5 tips on winning travel competitions

There are those people who seem to win lots of “stuff” and those – like you – who never do. I fell into the latter category until I won 8 travel competition prizes over a relatively short period of time ranging from …

The crew of my private jet

The best competition win to date! My own private jet

So the 5 tips?

1. Play the [small] numbers game.
A competition at a closed event or conference gives you a much higher chance of winning, especially if it involves actually doing “something” rather than just dropping your business card into a goldfish bowl.

2. Take photos that will capture the judges’ imagination.
Ok – not so easy but one competition I won was based on an outside display in a square in Central London. I used the reflection in my sunglasses but made sure the company’s brand appeared as readable by mirroring the image too.

RBM Noor Photo Competition Winner

RBM Noor Photo Competition Winner

Or if it involves taking photos of a city’s landmarks take a picture from high up/low down/through something else … anything that [probably] has never been done before!

To win a weekend break in Newcastle I took a photo of the famous “winking bridge” from another bridge, but also with three other bridges in the foreground too.

Newcastle Photo Competition Winner

Newcastle Photo Competition Winner

3. Somehow mention/advertise the sponsor’s product
To win the private jet I had to come up with a fact about Sweden. Instead of obvious facts about ABBA, IKEA, blondes or Volvo cars my entry was simply “The @Sweden Twitter account is given to a different member of the population each month”. So nothing amazing but a fact that was possibly chosen as it helped promote another part of their social media campaign when my winning answer was announced.

British Airways Tweet

The British Airways Tweet that confirmed it all!

4. Enter tedious competitions
Persist in entering Twitter/Instagram competitions that you get bored of after a few minutes and want to leave. If others are thinking the same and giving up then your chance of winning automatially increases.

I just entered a Twitter competition where half the instructions were cut off on my iPhone screen, and it culminated in following a long link on an Instagram post that wasn’t clickable!! Very annoying but persevere and you enter where 10 others give up!

5. Enter the competitions with more complicated entry requirements
For the 10 day Cailfornia trip I had to create a “Round the World” travel adventure in 6 tweets or less. Now that took some effort and I later found out my “witty” entry was just one of 9 received!

So in summary “you’ve got to be in it to win it!” but be a bit more tactical to increase your chances of winning. Ideally choose competitions at closed events where there’s some effort involved as that will reduce the number of entrants. Create a compelling photo or video as ultimately that’s what they’ll be judging. Friends Jen Lowthrop and Virginia Stuart-Taylor won DoubleTree Hilton 3 week adventures by creating short video clips … now that involves a lot of effort … something I wouldn’t bother entering … but they did … and they won! Also a lot of companies out there are still experimenting with social media to find out what works and what doesn’t and that can be to your advantage! 😉

Check out Jen Lowthrop’s thoughts on winning competitions too


What’s it like to win a private jet?

My private BA Embraer 170 jet

My private BA Embraer 170 jet

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.

British Airways Tweet

A British Airways Tweet confirmed it!

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!

We won a plane group shot

All aboard! My lucky passengers!

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!”

The crew of my private jet

The crew of my private jet

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:


Blossoms in Kungstradgarden Stockholm

Blossoms in Kungstradgarden Stockholm

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!

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?! 😉