If you’re looking for unbiased Pack Up and Go reviews, you’ve come to the right place! After taking our own Pack Up and Go surprise vacation a few weeks ago, I’ve put together everything you need to know before booking your own Pack Up and Go trip.
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A Pack Up and Go Surprise Vacation
My husband and I just returned from a Pack Up and Go vacation, and I can’t wait to share all of the details with you! Our opinion may be different than other Pack Up and Go reviews you’ve seen so make sure to read all the way through this post for everything you need to know about our Pack Up and Go surprise vacation!
Before we get to our trip, I wanted to give you a bit more information about Pack Up and Go, how it works, and what it was like to take a surprise vacation with Pack Up and Go.
One other caveat – as with everything else on my blog, this post is all my personal opinions based on our experiences. Other people may have totally different experiences or opinions, and that’s okay.
That’s why it’s my blog!
If you just want to read about our experience, feel free to use the Pack Up and Go menu to skip back and forth to the sections you really care about! I know it’s a long post, but I wanted to give you all the info you need to make a decision!
What is Pack Up and Go?
Pack Up and Go is a travel agency that specializes in surprise vacations for its guests. They specialize in 3-day weekend long surprise vacations but can totally do something longer if you choose. And they offer plane, train, and road trip options at various budgets.
One thing to know is that they only offer United States travel.
You can get more information about Pack Up and Go and their vision here.
How Does Pack Up and Go Work?
The basic idea is this.
You choose a budget for your trip (you can see examples of different budgets below), fill out a survey with your travel preferences, and choose the dates that you’d like to go on your trip.
You do have to choose dates that are at least a month out so they have time to plan (and makes plan that fit your budget). Otherwise, the dates are pretty much up to you.
The travel survey includes questions like:
- Time restrictions on flights (or train) departure and arrival times
- Airport preference
- Last trips you’ve taken, trips you have planned, places you’ve lived, places you’ve frequented, etc. (so you don’t get sent somewhere you’re already totally familiar with)
- What type of travel do you prefer – action, relaxation, culture?
- Hobbies/interests (e.g., fine dining, food markets, museums, shopping, spas, etc.)
- Dietary restrictions
- Accommodations preference (hotel or B&B)
- Number of beds
- Anything else they need to know (like for me – I don’t drink alcohol and I was 7 months pregnant on the trip)
- Celebrating anything?
As far as I can tell the travel survey is meant to help the Pack Up and Go team choose a destination and plan a trip personalized to you. More on my personal opinion on how well this worked for us later.
You can also fill in things like known traveler numbers in the notes sections and cross your fingers those things are used when booking flights! I did provide my global entry number, and it was added into our plane tickets for TSA pre-check thank goodness!
Once you do all of the things above, you get a confirmation email and the Pack Up and Go team starts planning your trip. You won’t hear anything else until a week before your trip.
A Week Before Your Pack Up and Go Trip
A week before your trip you’ll receive an email with a forecast for your destination to help you get an idea for packing as well as flight info (what time, what airport).
You’ll also receive an envelope in the mail with all of your trip details – DO NOT OPEN THIS! Put it away until the day of your trip when you’re ready to reveal your destination. That’s the whole fun of the surprise vacation.
Since the weather is constantly changing, you’ll receive another weather forecast email the day before your actual trip – just in case a storm decides to head your way or something. Our weather forecast really didn’t change much at all.
The Day of Your Pack Up and Go Trip
When your destination day finally arrives, you’ll receive an email with links to downloadable boarding passes (Pack Up and Go will check in for you), the hotel you’ll be staying in, any extras Pack Up and Go might’ve booked for you, and more details and recommendations for your surprise destination.
I highly recommend opening your surprise package before you get the email or the surprise might be ruined!
One other note – the email we were sent had a confirmation number for our flights that must’ve been old because when I entered it into the American Airlines website, it said the reservation had been cancelled – yikes! But when I clicked on the links in the actual email to access my mobile boarding passes, they were all setup and ready to go – just with a different reservation number.
And honestly the most exciting part of the entire trip was opening that surprise envelope and finding out where we were going!
Here’s a look at what came in our envelope!
- A big sign explaining saying where you’re gong on your trip along with some other fun stickers, postcards, etc. you can use for photos
- Details on your flight – confirmation number, times, etc.
- Details on where you’ll be staying
- Any additional information on tours they’ve booked, reservations they’ve made for you, etc.
- Gift cards or anything else they’ve purchased with additional money – one traveler received an Uber gift card, we received food tour tickets
- A sample itinerary for your city with a few suggestions for things to do, places to eat, etc.
- A sample “get out town” itinerary for close activities not right in the city
- A “live like a local” itinerary put together by a local living in the city (all three itineraries had different suggestions)
- Generic facts and details about the city you’re visiting
- Additional suggestions (ours came with spa recommendations) for your city
You get on your flight/train and head to your destination. Other than the flight, hotel, and maybe one activity – the rest of the trip is really up to you.
We had a phone number for our Pack Up and Go rep who helped us with hotel check-in when they said our room wasn’t pre-paid but other than that, Pack Up and Go really wasn’t involved after we opened our packet other than through the papers provided.
How Much Does Pack Up and Go Cost?
Here’s where things tend to get a little sticky in my mind.
Pack Up and Go surprise vacation prices are all over the place, so there’s really not a great answer to this – but read through my cost breakdown for my trip compared to another pair sent to San Diego to get a better idea of what your budget might get you for more insight.
Here’s the short answer based on budgets you can choose from the website. As of January 2019, prices started at:
- $650 for a multi-person plane or train 3-day getaway
- $1000 for a solo plane or train 3-day getaway (solo is more expensive because there’s no shared hotel room cost)
- $400 for a multi-person road trip 3-day getaway (doesn’t include gas/car cost – just the hotel)
- $800 for solo traveler road trip 3-day getaway
Each of those getaway options also includes the option to upgrade your budget to something higher. You can see an example of what higher budget options currently listed for a multi-person plane/train 3-day getaway below.
What does that budget get you?
No matter which budget you choose, the budget is guaranteed to cover your accommodations + fight/train tickets if you’re doing a plane or train getaway. If you’re doing a road trip getaway, it’s guaranteed to cover your accommodations wherever you go.
If you have budget left over, you may have something else paid for – an activity, a gift card, etc. Read my cost breakdown under my actual Pack Up and Go experience (was it worth the cost section) to see what two budgets got two travelers going to the same exact destination.
The only other thing the budget is guaranteed to pay for is a 10-15% fee that Pack Up and Go takes for their share of the work booking your trip. You can get a breakdown from Pack Up and Go after your trip to see what your actual fee percentage was – ours was a little over 15%.
I was honestly a bit confused about why some people get charged a 10% fee versus the 15% fee – seems like the Pack Up and Go team is doing the exact same amount of work for a high budget trip as a low one. From a fairness standpoint, it feels like it would make more sense to charge a flat fee (e.g., $150) regardless of how much money I’m handing over.
In my mind, booking a higher budget partner hotel doesn’t take me any more time than it does to book a small boutique one (honestly, it’s often the opposite).
That being said – I wanted to understand better, so I asked Pack Up and Go how they calculate the fee and determine who pays more/less in a fee and Jordan, the director of Travel & Operations gave me a bit more of an explanation.
I won’t quote her email exactly but the basic gist is this – the fee is determined by how much work the staff has to do for each trip. For a higher budget trip, the staff may have to spend more time working on finding the perfect flights, coordinating with a higher end hotel, picking out additional activities (with any money left behind), adding on additional days to the trip, etc.
Lower budget trips will likely only have enough money for the flight and hotel (plus maybe something small) and the options are more limited, meaning less hands-on work from the staff.
And in regards to using a percentage-based fee, the response was (and I’m quoting so I get it right),
We decided to go with a percentage-based fee rather than a flat fee because if a traveler had an $800 road trip, a flat $200 fee would eat up 25% of the budget! In contrast, that same fee would be only 8% of a $2,500 budget. We wanted a fee that flexed with each travelers’ respective budget and felt fair for everyone.
She also mentioned that the service fee often includes additional hidden fees like credit card processing fees (3% per trip) and mailing the surprise envelope (an average of $10).
I’m not going to analyze the fee any more – like I said before, it’s their business model and pricing decision.
Just keep in mind that you could be paying up to 15%, or even slightly more, of your total budget to have someone plan the trip. I’ll give you my opinion on whether or not it was worth the $300 fee we paid in my review below.
Which Budget Should You Choose?
Your ideal budget should be determined by a variety of factors including your travel dates (holiday weekends are more expensive to travel), how many days you’re going (if you add an additional day or two – increase the budget), how many flight/train options your city has (if flights are more expensive out of your city, up your budget), and what kind of accommodations you prefer (a B&B is typically less expensive than a luxury resort).
You can find more details about choosing a budget in Pack Up and Go’s FAQs section.
My other tip for choosing a budget is to think about your overall budget for the trip. As I mentioned before, the only thing guaranteed by your budget is your plane/train ticket, accommodations, and the Pack Up and Go fee.
Most likely all food, activities, and shopping will be an additional cost. If you only want to spend $2000 total for the trip, don’t choose a $1000/person budget.
If we did another trip, I personally would go on the lower side of the budget (unless you only stay in luxury accommodations) and keep that money to spend on the actual trip itself.
Pack Up and Go themselves says that regardless of budget, you’ll never be put up in sub-par accommodations so as long as you’re okay with good but maybe not luxury accommodations, I’d save the money to enjoy your destination.
My Personal Pack Up and Go Experience
Okay, now let’s get to the real nitty gritty – what’d we think of our Pack Up and Go trip? Would we do it again? Was it worth the cost? All the things I know my Instagram followers following along with the trip were dying to know!
And if you have any more questions or need more details, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll do my best to respond quickly!
And also, another little side note and caveat because well, that’s what I do.
My husband and I are avid travelers. I’ve probably spent half of the past five years somewhere besides home whether it’s in Australia, Europe, or just in LA for a red carpet premiere.
We love the planning process and if we’re going somewhere regardless of if it’s Gulf Shores or just to Disney World for one day – we’re doing tons of research to find the best of the best in our destinations.
This might’ve been our downfall when it came to Pack Up and Go.
Just throwing that out there before I get started with my thoughts.
Did We Have A Great Time?
Let me get this out of the way first – we had a great time in San Diego. It’s San Diego where the weather is beautiful, the food is delicious, and traffic isn’t anywhere close to LA or DC.
I’m always going to have a good time on a beach vacation.
Unfortunately I don’t think the reason we had a great time had anything to do with Pack Up and Go.
And honestly, we probably would’ve had a much better time if we’d just planned a trip to San Diego ourselves for my babymoon. Not probably, definitely.
Here are just a few reasons why, and while I think some of these things could be avoided in the future, some of these things are just issues I see with the Pack Up and Go process.
What Could’ve Been Better?
First, our flight.
The flight times were great – exactly what we asked for. Luckily flying out of Dallas, we have tons of non-stop flight options and two major airports to choose from.
When we personally book our own flights, we always pick a middle + window seat and if we’re flying American, we choose preferred seats with more legroom because we’re Gold Advantage members and it’s free. We pick the middle + window seat because it gives me the chance to lean over on the window (to sleep) and gives my wide shouldered husband more space.
Pack Up and Go chose an aisle + middle seat for our flight in the regular seats. No idea if there were preferred seats available (there normally are even up to just a few days ahead of time) when they booked the flights but there weren’t the morning of our flight when I tried to change to them.
And since they didn’t have our AAdvantage numbers, they never would’ve known the preferred seats were free.
Being cramped into a regular middle seat when you’re seven months pregnant is the opposite of fun. I’ve flown a lot in the last seven months and this was easily the most uncomfortable I’ve ever been flying.
We were able to switch our seats to the preferred window + middle seat on the way home so that flight luckily was totally fine.
Total first world problems, but something that would’ve been avoided if we were planning the trip ourselves or a travel agent who knew/asked our seat preferences.
And something that could easily be remedied with a question in the Pack Up and Go survey about seat preferences, airline status/reward numbers, etc. I get that a lot of people would appreciate the middle + aisle seat, it really just didn’t work for us.
Second, our hotel.
We stayed at the US Grant Hotel in the middle of downtown San Diego. Now don’t get me wrong – the US Grant is a beautiful hotel and the location downtown made sense if we were going to be walking to all of the nearby restaurants.
