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Have you ever seen friends check into an airport on social media claiming they have no idea where they are going? More often than not, it’s someone surprising their BFF or significant other. But what if both of you wanted to be surprised? The Coworkaholic was super curious about taking a surprise vacation where you have no control in planning. LA based event planner Meghan Smith was kind enough to share her experience from a “Magical Mystery Tours” vacation last month:

When the Event Planner is Tired of Planning…

I’ve been fortunate to do plenty of traveling over the years for my career. As an event planner for a major studio, my job takes me to cities all over the country. As such, it’s become a personal goal of mine to visit all 50 states before I turn 40.  In May I realized I hadn’t taken a real vacation in months, and began brainstorming about which destination I would check off next with Andrew, my boyfriend. I quickly realized that doing any sort of planning (when I’m not being paid for it) tends to give me major anxiety.

 

I only had 13 states left to visit when I started this process but, even then, the options were overwhelming. Do we travel north and have an outdoor adventure in Alaska? Do we brave the summer humidity in New Orleans? What about doing something completely off the grid in Kansas or Missouri? That’s when a friend reminded me of a travel company she’d heard about. Magical Mystery Tours has been around since 2009 and they specialize in planning vacations, both domestic and abroad, for travelers who are looking for a surprising adventure or those that just don’t want to deal with the tedium of planning a vacation. I fell into both categories.

Booking with Magical Mystery Tours

The women who run the company have thought of everything. To get started, I filled out a profile on their website which let them know the type of traveler I am and provided examples of places I’d like to visit. For instance, I ranked cities higher than the beach. I prefer locations that are walkable or have great public transportation. I’d rather go somewhere with history and architecture over Michelin rated restaurants and nightclubs. I finished up the profile by providing my estimated budget, available travel dates, and paying a one-time fee ($300) which covers the cost of convenience for having someone else plan your vacation. (Note: for $400, they’ll book your dinners and excursions, rather than just provide recommendations.)

After being matched with Katie from MMT things moved pretty quickly. Within 3 weeks, she had put together a trip for Andrew and I. We locked in a 6 day, 5-night vacation for mid-August. That and the final cost were all we knew about the trip until a week before our departure.  

It’s About The Journey, Not The Destination

It takes a certain type of person to turn over all control. The vacations built by Magical Mystery Tours are best for people that truly live the motto, “It’s about the journey, not the destination.” When you think about it, there really aren’t any “bad” places to go on vacation. It’s all about making the most of wherever you’re sent, even if you’ve already been to that city, there’s always more to see and explore. I leaned into that mindset and sat back to wait for more information.

Just a week before our departure date, we were sent an email with the weather forecast for our destination, the time of our initial flight, and some generic suggestions on what to pack. This is when self-restraint really comes into play. Being that kid who always snooped for Christmas presents, we googled the weather forecast of no less than 20 cities to see if we could find a match. It was ultimately pointless, so with that, we went back to counting down the days to departure.

Unfortunately, the day of our trip arrived and we still had not received our full travel packet. Our rep had assured that it would arrive 2-3 days before departure, but due to some delays with USPS we were still checking the mailbox 6 hours before heading to the airport. I reached out to Katie and she quickly came up with a solution to email the details to a friend who could print it out and keep the surprise by putting everything in an envelope for us. It wasn’t ideal, and we REALLY lucked out that I had a friend with a printer that was available that afternoon. It wasn’t how I had hoped it would happen and certainly not as advertised on the site, but she did pull through with a solution that helped us keep the destination a surprise until we arrived at the airport.

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade

I wish I could say the rest of our trip went perfectly. It didn’t. But also, each of the speed bumps along the way made it a more memorable vacation. Once at the airport we opened the envelope to learn that we were headed to Portland, Maine…and also that our first flight had been canceled. So rather than a quick stop in Chicago, we were left with a 10 hour layover in Newark. Luckily we both travel light. Time to turn lemons into lemonade. And so we headed into the city for the day where we enjoyed a picnic in Central Park and visited a handful of other tourist stops, something we’d never have done if everything went as planned.

On the way home we had a similar delay that caused us to miss a connecting flight, this time in Washington DC, where I used to live. Once again, we were able to spend a full day exploring the monuments and visiting museums. I was able to show him some of my old stomping grounds and introduce him to lifelong friends. The delays were so much a part of why I enjoyed the trip that there was never any reason to complain or reach out to Magical Mystery Tours. Though I’m sure if we had, they would have done what they could to help us out.

So, How Was the Trip?

Our time in Portland was amazing. MMT included so many great suggestions for exploring the city and surrounding areas, that there was no way we could hit them all.  Some of the highlights were catching our own dinner with Lucky Catch Lobster. The Portland Lobster Company partners with them to cook up whatever we bring them at a discounted price. Portland has over a dozen microbreweries as well. We took a tour and had tasting at 5 different locations including Alagash, Foundation, Austin Street, Battery Steele, and Definitive Brewing Company. We also took the ferry to Peaks Island where we rode bikes around the perimeter. The Portland Discovery Trolley Tour gave us a great overview and appreciation of the history in Portland and the sunset kayak tour on Casco Bay from Portland Paddle was a beautiful way to end our trip on the last night.

 

Based on this experience, I would not only 100% book a trip through Magical Mystery Tours again in the future but happily refer them to friends looking for an adventure . The process was simple and straightforward. The representatives were helpful and very responsive. And at the end of the day, it was just FUN! Packing a bag and heading to the airport with no knowledge of your destination is nothing short of exhilarating and I suggest everyone do it at least once.

 

The post Review: Magical Mystery Tours – A Vacation For When You’re Feeling Adventurous was first published on Coworkaholic.

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