Surprise Vacation 2016

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It’s my most favorite time of the year!! SURPRISE VACATION is a few weeks away and it’s time to put on your detective hats!

Surprise Vacation with (@whatsgabycookin)

For those of you who are new here – let’s start at the beginning. Surprise vacation has been a longstanding Dalkin family tradition since we were kids. It started when I was 9, my sister was 6, and my parents would throw us birthday parties. Now that I’ve thrown a party or two, I know how much work they can be, PLUS add in some screaming and crying children, ummmmm NO. So my parents decided to do away with the birthday parties and instead they’d plan a surprise vacation for us each year.

So what’s a surprise vacation you ask? IT’S A SURPRISE. And it’s basically the highlight of my year. I even like it more than my birthday/birth month which is really saying a lot. I’m obsessed. They plan a vacation for us and we get somewhere in the realm of 8-10 clues each year and we have to figure out where we are going. Some years we’ve figured it out, others we’re totally surprised. One thing is always certain…. I’m always wrong. My sister sometimes figures it out, my husband has been known to do the same… but I’m always, without fail, 100% wrong. I think it’s because I have this burning desire to go on safari in Africa and no matter what clues my parents send over I somehow make them fit into an African safari. BUT… that will soon be resolved because we are going on safari next spring. So it’s safe to safe we can rule out Africa for this years surprise.

ANYWAYS… since we were kids, we’ve been getting everyone involved. My tennis coach, friends of friends, parents, professors, you guys!! I mean, it’s basically a puzzle for anyone I know. So I’ll be sharing the clues here as they roll in (roughly one a week) and I’ll just continue to update this post so you don’t have to search high and low for the latest clues. Ready… Clue’s are officially rolling in:

Clue #1 Getting There, Getting Where?: Flying always has a cost; maybe I can get it waived.

Clue #2 The second half of an abbreviated Very Wise Night, thus short but sweet.

Clue #3 Yea, Yea, Yea, Blah, Blah, Blah; go fetch. Always a great day.

Clue #4 He wasn’t totally wrong, nor one of the pair, but he integrated well.

Clue #5 Ex Top Dog TJ’s and the Jim’s neighbors, down the hill amongst the trees; and arriving ahead of schedule. Always a good time!

Clue #6  A city, town, village, municipality or other? I don’t know but : It makes watching grass grow more exciting, especially looking down at it from the hills.

Clue #7 Next to Peter’s Pointer, then all together something like “You’ve Got Mail”

Clue #8 After the winter thaw, they come outside to enjoy the sun and warming weather. More than a dozen of them, frolicking and playing, a wonderful spectacle for all who want to enjoy.

Clue #9 We cannot have a Christmas-time Surprise Vacation without a Christmas clue: The three Magi, on the back of their mounts, following the star above the mountains, into Bethlehem to see the babe.

A bit of inside scoop:

We’re going over winter break for about 7 days. That includes travel time.

Here are our surprise trips from the past so we can cross those off the list as we think of ways to decipher the clues.

2015 – Costa Rica – (click on over to see clues and my parents clues and commentary on this trip!)
2014 – Orcas Island + Vancouver + Whistler (click on over to see clues and my parents clues and commentary on this trip!)
2013 – Nat Geo Cruise through Alaska (click on over to see clues and my parents clues and commentary on this trip!)
2012 – Road Trip through France (click on over to see clues and my parents clues and commentary on this trip!)
2011 – Bahamas
2010 – Skipped a year and went to Berlin, Prague, Budapest and Vienna but it wasn’t a surprise
2009 – Banff, Canada
2008 – none of us can remember where we went this year! whoops 🙂
2007 – Italy
2006 – Turkey
2005 – Greece
2004 – England + Scotland
2003 – Cancun, Mexico
2002 – Hawaii (Big Island)
2001 – Napa / Sonoma
2000 – Los Angeles
1999 – New York
1998 – Washington DC
1997 – Las Vegas
1996 – Texas
1995 – Disney World

2016 here we come!!!


