Surprise Trips is a company run by Expedia. The premise being you pick a date, an airport and 3 places you don't want to go as well as the length of time and a maximum price and they book it for you. Sounds scary? It is, but fun all the same.
Your surprise destination is revealed via message when you get to the airport two hours before. If you are wondering what to pack, they also send you a weather update approximately 72 hours prior to your departure time. All packages include flights and a minimum 3-star hotel, and luggage is just hand luggage. Now that's a scary proposition for me on its own.
As I was going with my husband, we decided to embrace the adventure and go with the flow. Mr W said to me, don't try to work it out, it ruins the fun.
So we promptly put the holiday in the back of our mind until a few days before.
72 hours before the phones pings, and an email saying our destination weather has been updated. Yikes! We look, it says it will be hot and humid but wet. Queue frantic Googling of weather forecasts, flights that leave from Birmingham two hours after our arrival time there and an overall feeling of slight panic. Mr W was worse than me....
We thought we narrowed it down to Athens or Bucharest. We shall see. Exactly two hours after we arrive at the airport there are two flights leaving, Milan or Lyon. Milan would be amazing but it doesn't correspond to the weather forecast.
So on the morning of the trip we arrive at the airport, excited but nervous, sit down and await the email. Almost exactly on time it arrives… we click on the message and a little video plays out. Here is a video of the experience leading up to the trip
We are going to….
Milan! The fashion, shopping and food mecca.
Yay! I do a little happy dance and then get Mr W to check the rest of the details. We are flying with FlyBe and we are staying in a converted monastery not far from the train station. Mixed review of the hotel on TripAdvisor but it looks ok, and the stay includes a buffet breakfast, which is a huge plus point so we don't have to pay for that.
We go over to the FlyBe check in and use our passports to scan in the machines to print our boarding pass, which works perfectly. We only have hand luggage so no need for bag drop. We then go through security, stopping off in Pret-A-Manger for a coffee and a snack. Before long it's time to board the plane. The plane journey goes smoothly and after a short flight we touch down in Milan.
Mr W researched how to get from the airport to the hotel while we were in the Uk and it was straight forward as the train station is attached to Milan airport. That is what is great about Surprise Trips, although no transfers are included they make it easy for you to get to you destination hotel. As we got off the train in Milan north a short 5-10 min walk later we arrive at the hotel.
The hotel is beautiful from the outside, a bit quirky inside. It's an old monastery, now a conference centre. The room is a bit dated but clean. Wi-fi is free but spotty and there is a small flat screen TV in the room with an English channel and a fridge. Breakfast was included and was actually a very good buffet breakfast with hot and cold options, a definite plus point to the short break.
Milan is an interesting compact place, and the hotel was placed perfectly to walk to the major attractions.The museum housing Leonardo Da Vinci's' The Last Supper was very close to the hotel but we couldn't manage to get tickets in time, although we did some of the other attractions like the Duomo Cathedral which was beautiful
My Thoughts On Milan
All the locals are dressed very smartly.
It appears a wealthy city, certainly in the centre.
Waiters are either very friendly or abrupt.
You can eat fairly reasonably although there are lots of pricey cafes too.
You will get bitten by mosquitos so bring some repellant.
What To Do In Milan
Visit the stunning Duomo cathedral
Window shop At Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II for designer goods
See The Last Supper, Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpiece
Take a day trip to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore
My Top Tips For Booking A Holiday with Surprise Trips
Try and let go of that inner control freak. I normally plan a holiday to an inch of its life but I couldn't here. Enjoy being liberated of the planning.
As you can only take hand luggage think of clothing in layers. I took dresses that I could wear with leggings and cardigans and left the many handbags and shoes I normally take at home. Think simplicity.
Pack for most weather conditions. The only slight disappointment was that our weather forecast was simply wrong, however, most of Europe is hot in August so we decided to pack the heat. It was hot in Milan but not humid and clear and with no rain. I wonder if this aspect could be improved.
Most of Europe is in Euros so we decided to chance it and buy some before we go, we were right to buy but if it was a country that doesn't take Euros (like Switzerland or Budapest) you would have to buy currency at the airport or at your destination.
Check your data plan on your phone before you go and use free wi-fi and apps such as Tu-Go from O2 to make texts and phone calls.
One thing I learnt from the experience is that life is liberating with only hand luggage, no waiting for your suitcase on the carousel, no having packed too much that you don't wear and much easier to carry your small case to the destination. Check out this post on what to pack in a carry on bag.
Milan probably isn't a place I would have visited but I am glad I did.
Here is Mr W's video of Milan, from the travel blog we write together, FlyDriveExplore.
So if you decide to book a trip with Surprise Trips I would say embrace your new adventure. So what if it's somewhere you wouldn't have gone normally, you are there now so enjoy!