I’d stumbled across a competition in London’s Evening Standard last April for 1 lucky winner and 49 friends to fly to Stockholm in a private jet! This was to celebrate 10 years of British Airways flying out of London City Airport and to enter all I had to do was provide a “fact” about Sweden! My Swedish friends’ suggestions included facts on wars, blonde hair and Volvos … but I ignored them, and instead went with “The @sweden twitter account is given to a different Swede each week!” Answer submitted, browser closed and back to the remainder of my London commute.
Looks like I’ve won!
Just two weeks later I received a call confirming I’d won! They said they’d been trying to get hold of me all week and were only going to give me one more day to pick up (the perils of not answering your phone when it says “Unknown number”). So both relieved and excited they confirmed the prize to me with a little bit of convincing – a private British Airways jet to Stockholm for me and 49 friends, transfers on the Arlanda Express, 25 four star hotel rooms in the Clarion Sign hotel, a Stockholm sightseeing card plus a free trip to the newly opened ABBA museum. However not until I’d spoken to both British Airways and VisitSweden was I sure that this wasn’t a hoax! A tweet from the official BA site was the proof I needed.
Who to take?
This process consisted of scribbling down lists of different groups (work, home, school, sports club etc). To reduce the chance of any mishaps and dramas on the day I tended to exclude friends who couldn’t easily get to London or had small families to juggle. Sorry! One friend even suggested I fill the whole plane with dancers from Spearmint Rhino, but making sure he was included too! So lying back on the sofa, iPhone in hand, decisions made, my template Facebook email was sent out to 49 lucky recipients and within 2 minutes the replies begin to roll in – my Facebook message notification symbol was in overdrive! Most people assumed I’d been hacked!
Is this all actually about to happen?
Fast forward two weeks and the seats have been filled after a surprisingly high number of 108 invites (when somebody said “no” another person became invited). The “no” replies were mainly due to other planned trips, work commitments (especially for teacher/police friends), friends whose partner’s passports had lapsed (careless! – just go without them surely?), job interviews and the fact it was a Thursday to Saturday trip requiring two days off work. Of course those who made the trip will never know if they were in my top 49 list or not!
On the big day itself!
Everybody checked in of their own accord so when I turned up seat 1A had already been taken but I made sure I took it back when I boarded the plane. Just after take-off I felt obliged to do an introductory tannoy announcement and was coerced into serving a few rows of food from the trolley by the British Airways stewardesses. With the plane just half full elbow room wasn’t an issue and we could pretty much sit where we liked. The cabin crew turned a blind eye to us helping ourselves to the drinks trolley and we’d soon cleaned out their whole supply of gin! Even the captain got into the spirit of things by reading out a quickly scripted announcement with the memorable line of “Steve – I’ll be your wing-man any day!”
As for Stockholm
…it should get a little mention – sunny, beautiful and full of sunbathing Swedes as with much good fortune it was their first proper warm day of the year. The newly opened ABBA museum had some great interactive exhibits and lots of recognisable memorabilia too, including ABBA’s famous outfits from the 1974 Eurovision competition. But also check out the Vasa Museum, the Gamla Stan and the numerous boat sightseeing trips that go around Stockholm’s 14 beautiful islands.
Blogger friends Arianwen, Jen and Dylan were on-board and they actually wrote a bit more about Stockholm at these links below:
The moral of the story!
Up until this big prize I’d only ever won one travel competition and that was a trip to California after entering a Twitter competition at a travel meet-up in London, which I later found out only 7 people had entered! Yes – the chances are slim but this post proves that it does actually happen! My tips would be to enter competitions on Twitter (fewer people enter), competitions at meet-ups (even fewer people enter), throw your business card into those goldfish bowls in bars/pubs, but for bigger competitions like this Sweden one … that require that little bit of extra effort … well you never know your luck! Check out my top tips for winning travel competitions.
All a bit of a dream
So all in all a great experience even though with so many friends on the trip I couldn’t work out who to spend my time with while I was actually out there! As it happened I spent the second evening with 4 attractive Swedish girls (including 2 sisters I’d travelled with around Asia & New Zealand and an ex who’d seen all our antics in her Facebook news-feed) … well wouldn’t you?! 😉