Surprise Vacation Reveal Ideas

Surprise vacation reveal ideas by Memory in the Making
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You’re awesome! You decided to book a vacation or local staycation experience for someone and now it’s time to do your surprise vacation reveal! Researching and making travel arrangements is already quite a lot of work, phew that can be an understatement! I’m typically the go-to person in the family to make all of the travel arrangements and itinerary. So, I equally both feel your pain AND share your excitement!

I have several surprise vacation reveal ideas for you that range from the simplest solutions to gift a vacation, all the way up to creating a major WOW factor! Before I get into my 8 creative ways to reveal a surprise vacation (below), lets talk about how to gift experiences and not blow it!!

The Gift of Lifelong Memories

Is it just me or do 9 times out of 10 people put things on their gift wish lists, yet 9 times out of 10 enjoying experiences and making memories is way better than some thing?

Doesn’t matter if it’s Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries, milestones, or other celebrations, everyone’s guilty of putting a thing down on their wish list. Don’t get me wrong, some things could be bad a** and you would be super excited to open the present up or reward yourself by buying something. That’s cool! But…

Are your kids anything like mine and spoiled to death? Don’t know what to gift the person who has everything? That’s why I spend most of my energy thinking about cool experience gift ideas. Vacations are the perfect opportunity for quality time and to create lasting, lifelong memories!

"It's not just making travel plans, it's gifting memories of a lifetime!" by @meminthemaking
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Now, lets get your next Memory in the Making!

Start with the Bucket Lists

Starting with their bucket lists is your safest best, and I’ll discuss more about why below.

But first, I’ll be honest. It’s sooooo much easier to open up Etsy or Amazon and search “anniversary gifts for husband” and add something to your cart. Being super thoughtful and planning a surprise vacation requires a lot more time, effort and energy. But the reward is definitely so much sweeter! There are many common excuses we come up with that I cover in my other post, Experience Gift Ideas for Families.

In the future, one way to help yourself out creatively is to encourage everyone to think about and share with you their bucket list of experiences, travel destinations, and even their Concert Bucket List, too! <<This is my personal fav that I recommend you and your crew fill out my free concert bucket list journal! Ridiculously fun! I frequently coordinate travel plans with bands I’d like to see at different venues across the United States!

Finally, the last thing you are intending is make someone uncomfortable or stressed by giving them the gift of travel. By uncomfortable I mean, what if they don’t want to go there? Or what if they don’t want to use all of their vacation days for YOUR dream trip? Imposing stress on them would also suck. They could become stressed (especially if you don’t clearly disclose your intentions to cover all/certain expenses) and panic could set in. Meals, excursions, new clothing needed, tips, passport fees, etc. all can add up. If you choose something off of their bucket lists, at least you know they will be thrilled with your thoughtfulness and excitement to make one of THEIR dreams come true! Now, you just don’t want to blow the surprise trip reveal!

Don’t Blow It!

You’re obviously looking to go through a lot of time effort and energy to make this a surprise trip reveal super fun! So don’t blow it!! Here are a few great tips on how to gift a vacation from The Points Guy:

  • Don’t use frequent flyer numbers in the booking or they will get an email from the airline or hotel!
  • Use an incognito browser window so you search and browser history doesn’t accidentally spill the beans!
  • If they need a new passport, make sure there is ample time to get it in enough time!
  • More examples in his full article: How to Give a Surprise Trip.

Next, this article by Lost on the Route is a fabulous resource for everything to consider! He thoughtfully explains How to Gift a Surprise Trip and Don’t Mess Up. Some examples include:

  • Vacation time
  • Think 360-degrees about all costs
  • Making sure your present is appropriate and they’ll accept it
  • Documents needed
  • Leaving space for freedom
  • and more! Read more for all the details.

At this point, if you’re balking at the idea of planning a whole vacation for someone, don’t sweat it! Remember, they have NO IDEA you were considering this so there’s nothing to feel bad about. Obviously, you’re digging the idea of an experience vs. a thing, so head over to my other posts for tons more experience gift ideas and date ideas for married couples to mix it up! Or if you just want to scale back the travel a notch, make the trip a seriously unforgettable local staycation instead. You’ll find exactly what you need in my staycation planning guide! Check it out or save this Pin for later. >>

Now, let’s get to the fun part! The big surprise trip reveal!

