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may 07 2011

New: Buying a package for an unknown destination

Sometimes it feels that wherever you go, you know everything about the place before you arrive. Your guidebooks and copy of Budget Travel have clued you in to the top attractions. TripAdvisor told you what to think of your hotel. Google Earth gave you an advance peek at the streets.

Yet this effort to take uncertainty out of travel can also lessen the thrill.

Sometimes you would rather take a trip into the blue.

So here comes American Express with a solution called Nextpedition. It's aimed at twentysomethings, but the concept might appeal to all ages.

First, you take a 15-question online survey about your hobbies and other interests. AmEx uses your responses to the multiple-choice questions to figure out what type of vacation suits you best.

At the end, you'll be offered three likely "travel signs", or personality types. Pick the one which you think describes you best. For example, you might be a "Blisstorian," someone who likes sit at cafes and take in the scenery. Or maybe you're a "Detourist," someone who prefers to scope out the lesser known quarters of iconic destinations like Venice.

If this sounds like marketing rubbish to you, then we have a lot in common with each other. (Maybe we need a name for ourselves. How about "straight-shooters.") But! There's still a good idea underneath this pile of goo.

After you fill out the survey, you talk to a travel agent about your budget and what you liked about your previous vacations.

Then you pay.

Budget-conscious travelers will be disappointed to hear that the weeklong U.S. trips start at $1,000 per person. Overseas trips start at $2,500 per person.

But let's say you're ready to splurge. You hand over your credit card details. Then, a few days before you are set to depart on le voyage mystère, Nextpedition delivers a smartphone that's preloaded with your secret itinerary. You also receive relevant guidebook articles and a packing list.

Kinda neat, huh?

Does the idea of paying for a mystery trip sound fun to you (whether its from AmEx or some other company)? Please let us know by posting a comment. Thanks.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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