A Chat with Lillian Rafson, Founder of Pack Up + Go

Imagine:  You are traveling around Europe, solo, when your next big idea strikes.  You can choose between returning to the states and your old life, or striking out and following your travel + business dreams!  Lillian Rafson chose the latter, and her clients are happier (and more adventurous!) for it. 

1.) Tell us about yourself!

Hi there! I’m Lillian, a 20-something living in Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve always loved travel and business, and have found a way to mesh my two passions!

 

Lillian in Sedona, AZ.

Lillian in Sedona, AZ.

...people love adventures! We’ve heard from many couples that they’ve done this type of thing themselves – one partner plans a surprise vacation for the other. So the appeal for them is that now both of them can share in the excitement. It’s a new way to experience travel!

2.) Please share how you came up with the idea for Pack Up + Go.

I can’t take credit for the concept of surprise travel; it has existed in Europe for some time now! But the idea for Pack Up + Go came when I was traveling Eastern Europe just after quitting my job in New York. I was in Riga, Latvia when I met two girls who were in my hostel on a surprise vacation. I had just given up my lease in the City and was hoping for an “aha!” moment, and this was it.

I spent the next few months of my trip finessing the idea, talking to anyone who would listen about it. After my trip, I moved back to my hometown, Pittsburgh, and got to work. I rented a desk at a co-working space, registered as an LLC, and learned how to be a travel agent! The business went live four months later.

3.) Why do you think people are drawn to Surprise Travel?

There are a number of reasons I think the concept of surprise travel appeals to people.

First, it’s easy. We have a number of customers who simply don’t have the time to plan their vacations. Or, they don’t want to. It’s easy for me to forget that traveling can be really stressful for some people, because I love planning trips. But we hear pretty often that planning a vacation causes stress, anxiety, and arguments for a lot of people. So, the ability to hand that off to someone else is a huge benefit!

Second, people love adventures! We’ve heard from many couples that they’ve done this type of thing themselves – one partner plans a surprise vacation for the other. So the appeal for them is that now both of them can share in the excitement. It’s a new way to experience travel!

I think our parameters for travel really help put people's minds at ease – the fact that our travelers (or skeptics!) know that they’ll stay within the United States and that their trip is only for 3 days definitely makes it easier for them to pull the trigger.

4.) Have you tried Surprise Travel personally?  If so, please share your experience.  If not, would you?  Which region of the world would you choose?

I have not! I would love for someone to plan me a surprise trip. We’re talking about planning each other surprises here on our team at some point this year. Where would I want to travel? Within the United States, definitely the Pacific Northwest. Internationally, South America.

5.) Do you have a favorite story from a client experience?  What is something awesome that has happened for your clients while on a Pack Up + Go trip?

I got a call from a customer last week that I will never forget! It was on a Monday, right after we had many trips return home. I personally had a really rough weekend, so when I saw that a customer was calling, I immediately thought something bad had happened.

I answered the phone prepared for the worst, and it was a mother who had been traveling with her two 20-something daughters. They were from Chicago, and we sent them on a surprise trip to San Diego. She had simply called to thank me. It turns out, two days before their trip, her sister was diagnosed with cancer. She had considered cancelling her trip so she could go visit her sister instead. Her sister lives in San Diego.

She said when they opened the envelope the day of their departure, none of them could believe it. When they departed, it was still really early in the morning on the west coast, so she left her sister a message to tell her she would be in town. When they landed in San Diego, her sister was waiting for them at the airport.

There’s no way we could have known any of these circumstances, but that was one of the best calls I’ve ever received.

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6.) What are the up and coming or less well-traveled spots that you'd recommend?

It totally depends on your interests! My favorite part of Pack Up + Go is realizing how much each city has to offer. Pittsburgh is a great example – nobody would think of it as a tourist destination! But it’s an amazing place with so much character, great food, and amazing museums and art. All of our travelers we’ve sent here thus far have been very pleasantly surprised. Every city has something to offer, we’re here to help you discover it.

7.) What is your best bit of advice for folks who are on the fence about Surprise Travel?

Take a leap!

Thanks for being one of the inspirations behind Whisked Away, Lillian, and for sharing your story!