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Travel Tramps

Who Wants a Surprise Vacation?

by Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin
- Posted // 2012-07-03 -

When you travel, do you like to have everything planned out, or do you want a few surprises along the way? Most of the time, travelers are looking for some combination of both.

If you’re going to Paris, of course, you want to set aside time to go to the Eiffel Tower, but you probably also want to have an afternoon free to just go wandering through the streets and stumble upon some tiny bistro where you can sit at a table on the sidewalk and people watch as you sip on cafe au lait and bite into the best pain au chocolat you’ve ever tasted. When you get home, you’ll probably spend more time telling your friends the cafe story than talking about the Eiffel Tower. In our own travels, we’ve found that some of our best memories came from doing things we had no idea even existed until we got there. On the other hand, if you do no planning, you may have no idea what to do and miss out on some great stuff.

Every traveler is somewhere on the spectrum between, “Here’s what the itinerary is for today,” and “Hey, what’s that over there? Let’s go check it out!” Technology is making it easier to get closer to each edge of that spectrum. We recently noticed a travel tool that you might think is just what you’re looking for, or it might have you running for cover.

The service is called Nextpedition, and it’s ideal for people who like to be surprised on vacation, since you end up taking a trip where you don’t know exactly where you’ll be or what you’ll be doing until shortly before you do it. (We talked about this service, and our very different reactions to it, on a recent episode of our radio show.)

You start by going to the Nextpedition site and answering 15 questions to find out what kind of traveler you are. A sample question is:

You’re about to post something on Facebook, it’s:

A. A photo of a tasty dish you just made

B. A video from your favorite band

C. Smack-talking a rival team

D. A panorama of a vista few have seen

E. A blast-from-the-past photo

The questions seem designed to determine if you're into food, music, sports, art, getting an adrenaline rush, etc. Once you’ve answered the questions, you’re given a “sign” that reflects what kind of travel you like. They are generally combinations of two different words such as Hiplomat, Detourist, Karmakaze, Disco Trekker or Poshaholic. If you don’t agree with the sign they give you, they also give you the next two signs on your list to choose from.

Once you have your sign, you call up American Express Travel, which runs the program, and speak with a specialist. You’ll talk about the length of the trip and how much you want to spend, but the rest is a mystery. Before you embark on your journey, a package arrives at your door with vouchers to pay for various things, as well as a small console that's about the size of a smartphone. The console has your entire itinerary, but only reveals it gradually, sort of on a need-to-know basis. You can also set it up so you can share your itinerary, as it’s revealed, with your friends and family back home.

Our own reactions to this were very different. “He” (Geoff) thought it sounded interesting. “She” (Kathleen) cringed at the very thought of it. It sort of reflects the way we travel. She plans and books everything, he shows up and asks, “What are we doing today?” So in a way, we’ve already got our own Nextpedition system that works for both of our tastes.

Whether you get comfort from knowing that there are plans for tomorrow or you enjoy waking up to a new surprise every morning, or you want a mix of both, technology is making it so you can get the type of trip that reflects your individuality and personality.

The Travel Tramps write regularly about their treks near and far in City Weekly, as well as blogging online at CityWeekly.net. You can also listen to Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin on the weekly Travel Brigade Radio Show at TravelBrigade.com.

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