A few weeks ago I received a phone call from my oldest friend, Mark Allen. He and I met as kindergartners in Eugene, Ore., and went through school together until we graduated from high school. He was calling to say that he and his wife, Jenny, would be visiting Branson, Mo., for a business conference, and he was hoping to visit us in Little Rock for a day at the end of the trip.

I confirmed that Merry and I would be in town, and then he mentioned, “Be sure not to call me at home about this. Jenny doesn’t know where we’re going.”

It turned out that this was an anniversary trip, and they have a yearly tradition to take each other on a surprise getaway. It was Mark’s turn this year to plan the journey.

When the day of their trip arrived, Jenny knew they were going someplace where the weather would be in the 70-80s. She knew what clothes to bring and was told to pack their golf clubs. But that’s all.

At the Eugene airport, Mark gave her a boarding pass for a flight to Salt Lake City. When they arrived in Utah, he gave her another for Little Rock. They rented a car in Arkansas, and Mark started driving north. Jenny didn’t realize their final destination was Branson until they began seeing road signs and billboards for the city.

A few days later, after they returned to Little Rock, I asked them more about this yearly tradition. They said they’ve been doing it since early in their marriage, and it has now become a highlight of each year. Most of the trips have been overnight stays at a hotel or bed-and-breakfast inn somewhere in Oregon. They’ve also been on a mystery theater train and a cruise to Ensenada.

For Mark and Jenny, the “surprise” aspect adds to the enjoyment. “The fun is being taken on this adventure,” Jenny said. Mark added that they’ve learned that whoever is planning the trip can’t tell anyone ahead of time where they are going, especially the children. “No matter how hard they want to keep a secret, they will still say something and give it away.” Friends or family who took care of the kids were given an envelope with all the relevant information and permission forms.

After years of taking these trips, the Allens have a bond of common memories and experiences. “These are memories only the two of us share,” Mark said.

They’ve also inspired a number of friends to start the same tradition. And perhaps that’s why I was so interested in hearing about it. I wonder how many other people have established traditions like this?

It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money—the point is taking the time to get away together each year to spend time alone, apart from the children.

My conversation with Mark and Jenny reminded me of a comment I’ve seen from many couples who attend one of FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage conferences: “This is the first time we’ve been away together since our honeymoon.” Getaways like these are some of the best things that a couple can do to keep their marriage fresh and exciting.

What creative things have you done to keep your marriage strong and fresh? Have you gone on any adventures together? I’d like to hear from you. Leave your suggestions in the comment section below.