The Joy of a Surprise Vacation

Hi everyone! I’m Jenna, one of Casie’s friends from college (and avid reader of this blog). I’m in a constant state of wanderlust, and this spring, my husband and I did some unconventional travelling. I told Casie about it and asked if she’d be interested in me writing a guest spot for her blog and, well, here I am!

Okay, so let me set the scene by flashing back a couple of years. I’d heard of this company, Pack Up and Go, who specializes in surprise 3-day weekends. After reading a couple of reviews and guest blogs, I was sold. Basically, what you do is fill out a survey, tell them your dates, and prepay for flights and accomodations. In return, a team of travel gurus choose a US city that fits your budget and preferences and books a “surprise” vacation for you! My husband Aaron, always the spontaneous adventurer, thought this was perfect and wanted to book something immediately, but alas, we were living far from an airport and didn’t have the funds.

This year, we made a vow. We’d moved up near our college town, knew we would probably only be here for a year, and knew we were close to the Twin Cities, a fantastic flight hub. So we asked for a gift certificate for Christmas to cover the costs, looked at our *ever expanding calendar* and booked our April trip (the website asks that you give at least four weeks prior to your departure to book).

So here’s where I get real–I’m a complete and total control freak. Growing up, my mom meticulously planned our vacations and found so much joy in that and I have to say, I am kind of the same way. I love finding things I think Aaron would love or weird out of the way things. I find joy in spending time doing this. However, I was at the peak of professional burnout–my first semester as a real professor as well as completing my PhD on a very strict timeline. I didn’t have time to plan a desperately needed vacation. And that’s why Pack Up and Go was perfect.

We told them where we’d been recently, and where we weren’t interested in visiting again. We told them about our love for the outdoors, our interest in craft beer and spirits, and our desire to eat A LOT. We also chose a budget (starting at $650/person for a flight option) and BOOM — We were booked.

Now, when I tell you I’m a control freak, I mean that I like the anticipation. For this trip, they had warned us that we wouldn’t know anything until the week before. At that time, they sent an email with some generic packing advice and a weather forecast, as well as our flight time and terminal. Sunny and 60s! That little bit of info was tough, because I knew it would be easy to search and find the destination (and I did narrow it down a bit). But I’d promised Aaron it’d be a surprise.

Later that week, we got an envelope in the mail. This had all our itineraries, facts about the city, reservations, and tips for things to do. It was near torture not to open it, but I stayed true to my pact with Aaron and didn’t peek.

*Side note: We had a huge snowstorm the day before we were supposed to leave (Thanks, WI/MN 2019 winter. It was a treat!). Religiously watching the forecast, I contacted Pack Up and Go to see what their cancellation policy was. Our agent, Lauren, encouraged us to buy the trip insurance and assured us that they’d be watching and doing what they could to rebook us if necessary. She was so responsive and didn’t make me feel crazy/neurotic, and the insurance helped to put my mind at ease.

Finally, departure day arrived and WE WERE HEADED TO SEATTLE!

This was one of our top “I hope they send us here” cities, and we were stoked. A short direct flight later, we were landed in the luscious green Pacific Northwest, seeing mountains in the distance. We took the train to a stop two blocks from our hotel, and you guys, it was the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed in. I’m talking free wine happy hour. Plush robes. Fancy room service. AND we were upgraded into a corner penthouse suite overlooking the city from two sides! Pack Up and Go didn’t book the kind of budget hotels I would have booked–they treated us like VIPS. We were within walking distance to the Pike’s Place Market, to downtown, and only a mile away from the Space Needle. Despite the gorgeousness of this room (and the complimentary bottle of wine and candies sent up for Aaron’s birthday), we wanted to explore.

We headed to the Market, got some good beer, and walked down to the piers to ride the giant glass Ferris Wheel (all per Pack Up and Go’s suggestions. They seriously nailed it for us.)

The next day, we took a ferry across the Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island. Once there, we took a Lyft to a local craft distiller (conveniently in the same strip mall/development as a brewery!) We then had a waterfront lunch per our recommendations, and did a bit of shopping before catching the ferry back into the city.

The next day, we grabbed some breakfast, swung back through the Market for more free salmon samples, and walked over to the Space Needle to wander around. We didn’t end up going up in the needle, as it was spendy and we didn’t have a ton of time, but we did go to the Chihuly Glass museum, which was mind-blowing and stunning. Again, another slam dunk recommendation from Pack Up and Go.

Overall thoughts on Seattle? I’d go back in a heartbeat! When’s the next flight?
Overall thoughts on Pack Up and Go? I would absolutely do it again. It was fun to just explore without having to micromanage every detail. And there was solace in knowing that someone else had meticulously planned. They gave enough recommendations to last a week here, but it covered everything we wanted. We still did a fair amount of exploring on our own, but it was nice to have suggestions of where to start (or descriptions of restaurants, allowing us to just pick one instead of engaging in a time honored back-and-forth of “I don’t care; you pick” and searching our phones). They also included history and fun facts about the city, which helped us to acquaint ourselves to the city itself.
This trip allowed us to be present, to enjoy each other, and I daresay I took some time to relax. It was probably more expensive than if we’d done it ourselves, but because we’d prepaid, that wasn’t necessarily on our minds. We were pleased with the surprise, pleased with how well they’d done in the recommendations, and pleased to have a little getaway together in the craziness that was Spring 2019.

Happy travels!

Jenna

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