Ever wondered if mystery travel is for you? Read on to hear about Dave and Jaclyn’s mystery honeymoon experience—and check out the first two installments in our Mystery Traveler Q&A series to find out about Ariana and Brett’s mystery long weekend and Cheryl’s mystery birthday trip.
Jaclyn and Dave decided to take a mystery honeymoon after spending several months researching options and struggling to pick a destination.
“The moment we decided to go for it, we were sitting eating lunch at a restaurant on a very rainy day,” they said. “We had been talking about our honeymoon for a long time, and both of us looked at each other and realized that even if we spent our entire honeymoon inside a restaurant while it rained outside, it didn’t matter—we would be together. So we decided what the heck! We’ll go on a mystery honeymoon. We had so much on our plate trying to plan our wedding that we decided to delegate the most important part to the experts.”
So, in late June 2014, they headed to the Boston airport, ripped open their mystery packet, and discovered they were going to…the Azores in Portugal!
MMT: What were your top hopes about your destination and what your trip would include?
D&J: Mostly we wanted a lot of relaxing coupled with a lot of activities. We aren’t the easiest couple to please—we can’t sit still, except when we want to, so I think we just filled our questionnaire with everything we could possibly think of. We definitely wanted a multi-destination trip (read above: can’t sit still), beach time (but not the whole time), and an active vacation. We wanted to go outside of the continental U.S. and were hoping to go to a different country altogether. We are very resourceful, so we didn’t need a lot of direction, just a few benchmarks throughout the trip to ensure we were taking as much advantage as possible.
Did you have a hard time waiting in anticipation to find out where you were going?
With planning our wedding coinciding with our honeymoon, we really didn’t have a hard time. We had a lot of fun with it—a guessing game at our wedding, and all our friends and family got in on guessing for months beforehand. We honestly didn’t have that much time to think about the trip because we were so immersed in wedding planning. Toward the end, we definitely got anxious to know and started thinking much more about it in the last two weeks, but we were determined not to open it until the last possible minute. We even asked Alicia to put our initial trip (Philly to Boston) in a separate envelope so we could wait until we had to check in for our honeymoon flight at the check-in desk. I think our families were more anxious than us, and they definitely threatened to bribe MMT and to find our envelope with our itinerary and open it before us.
I heard something cool about a map at your wedding reception. How did you incorporate your mystery honeymoon into your wedding festivities?
This was Dave’s idea. We are very traditional and had a pretty traditional wedding, while trying also to make it “our own.” One thing that was so unique about our wedding was our mystery honeymoon. So, we figured that we should memorialize it. We found a map online that was big enough for our 150 wedding guests to write on. Then we mounted it and made some quick instructions asking our guests to guess where we were going on our honeymoon on the actual map. We put it next to the guest book so people could easily leave their guess. We looked at the map the day after our wedding, before leaving on our honeymoon. We’re going to frame it and hang it in our house just to remember all the great guesses!
What were some of the guesses?
We thought southern Spain/southern France or Greece; once we saw the packing list/weather outlook, we thought maybe Croatia. Our guests’ guesses were pretty concentrated in Europe and South America—and we had someone guess the Azores! Some folks knew more than others about what we had put on our questionnaire, so we didn’t get a large concentration in the Caribbean because we specifically asked to not have an all-inclusive resort or to be on the beach the whole time.
Tell me about your trip! What was your favorite part?
The trip was amazing—everything we asked for and so much more. There was no best part! We had the best time, the greatest 10 days of our life. We landed in Ponta Delgado, Sao Miguel at 7 a.m. super sleepy and somehow made our way through Customs and onto another plane to another island (Pico) within about 45 minutes. We were taking everything in and so excited. On Pico, we stayed in a three-bedroom house all by ourselves—we got to cook and relax. We climbed Pico Mountain and tasted the wine of the island. We did a lot of sightseeing, and the people who ran the company who rented our house were so helpful! They basically gave us a three-day itinerary, complete with all the best restaurants on the island to try. We made it to the next island, Faial, in the middle of our trip, and we had so much fun there, too! It was totally different—a swanky hotel and basically a mini city. We got to go to the beach, bike down a volcano, and enjoy the local culture. Horta, the city we stayed in, is a sailing village, so we got to really experience that culture while there. We loved being in Horta because we could come and go to and from our hotel as we pleased. On the other islands, we really got to explore because we had a car, but it was a lot of daylong outings. In Horta, we were much more spontaneous for a few days! The last third of our trip was spent back in Ponta Delgado, Sao Miguel. We stayed in a bed and breakfast, which was really quaint and beautiful. We went to the hot springs full of iron and had the most wonderful local cuisine of food cooked in the ground near the hot springs. We did a lot of relaxing at the pool here toward the end of the trip and genuinely enjoyed the “big city” of the Azores.
What’s the best thing about mystery travel?
It’s so exciting! You have to figure it out on your own and don’t have the ability to preplan at all. You have to be really spontaneous and be willing to roll with the punches. It is such an amazing experience to share with your new spouse and something we will really cherish for our lifetime. It’s also a great learning experience because of all the above mentioned aspects. You learn to trust each other and to trust the people who make your vacation spot their home and you look to them for guidance on your activities/food choices, etc.
What would you say to another engaged couple considering a mystery honeymoon, and why?
Absolutely go for it! A lot of people will tell you that you are crazy and they could never do such a thing. But when it comes down to it, ask yourself the question: Why would I not have the experts plan my trip? It’s the ultimate form of delegation. You are going to have the florist create bouquets and centerpieces, you are going to have a tailor make your dress/tux/suit perfect, you are going to have a chef cook your wedding meal…why would you not have a travel company plan your honeymoon?! As long as you enjoy spending time together, you really can’t go wrong. If you honestly fill out the questionnaire (and you have to be honest!), you will get exactly what you wanted and so much more. It is so exciting to wake up the morning after your wedding and be super excited to find out where you are going on your honeymoon! It just keeps the excitement going. Plus, if your honeymoon wasn’t on the list of places you most want to visit, you can still have MMT plan your next trip to your destination of choice, and you might just get to explore someplace new.
Interested in a mystery trip? Just fill out a questionnaire to get the process started!