8 Creative Ways to Reveal a Surprise Vacation

Below, I’ll go into greater detail on how to stir up excitement for the trip! Here’s an overview of 8 creative ways to reveal a surprise vacation:

  1. Write in a card
  2. Print out a flyer or itinerary with details
  3. Print a QR code with link
  4. Gift or gift basket with items for the trip
  5. Make a video slideshow
  6. Tricky wrapping or clues
  7. Wrap something that goes along with the theme
  8. Setup a vignette display

Write in a Card

The easiest option, and a perfectly acceptable option is to write in a card and then talk to them about all the trip’s details. Bonus points: have the card match the theme of the trip such as a beach with flip flops or the Eiffel Tower. Shopping on Etsy for cards is my fav because there are so many options no matter what the occasion!

The only catch to only writing the destination in the card, is if there’s more to it. I’ve found it easier to give them some details to take with them so they can look further into the hotel, activities, restaurants, excursions, etc. on their own later.

A solution for that is to have a list of links ready to text or email to them after they open their card. A link to the hotel, restaurant menu, event you bought tickets to, etc.

On the contrary, this is a great idea if you aren’t ready to book this trip without talking to them first. With this flexibility in mind you could write in 2 destinations to choose from. Or write in 2 dates to choose from, and immediately put it on your calendars so it doesn’t get dragged out and never actually happen.

Another consideration is to stick their passport in the card as a little creative touch. Next, I’ll show you how easy it is for you to one-up writing in a card.

Print a Surprise Vacation Reveal Flyer or Itinerary

What do I mean about creating a vacation flyer?  Simply put, print an 8.5 x 11 inch page with all of the known details of your trip. Here are a few different examples of some I’ve done in the past.

What to Include on the Flyer

Obviously an itinerary is pretty self-explanatory as far as the format goes. Ready-made templates will help guide how you lay that out, very easily. But, there are a few key bits of information you may want to add in. Examples include:

  • Dates of the trip
  • # of Days / # of Nights away
  • Name of accommodations (hotel, cruise ship, VRBO, campground, etc.)
  • Type of hotel room (suite, standard king, double bed, ocean view, garden view, etc.)
  • Excursions or activity examples available to decide on or pre-planned (swim with dolphins, kayaking, zip lining, shopping at a mall, hiking, casino, spa appointments, etc.)
  • Tickets to an event (concert, play, etc.)
  • Restaurant reservations
  • Resort or hotel amenities
  • Who’s going on the trip
  • All expenses paid or specifically what the gift includes
  • Pictures and graphics representative of the vacation (hotel, scenery, excursions, food, etc.)

Next, lets talk about the easiest way to create this surprise vacation reveal flyer or itinerary!

Try Canva for Free

With no design experience, you can create tons amazing visual content using FREE Canva. In a few clicks and no credit required, you be setup with an account. There are so many canned templates to choose from and they already have the proper sizes associated with them. It’s seriously too easy.

First, create your account and get started!

Create a Design

Second, scroll through all of the different project options or click the Create a design button on the top right. Search for “flyer” and you’ll see a few size options to choose from. I typically would choose Flyer (Portrait 8.5 x 11 inch).

Immediately you’ll see a bunch of different templates appear along the left side of the screen. I almost always start my projects with a canned template. It’s a great starting point and a huge time saver. A great start is to search for “vacation” or “travel itinerary”.

For additional training from Canva, visit their Help page and learn every trick you could think of within a few seconds.

Side note: have you seen my other article on how I created my daughter’s birthday invitation using Canva in less than 5 minutes? Check it out if you’re curious! The amount of other fun things you can do with Canva is endless!

Printing the Flyer

There are a few options for printing the flyer or itinerary. Obviously, if you have a good printer at home (with ink, ha!) that is the quickest option. Download the flyer as a .pdf for best printing results.

Second, have it professionally printed. If you want to make it more fancy or don’t have a printer available, a very quick option is to upload it to a local Walgreens or FedEx Kinkos. They can typically print it out in an 8×10 inch size with a glossy, photo paper. Plus you can typically pick it up in as little as an hour!

Printing Tip: If you know you’ll decide to choose professionally photo-size printing, use the quick “Resize” option in Canva to adjust your flyer to an 8×10 inch size. May need to slightly tinker with the format but it will ensure that nothing gets cut off. Also, consider a little “bleed” room that will get cut off. Don’t place critical information right up against any of the edges of the flyer to be safe. In this case, download it as .png image.

