SMI #010 - Unbox a Mystery Long Weekend

Send someone a long weekend get-away

Opportunity in a Tweet:

People want to get away, with the least amount of effort possible. Vacations in the US are getting shorter in length, but more frequent throughout the year. But people hate the amount of research that goes into patching together a trip. Create a “black box” travel planning service for long weekends that literally is mailed in a box.

What This Is:

  • An itinerary building service

  • For trips under a week in length

  • One purchase click for transportation, hotel, food, and tours

  • A box that comes in the mail

  • For busy professionals and adult couples

  • Bark Box meets Hotel Tonight

What This Isn’t:

  • For trips longer than four nights

  • A tool with lots of choices and variability post purchase

  • For families with kids

  • For people who hate surprises


People are taking shorter vacations

  • Most Americans (57%) took leisure trips of no more than four nights in the past year

  • And the younger you are, the likelier you are to take multiple short vacations

    • Takeaway: Microcations allow people with short attention spans and demanding work schedules to experience multiple cities, spread out over the course of a year, rather than blowing all their PTO on one city

People love getting packages

  • Unboxing is a huge fad

  • Most unboxings focus on physical goods, not experiences (a potential opportunity)

  • A fully planned itinerary (experience) + a sleek marketing design (mystery) + corny trinkets (goods) could make for great reactions

    • Takeaway: It’s nice to get things in the mail that are not bills.

Consumers want less choices, not more

  • Travel sites are designed to flood you with a sea of options

  • They are not built for quick hit, impulse purchases

  • …Four hours later you’re still looking at reviews from a middle aged woman in Idaho who went to Pensacola in 2004

    • Takeaway: The point is to get away, not redesign the Roman calendar

Share Steal My Idea

Back of the Napkin Market Sizing

To Get the Ball Rolling, Sisyphus Says

  • Build up the supply side before putting efforts into driving demand

    • Tap into travel APIs if they are available (global distribution systems like an Amadeus give access to flight and hotel data)

    • Design a few solid permutations of long weekend itineraries in two or three cities and constrain your geographic focus

  • When you turn to market the demand side, focus on a core demographic in a core geography (i.e., college educated working couples in cities with colder weather); For example, the city of Tampa markets wicked hahd to the city of Boston, who’s residents are depressed and freezing and probably work for PwC or Fidelity

Kinda Biased Competitive Landscape

How It Makes Money

Waves This Rides

  • Last minute travel deals

    • Hotel Tonight, Hopper, Flight Club, and Red Week all built companies by enabling travel decisions to be made at the last moment

    • It’s a simple playbook: they play matchmaker between companies that want butts in seats and people who want to be in those seats

    • With more and more decisions being made at the last moment, it requires real time information and data aggregation

  • Unboxing hype train

    • There’s an undeniable dopamine hit you get when you open something that’s going to be a mystery, and it’s not from IRS

  • Algorithm powered purchasing

    • People trust computers to help them buy what they need

    • The idea of a “black box” that will magically determine your vacation is actually a relief to some consumers

    • For control freaks, sorry, this product is not for you. Enjoy reading through 54 pages of my Aunt Pamela’s reviews on TripAdvisor (bonus grainy pictures from 2006 trip to Pensacola)

Future Expansion Areas

  • Wedding invite in a box with all the weekend’s arrangements laid out and a small gift for attendees

  • Sports weekend in a box with tickets to the event (favorite team, meet and greet, pro shop gift card)

Why This Might Fail

  • Person buying might not have same attitude as person receiving

    • This isn’t right for people who are control freaks

    • As a guy who hates planning anything, I’d love to get this for me and my wife, but I’m not sure she’d be cool with the lack of control or optionality

  • Unreliable mail rooms

Potentially Reliable Stuff I Read at 3 AM

Irrelevant Post Script No Reputable Business Publication Would Allow

Get Hyped

Get Loud

Get Wise

“I’d traveled the journey, I’d done all the road work…”

-Buster Douglas on his confidence against Mike Tyson as a 42:1 underdog