If there is one thing that Mike has taught me in our nearly 4 years together, it’s the value of spontaneity, adventure, and letting go.
For a Type A, super organized, borderline control freak like me, deciding to let strangers plan our travel for our wedding anniversary with very little input and no updates until the day we left was going to be a bit difficult. But I am so glad that we went the route of using Pack Up + Go, “a surprise travel agency.”
How does a trip planned by a surprise travel agency work?
You set your travel budget. You set your travel dates (a minimum of 4 weeks away). You let the travel agency know of any time restrictions on your travel dates (although it’s best if you don’t have any of those so they can maximize your time, often by getting you on the first flight out and the last flight home––it’s only 3 days, after all!).
You tell them places you’ve traveled to recently and any other trips you already have planned (so they don’t repeat destinations). Note: The travel agency only plans trips to locations within the U.S. (at least for now), so no need to tell them about your upcoming trip to Cancun or your recent honeymoon in Europe.
And then you tell them a little about yourself in the form of a travel survey. Some of the questions they ask include:
- “When you travel, you prefer…” with options of Action, Relaxation, and Culture (we selected all three!)
- “What are some of your hobbies/interests?” with 20+ options to select from. What did we tell them our hobbies and interests are when we travel? Hole-in-the-wall Restaurants, Food Markets, Craft Beer/Breweries, Vineyards/Wine Bars, Parks/Nature, and Spas.
- “Do you have any dietary restrictions?” Music to this gluten-free girl’s ears! It doesn’t matter how beautiful a destination is if you can’t find anything that’s OK for you to eat on vacation!
- Airports you are willing to travel from. We only selected Baltimore-Washington International––we’re fortunate to live close to a major airline hub, but if you’re in a smaller town with just regional airports nearby, it’s beneficial to be willing to travel to a larger airport since they’ll serve more destinations. We were not willing to drive to the Washington, D.C. area airports because it’s such a headache.
- “Is there anything else we need to know?” This is a free-response field, so we took advantage, but we didn’t want to pigeonhole them too much while they were planning our surprise anniversary trip. But we did want them to know how difficult things can sometimes be to please both of us on vacation. Examples: Mike loves beer, but I’m gluten-free. We love nature and to be active, but my fibromyalgia requires me to take lots of breaks so I don’t go into a flare-up. We also told them that we have lived our whole lives on the East Coast and we prefer to explore the rest of what the country has to offer.
How did the travel agency communicate with you?
Pack Up + Go’s communication is absolutely stellar. Here’s a list of the communications the travel agency has sent us since we booked the trip on July 30:
- July 30: Welcome to Pack Up + Go and account information.
- July 30: Order confirmation including a copy of our answers to the survey questions and a receipt for the purchase.
- July 31: A travel insurance quote, which can be added on after the initial purchase.
- July 31: An email confirming an update we made to our survey. We’d forgotten to include that we had a trip planned to Dallas already, so I emailed them about it and got a response in less than an hour that they would update our profile so they didn’t send us to Dallas.
- October 3: “Your trip is around the corner!” Basically just an email letting us know they would be in touch one week before the trip with some hints and travel details. This had another copy of our survey in it to remind us what we had requested.
- October 12: “One week until departure!” This email gave us all the info we needed to prepare for our trip: weather forecast for our surprise destination, hints about what to pack for specific activities, how to pack (airline limitations on baggage, etc.), where to go and when, info on how they would get us the rest of our information.
- October 15: We received our surprise travel itinerary in the mail! We wouldn’t open this until we arrived at BWI on Friday morning to see where we were going.
- October 18: Updated forecast the day before our departure
- October 19: “Open your envelope!” This email included our flight info, link to our boarding passes, link to online versions of our itineraries, link to a Google Map with tons more recommendations of places to go, hotel information, info on a dinner reservation they made for us, etc.
- October 21: Apparently they were monitoring our flight for us, because while we were sitting at the airport, we received an email alerting us that our flight home had been delayed (we had just heard the announcement literally 3 minutes prior to receiving this email) and that they were monitoring the situation but that this still appeared to be our best option for getting home that night. It also included the gate change information and a sincere apology (as if they were in control of the maintenance on the plane!)
- October 22: An email asking us to fill out a satisfaction survey and share photos and testimonials with them.
I was incredibly impressed with how communicative and friendly this customer service experience was. Travel can always be stressful, and when you know nothing about what you’re doing or where you’re going, I’m sure our anxiety levels could have been much higher. But Pack Up + Go made sure we felt good about every step of the way.
Thanks, Pack Up + Go team! We’ll get to the reveal and more info about the trip in the next post to break things up a bit. 🙂 Stay tuned!
Spoiler alert: 10/10, would buy again… 😉
Disclaimer: We were NOT compensated in any way by Pack Up + Go to write this review. However, if you use our names (Lindsay & Mike Sherman) when booking your own surprise vacation, we will get a discount on our next trip with them (which we’ll definitely be doing!). 🙂