Would you ever pack your bags and head to the airport without knowing where you’re flying to?
Would you be fine letting go of control and let someone else plan your trip for you?
Could you handle that excitement, tension and surprise?
I recently got to try out Anywhr after hearing (and talking) so much about it. Disclaimer: I’ve spoken to the owners and have some insider knowledge, but I paid full price for my trip and this piece is entirely my own opinion.
Anywhr Surprise Travel
Anywhr is a surprise travel company that plans your trip according to your preferences, without letting you know the destination. You can choose to know it either one week before or at the airport. It is the first such company in Asia and the under-2-year-old startup proudly operates in Singapore.
According to the company, Anywhr “was started with a mission to send travellers to explore less-visited destinations, and make new discoveries on your personalized journey”.
The three elements that Anywhr promises are: surprise, less-visited destinations and personalization.
Booking a trip is simple; the website (www.anywhr.co) is pretty and user-friendly. Illustrations of cute llamas, customer reviews and a FAQ help to make the whole experience seamless.
Anywhr Booking Process
First, you choose the airport you’re flying out from. Presently, Anywhr serves internationally but the menu only shows Asian airports. I’m guessing you could send them a message via the live-chat if you’re flying from other continents.
Then, it comes the fun part. There are 3 themes you can choose from:
It’s like choosing your first Pokemon when you’re younger. It’s tough! If you can’t decide which theme you’d like, or you want a mixture of themes, there’s the wildcard option. If only there’s such an option back in the Pokemon games…
There are 3 budget tiers too: budget, regular and luxurious. The differences are the type of accommodations (hostel or hotel), check-in luggage allowances, and airport transfers. These are not set in stone though, as you’ll see later.
The final price depends on the number of days, any add-ons and special requests. All Anywhr trips are insured by PolicyPal, but you can buy more coverage.
After submitting payment, you’ll receive an email to fill in your preferences. This is where you can type in any special requests or sob stories so that the Anywhr team can cater the trip to your situation (you wouldn’t want to go to a romantic destination if you just broke up, right?)
The more important details to let the team know are:
So, for the almost-trippers who are worried that Anywhr would send you to a place you have already been to, there you go – you can opt out of some places.
This form is what makes trips so interesting. By looking through the social media posts and listening to stories from travellers, I learnt that Anywhr had sent groups of friends on hen and stag parties, proposal trips, break-up trips, first-time solo trips, handicapped travellers and had done the necessary liaisons to prepare the big event in advance.
So, this is where you should tell them exactly what you want! Don’t worry if you want to surprise your partner as each of you would receive a separate preference form to fill up.
The booking process is this simple. The price you pay takes care of the destination, flights, accommodations, visas, travelogue, $30 worth of local currency and any special requests. You just sit back, relax and get ready to be surprised.
The Anywhr team also does its best to maximize the time you’ll spend on your vacation. They asked if we were okay to report at the airport the night before for a midnight flight, aka more time in the country. Of course, if time doesn’t permit, they’ll look for a new flight – all to your preferences.
Three days later, you’ll receive a teaser email to inform you of the weather at the destination, what to pack and which terminal and the check-in time (not flight time) to report at. You’ll also receive any good news if budget allows, in my case: a free flight upgrade and baggage check-in.
Receiving this teaser email was one of the most exciting feeling I had.
To be honest, you could try guessing your destination with the reporting time and weather by checking flight timings, but where’s the fun in it?
According to the website, you’ll receive your Anywhr mail one week before your flight. You can choose to open it upon receiving it or to open it at the airport.
Mine didn’t arrive. I sent an email and was told the mail was sent out 13 days in advance. They gave me the postal tracking number and I called Singpost to ask for it. Singpost admitted it was their fault and expedited the process for me. I received the mail 2 days before the trip.
It didn’t matter for me though – I planned to open it only at the airport.
