I first came across the concept of surprise trips a few years ago and wasn’t sure what to make of it. Would you ever let someone else plan your holiday? It sounds quite nice to have all the hassle taken out so that you can just turn up and enjoy it. I think most people would sign up for that. But what if you didn’t find out where you were going until you get to the airport? That’s exactly what Wow Trip can arrange and having recently been on a city break with them I’m going to tell you all about it!
I’m rubbish at being spontaneous. I like everything to be planned and whilst I don’t have to have a minute by minute itinerary when I’m going away, I usually have a pretty good idea of what I’ll be doing. The thought of just turning up at the airport and getting on a plane makes me feel slightly ill, however exciting and romantic the prospect might be. However, when the opportunity to head to an unknown destination through Wow Trip with some other bloggers who had completed The Blogger Course came up, I was intrigued. It did take a little persuasion but I signed up and spent a couple of months wondering where we might be off to.
How does Wow Trip work?
It’s really simple. You go to the website and select your departure city, number of people and how long you want to be away for. Next you’ll be given the option to select your dates, and this is also where you will see the price per person. Once you’ve done that, you can view a list of the different cities which you could be travelling to and are allowed to discard one destination for free. If there are more that you particularly don’t want to go to then you can pay a little extra and choose to discard some more.
There were certain cities on the list that I had been to multiple times (like Paris) which I might have chosen to discard. There were also quite a few I probably wouldn’t have chosen myself (like Eindhoven) but would happily have gone to as part of the fun is discovering somewhere new. If you have been on multiple Wow Trips they will automatically discard the places that you’ve already been to with them so you don’t have to worry about doing the same trip twice. The final step is to enter your details, and those of anyone else travelling with you, and then you are ready to fly!
48 hours before your flight you will be given access to the weather forecast for where you are going so that you know what sort of clothes to pack. At this point you can choose to view where you are heading, download your boarding pass, hotel voucher and a city guide, or if you are feeling brave then you can wait until you get to the airport and find it all out then.
What was my Wow Trip like?
I’ve got a guilty confession. I couldn’t wait until I got to the airport, which meant that I actually knew the location of my surprise city break a couple of days beforehand. However, I’d still had to wait much longer than I usually would to find out my destination so I don’t think I missed out on the element of surprise and excitement too much. We went to… Cologne!
I’d been to Cologne before and was initially a little disappointed I wouldn’t be exploring somewhere new. However, when I’d last been to Cologne it had been for the Christmas Markets so I knew it was going to be a little different in the summer! As soon as I knew where I was going I started to read the city guide which Wow Trip had provided me with to see some of their recommendations and work out vital information like how to get from the airport to my hotel.
The city guide provided a really valuable starting point for the weekend and I would definitely have relied on it more if I was going somewhere that I hadn’t previously visited. I particularly liked the fact that it recommended short trips nearby so you felt as though you could escape the city and explore somewhere new if you wanted. As promised, our hotel was reasonably central and whilst it lacked some character as a Holiday Inn Express, it was clean and comfortable.
Wow Trip Day 1
Thanks to a rather early flight we arrived in Cologne before lunch time (those of us who had travelled from Stansted. A smaller group were travelling from Manchester). This gave us plenty of time to get to the hotel, check in and freshen up in our rooms before heading out to explore.
After a bite to eat, I walked along the banks of the River Rhine, stopping to take some photos along the way. I always think the best way to see a city is just to walk around, and Cologne is certainly no different. Just walking up the river you pass the modern Kranhäuser, or Crane Buildings, the colourful houses of the Old Town and Gothic Cathedral – giving you the opportunity to admire a range of different architecture.
The latter part of the day was spent at a gentle pace sitting in Hafenterrasse, a beer garden next to the Chocolate Museum and working our way through to the Belgian Quarter for some more to drink and eat (this is a running theme on the trip!).
Wow Trip Day 2
On day two we had another early start, waking early to beat the crowds and try and get some of the best light for our photos (when travelling as a group of bloggers…). I bought and tried a Nougatbrezel, a sweet nougat pretzel, which is a speciality of the area. I have to admit, I didn’t like it as much as a normal pretzel but it was good to try something local!
We headed to the Cathedral to begin with, then across Hohenzollern Bridge (known for its Love Locks) and across the other side for some iconic Cologne views. We then headed back towards the old town where some of the cafes were just starting to wake up. I don’t usually get up early to explore a city before anyone else, but I might consider it again as it was so peaceful.
One of the group had arranged through the local tourist board for us to have a walking tour of the city so this was next on the agenda. I’ve never been on a city walking tour and it was much better than I expected. Our guide was entertaining, informative and took us to some places I was unlikely to have found or known about otherwise. I think this could be a great addition to what Wow Trip offers – allowing you to book a tour for wherever you are going as an optional add on.
During the afternoon a smaller group of us decided to tackle the 500+ steps to the top of the Cathedral Tower. I’d done this before and really enjoyed the views, but it had been so busy when I had gone I had actually found it quite claustrophobic as there was a continuous stream of people travelling up and down the same steps. This time it was less busy, although a lot hotter, and the views from the top were really clear across the city as it was such a beautiful day. A few people were put off going up as they don’t like heights, but I hate heights and was fine because the top is fully enclosed.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Germany without a trip to a bierhaus, so this was our next stop to catch our breath and take in the atmosphere. In the evening we headed up the KölnTriangle to watch the sunset. It was beautiful, but unfortunately the glass had lots of smeary fingerprints on so it wasn’t the easiest to get a photo!
Wow Trip Day 3
Our final day was very chilled and involved sitting in the Volksgarten Garden and enjoying some schnitzel in Hellers Volksgarten. Saying goodbye to the group from Manchester, the remaining group headed back towards the Cathedral (you will see the Cathedral many times on a weekend in Cologne!) for some ice cream. We had time for a quick drink on the terrace of Cafe Reichard, which is sort of like a Betty’s equivalent. I didn’t try any of the cake but the slices looked huge!
Why I would travel with Wow Trip
Would I travel with Wow trip again? Yes, I think I would. It adds some excitement to a weekend away and could make a lovely present for someone where they don’t know where they are going until the last minute. It also worked really well as a group trip because instead of endless debates about where you should go, and then where you should stay and what you should do, it was all sorted for you!
Looking at prices it seems to be between £150-£250 per person which is a reasonable price for a European weekend city break. I think what I liked best about my Wow Trip weekend away was the fact that it was so relaxed. Nobody had had chance to do lots of research, so there wasn’t that constant nagging feeling that we were missing out on doing something amazing which meant we could take our time. I usually try and cram a lot into a short city break, but I was more content to wander and spend time sitting in cafes rather than see as much as possible. Again, having been there before probably helped!
Disclaimer: WowTrip provided the experience for us, which included flights and hotel with breakfast. Anything else was paid for myself and all opinions are my own.