Unfortunately the US Grant Hotel is not only not our style at all (it’s kind of a stuffy luxury collection property) but it also was lacking in some of the amenities I really wanted for a weekend of relaxation.
No bathtubs in the room. No pool. No view. No actual spa (just a spa suite where I could get a massage if I wanted).
The hotel ended up being pretty much just a place for us to sleep, nothing else.
And the only thing that was close enough for me to really want to walk to (seven months pregnant remember) was Donut Bar. We ended up having to get an Uber everywhere else so the downtown location really wasn’t that convenient for anything.
One of my biggest complaints about the entire trip was that it felt like it was very generic – like they decided that we were going to Pack Up and Go, staying at the US Grant Hotel, and getting a generic itinerary that everyone else headed to San Diego received as well. I talk about this a bit more later so keep reading!
I know based on conversations with Pack Up and Go that the US Grant Hotel is one of their partners, which means they get better rates there. I’m not sure how many different partner hotel options they have but this one just didn’t feel like the right fit for our situation at all.
And honestly, maybe none of their partner hotels are and this was the best fit. Or maybe all of the other hotels in the area were booked – who knows.
If I was choosing a hotel for my own babymoon with a similar standard rate cost ($200-$300/night), I would’ve gone with one of these resort options that have a pool, full-service spa, and a beautiful beach view. Something a bit more conducive to a relaxing babymoon.
- Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel
- Catamaran Resort & Spa
- Rancho Bernardo Inn
- Hotel Coronado (a bit on the higher range, but I totally would’ve given up our food tour for this!)
Third, our itinerary.
Or lack thereof.
When I spoke to Amy for this New York Times article about surprise vacations, I told her that the reason I chose to do a Pack Up and Go vacation was because I’m very pregnant and we’re moving – we’ve actually already moved now that I’m writing this post!
I’m busy. I wanted to do a trip with my husband before we become a family of four, but I didn’t want to plan it. And I really like surprises!
Unfortunately that’s not how Pack Up and Go actually works. They don’t plan your trip. They plan the flight, hotel, and maybe one or two more activities but then the rest of it is still on you to plan.
They give you an itinerary, albeit what felt like a very generic one that is given to everyone regardless of circumstances, but they don’t plan anything for you.
The only things they actually planned for our trip were a dinner reservation for Friday night (not paid for, that we could keep or cancel if we wanted) and a walking food tour (more on that later) for Saturday in the middle of the day.
So instead of spending the morning excited and relaxed after opening our destination envelope, I bought WiFi on the flight (with my Southwest credit card, ha!) and literally spent the next four hours trying to figure out what in the world we were going to do and eat when we got to San Diego.
It was way more stressful than if I’d had a month to make plans and do research.
Yes, Pack Up and Go provides you with recommendations for things to do, places to eat, and more. They do and honestly all of their recommendations that we ended up trying were great.
But I still had to check out the restaurants to make sure there were things on the menu we’d eat. I still had to call to get reservations (or nix a restaurant because they didn’t take reservations and everything said it’d be a really long wait to get in Saturday/Sunday morning).
I still had to see if the spas offered pre-natal services and call to see if anything was actually available to book last minute.
Spoiler alert – three out of the four spas didn’t have availability last minute, especially not for pre-natal services.
I had to look through websites to see if half their recommendations were even possible for pregnant women (bike rides, kayaking, etc.).
I still had to map out where things were to figure out a good plan for our time.
I still had to do all of the planning – the exact thing I booked the surprise vacation to avoid.
As my husband so kindly put it, Pack Up and Go just didn’t take it far enough – they gave us some ideas but it was the execution of plans that just isn’t a part of the experience.
And that’s the part I needed most.
The one activity they did actually plan and book for us was a walking food tour at Liberty Market. And out of everything we did all weekend, it’s the one thing I wouldn’t do again.
The tour itself was okay but walking food tours typically mean two things – walking and pre-ordered food that you don’t get to choose. My stomach is pretty finicky these days so I ended up only even trying three of the six things.
And it was a food tour of a food market. I much rather would’ve just explored the food market on our own in an hour (of our choosing) instead of spending three hours listening to some history about the place and eating a few bites of food.
