Rumors have circled back to me lately that I’m a habitual travel contest enterer. It’s true. I can’t resist a good sweepstakes where the prize is some kind of adventure.
It’s gotten pretty bad lately. A few weeks ago, a Colorado Public Radio pledge drive was giving away a weekend trip for four to Crested Butte, with lodging, lift tickets and ski rental included. I’ve guiltily changed the channel on pledge drives on this favorite radio station of mine for years, without donating. This time, with such an enticing travel prize at stake, I finally gave in and donated — something I should have done long ago.
Unfortunately, I didn’t win that giveaway. If I make it to Crested Butte this winter, it will have to be on my own dime. But I still keep trying. I’ve actually won a few minor prizes recently.
What I’ve won so far
I’ve never won any high-value trip prizes from travel contest or sweepstakes, but the little things are starting to add up.
- In 2012 I won a pair of lift tickets to Vail Resorts. I think it was through a Liftopia social media giveaway
- In 2013 I won a Sierra Designs dry down jacket by following Outdoor Prolink on LinkedIn
- In 2014 I won a prize package from Enterprise car rental by commenting on a blog post at The Culture-ist. It contained $75 in pre-paid Visa cards, a $50 Snapfish gift certificate, a weekend duffel bag, and — wait for it — a selfie stick!
How not to get spammed for life
For most travel contests and sweepstakes, the tradeoff is simple. You give a brand a way to reach you, and they give you a chance to win. The brand’s goal is usually to build their email marketing database or social media reach.
So how do I prevent my email inbox from becoming one big heap of commercial emails? I don’t give my personal email address. Conveniently, I have Gmail account that I use solely for website analytics access. Since I only sign in a couple times a week, I can loosely monitor the inbox for contest winnings.
A few tricks for filtering out commercial emails from a Gmail account:
- Create a filter that auto-archives anything containing the word ‘unsubscribe’. That takes care of most commercial emails. Although, this might also catch other kinds of organizational email that you do wish to read
- Occasionally search within your email for the words ‘won’ ‘congrats’ and congratulations’ to make sure a good news email hasn’t snuck past you
- Manually unsubscribe from lists as they start to get annoying. Usually, this doesn’t disqualify you from eligibility to win, but wait a month or two just in case
Lately I’ve been entering about three to five contests per week, in hopes that maybe someday I’ll win a BIG travel prize.
Where I find new travel contests to enter:
- Twitter. Search hashtag #travel together with #sweeps #contest or #giveaway
- The Luxury Travel Expert. This is a British blog, but they list plenty of contests for the US citizens as well
- Johnny Jet. This is the best weekly roundup of current travel contests I’ve come across
- Follow travel bloggers. They often collaborate with travel brands to give away smaller prizes like free hotel nights or gear items like trekking towels.
I’d say I’m a functional addict because I know where to draw the line. I don’t fall for every contest out there. Sometimes the prize isn’t very appealing to me, or sometimes the entry requirements are too demanding.
What I won’t do for a travel contest entry:
- I typically won’t ‘like’ or ‘share’ things on Facebook. Why not? Because I don’t want more clutter in my newsfeed (or in my friends’ newsfeeds)
- I typically won’t tweet. The reasoning here is twofold: a) I don’t want to bother my followers with an excessive amount of contest tweets, and b) I don’t want to send more people to the contest, diluting my own chances of winning
- I won’t submit writing, photography or videos to be judged. Usually, that just takes too much time
Looking for co-addicts
Sometimes travel contests are designed to go viral through incentives to share with friends in the form of extra contest entries. If anyone out there wants to join forces and refer each other to travel contests for extra entries, let me know. Who knows? Maybe one of us will win an awesome free trip. Or maybe we’ll end up in rehab together after our loved ones have staged an intervention.