Last time, I shared a bit about all the factors that go into choosing the destination and building the perfect itinerary for a mystery trip. I even shared a couple quick snippets from recent trips and it was so much fun, that there will be a few more stories coming, starting with this Girls' Weekend Mystery Trip to Lexington, Kentucky!
Let me introduce you to Kayleigh, a talented esthetician based outside of Nashville, who reached out about gifting her friend a Mystery Trip! (I don't know about you, but none of my friends has ever gifted me a trip, so off the bat she already wins!)
The budget goal was around $700, not including food, so we were definitely going to be in the road trip variety of planning and we decided that with their schedule, keeping it within a 4 hour drive would be ideal.
We got all of "the business" handled, picked the dates, talked about what each of them enjoys and then it was time to do the adventure alchemy (see what I did there?).
As we talked I learned that they were starting out in their travel experience, which meant I had a lot of great options to work with - always exciting!
Kayleigh shared that they like the outdoors, they both like a little bit of nightlife and dancing, cool coffee shops, and museums, and definitely swimming. A beach was kind of on her friend's mind; but geographically that was off the table for now.
Equipped with this information, I put on my metaphorical lab coat on and got to work. I'll be honest, my first inclination was Atlanta. It would be on the outer edge of the 4 hour travel time; but, neither of them had been to Atlanta and there is a lot to do and see- with standouts being World of Coca-Cola and Georgia Aquarium. It was looking really good; but then there was a scheduling twist and they wanted to add an extra day. The budget was just a little too tight for the cost of lodging in Atlanta with the addition of an extra day/night.
So, I get back into the lab and think about great places that are underrated and amazing within a 4 hour drive. This is where extensive travel experience comes in handy. It's one thing to read about places in a book; but what are the hidden gems, are they actually that good or is it just internet hype? I always start by flipping through the giant, mental rolodex of places I've been so I'm not dealing with as much risk around what a place is like (it also helps to be familiar with a destination so I can help travelers navigate any hiccups they may encounter on their travels). A little bit of mental exercise and A-Ha: Lexington, Kentucky! It was perfect. Lexington is closer, has a really fun nightlife scene and TONS to do and see, without being as crowded and overpriced.
The first thing to solidify is lodging. Hotels would definitely eat up the bulk of the budget, so it had to be something outside of a major chain in order to be affordable and still be welcoming.
This is where the Adventure Alchemy model becomes really powerful. We intentionally aren't part of any travel consortiums- this choice keeps us constantly sourcing the best and most creative experiences. As I dug in on the rental options, a beach-themed condo came up and it was perfect!!! If you recall, Kayleigh's friend had REALLY wanted to go somewhere "beachy" and when I saw this condo, I KNEW it was the perfect touch. I shared the rate with Kayleigh (well within budget), she was happy, and it was booked!
REMEMBER! At this point, they still don't know where they are going, just that they now have lodging for 3 nights! During the booking process, I always reach out before anything is reserved. Clients ALWAYS have the final go/no go on every purchase and get copies of the actual purchase receipts in the final package. No surprises in the costs. EVER.
Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!
With all trips, the transportation and lodging arrangements are the first thing to firm up, then the real magic begins: building out the perfect itinerary. Honestly, this is the hardest part - hand selecting restaurants and things to see/do that line up with the travelers' unique interests. Everyone is different and it's so important to get this right.
Ever have someone ask you to pick where to have lunch and you want it to be something everyone will like and you have no idea what to choose, so you let someone else decide?
Yeah, it's like that, only x 100 more stressful and there's no one else to decide for you!
These girls wanted at least one night out. Only catch? They would be arriving Saturday and leaving on Tuesday. That meant, Saturday was the only real happening night of their trip and they would have to hit the town running. Their packing list instructed to them to travel in "going out clothes" and they were pointed in the direction of a handful of swanky restaurants and bars (Parlay Social, West Main Crafting Co.) that are all close to each other, with a lot of other options to pop into as they walk around and enjoy the cool vibe and beautiful architecture of this awesome town. They had so much fun and especially enjoyed discovering 21c Museum Hotel Lexington - a boutique hotel and contemporary art museum.
Aside from restaurant and coffee shop recommendations during their trip, I pointed them towards the Kentucky Horse Park, Mary Todd Lincoln House, and even suggested the Ark Encounter, which is a little drive away but I KNEW would be a hit with this specific pair. I threw a few other possibilities in there - like a community water park and some fun walk-throughs.
Usually, there are enough recommendations for twice as much time as you have on your trip, which allows you to choose from a variety of things; but these girls? They did EVERYTHING! WOW! At lightning speed, but the did it...all of it. I still smile when I think of them planning out how to not miss a thing!
A little bit of magic
Remember from the last blog that there are usually little pieces of magic that come up during trips? I got a very excited message from Kayleigh during their trip that since she was a little girl she had always been in love with horses. Like obsessed! She hadn't shared this tid bit with me and yet, there they were in the Horse Capital of the World and heading out to the Kentucky Horse Park on their final day. Kayleigh got to do a horseback ride at the park and was in seventh heaven!
A bit of irony - I wasn't sure how they would feel about the Horse Park; but included it in the itinerary simply because it's such a cool experience. Well, there it was, the piece of magic that gave everyone the warm fuzzies and a bit of magical confirmation that this was the perfect destination for these special friends.
Putting It All Together
Part of building a great itinerary is making sure the places you recommend are open on the days they are traveling and during the times they are available. All Adventure Alchemy itineraries include multiple options and you can always choose to do some, none, or in this case all of the recommended activities. There is nothing worse than really wanting to see something only to show up and learn that it's closed on that day/time. All of that is taken into consideration as we work through the tiniest of details of each trip.
I should also add, that no tickets were purchased in advance for these friends, which further allowed them flexibility to go, do , and see according to what they wanted to do in each moment.
It was such an honor to create this girls' trip and so fun reminiscing about it here. Every trip is a really special creation and the Adventure Alchemy guarantee is that NO TWO TRIPS ARE EVER THE SAME! How could they be? No two clients are the same!
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