Would You Go on a Surprise Vacation?

I do not like surprises.

Surprise visits, surprise parties, surprise gifts…they’re just not for me. I like to be able to map out my time, and if someone is going to spend their valuable time and/or money on me, I want them to talk to me about it in advance so we can both walk away happy.

There are small exceptions to this rule. I don’t mind having a surprise dish served to me at a restaurant I love and trust, for example. Or if a friend wants to make me a drink at a party, I’m happy for them to surprise me rather than bombard me with choices. And chocolate. Surprise chocolate is just as good as any other chocolate.

Despite all this, I must admit I was intrigued by an article that Emma recently shared with me about surprise vacation services. Each of the companies are slightly different, but the common idea is that they plan the vacation for you with very little input from you (including when you want to go on vacation), and then the tickets show up at your door a few days before the trip.

In fact, one of the companies recommends that you don’t even open the tickets before you arrive at the airport!

My instinct is that this type of vacation would result in a lot of last-minute planning. Like, even though they’re trying to take the planning out of your hands, if you end up with a ticket to, say, Iceland, you might feel like you need to scramble to get local recommendations and see if anyone you know there is free to hang out.

Also, there are certain places I definitely want to go, placed I definitely don’t want to go, and a lot of places I’m largely ambivalent about (especially given limited vacation time).

The blogger in me is still intrigued, though. If you’ve been reading for a long time, you may know that I tuck away a small amount of money each month just in case an opportunity for a special trip arises. I’m most interested in Pack Up & Go, as it lets you set your budget in advance, the trips are all pretty short (maybe just a little too short), and you can tell them things like other places you’ve visited recently so they don’t send you there.

Though I also like that The Vacation Hunt and Nimbus offer international options. There are certainly US destinations I want to visit, but I’m more daunted by the prospect of planning an international vacation (and I like to experience new cultures when I travel).

What do you think about this concept? Would you do it? Other than selecting the date range, what are other preferences you’d like to indicate?

7 thoughts on “Would You Go on a Surprise Vacation?”

  1. I don’t think I’d ever be able to do such a thing because I’d have to make arrangements for my houseful of foster dogs – plus my own dog and two cats. Many of the dogs I take in have special medical needs – the greyhound I just got had a leg amputated last Wednesday, for instance. The second hurdle would be getting the time off work. They’re pretty flexible – I guess it depends on the timing and the length. If the trip is in the US, I could maybe go for it, but I sure don’t want to be stuck somewhere in the height of summer since I’m miserable in the heat. I’d also need to know where we’re going so I can pack accordingly.

    I surprised my husband for his 50th birthday. It was my first time out of the country. I worked with a travel agent to do an ala carte trip to England and Scotland. I presented it to him two weeks ahead of the trip so he’d have time to order/shop for anything special he wanted to take with. While we had a good time, he was a stressed out, nervous wreck for much of the trip. I wasn’t planning on that happening since we had an itinerary, and everything was taken care of. Well, the guts don’t lie – and we ended up missing our cruise on Loch Ness. Also driving in Scotland proved to be a bit harrowing. I now have a good bit of empathy when I see a car careening over 3 lanes to get to an exit. That person probably didn’t learn to drive in the US. If I were to do that again, I’d take a driver’s ed course in that country. You’re not only driving on the “wrong” side of the road, but you’re also driving on the wrong side of the car. Ack!

    I think I’d rather like a surprise party. For someone to take the time and effort to find out how to contact all my friends and organize all that without me knowing… that’d be pretty cool and meaningful for me.

    • Sara: For all of these services, you pick the dates for the vacation–that part isn’t the surprise (the destination is the surprise).

      Also, I’m really sorry to hear about your dog’s leg.

  2. I would definitely do this, with a few caveats. I have been fortunate to be able to travel a lot already, so I wouldn’t want to go somewhere I’ve been previously. It would have to be international, because with the effort it takes to make arrangements for my kids, I prefer to take big trips. And most importantly, I would have to be able to say the style of trip I like to take. I wouldn’t want a trip where every minute of every day is scheduled for me. That’s stressful, and it’s one reason I don’t travel with anybody other than my wife typically. We just like to go somewhere and be there. No worrying about seeing everything there is to see. See a few things and spend a lot of time in cafes, take picnics in parks, wander the cities.

    My wife and I have been talking for a while about doing a similar thing on our own someday, where we take time off, and make all our arrangements, but wait until a few days ahead of time before booking our trip. We would then go out to various travel sites and find the best deal we can find for an interesting location. We did this (unintentionally, due to a hurricane) for our honeymoon, and it worked splendidly. Sometimes you can get last-minute deals when airlines or hotels have extra space they want to fill for cheap. Maybe someday.

    • I actually think a few of these services might match you well, Adam! Let us know if you decide to try it. 🙂

  3. This sounds horrifying to me. I like being in control of when I go somewhere, and where I go so I can properly prepare and know at least something about the culture/activities in the area. Not knowing at least those things would make me too anxious for the trip. It would make the trip less enjoyable for me overall. Now if I was able to select a time and general place to visit, and the agency selected things to do based on an interest survey, I would be more interested. I like the idea of finding new things I might have not known about, but I need to be involved in the process.

    • I wonder if there is a website that does that kind of thing. You enter the date and location, and they tell you about special events in the area, touristy stuff, and places to go/see that only the locals know about.


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