Would you ever allow someone else not only to plan your vacation for you, but to pick your destination and keep it a total secret from you, until the morning you are set to travel? All you have to do is show up at the airport and go with the flow.
That is a mystery vacation! It’s an exercise in letting go of control and embracing adventure, travel-style, but man, is it fun. And for the adventurous, it’s the perfect trip idea to keep you on your toes and do something different for a change.
There are companies that do this, plan these mystery vacations. I worked with Pack Up And Go, run by some lovely people that have a flair for the creative and whimsical. They sent me to Portland, Oregon -- but I’ll get to that part later.
Here’s how the process works.
You give them a budget (their website breaks down how far they can make each budget stretch) and you give them a time frame in which you can travel. Then you fill out their survey, which is full of questions about your travel style, preferences, etc. You can select from a long menu of items, like museums, hiking, cafe culture, live shows, and so on, until you’ve given them a pretty good idea of what you usually do when you travel.
From this information, the people at PUAG will book your trip for you. But you still won’t have any idea where they are sending you until the morning of your departure. (This is the fun part!)
They don’t leave you hanging, though. One week prior to your trip, someone from the company will reach out with a very thorough email detailing the weather forecast at your mystery destination, along with a suggested packing list, and airport terminal information.
The night before your departure, they send you a really fun package that you cannot open (no seriously, don’t open it) until the day-of. All the information you need to know about your trip -- including the mystery destination -- is in there. Flight info, hotel info, maps, guides, Uber credits and tons of suggested itineraries and restaurant recommendations are in there. So don’t blow your own surprise -- resist the temptation to look!
The staff at PUAG checks you into your flights, too, and gives you constant updates if there are any changes. All you have to do is show up to the airport.
I was sent to Portland, Oregon. From Los Angeles, it’s an easy two and a half-hour flight (the folks at PUAG take this into consideration when booking your destinations. Because it’s a three-day trip, they don’t want you spending too long in transit).
For three days, my trusty PUAG package took me all over the city. I zigzagged east and west over the river, ate more good food than I thought was possible, trekked through rose gardens and book stores, talked to the locals and fully embraced the spirit of adventure. Because that’s exactly what this mystery vacation is all about: adventure. Diving head-first into the unknown, and trusting that it’s going to be fun.
And boy, it definitely was. I think I’m addicted now, and you probably will be too.
Here's another unforgettable travel experience: spending time with the Padaung tribe in northern Thailand.