Have you ever wondered how to plan a surprise getaway for your husband? Over the years, I admit to romanticizing about being swept off, for a surprise getaway to an unknown destination (with a beach and warm sun). I even suggested the idea of a surprise getaway to my dad while brainstorming ideas for a 40th wedding anniversary present to my mom.

We all know that finding wellness in a relationship involves carving out time to spend as a couple, with our spouses. Date nights, travel without kids, couples time. But if you are anything like me, this is easier said than done.

Truth be told- I not good at making time for “us”- between one thing and another (insert a myriad of excuses). In fact, I have been so focused on improving my own wellness, that I let the well-being of my marriage slide. So when a tweet picture from the Four Seasons Hotel Washington caught my eye a few days before my husband’s birthday, a spontaneous idea was born to plan a surprise birthday getaway.

Be pampered at Four Seasons Hotel Washington | LiveDoGrow

Hard to ignore this picture tweeted by @FSWashington. Image Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Washington.

(Confession- I am not a great liar [aka- my face and expressions tend to give me away] and am usually a snoop when it comes to unveiling surprises…which made planning the surprise that much more exciting for me.)

So how did I do it? How did I plan a last minute birthday surprise/romantic getaway?

Plan a surprise getaway for your husband in 7 steps | LiveDoGrow

Plan a surprise getaway for your husband in seven {easy} steps

1. Pick your destination

The first order of business to plan and execute a surprise getaway is to pick your destination. Will you stay local (or within driving distance) or will you jet away to a far-off (or not so far-off) land? Depending on how much time you have at your disposal (both to plan and getaway), a local destination makes planning logistically easier and do-able, especially if like me, you are planning something last minute.

My destination inspiration came from a a tweet. Just a few (three) days before my husband’s birthday, I noticed a tweet from the Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC. Of smores. Decadent, warm, cozy looking smores. They looked scrumptious. I could not resist commenting on the picture…

Plan a spontaneous getaway | LiveDoGrow

Engage with Four Seasons Hotels on Twitter for the ultimate in customer service (and encouragement!)

My mind began dreaming- could I really pull it off?

Living in the Washington DC suburbs, driving into Georgetown (the neighborhood where the Four Seasons Hotel Washington is located) is easy. The destination ticks all of my boxes: foodie, luxury, wellness and areas to walk.

Although it has been 18 years since my last visit to the Four Seasons Hotel Washington, voices in my head reminded me of the decadent spa, fitness center and pool – the perfect destination for wellness- for us as individuals and as a couple.

2. Make arrangements

This is where a surprise getaway can get tricky. In addition to reservations, planning the logistics of a last-minute escape involves multiple variables like family schedules and childcare.

Parents cannot just up and leave young children home alone (well you could, but I am not sure I would suggest it). Enlisting the help of friends, neighbors or family is key to getting away. For better or worse, because we share custody of our daughter with my ex-husband- it worked out that the surprise could be planned on a weekend where she was with her dad.

The one lesson that I learned as I planned our night away was that spontaneity matters. Over thinking and worrying about logistics bogs you down. You can always enumerate excuses about why one night/weekend/ is too complicated. But making it happen- is priceless.

3. Plan your itinerary

Once you know “the where” for your surprise getaway, comes the “what.” While I am usually not a big planner when it comes to travel, having at least a rough plan of what to do, including reservations for dinner (especially if you want to eat in a particular restaurant) adds to the surprise factor.

As foodies, I knew that where we had food and wine were key elements to our escape.

My first “must-do” was an afternoon of wine-tasting at ENO– a wine room with a great reputation.

wine menu at eno dc | LiveDoGrow


Afternoon at Eno DC in Georgetown | LiveDoGrow

wine tasting at eno dc | LiveDoGrow

The Four Seasons Hotel Washington suggested (and then made) dinner reservations at Bourbon Steak DC, a Michael Mina restaurant repeatedly listed on the Washingtonian list of top 100 restaurantsIt was easy to say yes to a menu that include duck and Japanese wagyu beef (some of my husband’s favorites).

After an afternoon of wine tasting and an evening of feasting, the last element on the itinerary was a relaxing morning at the fitness center and pool. It is not often that we are able to workout together, between time constraints, childcare considerations, differences in running speed (and having only one treadmill in our home gym)- so I knew that a morning workout followed by hot tub or pool time was important to capping off the getaway.

4. Plan your cover story

Cover stories are more than just tricks of the spy trade. Every surprise getaway needs a cover story- that is believable. The plan needs to be realistic enough to not raise any red flags.