  1. I’m obsessed, and now my dad wants to me to forward all of the clues to him to play along- I am so excited!!

  2. Sounds like a sea voyage is involved. But don’t quote me, my husband and I completely failed to solve last year’s puzzle.

  3. Love this. We do something similar, but it’s a surprise from Santa on Christmas Day. Instead of useless or unwanted/unappreciated presents, we do a trip each year instead. And same with the clues, but they’re a scavenger hunt and much easier. Everyone loves it!
    Waiving of flight cost could mean by land or ship. Cruise?

    1. Maybe!!! But doubtful knowing by parents – they like to switch it up on us 🙂 Keep us on our toes

  4. Gaby! Do you remember any of your clues from England? I bought tickets for me and my sister to go to London in the spring for her Christmas gift and now I am trying to come up with some clues. I am totally stealing your dad’s Iceland one, because that is where our lay over is.

  5. I think in your snap story you said the clues added up to the spelling of the place- is that always the case?

    If so: would second half of an abbreviated Very Wise Night be -as? Xmas minus the first two letters?

    Can’t wait for clue 3!

    1. I was thinking that too – Xmas, then AS. that is short for American Samoa which is an island in the Pacific Ocean (waived = waves – surfing lessons?). Seems too easy given the difficulty of the past clues – but this is fun! Thanks for sharing!

  6. A “very wise night” could be Epiphany, January 6, which is a recognized holiday in the Virgin Islands. Epiphany partially commemorates the visit of the three wise men to Jesus. Also in some places, the eve of Epiphany is known as 12th Night and is celebrated with fruitcake or another dessert.

  7. Kitty hawk, North Carolina! Not wrong, but Wright (brothers). First in flight. not a pair but they were brothers! I have no idea but is fun to speculate!

  8. Could clue number 4 be the letters “n” and “g” but separated?

    1st: He wasn’t totally “wrong”… so not all of the letters in the word “wrong.”

    2nd: Nor one of the pair… The Siamese twins Eng and Chang, which both have “ng” in the names.

    3rd: but he integrated well… “integrated” has the letter “n” and “g,” but they are not together.

  9. Virginia!
    It was one of the original colonies (A city, town, village, municipality or other)
    Thomas Jefferson (ex top dog TJ) was born there and is where Jamestown is located (Jim’s neighbors)

  10. Ok, finally joining in. (By the way, OBSESSED with this idea!)

    4) I was thinking Frank Lloyd Wright (not completely wrong, and not one of the Wright Brothers.) His most famous building, Falling Water, is “integrated” with nature by incorporating a stream & waterfall into the architecture. It’s located outside of Pittsburgh.

    5) Like Kristi, I think this one sounds like Virginia. Along with what she pointed out about Thomas Jefferson & Jamestown, there’s a place called Earlyville just outside of Monticello, to go with the “arriving ahead of schedule” piece.

    6) Maybe referring to DC? (Is it a city, a municipality, etc?) I realize that was one of your past trips, but perhaps referring to being next door in VA, hence “looking down on it from the hills.” Watching grass grow could refer to the lawn at the White House. Or there is a town called Meadowview in SW VA that appears to be between 2 sets of mountains.

    Can’t wait for more clues!