The 2PM time for the food tour was also not ideal because it totally broke up our day. But it’d already been paid for, so we felt like it would be a waste of money to skip it.
What I Wish Had Happened
For the $300 fee they took out of our budget, I much rather would have rather seen our entire weekend planned out for us. Not paid for by any means but booked.
There are a whole lot of places that have a 24 or 48 hour cancellation policy. I would’ve loved to see a full itinerary scheduled with the ability to cancel/change anything we wanted the morning of our trip (or when we arrived).
I also wish that the recommendations were more personalized. I don’t know if it’s the case or not but it felt like the recommendations that we received were a generic San Diego itinerary, nothing personalized to us, except maybe a list of spas but again, that might’ve just been a San Diego add-on.
The food recommendations were great, but the activities just didn’t seem like a good fit. Based on their itineraries, the only real options for activities included a lot of adventurous activity (kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding, or biking), walking, and history.
I’d normally be on board with the adventures but at seven months pregnant, they were all a no go. And I’m not a big history or museum person so again those were out.
We made do, but I wish there had been more options provided for things to do, that I could actually do, other than eat.
Would We Try Pack Up and Go Again?
No, probably not. As much as I wanted to love the experience and was excited about it, it just wasn’t for us. We are savvy travelers who do a ton of research when we travel, which probably plays a lot into that decision.
That being said, Pack Up and Go is definitely an interesting idea and tons of people who have done their trips loved it. You can see some of the Pack Up and Go reviews from previous trips below.
And the one other woman that I talked to who also did a San Diego trip said she definitely would do it again.
Keep reading to see who I do recommend Pack Up and Go for!
Would We Do A Surprise Vacation Again?
100% yes. But I would only do one that actually plans out our trip – not just flights and hotels. And one that is personalized for us – not just a generic city guide that I then have to breakdown to see what works for us.
I’d also prefer to do one that is closer to an all-inclusive (maybe not meals) so that I know ahead of time how much money I need to budget for the trip. We ended up spending a lot more on this 3-day weekend than I expected.
After we did this trip, I realized that I’ve actually done quite a few “surprise vacations” the opposite of how Pack Up and Go does them. I’ve done trips (including my trip to Ruidoso in February and my most recent trip to Disney World) where I knew the destination but the entire itinerary was a mystery, pretty much until we got there.
I loved those trips. While it was a bit stressful not being able to control every little detail, it was actually kind of fun to show up and get to see the entire itinerary planned out with fun meals and activities.
I’d take one of those over this surprise destination vacation any day because again, the headache and stress of planning the trip was gone but the fun surprise element was still there.
Was it Worth the Cost?
I chose a budget of $1000/person or $2000 total. That $2000 got me:
- Two non-stop flights from DFW to San Diego on American Airlines – (I can typically get those flights for $250-$275 RT, but they cost Pack Up and Go $755 total likely because they were booked within a month of the departure dates.)
- Three nights in a standard king room at US Grant Hotel – $842 (receipt from Pack Up and Go)
- Two Bite San Diego Food Tour ($98)
- Pack Up and Go Service Fee ($305 – 15.25%)
If I was booking this trip myself a month out, I likely could’ve saved $225-$250 on flights, skipped the $100 food tour, and saved the $305 service fee, which is a total amount of up to $650+ that I would’ve had to use for the actual trip.
So no – for us, it was definitely not worth the cost of having someone book a flight, hotel, and food tour for us.
Had they planned out the entire weekend for us, then possibly.
Another Pack Up and Go Veteran, Hannah, chose a $850 budget for her and her friend, $1700 total. It got her:
- Two non-stop flights from St Louis to San Diego
- Two nights at The Pineapple Hotel (aka Hotel Z) – a less expensive boutique hotel than the US Grant
- A $70 Uber gift card
- Pack Up and Go Service fee (amount unknown)
But her experience was a bit different than mine. She did this as a girl’s trip, and they couldn’t decide where to go, and Pack Up and Go was able to fill in the blanks for them. It was great to have someone else make the decisions for her. She also mentioned that she’s not the most tech savvy, so I’m guessing booking flights and doing travel research probably isn’t her jam, like it is mine.
