How Do "Surprise Travel Agencies" Work? Companies Like Pack Up + Go Are Revolutionizing Vacation
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Hot take: Vacations are great. Anyone with responsibilities of any kind knows the joy of getting away from said responsibilities, if only for a weekend. But even when you’re able to take time off, the process of planning a vacation can feel like a job in itself. If you find yourself in this particular predicament, with enough time and money to take a vacay but no desire to plan one, perhaps planning a mystery vacation is for you.

A self-described “surprise travel agency,” Pack Up + Go will plan a three-day weekend getaway for you. The only catch? You don’t get to pick the destination. You’ll start by giving Pack Up + Go some basic info: your budget for each traveler, when you want to travel, and some travel preferences (i.e. Do you prefer action, relaxation, and/or culture?). You can also list any special requests, like recommendations for vegetarian restaurants or “please don’t send me to a murder den in the middle of the woods.” Then, they’ll book everything for you, from travel to lodging to destination activities, and send you to ~*mystery location*~ in the continental U.S. While they book everywhere from big cities to small towns, Pack Up + Go unfortunately doesn’t currently have any international options available. Sorry, Canada. You’ll just have to deal with planning your vacations the old-fashioned way and enjoying your better health care.

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A week before you leave, you’ll get need-to-know information, like when your flight leaves and the weather forecast for your trip. Then, you’ll receive an envelope in the mail (feeling like an international spy is an added bonus) which you do not open until you arrive at your destination. The envelope will have more specific details for your travel: directions to where you’re staying, a guide to the city (since you won’t be able to research on your own), and whether you are indeed acting as an international spy for the weekend. The last step is just to go on your vacation.

A three-day weekend getaway by bus, train, or plane will cost you a minimum of $650 per person. A mystery road trip for you and your friends is a little more affordable at $400 per person. (It’s also a better way to recreate your own personal version of the cinematic classic Crossroads.) This service definitely leans more spontaneity-driven than cost-effective, which you may have assumed given its premise as a whole.

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As Kristyn Pomranz writes for Bravo!, “It’s the perfect trip for someone who simply wants to get away, doesn’t care where, doesn’t want to worry about the details, and is comfortable exploring a random nook or cranny that America has to offer.” Pomranz and her best friend found themselves in Chicago for their surprise weekend getaway planned Pack Up + Go. Pomranz says she admittedly wasn’t amped about Chicago initially. She and her friend had already traveled there, and it seemed like a pretty obvious midway point between NYC and Denver, where they’re each from. However, they were sold once they saw what they’d be doing. In addition to tourist suggestions and restaurant recommendations, their prepaid package included tickets for a Chicago architecture tour boat as well as a $50 Uber voucher. The only additional costs were for food and shopping.

“If I were to do it again (and yes, I plan to, and no, this is not a paid advertisement), I would give zero specifications and preferences in order to jack up the mystery level,” Pomranz writes. Definitely something to consider if you and a friend have some time and cash to spare and are comfortable putting the planning into someone else’s hands.