Keeping the Surprise a Secret
September 30, 2013 7:45 AM   Subscribe

I've chosen the destination for a surprise trip and have all the basics planned - how long can I can keep the secret going and how/when should I plan the reveal?

Based on this earlier question, I've decided the bf and I will be heading north to Alaska for a 3-day weekend. Flights, lodging and rental car are booked; dinner plans for one night are confirmed and I feel confident that regardless of weather we'll be able to figure out on the fly if we want to hike, climb, run, or just laze about. So, I'm confident that once we get where we'll going, everything will be grand. The bigger question is how long can I draw out the secret (up to airport security?) and what clever ways might I provide him a few clues to where we're going without entirely giving it away.

Any thoughts on Alaska-specific clues or teasers? I don't fully trust myself to pack for him, so I have to reveal enough about wardrobe so that he'll be well-equipped, but I think I can be vague enough that he might think we're going anywhere mountainy/cold. Any anecdotes about pulling off a surprise trip up until the last minute?

Thanks in advance - I wouldn't have chosen this specific destination without some great MeFi input and I'm really looking forward to the trip no matter what!
posted by DuckGirl to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My biggest suggestion is - I would maybe make sure that he at least knows right away that he is at least doing something that weekend, so he doesn't do something like accept an invitation to a guys-only weekend with his buddies or agreed to do extra work or something. Because that would suck if you woke up the day of departure and said "surprise! We're going to the airport" and he was all "um....I told the boss I'd work third shift today."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:51 AM on September 30, 2013

Response by poster: Not to threadsit, but important to clarify - he knows the timing of the trip, just no additional details at this time - so he has the whole weekend blocked off, Friday am through Sunday. He's cool with it being a surprise, I just want to make it as fun as possible.
posted by DuckGirl at 7:53 AM on September 30, 2013

Wardrobe: tell him you're time traveling to January [or whatever month is appropriate depending on what the climate is where you live]. You can fluff this with stupid details like "also make sure to bring your car flying license, because even though it's only a few months in the future, WHO KNOWS when they'll invent the flying cars, and oh by the way maybe bring your boots in case the flying car crashes (you know, early technology adopters and all) and we have to hike home."

You could also provide him with other "clues" to throw him off. Give him a lei. Give him a Spanish-English dictionary. Make black eyed peas and grits for dinner. Buy a Birds of the Northeastern US book. Etc.
posted by phunniemee at 8:03 AM on September 30, 2013 [3 favorites]

Some things that might not initially make me think of Alaska that I'd realize afterwards, "Oh! Alaska!": north, moose, snow, Russia (both in proximity to and the fact that Alaska used to be Russian territory), Chabon's "The Yiddish Policeman's Union" (okay, that's pretty obviously Alaska), crab (Deadliest Catch), auroras, a Mythbusters mini-marathon that includes their Alaska episode, ferries, 1959 (the year it became a state, which, if you go for distraction, is the same year Hawaii became a state). Less subtle: Sarah Palin (depending on your politics), any reality shows set in Alaska or thereabouts (Deadliest Catch, Ice Road Truckers, etc), "Into the Wild", "Northern Exposure", the oil pipeline, Valdez and the Exxon Valdez, walruses, polar bears. Note that penguins do *not* (normally) live in Alaska, so you can say "well, penguins don't live there..." to throw him off.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:12 AM on September 30, 2013

Tell him before you pack, or at least in enough time for him to throw a few more things into his luggage. I know it sounds fun to keep it a secret right up until you get off the plane, but I've had these trips sprung on me a few times, and I've always wished I'd known early enough to prep at least a little for the specific place we went.

phunniemee's suggestions of "throwing him off" are fun in the run-up, but it's just not possible to make it a total surprise (the TSA frowns on leading a blindfolded and earmuffed person through security). Give him enough advance warning so he doesn't end up annoyed that he couldn't bring Thing X that he wanted to.
posted by Etrigan at 8:17 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I actually did something like this for my husband's birthday this spring.

The night before the trip, I handed him a packet of papers stamped "TOP SECRET" across the outside, and inside there were a series of 'choose your own adventure' pages. The first page (the only one he was allowed to see that night) had three options of where he would like to go: Puerto Rico (the real destination), China (for a three day weekend from the US East Coast), and the other was visiting the in-laws.

Once he chose PR (he did say 'oh great, I've missed your mother!' at first because he lives on sarcasm), he got to pack. Then on the plane I handed him the second sheet of options, where he would like to stay: camping (inside joke since he hates camping), a nice hotel, or a crummy motel by the airport.

When we woke up the next morning, I gave him another sheet of optional activities for the day, and that afternoon I gave him a sheet of optional activities for dinner, etc. Those all had actual options on them, instead of gag options, since I really did just want to do what he wanted.

It was pretty perfect - I also had hoped to not tell him the destination until the last minute, but I figured if it were me trying to pack without actually knowing where I was going would be absolutely awful, so I just gave him only 12 hours notice.
posted by CharlieSue at 8:43 AM on September 30, 2013 [6 favorites]

If he is a dude with a substantial wardrobe, ask him to pack for each of the four seasons in space bags (or another self-contained package). That is, four sets of clothes, summer, fall, winter, spring. The night before, take them all and pack the correct clothes in the suitcase, and hide the rest.

That will allow you at least a bit of mystery until you get to the airport!
posted by juniperesque at 8:59 AM on September 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

Serve him Hostess Sno Balls or Baked Alaska for dessert.
posted by belladonna at 9:22 AM on September 30, 2013

Anecdote: My boyfriend at the time sprung a Mexico trip on me so he could propose on the beach. He went so far as to collude with my boss to arrange a week off from my job. We'd been remodeling at the time, with the closest Home Depot an hour away, so he woke me early with coffee and behaved oddly enthusiastic about yet another Home Depot trip. Up to this point I had absolutely no clue. Of course when we blew past that exit, I speculated a day in the city, but then we blew past the city and the airport was all that remained. I didn't know the destination until we reached the gate. We spent a full week in Mexico. He did awesome *BUT* he really didn't know how to pack my clothes for that weather! It mattered very little in the end. His effort was beautiful and the memory of unpacking all the wrong things makes me smile to this day.

In your case, he knows so yeah just hint at a trip to a colder place. For such a short trip I'm guessing you're headed to Juneau or somewhere else in Southeast Alaska. Snow is likely there, but so is rain. Maybe eyeball his packing job and sneak in a couple of things that he may have missed (e.g. An extra under layer, rain pants, down vest). Also: likely anywhere you go has stores, so don't sweat it too much. It'll be great!
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 11:26 AM on September 30, 2013

My husband and I do "secret holidays" for each other often, and we only find out once we're at the airport (or city, etc.) we just tell each other a climate to pack for and leave it at that, with a great deal of guessing and speculating beforehand! When I'm on the organising side, I always tell outrageous lies to make it more fun.
posted by ukdanae at 1:22 PM on September 30, 2013

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