My cover story was, in retrospect, the least well executed aspect of my plan. With a bar mitzvah earlier in the day, I knew we would already be “dressed up.” I had several possibilities floating around, none of which were perfect. My story kept evolving- from shopping at a new outlet center to going to see potential carpet for my home office. In the end, my story was a mix of elements that I finessed as I drove towards the DC border. Carpet shopping, wine-tasting- and even a story that involved us parking at the Four Seasons Hotel Washington because it was next door to ENO. (- and wouldn’t that be convenient if indeed we were only passing through?)

5. Pack (for yourself and your husband)

The good thing about a one-night getaway is that packing should be easy. (Except that in my case, my packing set off red flags for my husband who could not find the things that I had packed. Oops.)

I considered that we would already be dressed for the bar mitzvah and packed accordingly. The overnight bag included an outfit for dinner, pajamas, workout clothes, socks/underwear, running shoes bathing suits and an outfit for the next day.  I packed his Kindle in case he wanted to read while relaxing by the pool. (As it happens-the belt that I packed turned out to be the one the wanted to wear with his suit and caused him to question if I was up to something- as did the pair of jeans that he noticed was missing from his closet.)

I kept toiletries simple- packing an un-used travel tooth brush for him and waiting until he had breakfast to pack his razor and deodorant (knowing that he could use the shampoo and soap in-room amenities). It did help that we were going to a Four Seasons, where I knew the staff could help us acquire anything that I had forgotten.

How to pack for a surprise getaway | LiveDoGrow

Pack smartly, but chance are good that your destination hotel can help you find whatever you need.

Once packed, everything went into the trunk of my car while my husband was in the shower -(me offering to drive created another red flag moment of suspicion- but I explained that away complaining of the static cling that resulted when I sat in his car wearing Spanx and a dress. He mostly believed me.)

6. Make it happen

Last minute trip to Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC | LiveDoGrow

There is no doubt that my husband was suspicious. I tried to fend off his questions- the belt, the missing jeans, me offering to drive, me wanting to go into DC with stories and giggles. (Have I mentioned that I am a bad liar?) I even claimed that he was making me feel bad- as if I should have planned a surprise.

Planning a surprise getaway turned out to be an adrenaline rush for me. Feeling proud that I had pulled it off (with the help of the Four Seasons Hotel Washington team, and my daughter who helped in the packing)- I cannot imagine a better night away in Georgetown.

Four Seasons Hotel Washington | LiveDoGrow

7. Enjoy

Last but not least, the key to planning a surprise getaway is to enjoy every moment while you are there.

How to plan a birthday surprise trip | LiveDoGrow

Regardless of if your husband is suspicious, or if you forgot to pack an odd or end (I forgot his phone charger)- the little things do not matter. Creating time that previously did not exist, for your husband- and as a couple is pure magic.

Enjoy a surprise getaway | LiveDoGrow

Plan a spontaneous getaway | LiveDoGrow

Eat dinner at Bourbon Steak DC | LiveDoGrow

Who can say no to french fries cooked in duck fat at Bourbon Steak DC?

Birthday celebration at Bourbon Steak DC | LiveDoGrow

A thoughtful surprise treat from Bourbon Steak DC.

Last minute getaway to Washington DC | LiveDoGrow

One of the things I love about the location of Four Seasons Hotel Georgetown is the location- and the ability to walk and explore.

Relax at Four Seasons Hotel Washington | LiveDoGrow

The fitness center and spa at Four Seasons Hotel Washington has everything you could ever want for after your workout or treatment.

Pool at Four Seasons Hotel Washington | LiveDoGrow

In the end, our surprise getaway was perfect. Not only was the spontaneous escape a gesture that my husband did not expect- but we were able to soak up wellness – individually and as a couple.

Whether you are planning the surprise for your husband or someone else- the end result can be everything you dreamed and more.

What about you? Have you ever planned a surprise getaway (or been taken on one)? Where would you go? (Or where would you want to be taken?)


**Thank you to the Four Seasons Hotel Washington DC for being my partner in crime. {I did receive a media rate for our stay, but would have chosen this destination regardless.}

Written by Elena Sonnino

Elena Sonnino

Chaser of Dreams. Life coach, wellness and travel writer, yogini, former teacher, adventure seeker, hiker, foodie …and oh right, cancer survivor. Elena writes about finding everyday wellness in far-flung lands and in her own backyard in the Washington D.C. suburbs.

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