Ever wondered if mystery travel is for you? Read on to hear about Cheryl’s experience as a solo traveler celebrating an important birthday—or check out the first installment in our Mystery Traveler Q&A series to find out about Ariana and Brett’s mystery long weekend.

Cheryl sailing in NantucketIn late June 2014, Cheryl was ready for a few days away from the chaos at work and for a chance to relax and enjoy her birthday. With her Magical Mystery Tours reveal packet in hand, she showed up to Washington Dulles airport and discovered she was headed to Nantucket, Massachusetts for an island retreat amid beautiful landscapes and a plethora of activities.

MMT: Why mystery travel?
Cheryl: I wanted to commemorate a significant birthday. I had planned on going alone, but couldn’t decide where I wanted to go. Work was so hectic, with long hours, etc., and I couldn’t find the time to plan. I was at the point where I NEEDED, not wanted, to get away, but just didn’t know where to go. That’s where MMT entered the picture.

What were you looking for out of this trip?
I was looking for some R&R, time to reflect, and a new adventure, though I suppose just the act of going through the MMT process and arriving at the airport with the unopened envelope in hand was half of the adventure…and definitely half of the fun! Several people who knew what I was doing said I was brave, but I never once felt that term applied. I am the type who typically plans, schedules, verifies, and reconfirms. This trip was going to be the opposite, and I was determined to go with the flow, even if it turned out to be a bad experience. It was going to be memorable…regardless!

NantucketWere you surprised when you opened your reveal packet at the airport?
When I opened the envelope, my first thought was, “I was way off base!” Because of the weather forecast provided earlier, I couldn’t help but speculate where I might be going—and was wrong on all counts. I was expecting to see the Pacific Northwest (maybe Seattle, Portland, perhaps southern Canada), Upper Northwest (maybe Maine or southern Canada), or Alaska. I know I must have looked like a crazy lady waiting in the security line and finally walking to my gate in the Washington Dulles Airport—I just could not stop smiling. It was such a joyful experience.

How do you choose destinations when planning trips yourself?
I have had the opportunity to travel a fair amount both in and out of country. I thoroughly enjoy traveling to new places and experiencing different cultures. It’s more of an adventure if English is not the native language. However, since I would be traveling alone on this trip and could allot only five days, I felt I would have a better experience without working through language barriers.

Tell me about your mystery trip! What was the best thing you did?Nantucket Lighthouse
I was as honest with myself as possible in completing the MMT questionnaires, and the things I naturally gravitate to were all part of this trip. The best way to describe it is MMT sent me someplace I didn’t even know I wanted to go! There was plenty to do, but I never felt rushed. Most memorable was the 18-mile bike tour to Sconset, sailing on the Endeavor, and my last night dining on the beach, wrapped in a blanket, watching the sun set and the stars come out.

What are your top tips for other potential mystery travelers?
Stay flexible and be open to anything. Even if the destination is not what you expected or to your liking, it’s still a new experience and not to be wasted or taken lightly. And do not, under any circumstance, open the envelope until you get to the airport. While I feel certain I will do a MMT again, that first-time experience of “opening the envelope” cannot likely be duplicated…sort of like a first kiss.

Interested in a mystery trip? Just fill out a questionnaire to get the process started!

In their article, “Have Retirement, Will Travel,” Northern Virginia Magazine says that seniors who’ve “been there and done that” should try Magical Mystery Tours.  We couldn’t agree more!

Read the whole article here, but here’s some highlights:

Adventurous? Seen it all? Hate to plan? Want a Cinderella experience? Imagine, showing up at the airport and waking up in Morocco, or maybe Montana.

Impossible? Not a bit. Enter Denise Chaykun, president, and Stephanie Whitesel, executive director, of Magical Mystery Tours based in Washington, D.C. Travelers decide on a budget; how long they want to be away; fill out a detailed questionnaire about what they love, hate, don’t want, must have; and arrive at the airport with a secret-assignment package bound for who knows where. In advance, travelers are told what to pack and how they’ll get there. But if they can avoid peeking, the destination remains a surprise. Senior Secret Agent stuff.

