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Charlotte McGhee will whisk you away with her passion for travel!

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

Charlotte McGhee of Whisked Away Travel Surprise

You’re currently a teacher, correct?

Yes, I teach ESL, and I’ve also taught Spanish. I’ve been a teacher at CMS for 7 years, and teaching for a total of about 11. I’ll be teaching for only two more months.

So you’ll be pursuing your passion for surprise travel planning as a full-time business? That’s a big decision.

It is. I definitely feel that pressure because I want to contribute equally to my family, but my husband is amazingly supportive.

How and when did you decide to pursue this as a business?

The business started in March of 2017. I had been planning trips for myself and my husband, as well as friends and family for years. I love it, and would do it for free. My husband and I were on a weekend trip to Savannah. I had planned the whole thing and everything went great. My husband looked at me and said, “You should think about doing this as a full time business.”

And it evolved from there?

Yes. I put the website up and it’s grown from there.

Do you feel nervous about leaving a secure career to pursue Whisked Away?

Not nervous, but I definitely feel that pressure because I want to contribute equally to my family, but again, my husband is amazingly supportive. As far as leaving teaching, I’m ready. I’ll definitely miss my kids, but I don’t agree with a lot of what’s going on with state legislation [related to the schools].

Your business concept is pretty unique? How did you come up with the idea?

I surprised my mom with a trip to Germany, the Czech Republic, and Austria. It was something my dad did as a gift for my mom. It was an amazing experience. Around the same time, I was telling to some college friends about “Pack Up + Go.” That’s a company that does surprise three-day weekend domestic trips. When I thought about the surprise trip for my mom—and learning that people would pay for that planning, I thought it about it as a business.

How long are the trips and where are the destinations.

I plan one or two week trips, to all 50 states, and Canada, Latin America, and Europe. The majority of the trips have been a week to ten-day European trips. I also specialize in surprise honeymoons.

Why honeymoons?

One reason the surprise honeymoon part of business is popular is because people are so busy and focused on planning their wedding, that they might default to all-inclusive Caribbean resort. But if you want more than that, but don’t have time to plan, I can make that happen for you.

How do you figure out where’s the best destination for people?

I have a survey people fill out. It includes everything you like to do, where you’ve been, where you’d rather not go. Clients have a lot of input.

How does it work with your fee?

I charge 20% of the total budget. It takes about 10 hours per trip to do all research and booking. That includes taking care of hotel and flight reservations.

What’s the process?

About two weeks before the trip, I send the clients an email. It has the weather for the surprise destination, specifics to pack, when to arrive at the airport. A week before, they get their itinerary/destination. They can open it then or at the airport. Most people wait until they get to the airport.

Have you always had a love of travel?

Always. I went on my first trip when I was 17 to Costa Rica. It was through the International Baccalaureate program at North Meck High School. I was studying Spanish though part of the program and had the chance to go on the trip. And I haven’t stopped.

What’s been your favorite place to go?

My favorite region is Latin America. I even lived in Ecuador for a while. I was working for AmeriCorps and wanted to live in Latin America, and found out you could teach English down there. So that’s what I did.

How long have you lived in Charlotte.

I moved here when I was twelve. I’m originally from Oklahoma.

How do you think the experience of travel changes people?

Travel opens hearts and minds. You notice similarities in people, even though you might be very different. It’s impossible to be close-minded when experiences are shoved in your face. You also discover that there are kind people everywhere.

What’s your favorite thing about living in Charlotte?

I really love the diversity of the city, especially compared to where I came from. I live on the Central Avenue corridor in East Charlotte, and there is such a variety of people in my neighborhood. I love that.

What’s next on your personal travel wish list?

We are very excited to be going to Alaska this summer.

What if people want to take the plunge on a surprise vacation, but are nervous about doing that?

I’ve met potential clients, and have taken them out for coffee or a beer to talk about their trip. I’m open to that.

How have most of your clients found you?

I’ve been participating in the Midwood Markets, where different local businesses are set up. I’ve been on the podcast “Side Hustle School.” And I also have clients who have been referrals, word of mouth, and return clients.

You’re based in Charlotte, but can people from elsewhere contact you?

Absolutely. I service anyone with a U.S. passport.



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