Monday, July 11, 2016

Destination Unknown: just Pack Up+Go

The premise is simple: you provide them with a budget and a bit about your preferences, and they come up with a surprise 3 day mini-vacation for you.

I have to admit that when I first started reading about Pack UP & Go, I had an immediate arthritic kneejerk reaction: who’d want to do that?

But my second, less geezerly thought was: this sounds like fun. After all, I’m a confirmed urbanist and they specialize in cities  - mid-sized, mostly. You know, the ones you’re always going to get around to getting to but never do. They figure you’ll get yourself to New York City. But maybe not to Burlington, Vermont. Okay. Probably a bad choice of an example, as I’ve been to Burlington. And Portland, Maine, another city on their round-up list. But they’ve also got Pittsburgh on there. And I’ve had Pittsburgh on my go-to list for years. I just haven’t gotten around to it. (What’s a bucket list for, anyway?)

Pittsburgh happens to be where Pack Up + Go is (virtually) located. Pittsburgh is also co-located in my head for some reason. Although I haven’t had one in a while, I have had a number of different dreams that took place on bridges at the confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. So I’ve always kind of wanted to go there, if only to see if there really is a confluence of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio Rivers. Or whether I just dreamed it up. Alas, my husband was not that interested in Pittsburgh. We almost made it to Philadelphia once, but mostly if we were doing a US city it was NYC. Unless it was a quickie to Portland Maine or Burlington Vermont.

Alas, Jim is no longer with us, but I’m thinking that he might have been okay for a destination unknown trip. I say might because Jim, of course, liked to plan things well in advance. Nine months before we were scheduled to leave, he’d hand me the lunch menu of a restaurant and Paris and tell me, “I thought we’d have lunch here on Tuesday. I think I’ll have the salade Niçoise.” But if I’d caught him in a spontaneous kind of mood, he might have been good with this. Of course, he’d have been pissing and moaning the entire way there – wherever “there” happened to be – but we would have had fun, I’m sure.

Anyway, since Lillian Rafson launched Pack Up + Go in January, she’s planned about 250 trips. She thought she’d be doing 50-100 a year, so she’d clearly on to something. (Rafson, by the way is in her early twenties. And here I am still trying to figure out if if’s too late to try to figure out what to do with my life.)

Part of that something that Rafson is on to is that it’s really quite wonderful to have someone else do all the detail work for a trip. While the nine-month-in-advance menu research used to drive me crazy, it was great to have Jim take care of every last transportation and hotel detail, planning which I find more or less an utter drag.

Then there’s the getting pushed to explore a place that you might not have gotten to on your own. At my age, of course, I’ve been to most of the places I’ve wanted to see. There’s still Pittsburgh. And Nashville. Savannah. Maybe a few others. But it would still be kind of fun to see what someone else came up with, based on how I answered my questionnaire druthers. And what I was willing to spend. (You also indicate whether you plan on driving, or need a flight. The short duration of the trip precludes cross-country jaunts, by the way.)

A bit before the big day:

Travelers get a packet of information in the mail, telling them what time to go to the airport and a little information to help with packing. A sealed envelope reveals the destination. Most people wait until they get to the airport to open it and find out where they’re going (though some sneak a peek early). (Source: Forbes)

The packet also includes suggestions on what to do when you get there.

I’ve got a trip to Venice in the planning stages for this fall. (Note to self: get going. Jim is not coming back from the Great Beyond to make the reservations for you.) And in the spring, I’ll be heading to Galway.

But I might be able to sneak in a little Pack Up + Go in there somewhere.

I was thinking of looking into Road Scholar (which used to be known as Elderhostel; guess us Boomers don’t like to be reminded that we are now officially the elders). A friend of mine went to Cuba this spring with them and said it was great. But first I think I’ll roll the dice with Pack Up + Go.


Frederick Wright said...

This sounds wonderful, thanks for putting me on to it. When I was single, this was the way I typically traveled. Head to airport or train station (when living in Europe) and just randomly leave for whatever departure city was up next.

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - What a great adventure that must haYe been! You've gotten me to be more excited about doing something wtih Pack Up + Go.

Frederick Wright said...

Maureen - I'm literally joining today! My spouse and I are flexible on almost everything, except we won't go anywhere that requires a car (thus nearly every American destination is off-limits) and we prefer rustic/simple instead of suffocating luxury.

Maureen Rogers said...

Frederick - Let me know how it works out. It's such a great concept.

Best, Maureen