When Pack Up + Go emerged on the scene only a few years ago, surprise travel was a radically new concept in the United States. So what, exactly, is surprise travel?
Written by Corinne Hogge and Jordan Tobe
Surprise Travel [sərˈpraiz ˈtrævəl]:
Booking a vacation when you do not know the destination and thus, do not have to plan the logistical details of the getaway
Who is Pack Up + Go?
We're a travel agency that plans 3-day getaways around the United States. The catch? Your destination is a surprise until the day you depart! Our standard trips are 3-days, 2-nights, but we are always happy to work with you if you are interested in a longer trip!
Pack Up + Go was started in 2016 by 23-year-old Lillian Rafson. She was inspired to create the company while trekking through Latvia when she realized that she had made it all the way across the Atlantic, but had never been to South Carolina. In reality, she hadn’t traveled around the United States much at all. At that moment, she decided that she would move home and get to work helping others explore the USA with ease, spontaneity, and surprise.
Over the past 3.5 years, we have been lucky to send travelers to more than 85 cities across the US, from the beautiful Black Hills of Rapid City, South Dakota to the charming Southern city of Savannah, Georgia and the many coastal cities California! What we have discovered during our time of surprise vacation planning is that the United States has just as many destinations, oddities, and micro-cultures as anywhere else on Earth, and we can wait to share them with you!
How does Pack Up + Go Work?
Pack Up + Go is not a random trip generator. What that means is when you sign up for a Pack Up + Go surprise getaway, we aren’t just throwing a dart at a map of the United States and sending you wherever it lands! We use a variety of factors to make an informed destination decision for you. The most important information we use to choose your mystery destination comes from the pre-trip survey you fill out when you sign up. On that survey, you will tell us what you like to do when you travel, what recent trips you have taken (or any that you have coming up soon), who you’re traveling with, whether the trip is celebrating anything special, and so on. A Pack Up + Go trip-booking-expert then analyzes that information, and matches you to a few potential destinations -- almost like a dating profile! Then, your trip planner begins a logic puzzle. He or she must take into account the budget you’ve selected, the airport or address from which you will be departing, and any time restrictions you may have, in order to figure out which destination works within those constraints. So, as you can see, while the destination may be a surprise for you, it has been carefully thought out by a member of our team!
Pack Up + Go is a third-party travel agency. What that means is that we purchase airfare, train tickets, hotel accommodations, spa treatments, tickets, and tours on behalf of our travelers. While we are lucky to have amazing hotel + small business partners around the USA, we ourselves are neither a hotel or tour provider. We are also not affiliated with the airlines - just great at customer service AKA basically professionals at sitting on the phone to deal with frustrating wait times so you don’t have to!
How do we make money, you may ask? We take a small service fee off the top of your budget (15%), but rest assured that the vast majority of your budget goes towards your trip. If you'd like to see the receipts for your reservations after your trip, we'll be more than happy to send them over just let us know!
Where Am I Going on a Pack Up + Go Surprise Getaway?
Once your surprise destination has been determined, your travel planner will begin booking your reservations! He or she will book your plane or train tickets, plan your custom road trip, secure your hotel or bed + breakfast, and decide any activities or add-ons that fit into your budget***. Pack Up + Go then takes time to put together a perfectly curated itinerary to fit your interests in your destination. Remember, your itineraries are a list of suggestions - we don’t expect you’ll be able to see, do, or taste everything we list. The goal is to provide you with many amazing suggestions so that you can still choose your own adventure, but don’t have to spend the entire vacation on Yelp or TripAdvisor looking for inspiration. Once all of these details are finalized, they get put neatly into an envelope to be sent to you soon!
Meanwhile, you haven’t had to worry about a single detail since you submitted your survey! One week before your surprise trip you will receive an email from Pack Up + Go telling you the weather forecast in your destination, some suggested packing items, and where to be and at what time on departure day. Now all that’s left to do is to pack up your bags and go (see what we did there?)! When it is time to head to the airport or jump in your car and hit the road, you will open your envelope and reveal your surprise destination! And don’t worry about your boarding passes, you will receive those in an email when you are on your way to the airport.
Once you’ve learned your destination, the surprise travel experience doesn’t stop there. At Pack Up + Go, we know that there are a lot of unknowns in travel, even when you’re destination is not a surprise! Airline schedules change all the time, hotels can over-book, activities can be canceled...The difference when you travel with Pack Up + Go is that there is a dedicated staff member on-call 24/7 during your trip to help you out when these situations arise. (Learn more about our customer service HERE)
***We only guarantee that your budget will cover your travel + accommodation. For every getaway, we recommend great activities and restaurants, but we do not cover those expenses in your budget. However, if there is extra room in your budget once we book your travel + accommodation and charge our service fee, we use those funds to book trip extras such as restaurant or rideshare gift cards, activities, and more. We cannot guarantee these extras since travel prices fluctuate pretty drastically depending on travel dates, departure locations, etc.
Why Should I Take a Surprise Trip?
At Pack Up + Go, we know our travelers value mystery trips for a number of reasons. First, our travelers understand the importance of traveling with an open mind - “I don’t care where I go, as long as I get to go somewhere!” is a sentiment we hear often. Our travelers head to destinations they may not have selected themselves with an openness to trying new things in a new place. Next, putting your plans in someone else’s hands allows you to step out of your comfort zone. So while you may be the kind of person who likes to plan everything, handing the reins to someone else can be exhilarating, exciting, and even refreshing! Lastly, surprise travel with Pack Up + Go encourages travelers to support small businesses - especially those who are doing good things in their communities!
So, while many people think of surprise travel as just showing up at the airport and hopping on the next available flight, Pack Up + Go has a different idea. Let us carefully choose your destination and make all of the plans for you! We’re available to help 24/7. On a surprise getaway with Pack Up + Go, you might just step out of your comfort zone and into a brand new city with endless possibilities for exploration!
Still not sure? Check out these great articles about why you might opt for a Pack Up + Go trip:
The Wall Street Journal: Why Even Control Freaks Are Opting for ‘Surprise Vacations’
Travel + Leisure: Are Micro-cations the Newest Millenial Travel Trend?
The Washington Post: Want to travel but don’t care where? ‘Surprise vacations’ have you covered.