Savings Tip: if you are using Walgreens, I have always found that they offer a coupon code online for all photo orders. Typically 50% off! Check out here.

Third, and easiest option, is to print directly via Canva. If you have a few days, with a couple clicks you you can order in a matte or gloss finish for a reasonable price and free delivery to your doorstep.

Gifting the Surprise Vacation Reveal Flyer or Itinerary

Lastly, wrap the flyer in a shirt gift box or throw it into a gift bag. Bonus points: wrapping paper or gift bag match the theme of the trip!

Next, I’ll show you how you can take a little more of techy approach in no time!

Print a QR Code to Reveal a Surprise Vacation

Technology can be great way to simplify or amplify this surprise! With an easy search for “QR Code Generator” you can very quickly, for free get your own QR code for the person to scan with their phone. What URL this QR code points to is another story! Let your creativity run wild here. Some ideas to get your wheels spinning include a link to:

Wanderlog is a phenomenal free travel app that I now use for ALL of my travel plans. Keep an eye out for my post about how to use this app soon! Subscribe to my Memory in the Making blog now so you don’t miss a beat, plus get subscriber perks:

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Next, get some ideas for physical gifts and when it makes sense to bother buying things for the trip, too.

Gift or Gift Basket

Travel as a gift is certainly plenty! However, creating a themed gift basket of sorts is a cute option.

I only recommend this idea if you know you’ll be buying something for them anyway. What do I mean by that? Your kids would be a great example if you know they need a new swimsuit and flip flops. Or a pretty dress for a family picture. Maybe your husband could use a new pair of sunglasses. Or all the adults get a themed koozie. You get the idea!

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that if you click through & make a purchase, I will receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!

It doesn’t have to be a “basket” either. You can put items in a piece of luggage, a carry-on bag, a toiletry bag, a wet bag, or just a regular gift bag. Here’s my favorite pack of luggage tags, great for traveling with family! Lastly, I’m absolutely obsessed with my wet bags and beach bag from ALOHA Collection. They’re super great quality. I have bought MANY in different sizes for myself, kids, and my husband!

Get a laugh out of it!

Creating confusion to mess with them can be quite entertaining! For example, fill a gift bag with items like travel-sized deodorant or other lame toiletries that you have them open first. You’ll certainly get a funny look. Then let the cat out of the bag with the surprise trip reveal!

Make a Video for a Surprise Vacation Reveal

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Instead of printing something, grab a bunch of pictures from websites, social media pages and add them into a presentation. Many people are great at creating videos these days because of social media and have cool apps to do this on. A few easy options that come to my mind are:

The family staycation we did, I used iMovie and text the video out to the adults and showed the kids. Super fun! See my post, 5 Steps to Plan the Ultimate Staycation for more time savers and pro planning tips!

Now, lets jump into the next surprise vacation reveal ideas!

Tricky Wrapping or Clues

You can get really creative with being tricky. Let your imagination run wild! From DIY, to free printables, to easy to customize and order off of Etsy ideas, I’ve gotchu covered!

First, there are a ton of great, tricky ideas for revealing family trips! One idea is a scavenger hunt, like this free printable Disney surprise vacation reveal. Another is this cute balloon popping reveal activity!

Second, you can go with these elegant travel ticket, like this weekend gift getaway “boarding pass” for a birthday present available on Etsy!

Third, these personalized scratch off tickets that reveal your gift of travel plans are so cute! This luxury travel announcement includes additional customization pieces for more excursion details and is a fabulous choice. These travel scratch offs “Surprise! We are going on a vacation” and road trip reveal tickets are yet another of the creative ways to reveal a surprise vacation!

Next, lets wrap something more tied specifically to the vacay theme and surprise them in a different way!

Wrap Something Related to the Theme

This option can be very simple. A trip to Paris; wrap some macaroons and some French wine. While you enjoy your treats, casually work the trip into the convo! Sneaky and romantic.

This gift is really just an ode to the trip and doesn’t need to be expensive. Wrapping something tiny, unusual or functional is a great way add to the fun vacation presents. A keychain, coffee mug, sticker, their local beer, or other consumables are perfect! Wrap it alone, or hide a note, flyer or itinerary in there!

