Surprising Someone With a Trip to Paris


This is one post in a series on visiting Paris:

1. Surprising Someone With a Trip to Paris
2. The Newark Lufthansa Senator Lounge
3. Lufthansa Business Class from EWR-FRA
4. The Hilton Frankfurt Airport
5. Roaming Frankfurt Wild
6. The Radisson Blu Le Metropolitan Hotel, Paris Eiffel
7. The Park Hyatt Paris Vendôme
8. Dining in Paris: Boco
9. Dining in Paris: Café Kléber
10. The Lufthansa Senators Lounge in Frankfurt
11. Lufthansa Business Class from FRA-JFK
12. Intra-Europe Business Class on Lufthansa

My mom’s birthday was coming up and I wanted to do something big for her.  She and my father put everything into raising us, and made sure we were on a path to success.  They made lots of sacrifices for us, and I wanted to give her something she’s always wanted.

My mom has always wanted to go to Paris, so I wanted to make this happen.

But there’s a few problems with surprising someone with a trip to Paris:

1.  You need to know when they are free.

2.  There’s no way of knowing for sure you’ll be able to book an award trip while they are free.

3.  You can end up disappointing someone instead of surprising them if you reveal too much and the trip falls through.

So I took the following steps to surprise my mom:

1.  I looked at all my options

I went through when I could take the trip to Paris and planned out what dates worked for me and had award availability.  I drew a map of the different paths we’d need to take on different days, and how that affected our itinerary.  I figured since my mom hasn’t seen much of Europe, we’d do a day in a stopover city on the way over.  I was also trying to make routes work through Munich or Geneva work, because I wanted to see those areas.

2.  I came up with a Backup Plan

My mom would have really enjoyed going to Quebec or a resort in the Caribbean.  I had these in my back pocket as other options if I couldn’t get to Paris.  But I didn’t want to promise her any of the options because I didn’t want to get her hopes up for one thing–or cause her to take actions to prepare for these.  If she went on a swimsuit run, she would feel excited about Paris but wish she didn’t go crazy on the Caribbean wear.  So I had options she would love even though they weren’t “Paris-level”.

3.  I came up with an alibi

This is very different from coming up with a back-up plan.  I needed a trip that was plausible, but not so amazing that she might get disappointed that we weren’t going there.  So I thought about it and it hit me–Akron, Ohio.  She would not be too excited about Akron, Ohio, but I had a great reason for going.

The First Ladies’ Museum


My mom loves history and wouldn’t mind going here at all, but it is certainly not a vacation she’d be calling her friends about.

So I told my mother that she taught me to be a strong woman, and I really wanted to take her on a vacation that celebrated that.  Then I revealed (excitedly) that I was taking her to Akron, Ohio!

Her smile twitched slightly, but didn’t break as she expressed excitement in taking a vacation with me anywhere.  (Meaning, the good part about the vacation was now getting to spend time with her daughter, and less the destination πŸ˜‰ )

Every time I mentioned Akron, my mom would smile graciously, but I knew she was slightly disappointed.  My dad did not help her disappointment when he mentioned she should check out the tire museum while we are out there and send him back some pictures. (Though, the Goodyear Tire Museum actually closed shop in 2009).

4.  I booked the flights

I had my mom’s available dates for Akron, Ohio and matched them with what I had found for Paris.  I found a route through Frankfurt, which wasn’t my ideal stopover, but I still planned a day there.

After I got the flights booked, I used my hotel points to book rooms in each location.  I wasn’t 100% sure that’s where we’d end up staying (and it wasn’t), but since I can easily cancel the points later, I had somewhere to stay in case of emergency.  I relied heavily on my Club Carlson Points because I was wiping out my other accounts for my Honeymoon.

5.  I revealed the true location!

I have to admit–I let my mom sit on Akron, Ohio for a little while.  Am I mean?

But then I mustered all the creativity I have, and made up fake-tickets for her new trip:


I stapled them together, put them in an envelope I had from another trip, and flew up to New York–where I presented my mother with the tickets, saying:

Here are the tickets for the trip.  I’m really sorry, but I couldn’t make Akron, Ohio work with those dates, so I chose something else I thought you’d like.”

I said it extremely apologetic-like, and I think I detected worry in my mother’s face–what would the back-up to Akron, Ohio be?

She looked at the tickets and expressionlessly flipped through the set.  Then stared at them.

Did I make the wrong call?  Was something wrong with Europe?  Was something wrong with Frankfurt?  I should never have added that stop-over!  Who wants to go to Frankfurt?  Well, me.  But why do you assume everyone wants to do weird travel things like that?  Oh man, I really read this wrong.  I should have talked to her first.  I am the worst dau—

My mom finally spoke.

“Business Class?  Does this mean I get to use the bathrooms in the front of the plane?!”

I laughed, and I said–Mom, for the price of business class tickets, I think they’ll let you go where ever you want.

(Disclosure: We eventually talked about the trip more and she was extremely excited.  She was just completely stunned in this moment.  But, Happy Birthday, Mom!  I love you!)


About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Very cute story!! I love the fake boarding passes. πŸ™‚

  2. Nice one! But gee whiz…Akron? You could have picked Florida or something less worrisome:-)

  3. Thanks for describing your planning process for the logistics of the trip. I may never be in a position to plan a trip with/for someone else, but if I am I will now have an idea of how to start.

  4. Love the story! How did you make the fake tickets?

  5. I would also love to see a tutorial on the fake boarding passes. Every year I try and organise a trip as my gift to our family, usually from points and other interesting ways. Each time I try and present it in a creative manner, so I’d like to see this one.

  6. What a great story!

    A few years ago my mom was flying to Germany to visit us for a couple weeks. At the 24 hour mark I called US and did a cash upgrade to business.

    I didn’t tell her what I did and she actually boarded the plane still thinking she was sitting in the back. On of the FAs redirected her.

    When I picked her up in Frankfurt she gushed and asked you’ll never guess what happened! I guessed correctly of course. She then went on about how she must have gotten upgraded because she was a little old lady…..

    The only hitch was that she didn’t follow my instructions. I told her because she was over 75 she could check in at the premium check-in, where they would have told her about the lounge location and all. She didn’t.

    But for her the flight was great in and of itself.

  7. I just wanted to say “thank you” for this entire series of posts! They were the source of inspiration to take my own mom to Paris. My first awards redemption is now booked for not only my mom and myself, but for my 24 yr old daughter as well (three biz class tickets on Lufthansa for us!) We’ll be spending six nights in Paris (a suite at the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome!!! Woot woot!!) and then we’re jetting off to London to spend another 10 days in the UK – two to three days in London – the rest spent driving around, and trying NOT to be a hazard to the motoring public. My mother initially balks when I suggest such trips (“I can’t. I have Bridge. I can’t. I have Pilates. I can’t…etc, etc”), but I managed to talk her into to this one. I wasn’t able to pull off a complete surprise like you did so expertly, but she has no idea about the suite in Paris. I simply told her we wouldn’t be staying in the room that I initially intended to stay. Her response? “Um….it has a bed, right?” Its going to be three generations of just us girls, and we’ll be making memories to last a lifetime. So, again, thank you! I don’t think I would have done it if I hadn’t read your posts first.

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