How to organise a surprise birthday trip

In need of some ideas on how to organise the perfect surprise birthday? You are in the right place, as this is my 5th year organising a surprise birthday trip for my husband. This year I wanted something a little different than before, and it involved me packing everything incognito, organising everything in secret and waking him up at 7 am on his birthday without him even knowing we are going somewhere.

Here’s how to prepare for the surprise birthday, what to take into account and the final touches you need to be aware of to ensure the masterplan works like a charm.

Creating the surprise birthday masterplan

The first step is to start asking questions about 3-6 months in advance. “Hey, darling, what would you like for your birthday”. Start observing the things they are interested in and start dropping hints by asking more questions. Like, “have you ever wanted to see a music?” or “wouldn’t you love to finally have dinner in a Michelin star restaurant?”. Do it every now and then, so you don’t become suspicious. Probe until you get satisfactory answers that can shape up your master plan. For example, I started asking G what he wants and he’d tell me he really wants us to go back to Japan because he misses the food there. We both knew we couldn’t visit Japan until December because we already had several trips planned for work.

Surprise birthday

But, he gave me an interesting idea: a Japan-themed surprise birthday. And so, I started writing various ideas, from going to hot springs in the mountains, to potentially visiting Japanese gardens or eating out in a sexy Japanese restaurant. To probe and formulate the masterplan, might take 1-2 months in total. Give it time and stick with it. It will all come together. The moment you have an idea, make sure to write it down in your secret notebook. Again, a small thought can trigger something really extraordinary for their surprise birthday.

Surprise birthday masterplan

Reserving the hotels

Now that you have a plan in place, it’s time to sort out the details. Let’s start with the hotels. I hunt for great prices on The reason why I prefer using them is that I can book with free cancellation which gives me the flexibility I need. Ultimately, as much as it is a surprise birthday, I always want to make sure I can cancel last second, in case something different comes up.

It’s also a good idea to book something, then continue to hunt for better hotels. For my husband’s birthday, I decided to book a luxury hotel in the centre of Vienna. My surprise birthday masterplan was to take him on a short road trip to Vienna, stay for one night in a luxury hotel, then take him for a special lunch and dinner. It took me around a week to nail all the details and find the best hotels and restaurants. I booked the Steigenberger HotelHerrenhof, then upgraded up to a deluxe room on the top floor with sexy views of the city.

Surprise birthday hotel

Booking the activities

Depending on what you decided to do for your partner’s surprise birthday, it’s time to start booking the activities. If you want to take them to a special spectacle, like the spa or the opera, make sure you book way in advance. When I took G to Paris for a special opera night at Palais Garnier, I booked the tickets 3 months in advance and I still struggled to find good seats.

This year, I decided to book a Michelin Star lunch at Le Ciel, a restaurant by Toni Mörwald located in Grand Hotel Wien. The restaurant is located on the 7th floor with amazing views of the city. Since it’s a Michelin Star restaurant, we expected a very beautiful lunch, and we got it. It really was fantastic. One tip, if you visit a restaurant on your partner’s birthday, make sure to inform the staff and have their ID card ready. Some restaurants offer complimentary slices of cake for your beloved.

Surprise birthday cake

For dinner, I wanted something Japanese themed. I found a Michelin Star Japanese restaurant called Shiki, in central Vienna. In fact, this is why I decided to organise the surprise birthday in Vienna. It was the only Japanese style place which promised epic food. So just because we couldn’t go to Japan this time, it didn’t mean I wouldn’t make it happen as a cool surprise somehow. Just had to get creative.

Buying the plan tickets / motorway tolls

Because of our current location, all I needed to do was to buy the motorway tolls in advance. However, in previous years I had to book flights for us. I had to be really crafty and write down the details from my husband’s passport and book the tickets totally incognito. Once the tickets are booked, you need to ensure you are in charge of getting to the airport on time. Book taxis or transfers as early as possible just so you have everything in order. If a surprise birthday trip means going on a road trip, like what I did this year, then things are a little easier to manage. If you want to go somewhere close but don’t fancy driving, make sure you book your train tickets in advance.

Surprise birthday trip

Start Packing

This one a bit tricky, but I know you can do it. You’ll have to pack the bags for the surprise birthday without your partner noticing a thing. Make sure to check the weather and pack their essentials. Make a list with all the things you both need and leave the cosmetics for last (so they won’t ask why their deodorant and toothbrush suddenly disappeared). To make it easier for yourself, organise everything in one single place so the next morning you can quickly add them to the bag.

Don’t forget this is your partner surprise birthday so the focus should be on him. So make sure you pack everything they may need and more. For example, I packed several shirts and chinos for G, knowing that we will go to lunch and dinner somewhere fancy. I also got some extra t-shirts and thermals for the night, extra socks and so on. Packing the right things for them will also show them how much attention went into making this a success.

Best travel backpack You could Travel

Set an alarm

We needed to leave on a Saturday morning, so I needed to make sure I set the alarm to ring during the weekends. This may seem obvious, but most people have their alarm set for the weekdays only. You wouldn’t want to miss your flights or be late for the trip, so double check everything the night before. To make it even easier, select an outfit for yourself and your partner the night before and separate them from the rest of the clothes. This way, you won’t have to think about anything first thing in the morning before you need to hit the road.

Surprise birthday morning

Wondering what to do on the surprise birthday morning? This is the most important day, so make sure everything is ready. Once the alarm goes off, you are on. Wake them up and gently tell them Happy Birthday with a big kiss. Then tell them you have a surprise planned for them so they need to follow each and every single one of your instructions. Tell them to start getting ready. Make sure you have breakfast prepared from the previous night or at least make some sandwiches for the road.

Don’t tell your partner anything. Make sure they are ready to leave on time, and as a reminder, check that you have your passports, tickets and any reservations you may need. Get the cosmetics and the toothbrushes before you leave. Although it’s really tempting, don’t tell them what is going to happen.

Surprise birthday

I took G towards the car park, jumped in the car and set the sat nav without him being able to see the final destination. We guessed throughout the journey which was really fun. He was really excited and that’s ultimately what I wanted to achieve. Once we arrived at the hotel, I made sure to handle to payment and the upgrades without him seeing a thing.

During the day, I told him we need to get ready so we can go somewhere. Until things happened, I didn’t tell him anything about the plan. He was very surprised and excited with the lunch, then we went back to the hotel for a quick spa session, before taking him to the surprise dinner place. Again, I made sure I don’t give him any clues, nor he has any idea where I’m taking him.

This makes it awesome and a lot more chilled as they literally feel spoiled and pampered with a fully organised surprise from the start.

Are you ready to organise a surprise birthday? Will it be a trip, dinner party or special event? Tell me all about it in the comments section below.

Share this post
Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


One response to “How to organise a surprise birthday trip”

  1. TJP Perkins Avatar
    TJP Perkins

    Hi, I check your new stuff like every week. Your writing style is awesome, keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *