A year after the birth of her second child, Sugar Carroll, of Anchorage, Alaska, was ready for a break. "I've been sleeping in a recliner for the past year!" she says. Her husband, Bob, had been working a lot of long hours at an environmental company, so Sugar decided to take on the trip planning and give him a surprise vacation.
Being a stay-at-home mom, though, meant that Sugar faced a few extra hurdles: "It's hard to reserve a hotel room with your husband's credit card without him finding out! I've had to stash cash for months to pay for the trip."
Sugar chose Maui, not only for its sun and beaches, but for logistical reasons, too: She and Bob would stay at her cousin's house in Lahaina. Sugar contacted Bob's boss to arrange time off for him, asked her mother to babysit their two children. All she had to do then was concoct a cover: She and her mother were going to Las Vegas to visit Sugar's brother. Bob didn't blink. He even offered to drive them to the airport.
On the day of the departure, as Bob was helping the women get their suitcases out of the car, Sugar turned to him and asked: "Will you miss me when I'm gone?" Bob replied, "Of course!"
"And I shot back: 'No you won't because you're coming with me!'" says Sugar.
That's when Sugar's mom hopped in the car, waved goodbye, and pulled away. Bob didn't believe it. "I was positive the other suitcase was her mother's," he admits. "But sure enough, it was filled with my clothes. I was absolutely floored. Tears started welling in my eyes."
Bob was so discombobulated by the surprise that he let Sugar guide him through the check-in and security lines—and he had no idea he was headed to Maui until he and Sugar were at the gate. "When he realized what was going on, he shouted in the middle of the waiting area: 'Oh my god, we're going to Maui!'" says Sugar with a laugh. "Everyone else must have thought we were crazy."
Sugar saved the Budget Travel Upgrade surprise for last: "I brought a copy of Budget Travel on board with me and began reading it," says Sugar. "I got to the last page, where the Upgrade is, and I turned to him and said 'Honey, listen to this! These readers wrote in about their vacation, and the magazine created this special experience for them. You think we should enter it?' He turned to me and said, 'I'm sure it's too late, Sugar.' That's when I said, 'What if I told you that I entered the contest and they picked us?' His response? 'Oh, whatever, Sugar.'"
But Sugar had printed all the e-mail correspondence from Budget Travel and began reading the e-mails out loud—starting with the one that said, "We received your submission and we're thrilled to tell you that you're a finalist!"
"He was totally shocked. It was awesome!" says Sugar. "It was just one, long continuous surprise," says Bob. "I couldn't believe it was really happening to me. She's pretty much got a get-out-of-jail-free card for life!"