Senior secret agent??  We’ll take it!

We really had fun doing this interview with Northern Virginia Magazine.  We think that seniors (as well as most travelers!) have specific travel preferences and expectations, and shouldn’t hesitate to let their travel planners know about those desires.  We’re more than happy to work with people who might have limitations in their diets, concerns about walking long distances, or other needs that can really make or break a trip.

Anyone else have good tips for traveling seniors?

If you’ve ever wondered what mystery travel is like and whether it’s for you, check out our new blog series, Mystery Traveler Q&A, in which we chat with some of our travelers about their experiences.

Ariana and Brett on their mystery long weekend in Montreal.

Ariana and Brett on their mystery long weekend in Montreal.

In late May 2014, Ariana and Brett headed to the Knoxville airport, ready for their long weekend mystery getaway. Upon opening their mystery packet, they discovered they were on their way to Montreal, Canada!

MMT: Why did you decide to take a mystery trip?
A&B: We decided to take this trip because we loved the idea of being surprised at the airport with the destination! It seemed like such a fun and unique experience that we would remember for a long time. We only had a few days free to travel and so this seemed like a great time to try a mystery vacation and see if we liked it.

Did you have any guesses about your destination?
Given the fact that we only had a few days, we assumed the destination would be in the U.S. or Canada. We were thinking either Colorado or Canada, but we tried not to guess so we could be totally surprised.

What did you like about doing a mystery trip?
I loved the freedom to happily anticipate the upcoming vacation with no expectations and no neurotic searching of TripAdvisor, trying to plan out every minute of the trip. Often when we take a trip, I am exhausted by the time we actually leave because I’ve been trying to meticulously plan everything. It was great not knowing what to expect. We packed the day before based on the weather outlook and packing list provided and that was it! The only thing we could do was sit back and look forward to being surprised!

What did you do on your trip?
We enjoyed walking all over Montreal, eating at some fantastic restaurants, shopping, getting lost, visiting several museums, going for a day hike, and seeing the newest Cirque du Soleil show. We were able to pack a lot into a short trip, but we had no set expectations, so we were able to just go with the flow and be spontaneous.

What are your other vacations like?
We have traveled all over the U.S. and to various Caribbean islands, Mexico, etc. All trips have been planned ahead of time, sometimes at all-inclusive resorts. Sometimes we take last-minute trips to various U.S. cities for a long weekend. We enjoy sightseeing, hiking/outdoor activities, restaurants, museums, and golf and spa vacations.

What would you say to other travelers who are considering mystery travel?
DO IT! It was such a fun experience, and MMT did an excellent job planning everything for us. I liked that we picked a short trip to start with, just to see if this was for us. Now I feel confident that we would love to do a longer mystery trip somewhere more exotic. Also, I would advise potential travelers to not try to guess the destination—you’ll ruin the surprise!

Interested in a mystery trip? Just fill out a questionnaire to get the process started!

Thanks to Clapway.tv for including us on their list of unique ways to travel!

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 10.36.45 AM

Such a fun list, and I’d say that Magical Mystery Tours is solidly in the middle of their “uniqueness” spectrum.  Certainly crazier than a staycation or checking out your hometown, but a less crazy (and more affordable!) than space travel!


Thanks to Diane of Wife with Baggage for doing an interview with Magical Mystery Tours!

Screen Shot 2014-07-02 at 3.21.40 PM

Here’s a little piece of the interview, but check out the whole post for more about our successes, nightmares, and some more travel tips!

Toot your own horn. What are you the most proud of when it comes to MMT’s successes?

