The Mister had a big birthday this year, and I spent the three months leading up to it planning a surprise trip to New York City to celebrate. I bought the tickets, made the reservations, and planned out an itinerary that I was totally pumped about. The next step was to come up with a fun, exciting, and original way to reveal it since it was his gift from me.
To get some ideas for giving the Mister his birthday gift, I searched ‘how to reveal a surprise trip’ on Google and Pinterest. I came across a few methods I liked, which I wrote down on a notepad:
- Print out a map and mark locations of our activities on it
- Wrap plane tickets up as a gift
- Put clues in a box or basket (like maps, brochures, and Metro Cards saved from previous trips, souvenir-type items, etc.)
I was thinking of doing some combination of the three ideas, but there was about a month remaining before the trip, so there was no rush to decide exactly what the finished idea would be. I let it all simmer in the back of my head for a week or so until it evolved into my final plan. I decided to create a scrapbook that would bring the itinerary to life. I would look for pictures online to illustrate it; I could then add actual pictures and notes to the scrapbook after our trip. I would ‘wrap’ the scrapbook in a carry-on suitcase along with a few items that would be useful during our trip and give it to him to open as his birthday gift.
The first few practice sketches (which I did in a little sketchbook I had received for my 9th birthday but was still mostly empty) turned out well enough to give me some confidence that things were turning out OK, so I switched over to watercolor paper.
I’d forgotten the feeling that comes from creating a piece of artwork, of getting out onto paper the image that’s in your head. It’s totally different from the sense of accomplishment that comes from decorating or sewing or painting furniture. Probably the fact that the paintings were secret made the feeling that much stronger, since I couldn’t run downstairs and say, “Hey, look what I painted!”. As the days progressed and my little stash of hidden paintings grew, so did that happy feeling, surely amplified by the anticipation of sharing my paintings with others, the realization that I can actually still draw and paint, and of course, the excitement of our upcoming trip, which I had to be doubly excited for since the Mister knew nothing about it. For about a week there, I felt like I was just going to burst. It was awesome.
|My first two completed paintings!|
For the first page, I came up with a few hints to give the Mister an opportunity to guess where we were heading, including:
Of course, if you don’t have 7 days to spend painting or don’t have an interest in painting, you could do something similar with photos from the internet like my original plan – quick, easy, and fun!
It was a strange feeling when I finished it. I had actually written out a narrative (in future tense), like I do for a regular scrapbook (which is, of course, in past tense), and by the time I finished it, I felt like I had already experienced everything on the itinerary – but it was still a week away!
When I finally finished the process, I ‘wrapped’ the book in one of our carry-on suitcases, along with a few other items: a book for the Mister to read during our flights, some travel sized toiletries, and our padded bike shorts (fortunately, we both already own a pair – and they made our 4-hour bike rental much more bearable!).
I also made us both a new luggage tag from one of the paintings, which I attached to our suitcases with a patriotic ribbon.
I chose to travel with carry-on luggage for a variety of reasons; the main three are:
- It’s free, even if you have to gate-check it (which we wound up having to do in both directions)!
- It’s quicker, even if you have to gate-check it, so you have more time to enjoy being on vacation!
- It’s much easier to navigate a train, a subway, and city streets with smaller bags!
|Note the small amount of baggage in this painting!|
To keep them organized, I created an envelope for each day to hold the paint prints that corresponded to that day, along with a small copy of the itinerary with addresses and directions in case our phone batteries died and we couldn’t access our digital copies. Each morning, I put that day’s envelope in a pocket in my purse that seemed to be made for holding a small envelope and keeping its contents from getting wrinkled or torn.
|You can actually see the envelope sticking out of the little pocket
in the back of the purse as I hold up the Statue of Liberty.
Sometime in middle school, my best friend and I bought these identical bags at American Eagle, and I used mine a LOT back then. I hadn’t used it since probably 8th grade, but of course hadn’t gotten rid of it. It was perfect for this trip; it held everything I needed but was lightweight enough that I never got a shoulder ache.
Check back for Part 2 of this post, which will feature photos from our trip, including the ones I took with the prints of my paintings…here’s a preview to hold you over 🙂
|This is one of my two favorites.|
Thanks for reading. If you’re here because you were actually looking for ideas to reveal a surprise trip, I hope this helped!!
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