-eye flights.
Like Vacation Hunt, they offer gift certificates which are great if you want to give or receive a vacation as a gift or surprise someone you know with a mystery trip to celebrate an important occasion.
The great thing about Magical Mystery Tours is that they are willing to work within a variety of budgets to make sure that you get a great vacation. The service fee ranges from a minimum of $300 to anywhere between 7 and 15% of your total trip budget which is a pretty great deal considering how much money you could be saving on the flights and accommodation. It is important to keep in mind that they don’t book activities as this is considered an add-on service and you may need to allocate an extra budget for this.
Ready to Roam?
We hope that we have convinced you how fun a surprise vacation can be! They can be a lot of fun and introduce you to places that may not have even been on your travel radar that you fall in love with.
If you love the idea of going a bit more off the beaten track but still need a bit more convincing and want to pick your own unique destination, make sure to check out our guide on Emerging Travel Destinations.
Frequently Asked Questions
A surprise travel agency specializes in trips to a mystery destination planned just for you. You finally find out where you are going when you are at the airport, which is all part of the fun!
A surprise trip, or mystery vacation, is a trip that is carefully planned for you by a surprise travel agency. The destination remains unknown until the day of departure!