Jul 22, 2022

“Surprise Travel”: Taking the Guesswork Out of Rude Awakenings

‘Where on earth am I?” will have a whole new meaning

By Ed Goldman

A new concept in vacation travel has the potential to make us think we’re suffering from either somnambulism or a blackout hangover.

To be precise, the hospitality hawkers aren’t calling it sleepwalking or alcohol-induced malaise. They’re branding it “surprise travel.” 

Edgy Cartoon

Unravel & Seizure

The idea is that you book and pay in advance for a trip of a certain duration, and the destination and details are unknown to you until you get to the airport. By then, you’d presumably have filled out some forms indicating places you never want to visit—and, I suppose, if you have a peanut allergy.

Some “surprise travel”ers enthused about the experience in a recent Wall Street Journal story, while a handful were none too happy with where they were deposited. The saddest was the 40-year-old woman who admitted to lifelong clumsiness but wound up on a trip whose highlights included a bicycle trek of many miles in some South American hills. She was provided a battery-powered bike but didn’t know how to turn it on—and after pedaling for all she was worth, she crashed it and endured both bodily and emotional injuries. (The rest of the vacation evidently featured wine tastings, so everything worked out okay.)

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One of the companies praised in the piece is called Pack Up + Go, which boasted plenty of satisfied customers (How satisfied? Their last names sere used in the testimonials, which is a rare and wondrous thing in advertising.)

Well, we decided to put The Goldman State’s hospitality consultant Ivana Nyland on the case and here are three of the “surprise travel” packages she’s developed:

1. Package Name: #Get The Hell Outta Here

Offerings: When you arrive at the airport, you’ll be handed an envelope by a wizened Gypsy who introduces herself as Carmen D. Oprah. After she disappears into the crowd, you’ll open the envelope and find a selfie depicting Carmen lifting both your and your travel-mate’s wallets when Carmen snuggled up to you. “How’d she get this picture printed so fast?” is just about all your state of flabbergastery will permit you to squeak.

A moment later, an actual rep from #Get the Hell Outta Here will arrive and hand you business-class tickets to Fallujah, your actual destination, as well as vouchers for two cups of very strong coffee enroute. Travelers are advised to call a few hours ahead to see who’s in power in Fallujah that week.

2. Package Name: #Be the Next Musk-eteer! Let’s face a couple of facts: Athos, Aramis, Pathos and D’Artagnan, the Four Musketeers, were fictitious characters wholly created by Alexandre Dumas. And you’re too young to have ever become one of the Mousketeers, who were semi-fictitious, unbelievably wholesome children semi-created by Walt Disney. What’s left? A vacation package that’s literally out of this world! You and someone you’re still trying to make up your mind about even after 10 years of marriage will become Musk-eteers and be able to experience interplanetary travel aboard Elon Musk’s SpaceX, a radically pimped Tesla (the luxury version) complete with ailerons, solid-rocket boosters, propulsion stuff and an open bar featuring cocktails made with Tang. There are also enough seats to allow you to pick up your kids’ entire soccer team and take them for a victory pizza on, say, Neptune. You’ll have bragging rights for years at school events—provided you all return to earth safely and none of the kids is harboring an Alien (or the late actor John Hurt) in his or her tummykins. Since this is an admittedly scary trip, ask your travel agent about earning Frequent Crier points for the kids.

3. Package Name: #HomeAnd Security!

Our most popular “surprise travel” experience involves our spiriting you out of your comfortable bed late at night, blindfolding and gagging you and your bedmate (unless it’s a cute little kitty—and really aren’t they all?), then driving you around for about 45 minutes while a Tony Robbins tape (from his most recent Life Force Health Summit) plays on a continuous loop. You’ll then be driven to your vacation destination, carried into a room, untied and unblindfolded and will realize you’re back in your very own bed—which you never wanted to leave in the first place, especially because you’d been hoping to stream the new “Downton Abbey” spinoff, “Tea, Crumpets and God Save the Queen.”

(Notice: If the bedmate with whom we spirit you off had no business being there in the first place—i,e., your spouse was out of town—certain travel restrictions will apply. And no Tang for you!)

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Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).