Picture this – we’re on the gorgeous Oslo coast, glorious sun shining down, fascinating sculptures and architecture to catch the eye in every direction, and five hours earlier, we were stood at London Gatwick, wondering where we would be flying to for the weekend.
Surprise destination holidays are either the most stressful, or the most exciting, way to travel – it comes down to your sense of adventure ..!
How It Works.
It’s a simple, and I think genius, concept. You give Wowtrip £150, your dates of travel and a whole lot of trust. They book your flights and accommodation, and tell you where you’re going when you get to the airport. From their website, you can then download your boarding passes, a quick guide to the city you’re visiting and your hotel details.
Let me just go ahead and pre-empt some of the most FAedQs:
- They send a weather report a week in advance to help you pack.
- You get your airport, terminal and flight time 48 hours in advance, to help you plan. (I asked for our airport a week in advance and they were happy to help.)
- Yes, you could work out / look up where you were going from that info. And if you wanted to, sure, go ahead. But doesn’t that sort of defeat the point?
- You are actually given access to the destination 48 hours before departure, so if it’s eating you up, you can just click the button and find out!
- They check you in.
- Cabin baggage only is standard, although you can pay extra to have a checked bag.
- Yes, you need a smartphone for this to work!
With a friendly and proactive social media and email response team, it’s easy to feel that you’ve just handed this responsibility over to some of your close friends (but backed up with experience, glowing reviews, actual know-how and contacts within the industry!)
Whilst they do give you info on getting to your hotel, it’s limited! We didn’t have any indication of price on ours which would have been super helpful. We figured the bus would be cheapest and ended up spending £19 each instead of getting the train for a tenner!
We were booked in with Norwegian Airlines who were friendly and efficient. They’re a standard budget airline that didn’t have all the ‘budgety-ness’ of some of the other budget flyers…!!
At under ten minute’s walking distance from the seafront, main museums and the highstreet, Smarthotel was a great place to stay. We’d read some very off-putting reviews of tiny rooms and even smaller showers (outweighed massively by all the positive ones!), but we found the clean and pretty room and enormous shower-come-wet-room more than spacious enough for us.
The staff were really friendly, but not consistently helpful. One employee misread our late-night weary faces as an invitation to run down tomorrow’s opening times of each attraction in Oslo (there are over thirty!) Her information wasn’t even accurate… Another gentlemen behind the desk told us that the boats would run “All night” then later in the conversation he clarified, “At least until 1am”. From what we could see, they ran until 10pm, I’m glad we didn’t take his word for it, or we could still be stuck on one of Norway’s beautiful islands right now!! (oh no… that would be awful…)
We paid of the hotel breakfast on the Saturday, which was VERY yummy, albeit at about £12 a person. Both Ryo and I couldn’t eat until dinner time, so for a breakfast / lunch combined (and relative to astronomical Oslo prices) we thought it wasn’t too bad!
The biggest (/only?) problematic logistic for us was booking travel to / from the Airport. You’re told just 48 hours before take-off what time you’ll be flying and from which airport. As someone who normally scours the internet for the best deals and discounts, I found this really restrictive. Advance booking is the friend of the money saver!!
We also paid an extra £10pp to not fly before 12pm. The only negative feedback we could find for wowtrip was that people had been given 6am or 7am flights for which they had to be at the airport 2 hours early. With only 48 hours to wrap your head around logistics, this can be a bit nightmarish, and resulted in a really expensive taxi for the reviewers involved (others had had to book a night at a pricey airport hotel.) Even having protected ourselves against this, we still had to get to the airport at 10 am. On a Friday, in peak hours. We were looking at a good few hours of trains with several changes at £45-90 return each. (We still didn’t know what time we’d be getting back, turns out, public transport would have finished and we’d have been stuck.) After a quick bit of head scratching and googling, we found airport parking for £43. We drove in (faster than the trains), parked up, and were in the terminal within ten minutes. Petrol was around £25-30. This brings the return travel to and from the airport to about £35pp, not a huuuge saving (though much more convenient, faster, and we were able to get back!!!) This is obviously a BIG chunk of money on top of your £150 wowtrip tickets, and something to consider when booking.
Also, when you get there you will be thinking on your feet (unless you want to spend your whole holiday researching the cheapest / best places to eat and visit.) You sort of have to accept that with that, comes the fact that you might end up paying a little over the odds for some things and missing out on others. But I think that that’s part of the charm!
If you were to price up a trip and try and do it yourself, you might, possibly, come in at under £150pp. But it would require a good stint of research, several separate comparisons and bookings, and it would lack all the charm and joy of the surprise! Wowtrip are able to take advantage of cheap combinations and ongoing understandings with vendors. You want to compete with that, be my guest!
As for us, we LOVED the ‘not knowing-ness’. It was romantic, and stress free. We had no agenda, no pressures to tick everything off of our list or hit all the major attractions. We just went with the flow, decided as we went, and enjoyed the weekend in confused, disorganised bliss.
Wowtrip was very easy to use and the whole destination reveal / ticket distribution was really smooth. We will definitely be using them again!!!
There are other surprise destination organisations out there like srprs.me and mystery break. (Wowtrip is easily the cheapest.) I’d love to hear from you if you’ve ever used one, would you recommend them? Where did you end up? Let me know below!
Also, keep your eyes peeled for a round-up of how to do Oslo in two and a half days!