  11. There’s a Peter’s Point in Amelia Island, Florida… and some history that may go along with some of the other clues! The weather is throwing me off though… not sure how warm it will be in northern FL when you’re traveling! I will keep guessing 🙂

  12. I have another guess and I am fairly confident in it! (I am obsessed with challenges like this to a fault, like I won’t stop until I’m right…) Tomales Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore…

    Clue #1 – I think you can drive there
    Clue #2 – Clever + Darkness = verness = Inverness (I am super proud of myself for this one if I’m right) – this is a place in the same area
    Clue #3 hmm not sure about this one, but there are dog parks there… one is called “No Name!”
    Clue #4 Frank Lloyd Wright has a house near there in Marin County (the other commenters helped out on this one!)
    Clue #5 Sir Francis Drake boulevard – maybe? not sure on this one.
    Clue #6
    Clue #7 “Tommy Thumb” + “email” = Tomales Bay
    Clue #8

    Can’t wait to hear if I’m right!! Can I come if I am? 😉

  13. II thinkkkkk it’s Phoenix, AZ. Here’s what I’ve got (thanks to the clues everybody else already came up with!) But I also could’ve gotten an idea in my head and just ran with it….

    #1: You are flying, but using miles instead **Based on the second clue, “Getting there, getting where” might allude to “Wanna Get Away” which is Southwest’s slogan
    #2: WN is the abbreviation for Southwest Airline – short but sweet flight (AZ is 1.5 away)
    #3: Thanks to other clues by commenters, I looked up dog parks in Phoenix and there is one called Echo Mountain
    #4: Definitely agree with the rest of the commenters – This is Frank Lloyd Wright and he has 11+ buildings in the Phoenix, AZ area! (Thanks, google)
    #5: (I agree this clue sounds like Virginia based on the other inferences, so this one throws my theory off a bit) There is a Thomas Jefferson High School in Phoenix? A stretch, I know. I couldn’t get this one.
    #6: There is a castle called Tovrea Castle in Carrero Heights in the desert that is surrounded by a cactus garden.
    #7: Tamales?? Yum.
    #8: I’m going to go with bats on this one even though this was tough. They like hot weather and apparently there are a lot of bats in Phoenix.

    Wherever you go, I love how fun your family makes these trips!!

    xo Annie

    1. I think I am just trying to find connections now, but for #5 There is a famous football player out of ASU named John Jefferson…

      I can’t wait until the answer is revealed!

    2. Scottsdale!! I think you are staying at the Phoenician and the clue #4 could be the Taliesin West which is one of FLW most famous spots and a historical landmark. I haven’t figured them all out though – I’m just convinced you’ll be in AZ for the holiday!! Have fun! xo

    3. There is something called “Dinner with Jefferson: An Evening at Monticello” at the Sandra Day O’Connor Institute in AZ but it already happened…just too much of a coincidence – has to mean something.

  14. From The Clue Master (the maker of the clues)

    Some great responses here for sure!!! Thank you all for your ongoing effort. Some of you lad’s have definitely derived correct answers in part. Keep trying to put it all together and I think this one will be solved.

    Only 17 days to go!!!
    Happy Holidays to all – glad to provide a bit of fun for all of you!

    Clue Master

    ps Clues can be anywhere……

  15. Ok guys, now that The Clue Master told us we’re close, we HAVE to figure this out!! I don’t necessarily think any of the below ideas are correct, but I thought I’d share them in hopes that they spark some brilliant ideas from others. 🙂

    1) Road trip or cruise
    2) As Diana said above Clever + Darkness = verness = Inverness; this is also a place in Scotland, but they went there in 2004. Perhaps another play on words like this?
    3)Yea, Yea, Yea (Boring) + Blah, Blah, Blah (Boring) = Bora Bora??
    4) Still think this is Frank Lloyd Wright. Or maybe another Wright?? Or Integrating well could refer to Abe Lincoln??
    5) Thomas Jefferson’s neighbors on Mt Rushmore are George Washington & FDR; or maybe a neighbor of the Jefferson Memorial??
    6) District of Columbia, Commonwealth of Virginia
    7) (Diana, you are a genius!) Thumb + email = Tumby Bay (Australia); Middle Finger = Bird + email = Bertie Bay (Canada by Niagara Falls)
    8) Some sort of sport/tournament?? After winter thaw = Spring? More than a dozen = teams of 6+? Sugar Bowl in New Orleans on 1/2, “Frozen Fenway” (hockey played outside in Boston) 1/3-1/16
    Bonus) In the Clue Master’s comment he says clues could be anywhere (I assume this means his comment contains a clue..”Some of you lad’s have definitely derived correct answers in part. “) lads = boys, men + in part = pieces, broken

    Keep up the good work – we can do this!!

