top of page

Pack Up & Go to Places Unknown

It’s 3:05 p.m. Sunday and I’m sitting in the airport waiting my return flight home.

Three days ago, Thursday morning, I’d just arrived at the airport in Iowa for my 8:30 a.m. departure.

I had no idea where I was going, where I would be staying or what I would be doing.

Man with surprised looking showing a sign reading, You're Going to Philadelphia!
Just me, sitting in the airport parking lot, getting ready to board the plane to, surprise, Philadelphia! **

I’d signed up with Pack Up & Go, a surprise destination company. They did all the planning, booking my flights and hotel, scheduling the activities and dinner reservations, and even provided suggestions for other activities in which I might be interested.

The one thing they didn’t do was tell me where I was going.

So there I was, around 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning, sitting in the airport parking lot, tearing open the sealed envelope that, truly, was going to tell my future - Philadelphia!

The 4-1-1 on how it works:

-- You sign up through Pack Up & Go’s website. It’s an insanely short form and easy to do.

You let them know when you want to go on your trip, how many days and how much you’re willing to spend. My trip was four days, three nights and I set a budget of $2,000. Their fee comes out of that.

One of the questions I’ve been receiving is if you’re with a group when you go. Nope. You pick your dates, specific to you, so this is not a group activity. Unless, of course, you bring your own tribe with you.

Naturally, what they do for you depends on your budget. If you’re a little tight, then they might not be able to do more than book your flight and hotel. A more liberal budget allows them to make additional plans tailored to you.

Hotel entrance with large lighted image of Benjamin Franklin in ceiling above doors.
The Kimpton Hote, my Philadelphia home away from home. **

-- You choose the airport you want to depart from out of a list they provide. My closest airport wasn’t on the list but there was another just over an hour away. There are a lot of options.

-- Next, let them know where you’ve been recently, any upcoming trips you’ve already planned and cities you’ve lived in the past or visit frequently. That’s all optional but the more you let them know, the better they can avoid sending you somewhere you’ve already been.

-- What are your likes and dislikes? There are a handful of questions focused on your preferences.

Action, relaxation or culture? Dining experiences, packing in a lot of activities or maybe fancy hotels?

Dietary restrictions? I’m a vegetarian and they did a good job of making my restaurant reservations at places with vegetarian options.

There’s a long list of 40 different hobbies and interests you can simply check the box beside. Everything from bakeries to dive bars to history museums to kayaking to flea markets.

-- Finally, is this trip a celebration? A birthday? A honeymoon? A kid-free getaway, graduation, guys/girls trip, retirement, engagement…? And the opportunity to tell them anything else you feel they really need to know.

After that you sit back and wait for the big day.

Exterior walls of Eastern State Penitentiary with large stone walls resembling a castle.
Eastern State Penitentiary was designed to look like a castle to intimidate entering prisoners, and anyone considering committing a crime. **

A week prior to my departure I received an email, providing my flight times, the weather report for my destination and the suggested clothing I should pack. As well as one required item, closed toe shoes. Hmmmm?

A few days later I received a large packet via FedEx with my destination and other details included, and specific guidelines that I not open it prior to the morning of my departure.

Plane, Road, Outdoors or Staycation

By the way, if driving to your destination sounds better than flying, Pack Up & Go offers Road Trip and Outdoors Road Trip options.

There’s also a Staycation plan in which you choose the city so, yes, you will know where you’re headed but none of the details.

They Hit It Out of the Park

I had a great time. So much so I was on their website the next night after I got home, contemplating another trip, and again this morning.

Small walled courtyard. Walls and floor are completely covered in an abstract mosaic pattern.
The courtyard entrance to Philadelphia's Magic Garden gives just a hint of what's inside. **

Among my preferences on the survey were artsy, historic, quirky places most people don’t go to, and, of course, breweries and distilleries.

I stayed at the Kimpton Hotel, an artsy-styled hotel, right in downtown Philadelphia. Check.

They pre-booked me to visit the historic Eastern State Penitentiary, the way quirky and unusual Philadelphia Magic Gardens and a brewery tour. Check, check and check.

As it turned out, the brewery tour, because we were going into the production facilities, was the reason I needed those closed toe shoes listed in the email Pack Up and Go sent me prior to leaving.

Also, the original brewery tour I was supposed to go on was cancelled due to not having enough people sign up but, the company upgraded me to a different tour that included lunch so I’m not complaining.

They scheduled my dinners at Continental Midtown, a hip, retro 1950s style restaurant, Talula’s Garden, a bit of an upscale place but not at all stuffy, my waiter was even Italian, and El Vez, a Mexican restaurant described as having flashy, frenetic Latin decor, featuring high-backed velvet Hollywood booths and an eye-popping low-rider bike elevated above the dining room. Check, check and check, again.

Free Time for Exploring

Pack Up & Go also provided a half dozen pages of suggestions for additional restaurants, sites to see and things to do.

Outside McGillin's Old Ale House with stars and stripes bunting and neon sign indicating it was established in 1860.
Walking through the doors at McGillin's Old Ale House is walking back in time. **

I, naturally, went straight to the listing for dive bars and made sure to visit both of suggestions while in Philly: McGillin’s Old Ale House that opened the year Lincoln was elected President, and Oscar’s Tavern, a great neighborhood bar in the downtown area where you can still get a very large glass of Yuengling Lager, the unofficial state beer of Pennsylvania, for the meager price of $4.50.

Even with all the scheduled activities I still had time to, among other things, visit Philadelphia’s Chinatown, Jewelers Row, didn’t buy anything, kind of out of my price range, Reading Terminal Market, bought chocolate, which I can afford, Washington Square Park, where Revolutionary soldiers are buried, and the Wanamaker Building, one of the first large-scale department stores in the country and home to the world’s largest pipe organ. It’s now a Macy’s.

And, I was booked on a later flight coming home Sunday so I had time to take in one more stop on their recommended list before heading to the airport, the Mutter Museum. This place is insane.

Photos of human skulls.
The public is not allowed to take photos inside the Mutter Museum. Photographer Nikki Johnson was provided special permission to take these, now displayed in another room outside the actual museum. **

It’s a serious medical museum where research continues to occur. Inside they have an extensive collection of skeletons, skulls, internal organs and anything else you can possibly imagine related to the human body.

They even have the slides from Albert Einstein’s dissected brain!

You might ask why I didn’t visit the Liberty Bell, Rocky statue, Museum of Art or some another popular tourist attraction. I already have.

I visited Philadelphia 10 or 12 years ago and hit all those spots, which made it even better that Pack Up & Go zoomed in on my like for quirky, off-the-beaten-path, locations and didn’t book me for the traditional sites.

As if that weren’t enough, they even put $50 on my Uber account if I needed it to get around.

They seriously hit it out of the park and I would highly recommend everyone jump on in and give it a try at least once in their lives.

(One last note, I’m not receiving any kind of compensation for this. I don’t even know who the people are at Pack Up & Go.

Having said that, if you do book a trip you can get a few dollars off and earn extra points through their rewards program if you use my link I’m always so hesitant to do this because I don’t want people to think I’m slanting my story because of it.

I really, truly, loved the trip and wouldn’t say so if I didn’t. I usually follow mama’s advice, if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. So, if I didn’t like it, you wouldn’t be seeing this post at all.)


**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address,, or a link back to this page.


post photo.jpg

Never saying,
"I wish I had"

Thanks for stopping by. Hoping you find something you enjoy in here. Click on that little Read More button right below to learn a little more about me and why I never want to say, I wish I had.

Let the posts
come to you.

Thanks for submitting!

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
bottom of page