“Knowing that we’ve helped people take vacations that otherwise never would have happened is such a great feeling.  We love planning trips for everyone, though having a customer tell us that they just have no idea where to start and to trust us with a 25th anniversary trip or a trip to celebrate retirement or other huge life event is really special.  We love getting to play a part in people’s big events!

I’m also really proud of our team of travel planners.  Collectively, we’ve covered an awful lot of ground in our own travels and are really committed to finding whatever it is that’s the right destination for each traveler we work with.  It would be much easier if we were just planning a bunch of trips to Vegas or Paris or Disney World, but we look at each traveler with a set of fresh eyes and really try to use our background to figure out what they’d love—and often that’s a destination that they may not have on their radars or might not have ever even heard of before!”


We have so much going on here at Magical Mystery Tours!  Aiming to have many more posts coming soon, but here’s some of our big news:

We expanded (both geographically and in size)!  We’re thrilled to have hired another travel consultant, Katie Truesdell (check out her bio on our about page).  On top of that, Alicia just moved to London!  We can’t wait to hear about even more European adventures she’ll surely be having.  With Katie in Chicago and Alicia in London, this means that Magical Mystery Tours is now in Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, and London!

Stephanie’s still in Boston, but has a second little girl, Nalani, who was born in February.

Denise just got back from flying around the world.  She stopped in Tokyo, Seoul, Thailand, and Frankfurt and will be posting the trip soon.

We’re also particularly excited about mystery trips that recently went out to Belize, Lisbon, Sedona, Dubai, the Dominican Republic, and a few other places.  Of course, we’re also excited about mystery trips leaving soon, but that’s about all we can say about that!

Smarter Travel just included Magical Mystery Tours in the their list of “10 Totally Unique (or Wacky) Ways to Travel“!

We seem pretty tame compared to some of the other options:  spaceships, dogsleds, camels, desert island drop-offs…

What do you think?  Is a mystery trip really that crazy??

Travel writers are really paying attention to mystery trips this month, and that’s just fine with us!

FoxNews.com has a great article discussing the mystery trip trend!

Here’s one of our favorite quotes:

Surprises, when done well, can be thrilling, even when it comes to something as personal and complex as travel. And . . . the building anticipation of mystery travel oftentimes gives adults the feeling of being kids on Christmas Eve. Not to mention, it nixes the stress of actually planning a vacation. 

We were already excited about being featured in The Washington Post, but our week got even better when we found out that one of our favorite travel bloggers, Gary Leff, wrote about us on his blog View from the Wing!

You should definitely check out the whole post, though we really loved Gary’s thoughts on Magical Mystery Tours and the particular conditions he’d want if he did a mystery trip!

Anyway, I share this because I love innovative travel businesses, people finding ways to add value to the adventure lives of others in what’s otherwise a very difficult industry to be in.

And because — as obsessive a planner as I am — I could probably use taking a ‘mystery trip’ and turning my trip over to someone else entirely. Except that I’d probably insist domestic flights on American, and that anything international have confirmable upgrade space using my 100,000 mile flyer international upgrade certificates.

For all of you pondering whether a mystery trip is for you, what conditions would you require?  What makes you nervous and what possibilities really excite you?

And if you’re not already reading View from the Wing, we can’t recommend it enough for the amazing tips on acquiring and making the most of miles and points.

Magical Mystery Tours is thrilled to be featured in an article in this weekend’s Washington Post travel section!

We had the pleasure of planning a trip for Becky Krystal, one of The Washington Post’s travel writers.  In the article she details her anticipation and efforts to guess her destination.

You should definitely read the whole article, but here’s a fun quote and the amazing picture they put with the article:

In a concept that’s part “Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?,” part Match.com and part “The Amazing Race,” your destination is a total secret until you arrive at the airport. It seemed like the kind of thing that, when done poorly, could go very, very wrong or, when done well, could be very, very awesome. I’m a glass-is-half-full kind of person, so even though it went against most of my instincts, I took the plunge.

Washington Post Pic