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Sunday, Oct 20, 2019

Surprise travel: Sign up, turn up, hit the road

Startups are now offering to put together an itinerary for you based on a questionnaire, and keep all the details secret until the day you set off.

travel Updated: Sep 22, 2019 11:46 IST
Aishwarya Iyer
Aishwarya Iyer
Hindustan Times
Friends Darshana Singh and Sushma Bindore signed up for a surprise weekend and had a blast in Panchgani.
Friends Darshana Singh and Sushma Bindore signed up for a surprise weekend and had a blast in Panchgani.
         

Would you pack your bags with no idea of where you were going? The surprise industry is betting big on the small number of people that would.

Start-ups such as Mumbai-based Unpland and Trip Surpriser, Delhi-based Weekend Refuge, Jaipur-based My Surprise Trip and Chennai-based Pick Your Trails are offering surprise journeys where they send you a questionnaire, you choose from types of holidays (adventure, staycation, beach, multi-city, road-trip, jungle safari, etc), add total number of people, budget and preferred dates and then they do the rest, in secret.

Before your trip, you get an email containing information about the date and time to reach your departure point, the weather at the destination and a list of essentials to pack. Most service providers send you the rest of the details either one day before or just minutes before your trip begins.

My Surprise Trip, for instance, sends you a locked box a week before departure. The unlock code is only sent when you’re at your boarding point.

Surprised, in a good way

What kind of person would travel like this, and do even end up having a good time?

Sushma Bindore, a 27-year-old IT executive from Mumbai, booked a surprise trip for her best friend’s birthday last November, via Unpland. “Until the night before, we had no idea where we were headed for the weekend, and I was really scared about what would be awaiting us,” she says. “It turned out to be Panchgani, but the thrill of not knowing made it really special and unique.”

The secret accommodation was special too — a secluded villa with a garden, farm animals and a welcoming staff.

When Babita Chhabra, a homemaker from Delhi, had her grown children visiting India from the US, she wanted to spend some quality time with her and their family holiday via MySurpriseTrip ended up being to the Kaziranga National Park in Assam. “Everything from the commute to the hotels and meals was planned nicely,” Chhabra says. “It was a great chance for our family to bond. And my children loved the idea of a surprise vacation.”

Not without risks

Anshal Jain, an avid traveller and founder of Weekend Refuge, says he first came upon the concept when he was looking for unusual destinations having run through most of his own bucket list. “When you’re busy with work and don’t have the time to plan or even research enough to pick a destination, this helps,” he says.

Given how much the Indian traveller likes value for money, it’s a particularly risky venture to launch here, though. With no involvement or vetting from the client, the chances of complaints are higher too.

“One family was having a great time with their secret travel package to Jaipur. But when they arrived at one of the hotels arranged, it was a mess,” says Jain. “We opted for a reputable hotel chain but this branch looked nothing like the others, and wasn’t even very clean.” The family was relocated and the team now investigates accommodation more carefully, Jain adds.

First Published: Sep 21, 2019 22:01 IST

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