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Mystery vacations ease planning stress

Travel companies do the work, choose destination

Millions of Americans take trips away from home throughout the year, planning weeks, even months, ahead of time. 

The latest trend in travel leaves all the planning to someone else, making it a surprise to the traveler. 

"I said, 'What the hell, why not?" said Steve Rubin of Coral Spring, Florida. 

When Rubin and his wife, Judy, decided to get away for a long weekend, they blindly put their travel plans in someone else's hands. 

"I'm very spontaneous. Impulsive," Judy Rubin said. 

They contacted Pack Up and Go, one of several companies catering to people yearning for a mystery trip. 

"We offer two types of trips. We offer road trips, where you can drive to your destination, and trips where you can fly to your destination," said Lillian Rafson, CEO and founder of Pack Up And Go.  

Boca Raton college student Shanna Bober used a company called Rustic Pathways to travel across the globe. 

"They said, 'We're going to one of the most amazing cities in the world'," Bober said. 

Her trips started with emails suggesting what to pack, followed by an envelope full of clues to be opened one at a time, almost like a scavenger hunt. 

"I'd get texts like, 'Where are you?' And I'd be like, 'I don't really know," she said, laughing. 

Bober ultimately wound up in Myanmar, a small country in Southeast Asia. 

"You just do one amazing thing, and then they drive you to another amazing thing, and it's so unexpected. It takes your breath away, because you can't prepare or anticipate or plan what's coming," Bober said. 

On the day of the Rubins' departure, they opened a Fed-Ex envelope telling them they were headed to New Orleans, a destination chosen for them based on an extensive survey filled out in advance. 

"That survey will tell us any trips you've gone on recently or any you might have coming up, so we don't repeat those, and then you tell us your interests -- if you like craft beer or museums or fine dining," Rafson said. 

The Rubins were fascinated to find a World War II museum and out of the way places to dine and listen to music. 

"We'll definitely do another trip -- only longer," they said. 

Bober recently returned from her second mystery trip -- Mongolia. 

The cost of a trip depends on where you go and for how long, but the traveler sets the budget and pays in full in advance. 

The cost of travel and accommodations is guaranteed. Any money left over goes toward additional surprise experiences.