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How to plan a surprise trip for parents?

Giving a gift is always a happy feeling. No matter how big or small, seeing the joy on the receiver’s face when they open a gift is like no other. The best part is the feeling that you know them so well that you were right about what they would love!

My parent’s anniversary was coming up and as usual, I started planning to get them a gift. I was trying to think of things that they would like or needed currently. But nothing was coming to mind. While talking to my younger brother, I realized that since they loved travelling, I should just gift them a travel experience instead of a gift item to be kept in the house.

And thus, began my research into what kind of places my parents would like to visit and how I could arrange such a trip for them. Planning a surprise trip for parents can be a joy provided you understand them well and anticipate their needs. For e.g.: if your parents have medical issues, then maybe a trip to Leh Ladakh is not suitable, or if they are nature lovers, they would not love a trip to Hong Kong city. 

My biggest concern, and it could be yours also was that they are older and hence I needed to ensure the best possible hotels for their comfort, good clean transport and a complete schedule so that they knew where they will be without any worries. I know that when I do my research and book anything online, there is a small chance that the photos might be misleading or that the booking is not exactly what was promised. However, in those situations, I can usually negotiate or find some alternatives. But I didn’t want to take that chance when my parents were travelling in a foreign country and so I took the help of Pickyourtrail.

Planning Step 1: Budget

Remember this trip is a gift. That means you would usually plan and pre-book everything (well, almost everything) in advance so that your parents don’t have to take care of anything when they are there. That means you should book flights /trains, hotels with meals, local transportation, etc. If your parents have not travelled a lot & are not very experienced in it, you can also book entrance tickets to museums, guides, etc. Keeping all these in mind, you should calculate your budget. If you’re on a tight budget, maybe consider a short city break. My requirements were as follows:

  • I would book flights for dates around their anniversary but be flexible with the exact dates by a few days here or there to get the best airfares. 
  • I knew that I wanted good, clean hotels with local themes as my parents are fond of cultural experiences. 
  • I didn’t want my parents to have to argue or negotiate with local taxis, so I also had to arrange for intracity transport.  
  • While my parents have travelled a lot before, nowadays I have noticed that they get stressed more, so I needed a day-to-day itinerary for them

Step 2: Deciding a location

Whether the holiday is in India or abroad, one must make sure that the destination would be the kind of place your parents would enjoy. I know my parents are very fond of history, architecture and exploring new cultures, so I chose Vietnam & Cambodia. This was also an easy decision for me because my dad and I had often discussed these countries and I knew they really wanted to visit them.

You must try and think about what kind of vacation do your parents like. Do they want to relax and be pampered all the time, then maybe you can consider Goa, Kerala or Bali? Are they adventurous and want to try something new, then maybe North East India or New Zealand would be for them? What if they want to do a lot of sites seeing and are fond of history and culture, then maybe you can explore places like Hampi, Cambodia, Vietnam or Turkey.

Another point to consider is what time of the year you are sending them on this trip. The weather must be nice for the trip to be genuinely enjoyable and it should not be peak tourist season else they will just be struggling to see anything with busses and busses of tourists.

Step 3: Finalizing the Itinerary

The team at Pickyourtrail was very helpful when it came to this. I discussed everything with them, down to daily itinerary, pickups and drops and even where they would be having their meals. I wanted everything to be perfect for them as this vacation was a special gift. I wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly, so I even asked for the make and model of the car that would pick my parents up from the airport to ensure it would be comfortable for them. 

I know I was being extra cautious, maybe even irritated by the PYT team with my questions, but they were very courteous and understanding throughout. They even suggested changing some hotel options because they felt they could get better ones suited to my parents needs. Agni from PYT even called to assure me that each hotel we booked had tea/coffee service available in the rooms – you know, for their morning chai! 

We planned out all the details and got the bookings done. I also booked other activities that I felt my parents would enjoy like musical shows in the evening, cultural performances, food tours, etc. 

Step 4: Logistics & Paperwork

Firstly, I had to check somehow that their passports were in order – expiry date should be minimum 6 months away from the date of travel and there should be at least 2 blank pages in the passport. To avoid suspicion, I told them I needed all their government IDs as I was scanning the full family’s documents to keep in an online safe. 

Another advantage of Vietnam and Cambodia was that their visa application does not need too many documents. Pick Your Trail team helped me out with what was needed, and I submitted everything in time. 

Usually all invoices, vouchers, etc are sent on email but PYT team was kind enough to print every voucher and courier them to me so that my parents would be more comfortable.

Step 5: The Big Surprise & away we go!

This is the most exciting part of all the planning! 

I gave my parents an envelope with flight tickets and a card telling them about the upcoming trip. Their excited faces are not something I will forget anytime soon! You can choose to reveal the surprise in any way you’d like – its all up to your imagination! 

The PYT team made a group on the Telegram app with my parents, me and 5-7 of their travel partners who can answer any questions and handle any last-minute issues in bookings. It was really reassuring for me that there was a team of experts looking after my parents in a hands-on way. Every evening they would send a summary of what was going to happen the next day so that everyone was prepared. My parents also shared some of their travel pictures on the group and the excitement of the team was so genuine, it made me so glad I had chosen Pickyourtrail! They truly want to make sure that everything goes smoothly, and people enjoy themselves fully!

My parents came back with so many wonderful stories, experiences and pictures! We discussed the trip every time we met for the next few months. It was such a great feeling for me to gift them something that made them so happy. I can’t wait to plan another trip for them!

A few other tips-

  1. Apart from all the paperwork, visa, etc, planning a good trip takes time so please do start in advance. This also gives you more opportunities to get great deals.
  2. You can also request for refundable bookings, wherever possible. Since it’s a surprise, there is a chance that something might come up last minute which is out of your control.
  3. If the surprise is for a special occasion like a birthday / anniversary, make sure you inform the airlines, hotels, etc. They often try to make it special for their guests with complimentary cakes, upgrades or some small nice gesture.
  4. If there are any dietary restrictions, like allergies or religious beliefs, its best to inform the travel partners in advance.
  5. Make sure your hotels are around the city center or near the places that your parents will visit. This will make it easier for them to see everything and ensure they don’t get too tired.
  6. Make sure your itinerary has time for relaxation. It should not be filled with activities all the time.
  7. Never travel without travel insurance. Since my parents are of a certain age, this was the most important document for me

Ready to throw a surprise trip for your parents? Let Pickyourtrail show the way and make the trip most memorable for them:)