I want to surprise my boyfriend with an international vacation. How do I do this given logistics? Special snowflake details inside.
August 10, 2012 1:04 PM   Subscribe

I want to surprise my boyfriend with an international vacation. How do I do this given logistics? Special snowflake details inside.

My boyfriend's birthday is the week of Thanksgiving and our first anniversary will be the week before Christmas. As a kind of birthday/anniversary/Christmas present, I want to plan a trip to Mexico City, where he has family and has always wanted to visit. Because of our schedules and the ridiculous prices around the holidays, I'm looking to book for mid-November, so we'll be going before any of these big events actually even occur.

I want to surprise him as much as possible, but:
1) He's never been out of the country, so he'll need at least 4-6 weeks to get one.
2) He works for a major luxury hotel and gets dirt cheap rates on them anywhere in the world. They have one in Mexico City, so I would love to stay there. That means he'll have to work that part out through his office.

So. When/how/what do I tell him? Some friends have suggested taking him to a nice Mexican restaurant and telling him there sometime in the next few weeks. I just feel bad because there won't be any real celebrations on his birthday or our anniversary then.

On a not-unrelated note: this will be our first vacation together. Tips/tricks so that we won't murder each other?
posted by anotheraccount to Human Relations (8 answers total)
Response by poster: 4-6 weeks to get a passport, that is. My excitement is showing.
posted by anotheraccount at 1:07 PM on August 10, 2012

Who is paying for the trip? If affordability is an issue, you should start talking about it as soon as possible.

If I was you, I'd make a scrap book of images of Mexico City and other attractions to see/things to do on the trip. It would start out general then specific, then personal with picture of his family members, just pictures, no words. Near the end I'd introduce the ideas of "happy birthday, happy anniversary, happy X occasion" to start making your intentions known. You can make fake travel tickets, or include an envelope of play money representing the cash you have set aside to pay for it, and indicate that you're taking responsibility for that part of the trip and not assuming he will bankroll your idea.

Anyway, wrap up the scrapbook, tell him you want to take a "surprise trip", drive in the direction of Mexico, as far out of town as you can stand (so it looks like you might be going somewhere RIGHT THEN).

When you are way out of town, stop at a unfamiliar but romantic (for you) location (restaurant, park, etc) and give him the scrapbook. After he's finished reading it, explain your intentions, if they still need to be spelled out.

Then you can involve him as much or as little as you want in the planning process.

Travel tips:
Be willing to spend time apart, each doing your own thing during certain mornings or afternoons of the trip, especially of you're not used to being together 24/7.
Mutually agree to be honest about your needs while traveling, and communicate a lot.
posted by itesser at 1:24 PM on August 10, 2012

Make a tiny treasure hunt for him. Put a clue someplace he'll see right as he gets home, have it lead to an envelope behind the TV, then to a box under the bed (or wherever). Under the bed you have an envelope where the clue is just coordinates for Mexico City. He'll look them up, be surprised, and you can plan the trip together.
posted by Garm at 1:28 PM on August 10, 2012

If you want to still celebrate his birthday and Christmas, can you either order a photobook of your vacation pictures, or put a picture in a frame and give it him, if he is into that sort of thing? Not sure what your boyfriend likes to do, but I know guys who would enjoy a margarita + photobook making night, so that can be a nice anniversary activity for you two. You can also still organize a birthday dinner for him, it's not like you can't celebrate with his friends and family just because you went on vacation earlier this year.

This might be hard to keep it a secret, but you can buy a couple of souvenirs that he would like while you're there and give them to him as a present for Christmas. Not lame keychains or magnets, but something like a bottle of tequila or an awesome handmade knife/flask/whatever that he saw at a market but didn't want to spend the money on it himself, or a spice kit if he likes to cook mexican food.
posted by never.was.and.never.will.be. at 1:31 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, for travel tips the best one is to not travel outside Mexico City and be careful when you're inside it. The massive drug wars have turned Mexico into a borderline failed state and the danger posed by both targeted kidnappings and random gang violence is real. The good news is Mexico City is not under travel advisory by the US State Department; the bad news is you probably should not go anywhere else. (For example: they suggest you do not travel along the highway between Mexico City and Acupulco when it's dark, and do not go outside major, crowded tourist areas of the Acupulco beaches)
posted by Anonymous at 1:46 PM on August 10, 2012

This is a multi-phase project.
- I like the ideas about how to tell him that you're going to Mexico together.
- In the next phase, things have to get done. You have to choose and buy the flights, get hotel reservations, get passports (and visas?), make plans for things to do while you're there, contact his family, etc. There's a definite balance between giving him a gift of a trip he had no say over, and saying "plan us a trip to Mexico and FYI I'm not getting you a Christmas present.". My advice would be to go out of your way to do almost all the preparation, but give him some choices. i.e. here are three options for dates, which? okay, I'll go buy tickets. Here are the dates, please book the hotel rooms. Here are the passport forms, I've filled them out, sign here. Here is a list of things we could do, what sounds most exciting? You want to maximize his ownership and excitement about the trip, but minize his hassle.
- Then, you go. It'll be fun. Plan one nice surprise while you're there.
- I like the idea of buying a special souvenir and giving it to him for Christmas. If carrying it back in luggage is a problem, or sneaking in a purchase while he's watching, you could pick out something and take a phone snapshot, then reimburse one of his family members to have them mail it to you at home.
posted by aimedwander at 2:03 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I just feel bad because there won't be any real celebrations on his birthday or our anniversary then.

I think sometimes when people start planning a surprise in order to celebrate Event X, they sometimes get so wrapped up in the surprise part that they forget that they're also going to be celebrating.

You guys will celebrate his birthday and your anniversary by going on this awesome vacation together.

I agree with surprising your boyfriend sooner than later, especially if the whole thing depends on you guys staying at a place connected with his work which has to be arranged through the proper channels.

Re traveling together in general: just relax and remember that you're on the same team. Cut each other slack when things get stressful. Compromise about stuff you want to do. This seems like a manageable enough trip for you guys to just be able to relax and have fun. (Aside from him wanting to visit family -- I've dealt with that before, memail me if you're concerned about it.)
posted by Sara C. at 2:11 PM on August 10, 2012

My husband and I have just planned two surprise international trips, for our parents, and pulled them both off. They were AWESOME!!! Plus, once a year, one of us plans a surprise trip for the other and our kid.

For his parents, we told them to plan to have specific dates saved for a surprise trip, so they could arrange for a cat sitter. We then gave them a packing list, and the first item on it was, "1. Passport -- because when you're traveling some place unknown, you should always bring a passport." This was their first trip outside the country too, but given the fact that you need a passport just to go to Canada, it didn't set off a red flag that we were going some place exotic. The rest of the list was things they'd actually need to pack.

Then we dropped all sorts of hints over the next few months, most of which were true but misleading. This upped the excitement for them.

Finally, we were meeting them at the destination airport, so we had their daughter take them to the airport and tell them on the way where they were going. Totally jaw-dropping awesome. I can't express enough how super cool that was for them.

We do essentially the same thing for our family surprise trips: specify the date, provide a packing list, and when we leave the house, only the trip coordinator knows where we're going.

You could totally do this. Just tell him you plan to take him some place to celebrate his birthday and your anniversary, that it's a surprise where, and that he needs to have that week off of work. Tell him to get a passport. Ask him if you can arrange to stay in a company hotel through his boss, or HR department, or whatever, and then if that works out, ask them to keep it a secret. We had dozens of people in on the secret and they were all totally thrilled to be a part of it, and not one spilled the secret.

Have a great time! And me-mail me if you need more details.
posted by Capri at 2:51 PM on August 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

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