Mystery Shopping Your Vacation

mystery shopping your vacation

Mystery Shopping or Secret Shopping your vacation. Sounds great right? Get reimbursed for your vacation expenses and have a great time doing it!

I began thinking about this as I was planning our upcoming vacation. I thought I might share a little bit of my thought process on how I would go about finding shops for my vacation. Perhaps you will find this useful as you plan your next trip or getaway. Maybe you will work in reverse, select the shops and then plan the trip. However you go about it – doing mystery shops on your vacation will definitely add a new layer of adventure to your trip!

Doing shops while on vacation means that this will be a working vacation. Your family may get to enjoy some downtime, but you will be writing reports to make your deadlines. Keep this in mind as you dream about saving money by doing mystery shops.

What do I mean by mystery shopping your vacation?

Well I mean looking at each piece that makes up a vacation or get-away and then pin-pointing how you can find a mystery shop that matches up – and then finally – getting assigned the shops to make it happen.  I am not writing this as a how-to get your vacation for free, or including the types of luxury four star shops that are out there. I am doing this to show how you could incorporate mystery shopping into your vacation to help save some money.

I have divided it up into four categories:

  1. Transportation (airfare, bus fare, driving, gas)
  2. Lodging (hotels, motels, timeshares)
  3. Dining (restaurants, fast-food, etc)
  4. Activities and Amusements

Step One:

Select your location.

Location is important in real estate – and it is definitely important if you are looking for mystery shops while vacationing. It will be easier to find shops in each of the four categories if you select a destination that has lots of brand names available. Large tourist destinations and bigger cities will offer you more selection, while small towns and hidden beach destinations will not have as much.

Step Two:

Decide how you are going to get there.

There are mystery shopping companies that evaluate airlines. If you plan to fly to your destination, then it may be possible to get a discount on your flight. One company offers a 50% discount on your airfare, but the discount will only be for the one ticket. If you are interested in airline mystery shopping, then check out the mystery shopping company SQM.

airline mystery shoppingThere are also secret shops available if you would like to take the bus to your destination. The reimbursement is usually only for the shoppers ticket, so take that into account as you are looking for these types of assignments. SQM also offers shops evaluating these types of transportation companies.

Some mystery shop assignments will also include a travel reimbursement that will help to cover the cost of arriving at the shop location.

If you are driving, you could attempt to pick up some gas station shops along your route. If you do not have any experience with these types of shops, make sure to do some at home before you attempt to go on the road with them.

Step Three:

Pick your lodging

If you are planning on using shop assignments to cover the lodging for your stay, make sure to read the guidelines carefully. Hotel Mystery shops are often for hotel mystery shoppingonly one night. To cover a longer stay, you would need to find multiple shops, or speak with your scheduler about extending your stay.

Some hotel mystery shops include dining and spa evaluations as part of the shop. This would help you to cover dining and activities with one assignment. Again, read the guidelines carefully because some of these shops do not allow children.

There are also mystery shopping companies that evaluate timeshare resorts. Performing these types of shops involves sitting through a timeshare presentation. Timeshare shops usually include accommodations for a longer length of time, but may involve purchasing a timeshare that would be refunded after you submit your report. Look into Intellishop for these types of shops.

Step Four:

Pick your dining options

If you have been mystery shopping at home (if you are thinking of doing this on vacation, I hope you have some experience!), then you know where to look for the dining shops. You also know what types of restaurants are available, and what companies to look at. Dining can take a large chunk of your vacation budget, and you probably have some experience doing these types of shops. Finding ones that will work for your style of vacationing should not be too hard. Make sure you check the list of mystery shopping companies and get signed up with all of them so you have the most options.

Step Five:

Research your activities options

One mystery shopping company stands out when you are looking for activities shops – Amusement Advantage. Before accepting one of these shops for your vacation, make sure you research the time commitment. These mystery shopping reports are not ones that can be completed quickly. Check the guidelines before you tell your family you are taking them all to the amusement park, for free! :-)

Step Six:

Get the shops!

Since your destination is probably outside of your home shop area, you will need to go to each mystery shopping companies job board and lookup what’s available in the area that you will be visiting. You may find shops you didn’t know existed as you begin to search outside of your region!


Ok, so I have given you some basics on how I would research this in general. Now I am going to give you an example scenario. For my example, we will be going to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I am using my personal preferences here and throwing in some of my other money saving tricks.

  1. We will be driving. I am not going to bother with any mystery shops on the drive down or back. I purchased some discounted gas gift cards from one of the companies on my increase your mystery shopping income page.
  2. I found a hotel shop for a Fairfield Inn in Knoxville. This is reasonably close to Gatlinburg and its only for one night. This shop is available from a company on my mystery shopping companies list. I can see that other shops were available, but I am planning this last minute. If you have a lot of time to plan, it will be easier to find the shops that fit your plans. We will spend the rest of our nights in Pigeon Forge (no shop). I will keep looking for more shops for lodging. Things might open up or someone might cancel or flake.gatlinburg restaurants
  3. Finding dining shops is much easier than finding shops for lodging. I can see some Dick’s Last Resort restaurants are available – also some fast casual places. I did a google search on restaurants in Gatlinburg to help me find shops. Since I am signed up with a lot of companies, seeing the restaurant names helps me know what companies to look at. Since Gatlinburg is not my home turf, I will need to go to the job boards of each company to find shops for that area. Some restaurant names that I see that I have seen shopped are Mellow Mushroom, Texas Roadhouse, Five Guys, and Papa John’s.
  4. Amusement Advantage did not have anything available in our vacation area, but if my example trip is in April – then not all of the amusement parks are open yet. I did manage to find a total shop package for the Ripley’s venues. The reimbursement was generous and we were planning on visiting these attractions anyway, so SCORE!

I hope you can see from my example how to incorporate some shops into your vacation. I prefer to not over schedule myself. I travel with my family, and I like to have some downtime as well.

If you would like to mystery shop your vacation, the number one piece of advice I can give you is be flexible. In my example, there were no hotel shops in my city, but there were some available in the next city over. Make sure to think outside the box and you will be able to mystery shop your way to vacation savings.

Happy Shopping!

Does this all sound like fun but you don’t know how to get started? Check out How to Become a Secret Shopper to get yourself started.

Do you want to know where you can find all these vacation mystery shops? Check out my list of the best mystery shopping companies and register with them all!