Mystery Traveler Q&A: Ariana and Brett

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!

Magical Mystery Tours featured on Wife with Baggage

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

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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 Disneyworld, 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!”

 

Lots of MMT Updates

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!

We’re on a roll! MMT on FoxNews.com

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. 

MMT in View from the Wing!

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 in The Washington Post!

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 Sandiego?,” 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

Want to be our Brand Ambassador?

We need to get the word out about Magical Mystery Tours!  Do you find yourself constantly discussing travel?  Are you eager to help connect people with the vacations of their dreams?  Then this might be the role for you!

Brand Ambassador is responsible for establishing customer relationships,  increasing sales volumes, and working effectively with other team members to build the Magical Mystery Tours brand.

Essential Skills and Responsibilities:

  • A love of travel and eagerness to discuss travel.
  • Focus on connecting customers with Magical Mystery Tours.
  • A delightful person with good social skills, and comfort in a sales position.
  • A person who can proactively and independently generate customer leads and follow-up with potential clients.
  • Someone eager to learn about Magical Mystery Tours, and can accurately represent Magical Mystery Tours’ products and be a good representative of the brand.

Note, this is a part-time contract position.  Pay will be based on performance.

To be considered for this role, please email denise@magical-mystery-tours.com with your resume and an email explaining why you’re interested and why you’d be great for this role.  Also please tell us about your favorite trip and the destination you’d most love to visit.

**Minimal travel planning will be involved in this role.  While Magical Mystery Tours is eager to grow and hire additional travel coordinators, we do not currently have openings in this area.

A Weekend in Memphis

Graceland, barbecue, Beale Street, and the blues… That covers Memphis, right?

I was looking for a quick weekend trip to somewhere I hadn’t been before, and Memphis won out as the best option. (And it may have helped that it’s right on the border of both Arkansas and Mississippi, two of the five states I had left to visit, too.)

So, for those of you who have yet to visit Memphis, what should you check out (and what can you skip)?

We got in late on Friday night, and after debating whether to just go to bed or to check out Beale Street, we made the right choice and made a quick trip to Beale Street. Maybe it’s not fair to compare, though it reminded me of Bourbon Street in New Orleans, just a smaller and calmer version. Everyone was strolling down the street with beers and other large, sugar-filled drinks, and music everywhere. We enjoyed the ribs, gumbo, and friendly service at Blues City Cafe.

Beale Street (and wouldn't you love to know what prompted the "No Reptiles" rule?)

Beale Street (and wouldn’t you love to know what prompted the “No Reptiles” rule?)

The following morning we checked out Alcenia’s. Definitely would not have found this place had it not been recommended in the NYTimes “36 Hours in Memphis” column, and almost kept driving, thinking it was closed when we first found it. The first clue that you’re in for a unique experience is the “Ghetto Aid,” extra sweet Kool-Aid on the menu. From there, for $10 each, we had a combination of fried chicken, sausage, waffles, biscuits, eggs, grits, rice, and fried green tomatoes. Maybe it’s because we live in DC, where brunch is far from a $10 affair, and aren’t used to good southern food, but we were  blown away by all of it. I can’t imagine finding other sausage or fried green tomatoes that can live up to the standards set by Alcenia’s.

Alcenia's.  Yum!

Alcenia’s. Yum!

Fortunately, we had the self-control to only eat about half of our breakfasts from Alcenia’s so we could check out Graceland rather than having to nap off breakfast. As for Graceland…wow, just wow. If you despise tourist traps, tacky 60′s and 70′s decor, mobs of tourists taking pictures of practically each blade of grass, you’ll want to avoid Graceland at all cost. Though if you’re willing to embrace the crazy that was Elvis, you’ll want to take that drive down Elvis Presley Blvd. Warning: tickets start at $30 and go up to $70, so this isn’t a decision to take lightly (see here for a coupon if you want to feel a little better about your decision-and do print it before you get there!)

Some first impressions of Graceland.

Some first impressions of Graceland.

I didn’t know much about Elvis, so to me seeing Graceland was basically getting a first-hand view of the the lifestyles of the very rich and very famous during the 60′s and 70′s. The 15-seat couch, “jungle room”, mirrored ceilings, and fabric covered walls of the house were all fantastic. You also get to tour his private planes, and check out his whole fleet of cars, including the pink Cadillac.

Does it make you want to redecorate?

Does it make you want to redecorate?

We’d seen enough of Beale Street the night before, so we decided to check out a few different restaurants and bars on Saturday night. We started at The Cove, which had a fantastic pirate ship bar and similarly great cocktail list, though it got a little smokey for our taste after a little while.

From there we checked out Mollie Fontaine Lounge, a gorgeous Victorian mansion-turned-bar. There was a DJ on the ground floor, comfy couches and chairs on the second floor, and a quiet patio with lanterns hung from the trees. You can tour various mansions in the area, though it was great to have an opportunity to settle in, check out the gorgeous decor, and have a drink.

Mollie Fontaine's (these pictures don't do justice to how pretty is really is)

Mollie Fontaine’s (these pictures don’t do justice to how pretty is really is)

My final goal for Memphis was to see the world-famous Peabody Ducks. As soon as I heard that one of the nicest hotels in Memphis literally rolls out a red carpet twice a day to let ducks march through the lobby and swim in their marble fountain, I knew I had to see it. I’ll even admit that it took two tries to get this right (we tried to sneak in right before 5 when the ducks marched out on Saturday, but it was too crowded to see anything).

After being so close to the ducks, but not actually seeing anything on Saturday, we got to the Peabody shortly after 10 on Sunday morning to stake out a good spot for the 11 a.m. march. The “Duckmaster” was already holding court, taking pictures with guests, and making announcements about the history of the hotel and the tradition of the ducks. We couldn’t have been more lucky than to get seats at the bar for coffee (with duck stirrers, of course), which gave us the perfect view.

As promised, shortly before 11, as the crowd grew, the hotel rolled out the red carpet, the elevator door opened, and 4 ducks sprinted through the lobby, up the fountain steps, and into the Fountain. Definitely the most fun and random thing I’ve seen a hotel do!

Peabody ducks...quack, quack.

Never expected ducks to run down a red carpet so quickly that it would be hard to get a good picture!

In some ways, Memphis was what I expected-all the major expectations were met, though the city had so much character. Everyone was so friendly, and (other than Graceland), it wasn’t as touristy as I was expecting.  I wish we had had a little more time to do even more barbecue sampling, to check out more neighborhoods,  go to the zoo, and check out more of the other random attractions we kept happening upon (bet you didn’t know that Memphis has the 6th largest pyramid in the world!)

**PS. You’ll most likely want to skip the Mississippi River Museum and Mud Island. Basically, just imagine the worst field trip you ever went on and assume it’s something like that…

Book a tour!