Lastly, allow me to describe the most creative way to reveal a surprise vacation and create a ton of excitement!

Ultimate Surprise Vacation Reveal: Setup a Vignette Display

My dad has been the king of this surprise vacation reveal idea over the years! At Christmastime, he sometimes will gift us a big family vacation. I can attest as the gift receiver, this is always a lot of fun for us adults and his grandkids! Plus it builds up the group’s anticipation big time. Perfect surprise trip reveal for a group family vacation!

Here’s a perfect example. For a ski trip, a display could include items like ski hats, gloves, and goggles as gifts. Sprinkle around some fake snow on the table and a few other cold-weather decorations to create a winter wonderland vignette.

Bonus points: also create that slideshow video (see idea details above) that includes pictures and video clips of the hotel, ski slopes, etc. Have it playing on an iPad as everyone walks into the room!

Talk about WOW factor!!

Thanks Dad!

Finally, consider combining even elements from a few of the other 8 creative ways to reveal a surprise vacation (above) into one giant, unforgettable gift of travel scene!

Celebrating on Vacation

Ok. Ok. You’re obvi already the coolest! But… if this vacation is built around celebrating something special, like a birthday or anniversary during the vacation, I know you’re going to LOVE this, too!

Birthday Surprises on Vacay

My Birthday Surprises on Vacay post is kick a**! It is packed to the gills with ideas related to decorations, theme ideas, gift ideas, hotel concierge requests and more memorable vacation celebration experience ideas! These ideas are for both kids and adults. Pin these now to save for later >>

Anniversary Getaways

My husband and I recently celebrated our 16th Anniversary. We love to plan a quick getaway each year if we can to reconnect. This year, we added a twist to our anniversary vacation… we knocked something off of our concert bucket list journals! Check out a quick video recap of our trip to Napa, CA for Bottle Rock Festival here on Pinterest >>

Even if you’re not celebrating a special occasion while on vacation this time, save these Pins to your Pinterest board now for later! Let me know whatcha think in the comments below!

Hey, wait a minute! What’s on your own bucket list?? Give it some thought and put those ideas on your own wish list that you share with your friends and fam. What if they want to return the favor some time?!

As adults, we tend to downplay things like our birthdays or Valentine’s Day. Why?? Life is short. I believe we should celebrate as often as possible, even the small things. If this is your first time checking out my blog, see what I’m all about. Also, check out my post, More Champagne Popping, for more inspo on moments to slow tf* down for and ideas to celebrate!

If I was able to inspire a killer surprise vacation reveal that you caught on camera, I would absolutely love to hear about it! Tag me @meminthemaking on Instagram or Facebook!

Without a doubt, save these Surprise Vacation Reveal Ideas to your Pinterest board for later!

…Or text a link to your partner in crime!

Finally, follow me @memoryinthemaking on Pinterest or
@meminthemaking on Instagram and Facebook!

Safe Travels!

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  1. I absolutely LOVE the idea of creating experiences and making memories in lieu of a “gift.” It’s such a good idea to go over bucket lists with the family to help in your decision on a surprise vacation. Thank you for laying out such wonderful and detailed ideas on how to reveal the surprise vacation….I think the “Scavenger Hunt” idea is the most fun!

  2. This is so fun! One time I surprised my husband (then boyfriend) with a road trip to Florida. My sister was living there so I had her take pictures of the beach, etc and send them to me. I put it all together, details and everything, into a “book” (folder with prongs haha). On the last page I put something along the lines of, “So will you go?” Of course he said yes!

    1. Meg, isn’t that the best?! Love it!! We plan trips anyways, so I love making the reveal a special part of the memories too. Why not right?! My personal fav is to download my free Concert Bucket List, compare notes, and then plan a trip to see a band! Or experience a beautiful venue or city you wouldn’t normally go. Grab it here: Have a great time getting your next Memory in the Making!

  3. “Love these ideas! I’m planning a surprise trip for my parents’ anniversary. Any tips for keeping the destination a secret from them?”

    1. Yes! Make sure you don’t include their frequent flyer number in their reservation just yet or they’ll get email notifications. If you book any spa reservations, etc. do not give them their cell number or they’ll get text notifications. Lastly, if you share computers or are on each other’s phones from time to time, make sure to switch to your incognito browser where you’re not logged into google account and search history shows up. Happy travels! 🙂

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