Opening the Anywhr mail and finding out your destination is even more exciting than receiving the teaser email. Imagine the excitement I had upon finding out that with a budget of $600 and only 5 days, my surprise destination isn’t in Southeast Asia and that I was flying on an Emirates flight!
So much value for money!
The Anywhr mail contains the local currency, postcards, any bus/train tickets (depending if budget allows) and the iconic pink travelogue. I’ve also seen – on social media - birthday and congratulation cards.
The travelogue is the guidebook that contains all the information of your trip: the overall route of your trip nicely drawn out, flight information, accommodation information, nearest money changer, food and activity suggestions, missions to complete and practical tips & tricks.
On the first page of the travelogue, it writes that Anywhr believes that “you should forgo detailed itineraries and recycled holidays” and instead, their mission is for travellers to get exploring and interacting with people, and perhaps discover a hidden gem known only to locals – hence the promise to less-visited destinations. No Bali or Bangkok.
Having said that, they do recommend 3 activities to do and 3 foods to try in each city. Personally, I think that’s how travelling should be. Yes, you should go to a place knowing what’s there to do, but throughout my travel experience, the best places are usually from word of mouth and unplanned discoveries, not from a guidebook.
If you are worried of not knowing what to do, Anywhr also has 8 missions you can complete to exchange for perks like a free flight upgrade and free night stay on your next trip. These missions force you to go explore and interact with people.
For example, one of the mission is “Have a meal with the locals. Conversation required.”
Another is to “get lost while immersed in local sights” and also to “make friends with locals while on public transport”.
I must admit, these missions made us want to get out of bed and forced us to interact with locals. I guess it’s a good thing.
I would also like to point out the differences between personalization and a concierge service. Anywhr promises personalization – and I got it:
I’m sure if you have dietary preferences, the food recommendations would be personalized to you and not a general suggestion. Likewise, if you plan to propose, I’m sure they would recommend a romantic beachside restaurant or a mountain-view resort.
On the other hand, expecting a concierge service would be expecting a restaurant reservation, them arranging a spa treatment for you, or a car waiting for you everywhere you go. This is totally not in accordance with Anywhr’s mission and you might want to set your expectations right before booking a trip.
My impression of the travelogue is that it is beautifully designed, has practical tips and suggestions, but there are some minor typos and inconsistencies; no major errors that would screw up our trip.
Regarding the destination Anywhr sent us, my partner and I were both happy with it. It is a lovely place and we had a room with beautiful mountain views (although it is a little walk to town). We hiked breathtaking mountains and visited waterfalls. The train journey and town is filled with tourists but is still relatively less-visited among Singaporeans.
With our budget option, we had to make our way from the airport to the train station and buy the tickets on our own expenses. The travelogue gave us clear and detailed instructions – down to the transport options, prices and train timings.
I heard from a friend that Anywhr was thoughtful enough to book a place for him to rest for a couple of hours before catching a long-distance bus to the next city. It sounds easy but you actually have to book the room for the previous night and pay full price for it. We didn’t have this luxury but I believe the budget was spent on the upgraded flight and accommodation we had (private room instead of shared dorms in hostels).
One down side to a concept like Anywhr is that you can't really do multi-day treks since they've booked accommodation for you. And throughout my one-year adventure in South America, I've noticed that multi-day treks bring you to the most beautiful places on Earth.
Perhaps that will change in the future, but right now, Anywhr is more suited for a short vacation.
Some things to note:
All in all, our Anywhr trip was a great experience and it was value-for-money, but it is not for everyone.
Who Anywhr is NOT for:
So, after reading this review and still think you’re game for a surprise trip? Head over to Anywhr to book your trip now!
Who knows, you could surprise yourself and come home with a girlfriend like I did.
Yes, I am biased, because I had a positive experience. It seems like it's impossible to have a good experience and sharing about it without being labelled 'sponsored'. Anywhr follows up with their travellers and interviews them if they have a story to tell. Through these conversations, one gets to know the company better and naturally, likes the people and tend to write good reviews. For the sceptics, watch this video.
And now, it’s your turn.