Scavenger Hunt Idea | How to Plan a Treasure Hunt for Birthday, Anniversary, Valentine's

After I shared the treasure hunt surprise on Alok's birthday, I thought of following up with a post on how to plan a treasure hunt but never got to it.  Over the past year, I received several queries from readers for birthday scavenger hunt ideas and asking how to plan scavenger hunt clues.  While I replied to some individually, a recent email by a reader Dhiya finally encouraged me to write a post and make it easier for everyone.  This is going to be a long, LONG post but a helpful one for sure.

Scavenger hunt (aka treasure hunt) is so enjoyable, that you can plan this fun game for various occasions.  While I played the scavenger hunt on my husband's birthday, you can most definitely plan one for your anniversary or for Valentine's.  If you have kids, you can play a treasure hunt on your kid's birthday, either with only your child or along with your child's friends if you throw a party as such.

I have organized two scavenger hunts before this - one for a family friend's son at their place where about 4-5 clues led to his favorite Ferrero Rocher chocolate box; and one for a friend's birthday at the university during my undergrad and divided the friends into two groups.

In my last trip back home, I showed my mom and dad pictures and videos of Alok I shot while playing the treasure hunt on his birthday.  They enjoyed it so much, that if I were with my parents on their anniversary this year - I would have definitely planned one for them too.

Scavenger hunt is a game where one clue leads you to another clue, might require you to do some tasks, and the final clue leads you to your goal.  There are two ways to play scavenger hunt for a birthday, anniversary, or a Valentine's celebration: a) clues along with gifts in each location, or b) only clues in each location leading you to one final gift.

Okay, to see the treasure hunt clues I wrote for Alok, click on this post: Birthday Surprise for Husband.  For now, let me go through Dhiya's questions:
I've been wondering how did you do the set up for all the clues? When did you hid all those presents? Is it night before?  What do I need to plan first? Do I have to search entire house to be the perfect place to hide all the presents? Can you give me rough ideas and what to do next for this scavanger hunt for my husband?  My husband's birthday is a month away :)
I played this treasure hunt with Alok around afternoon; fortunately he had gone out for some work and I had about one hour to place everything.  I was well-planned, so it was not a problem.  But if you want to play scavenger hunt in the morning, then you might have to hide all the clues (and gifts) the night before or when your husband goes for a shower.  Or your hubby's friend can be your partner in crime and take him somewhere until you're ready.  Or just send your husband out to do grocery.

How to plan your scavenger hunt

Step 1: Search your entire house and decide the number of places you can hide your clues or gifts.  Depending on that number and the locations where you can hide, write your clues.  On my paper, I had written: oven, pantry, washer-dryer, bathroom closet, sari suitcase, and study desk drawer to begin with, and added more as I figured out more locations and thought of giving few more gifts.  Remember, sticking your clue under the chair is also possible.  Walk around your house and look for all potential locations.

If you're planning to play the treasure hunt somewhere else and not your home, Step 1 is the same.  When I did this for my friend at the university, I walked around my university and noted every possible location down.  Then stuck the clues on a pillar of a building, near the fountain, at some landmarks around university, and so on.

You have to compose your clues in a way that the next location can be figured out.  Your scavenger hunt clues can be in the form of:
        a) questions with multiple choice answers (with one sensible answer),
        b) fill-in-the-blanks kind of sentences, or Hangman game kind of blanks in between, for example, guess this:  N_SHA'S     _P_SHT     BL_G ?   ;-)
        c) highlight or underline one alphabet in a sentence or poem [for instance: my clue #5], that would be either jumbled or sequential, to spell out the location to next clue (jumbled alphabets = more complicated to solve),
        d) simple sentences, riddles, or rhyming clues.

Step 2: Think about things that describe your location.  Such as microwave - heat food; coat closet - keep shoes; wardrobe closet - sari suitcase, drawer, shelf.  That's how you will be able to indirectly describe the location.  Think about using some quotes, linking them to your riddle somehow.  Think about anything random.  Think about birds, trees, table, chair...just keep brainstorming, whatever comes to your mind pen it down.

If you plan the treasure hunt for a group of friends: you can think about including something in your rhyme and location related to a movie, professor, course, fiction novel, nursery rhyme, or any other common things.

If you plan the treasure hunt for a person (husband, kid, parents, valentine): Here are few suggested things to think about to include and interconnect with your riddle/clue, especially if you want it to rhyme:
        a) your relation with the person [for instance: my clue #8]
        b) what you like about the person
        c) a habit you dislike about the person [for instance: my clue #4]
        d) where you met the person
        e) a good memory
        f) what you fight about [for instance: my clue #7]
        g) what the person or you tease each other about
        h) what the person knows well about you [for instance: my clue #1]
        i) etc.

Step 3: Write down each clue for each location as a draft.  Sure takes a little creativity.  If you want to rhyme, think of the word related to your location that has a good amount of rhyming words.  Cake, bake, make, take, sake, lake, stake, mistake and so on.  Then choose to make sentences ending with the rhyming words that would make sense and make a sensible clue.  I am into poetry, so it probably took me lesser time, but no one will stop you from googling up for inspiration.  There were a lot of things I edited till the last minute and a lot that I didn't end up using.  It didn't take me a day to come up with the rhymes and the riddles - probably a week or more.  I gradually added and planned as I went on.  Since I stay at home, I did all this during the day while Alok was at work, and didn't leave a trace when he returned home.

Step 4: When you are ready, write or print your clues on paper, cut, decorate, color - keep it simple or make it fancy, do whatever you want.  I didn't have a color printer, so I printed only the KitchenAid poem on paper and then drew the other things around it with colored pencils.  The remaining clues were written by pen, and since I did not have Sharpies or colorful pens, I used Alok's fluorescent yellow and pink highlighters to add some color.  Not required, but I just wanted to.  Meanwhile, on your draft sheet, you should have your locations numbered and clues written underneath so it is easy for you to quickly go keep your clue at the right place (remember - the clue at one location should lead to the next; don't mess that up!).

Since I had a small apartment, it would have been very easy for Alok to find his clues and gifts had I placed them in order of the apartment layout.  What I did instead was placing the clues in a way that would make him go back and forth.  Here's how: (along with a sneak peek of his gifts)

1. From the kitchen [gift inside oven]...

2. To the bedroom closet [gift inside my suitcase where I keep my sari]...

3. To the kitchen pantry [gift between the bags of rice]...

4. Then to the bathroom near the bedroom [gift inside drawer]...

5. And to the coat/shoe closet near the entrance [gift hanging on the rod]...

6. Then to his car downstairs [gift inside trunk of car]...

7. And then back upstairs to the desk in living room [gift inside drawer]...

8. Next to the washer-dryer near bathroom [gift inside the machine]...

9. And then back to the kitchen [gift inside microwave]...

10.  And the final clue leading from here to the refrigerator had the three-tiered cake.

Planning a scavenger hunt is fun, and executing it is even more fun.  Just so I could keep this day in my memory, I recorded a video and followed Alok through his journey as he cracked a clue and discovered his gift.

Make yours a memorable one too.  Let me know if you have any other questions.
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