    1. Haha, I had given up for a few days but this has gotten me back in the game! I think we can do it!!

  16. I need to read the comments- my first instinct was cruise- then I was feeling Ireland. And then the Alps so for now I will guess one of those fabulous river cruises

  17. For clue #2, the second half of x-mas is mas. Sweet Mas is a cafe in Barcelona.

    Could you be going to Spain?

    There are also some Sweet Ma’s restaurants in the US as well. Maybe North Carolina? Can’t wait to find out!

  18. Clue #2 The second half of an abbreviated Very Wise Night, thus short but sweet.

    Very Wise Night > Epiphany > abbreviated EPNY > second half = NY = New York?

  19. I sort of feel like this is a North American cruise… you know there are some that run from New York (one clue-guesser mentioned NY) stop in Jamestown/Norfolk (lots of VA references) and end up in Turks & Caicos/St. Thomas area….Now I’m hooked! Off to investigate.

  20. in reading your previous trip clues & commentary i am not even going to attempt to help haha this is insanely tricky clues!

  21. 4) We know this clue refers to Frank Lloyd Wright, but perhaps we’re taking it too literally. His most famous building is called Falling Water…maybe this could point to a famous waterfall (Niagara Falls? but seems too cold for that) or “Rain” or “Snow”
    5) Again, maybe Virginia is too literal of a guess. If you think of the US Presidents in order it goes: George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams…so TJ & “the Jims” (both Madison & Monroe are James) both have “neighbors” named John Adams.
    9) I thought ‘camel’ for the Magi’s mounts – there’s Camelback Mt in Phoenix or a place called Camel’s Hump in VT.

    Gaby – Does your family ski? I figure this time of year it would make sense if you went somewhere warm unless you guys like snow sports or have family to visit. 🙂 Also, do you know what day you’ll find out the destination?!?!

  22. Hello to all on this Christmas Eve from the Clue Master

    Clues everywhere: ‘”lads – referred to Lizz, Annie and Diana (L A D ) as they were the warmest – downright sizzling for some (Annie)!!!!!

    Clues 5 and 9 have been solved, 4 and 7 so very close. Use those to figure out the rest!!!!!! Clue 5 is a bit of a deception because it does not make specific reference to the Surprise site, just others that will be there as well…. ( Earlysville hit the bullseye!!).

    Clue 4 – broaden your possibilities for FLW in the area.

    Clue 7 – put it in the context of the area where we are going and pick some more….

    Clue’s 1, 2 and 6 – Clue Master Specials – takes a GENIUS level puzzle solver for those – but if you can get some of the rest you might get lucky!!!

    Clue 3 and 8 can be solved if you consider the area we are going like #7…….

    You will LOVE these when I divulge on Tuesday !!!!!!

    I am sure I can convince Gaby to have a Giveaway for anyone who can solve them all!!


    The Clue Master

  23. If not Phoenix or Scottsdale, AZ, are you going to Sedona? Those cities are fairly close though so I would think by mentioning one already it would mean AZ-Phoenix and surrounding areas! Still thinking…

  24. Ok, totally on board with Arizona!

    4) FLW museum & school of architecture is at Taliesin West
    8) MLB Spring Training – after winter thaw & the Cactus League has 15 teams

  25. 6) Scottsdale!?!?!? Scotts is a brand of lawn care products (like turf builder etc – there are funny commercials with a Scottish dude in a kilt) + a dale is a valley (looking down from the hills)

    1. Ha! I totally have “Noche Intelligente” written on my scratch paper. 🙂 It’s the “second half” and “abbreviated” that keep me stumped!

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