5 Reasons I couldn’t take a mystery holiday

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The Mystery holiday trend seems to have blown up recently. The concept of booking a holiday yourself and knowing your travel plans, itinerary and, most importantly, your destination, are so yesterday. The coolest travellers are turning to mystery travel companies, who will take care of everything – where you go, how you get around, what exactly you’ll be doing when you get there?

Could I do this? I’ve been thinking about this lately as I’ve read some really interesting travel features on the subject. And I keep coming back to the same conclusion – nope, I really don’t think I could. I think I’d go as far to say that in many ways, mystery breaks sound like my worst nightmare!

But first, before I share my five reasons on my I couldn’t take a mystery holiday, what is a mystery holiday and how do they work?

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What is a mystery holiday?

A mystery holiday is essentially a holiday that has an element of surprise. So forget planning all the hotels, activities and destination yourself, a mystery holiday is about handing over the control to a travel company who will decide all of this for you.

Are all mystery holiday companies the same?

Mystery holiday companies have one thing in common – that a good bit of your holiday is going to be a surprise. They also (obviously) allow you to control the dates you are going to travel and logistical elements such as the airport you fly from. Sometimes they will also ask for your interests to help steer the type of holiday they give you. Aside from that, they actually differ quite a bit in the amount of control they give you over your trip.

Companies like Mystery Break for example, let you tailor your travels to a certain ‘theme’ such as romantic, cultural, beach or party and they actually send you your travel documents and personal itinerary a few days before your trip. So, in a sense, this gives you quite a bit of time to prepare and pack the correct clothes!

‘Sometimes you need to get lost to find yourself’

Websites like Srprs me also allow you to pick up to three destinations that you don’t want to go to before they get to work planning your break. What’s also interesting about this one is that they send you a scratch card a few days before you leave. So you have entire control over whether you reveal your destination before you finish packing, or whether you wait until you’re at the airport. That would take a bit of self-control wouldn’t it?!

Don't Panic sign

Then you have the likes of ‘Get Lost’ by the boutique travel company Black Tomato. Quoting the old adage ‘Sometimes you need to get lost to find yourself’, their mystery holidays really go the extra mile and take on the nature of an expedition which you have to complete.

Matching you with a ‘get lost’ expert, they can actually keep your destination under wraps right up until you get there (I believe they do this by flying you via helicopter to your destination). And with a focus on finding your way through a specific type of ‘terrain’, they’ll even send you advice on the types of training sessions you can do in the lead up to your trip, so you’re physically prepared for the experience.

In partnership with technology start-up What3Words, Black Tomato’s mystery holidays are based on an algorithm that applies a three-word address to every three-squared-metre section of earth, instead of using the traditional GPS system. So the challenge for you is to use this system to navigate your way to your final destination. Sounds pretty serious, right?

These are just three examples and as you can see, how hardcore/suprising/complex your mystery break is, totally depends on the company you go with and how much control you’re willing to give up.

I think I’d have to do some more serious research before considering a secret holiday. And after my recent post on finding your sense of wonder in travel, I think a mystery holiday could be a pretty good way of doing it.

But do I think mystery holidays are for me? On the whole, sadly not. Here’s why.

5 Reasons I couldn’t take a mystery holiday

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1. I don’t like the unknown

Well, I’ve pretty much answered the question with those four words: I don’t like the unknown. Of course, getting through life would be difficult if I literally couldn’t cope with the unknown. Because  let’s be honest, a lot of what’s going to happen in your life is unknown! But on the whole, if I can have an element of control over something in my life, I’ll flipping take it. A bit neurotic? Yes perhaps. A bit of a control freak? Sort of! I don’t think I have a problem with someone else taking charge, just as long as I’m kept in the loop at regular stages. So those people who don’t like surprise birthday parties, yep I’m one of those people. With the whole concept based around the unknown, you can see why I think mystery holidays could be a struggle for me!

2. I like to plan

Admittedly, I’m not a mad planner. When I go on holiday or take a trip, I don’t often feel like I have to read reams and reams of travel blogs, websites and guides before I get there because, believe it or not (despite what I said in point one), I do like an element of discovery. And in a world where I think you can plan too much (which I discussed in this blog post) leaving more opportunities for discovery and wonder in my travels is actually something I want to do more of.

However, what I do like to have ahead of a holiday, is a rough plan of what I want to do, how I want to spend my time and a general vision of what that destination is going to be like. When you book mystery holidays you clearly have none of that. This would drive me a little bit nuts. Which leads me onto my next point…

3. I love the countdown to a holiday

One of the biggest things I’ve realised lately is I love the countdown to a holiday or trip. In fact, I wrote an article about the pros and cons of last-minute travel for LV.com here. And in my research I found that while smartphones have made us more impulsive as travellers, booking your holiday at least 120 days in advance could make us happier!

I do love being spontaneous now and again but if I had the choice between booking last-minute for the rest of my life and booking in advance, I think I’d go for the latter. I love talking about my holiday and building up the excitement in the months and weeks leading up to it which you can’t do so much with mystery holidays. In fact, I’d go as far to say that you can’t really get excited about something that you don’t know the details of. Do you agree?

The Travel Journo, Lucy McGuire, South Africa

4. Getting out of my comfort zone is hard

So, you’ve probably gathered by now that I don’t like big surprises, I don’t like the unknown and I don’t like giving up control. So yep, going out of my comfort zone is hard! It’s seems silly to say this because I have pushed myself out of my comfort zone a fair bit in the past and generally nothing terrible has happened. I went zip-lining in Brazil and got in a safari plane at least twice in Africa (even though I hate heights) and I stayed in some pretty unsavoury hotels and apartments during our three months in Africa.

On the whole, I actually think we should push ourselves out of our comfort zone more to develop ourselves. But would I pay money to do this without knowing how I was going to be pushed? Probably not!

5. What if it’s rubbish?!

Last but not least, my last concern about mystery holidays is the simple fact that they could be rubbish! And no one likes having to pay for something that ends up being a disappointment do they?

Again, perhaps this is not the type of holiday anyone should take if they go with this mindset. And I reckon that if you do book a secret trip, you should thoroughly research the company first and read all of the reviews. Then, if you decide to go ahead, that’s it – you are already signing up for an ‘experience’ and it’s something you need to just embrace, right?! I’d still have that worry though. But maybe that’s just me…

In all honesty, while writing this list has confirmed there are lots of things that make me sceptical of mystery holidays, it’s also made me realise that with the right frame of mind, maybe, just maybe, they could actually be quite rewarding.

Ok, maybe I’m a little bit curious after all!

Have you ever been tempted by mystery holidays? Do they sound like your dream travel experience or your worst? Let me know your thoughts!

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