Pittsburgh Startup Wants to Send You on Secret Vacation

Lawrenceville-based Pack Up + Go does all of the planning, including the selection of your destination.

Photo by Richard Cook


Lillian Rafson built a business on the premise that people love to travel but despise travel planning. Rafson’s Pack Up + Go takes all of the hassle out of arranging transportation, finding a hotel, selecting things to do and places to go. There is just one string attached: customers aren’t told exactly where they are going until the moment they leave.

Armed with the customer’s budget, available travel dates and interests, Rafson goes to work on solving what she calls the “fun logic puzzle” of planning a mystery three-day weekend. Customers are given the weather forecast, a list of recommended items to pack (a bathing suit, hiking boots), luggage restrictions and where to go and when (train station, airport). A few days before departure, customers receive an envelope with the destination, itinerary and a well-vetted list of recommendations for everything “from cafes to nightlife to rainy day activities.” Each customer is asked not to open the envelope until the moment they are scheduled to leave.

Lillian Rafson/Photo provided

Her customers are from all over the country and she brings some of them to Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh has some nice new hotels, we are excited to support them.

“The power of the internet and social media is shocking. It’s pretty amazing to me that I’m planning trips for people in Shreveport, La.," Rafson says. 

Since January, Pack Up + Go has booked 350 trips out of its Lawrenceville-based office. Included in the service is on-call troubleshooting.

“We haven’t had too many big hiccups aside from the occasional last-minute flight cancelation,” Rafson says. “Generally, customers send us great emails with updates on their trip.

“Each customer is asked to fill out a survey when they return and we use that feedback for planning future trips. It’s a great way to make sure our recommendations are solid.”

Rafson says her biggest challenge has been “balancing the different facets of owning a business.”

Right now, Pack Up + Go's offers are limited to destinations located in the U.S., but she has been thinking about about expanding overseas.

“The biggest question is what to do next. Everything is on the table,” she says. “It will be exciting to see where it goes.”   


Categories: The 412