I booked a weeklong trip to a mystery destination. I had a lot of fun, but I'd do a few things differently next time.

Andrea poses in the courtyard of the Jerónimos Monastery.
I traveled to Lisbon as part of a mystery trip with Journee. Andrea G. Preziotti
  • I booked a solo trip to a mystery destination with a company that planned everything for me.

  • I traveled to Lisbon and enjoyed group tours and activities — as well as some alone time.

  • It was fun to step outside my comfort zone, but I would have liked more time to explore by myself.

When traveling, I prefer leaving things to chance, as many of my most memorable moments typically happen on less-crowded streets or when I'm chatting up strangers at a restaurant.

That's why when my friend suggested I check out Journee — a travel company that specializes in mystery tours and plans everything, including your destination — I couldn't resist trying it out for a solo trip.

Companies like Journee have become more popular in recent years as more travelers lean into the idea of having a trip planned for them. In fact, a survey of 27,000 travelers by Booking.com found that over half of the respondents would welcome the idea of a trip to an unknown destination.

I was excited to see what all the hype was about and book a surprise trip of my own. Here's what it was like to travel to an unknown destination with Journee.

The company asked me questions about my travel preferences and sent clues leading up to the reveal

A slideshow presentation with purple text that reads, "February — Clue #2." Underneath in smaller brown text, the slide reads "From arid lanes to dunes, mountains, beaches, lakes, forests, and snow-capped peaks — this nation has it all."
I made a PowerPoint game out of the clues the company gave me. Andrea G. Preziotti

When booking my trip, the company provided me with an in-depth travel questionnaire that asked about my interests, curiosities, risk tolerance, well-being, and overall travel philosophy. It also dug into the "why" of my trip, the safety criteria, and logistics and budget.

The company then sent me a trip proposal, which provided a few clues about the city I'd be traveling to. There was no pressure to book and the proposal itself was completely free.

Once I committed, they built up the suspense by gamifying the pre-trip content, slipping fun facts and clues into my WhatsApp DMs.

I challenged myself (and my friends) to rely on our brains (no Googling) to figure out where I might be going, which led to many meaningful conversations about travel.

The company also provided a high-level packing list, which included items like a bank card, phone, charger, passport, and comfortable walking shoes.

The destination reveal turned out to be pretty underwhelming

On the day of departure, I added some euros to my carry-on before taking an Uber to Newark Airport. In the car, I found myself daydreaming about my destination, secretly hoping it was somewhere I'd never been.

My plan to film a reveal video at the airport was quickly foiled when my driver informed me that Newark has two international terminals.

Because the tour company didn't note the terminal information on the envelope, I had no choice but to open the card in the car, which was underwhelming.

However, I was excited by the location listed on my card — Lisbon.

Along with the destination, the envelope included a detailed itinerary with daily pre-booked excursions, including an e-bike tour and a sunset cruise, with one free day to myself.

The company did a great job arranging my accommodations and activities

I arrived in Lisbon mid-morning after my basic-economy flight. I was relieved to find the company booked me a studio apartment with a sweeping balcony overlooking the street.

I liked being in a residential area, and the proximity to a metro hub and grocery stores made it feel like I had moved abroad.

My first group excursion turned out to be a one-on-one personalized e-bike tour of the city when folks bailed because of the rain.

A pathway with people walking along a river with a large bridge.
I took a two-hour e-bike tour along the Tagus River waterfront.Andrea G. Preziotti

My city guide took me on a two-hour tour along the Tagus River waterfront, and I ended up taking that same route several times throughout the week.

Large stones standing in a grassy field with trees.
We visited a 7,000-year-old megalithic complex.Andrea G. Preziotti

I also enjoyed the other trips Journee booked for me, including a drive along the countryside to a small village southeast of the city. Here, my group dodged the rain to visit a Stonehenge-like megalithic complex dating back 7,000 years.

One of the last curated events of the trip was visiting the Jerónimos Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Feeling utter tranquility in the cloisters was worth the 90 minutes I spent waiting in line.

As the week went on, I started veering from the pre-planned schedule

Groups of people walk down a cobblestone street with stores.
I decided to skip my third-day excursion to wander off the beaten path. Andrea G. Preziotti

Although I enjoyed the group excursions, I worried that I wouldn't have enough time to explore the city on my own. That's why I decided to skip my third-day excursion to wander off the beaten path.

I weaved through the Alcântara district, stopping at the LXFactory, an old industrial textile complex turned food and art hall.

I also biked to explore the Mouraria and Alfama districts, filling up on bacalhau, Lisbon's salted codfish tapas. I even spent a few hours at the Fado Museum, an interactive and immersive cultural arts center where I learned about the history of Portugal's soulful music.

I loved being able to explore another side of the city, which hadn't been in my original itinerary.

I enjoyed the trip, but would make a few changes next time

Overall, it was exciting to step outside my comfort zone and hand over the travel planning to someone else. I loved the surprise of not knowing the destination and visiting historical sites off the beaten path.

Next time, I would book with a friend and have a more direct conversation with the tour company about having more time for independent exploration.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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