And she would absolutely go again!
Who Would Love Pack Up and Go?
While it wasn’t for us, I do think Pack Up and Go would be perfect for anyone who falls into one of these categories.
1 – Someone who hates planning trips or just isn’t very good at it.
You’d rather have someone hand you a plane ticket, hotel room, and a list of top sites and go see those top sites. You’re good to just follow a generic itinerary and hit highlights in a city. This also goes for anyone who hates the process of finding the perfect plane ticket, choosing a hotel, etc.
If planning stresses you out, let Pack Up and Go take the stress out for you.
2 – Someone with more money than time.
You’d rather have someone else do the legwork and don’t mind paying a fee/higher costs to have someone else book flights/hotels for you. And if you up your budget enough, you may actually get more things booked like my ideal reservation above!
3 – A group of people traveling together who can’t make decisions.
If you’re traveling with a small group of people (i.e., up to four) and don’t want to make a decision on where you’re going, where you’ll stay, or what you’ll do when you get there – this could be a perfect way to still get to do your trip without all the bickering and decision making.
4 – Someone with zero lifestyle needs.
You’re not pregnant. You don’t have to eat gluten free or vegan. You’re not limited in your activity. You don’t have real preferences of museums versus hiking. You’re good to go with whatever Pack Up and Go throws at you.
5 – Someone who really just loves the idea of being surprised.
And if you don’t fall into one of those categories and still are super interested, I’d say go for it! Or should I say pack up and go for it! You’ll get to go to an amazing destination and explore somewhere you’ve likely never been.
And anytime you can travel is really a win.
If you do book a trip with Pack Up and Go, feel free to mention my name – Britni Vigil. I’ll get a discount on our next surprise vacation.
Pack Up and Go Tips
So you’ve booked a Pack Up and Go trip (or you’re going to based on everything you’ve read so far), now what? I recommend reading through these tips to make the most of your trip!
1 – Don’t look at the Pack Up and Go Instagram account if you want a truly surprise vacation.
From what I can tell, they send people to just a handful of destinations across the country that are all pretty major cities.
Once you get your weather forecast if you already know where they’ve been sending people, it definitely lessens the surprise if you’ve narrowed it down to a couple of places.
For us, with our weather forecast we had pretty much guessed San Diego with a few other options in the back of our mind (New Orleans, Savannah).
And for Hannah, she said the forecast narrowed it down for her to San Diego or Austin.
2 – Be as specific as possible in your survey.
Giving as much detail as possible, especially in regards to places you’ve been or are going will help them send you somewhere new, which is way more fun.
3 – Consider your entire trip budget.
I mentioned this before but it’s worth mentioning again. The budget you pay Pack Up and Go will likely only be used for flight + accommodations plus maybe one more thing if you’re lucky. Don’t go too crazy on the budget if you know you’ll want to spend a lot on food, activities, and shopping when you get there.
4 – Add an extra day if possible.
If you have the time and the budget to do it, add an extra non-weekend day. We found that San Diego restaurants and attractions were crazy on Saturday but pretty relaxed on Friday. It also meant we were able to get some hard to get spa reservations, dining reservations, etc. that just weren’t going to be feasible last-minute on a weekend.
You may not need the extra day if you’re flying from east coast to west coast and getting a few extra hours (and landing early on Friday) but that’s not always going to be the case! You could always opt for a non-weekend trip and do something like a Mon-Weds instead too!
Oh and p.s., if you want to add on an additional day, make sure to increase your budget and note this in the survey!
5 – Pack early then make any adjustments.
Pack when you first get your weather forecast and pack too much. Then once you open your surprise destination (if you are still at home), take out one or two things that you don’t really need. Just don’t forget to bring the best travel shoes with you regardless of where you’re going!
Unless the only airline that flies out of your closest airport is Southwest (not likely), you will want to pack in a carry-on bag or else risk the fees associated with paying to check a bag. Totally understandable if you want to do that – just know your ticket doesn’t automatically come with a checked bag.
More Pack Up and Go Reviews
Check out these other posts from people who did a Pack Up and Go surprise vacation. It’s definitely worth reading other Pack Up and Go reviews before making a decision – most of these people had different reactions than I did!