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Travel for “Free” by Entering Sweepstakes


Travel sweepstakes are seemingly everywhere, enticing you to enter to win trips to family destinations like Orlando, big cities like New York and exotic locales like Fiji. It’s fun to think about jetting off to somewhere you’ve only dreamed about. BUT, are travel sweepstakes really worth your time? Does anyone really win? Here’s a look at the pros and cons of travel sweepstakes.

Advantages to Traveling with Sweepstakes

There are some distinct advantages to winning a travel sweepstakes prize…

  • It’s fun. Who can put a dollar value on the thrill of learning that you just won a trip? You can’t buy that kind of excitement.
  • Your trip is planned for you…down to the last detail. Would you know how to begin planning a trip to Hong Kong or the Amazon? With a sweepstakes trip, you don’t have to make the arrangements. It’s all planned for you.
  • You often get to experience things regular travelers don’t see. One of the big advantages to a sweepstakes trip is that they often include features that you couldn’t buy at any price, such as a chance to attend a movie premiere, a visit to a winery or distillery that’s usually closed to the public, or the opportunity to meet a celebrity like Oprah Winfrey!
  • You are exposed to exotic destinations that you might not consider if not for the sweepstakes. Would you consider Iceland for your family vacation…or Panama…or Taos, New Mexico? Sweepstakes prizes allow you to expand your horizons to out-of-the-ordinary destinations.
  • It’s “free.” Well, sort of free (see the section about taxes below.) However, no matter what your tax rate, the trip will cost less than if you purchased it yourself.

Disadvantages to Using Sweepstakes to Fund Your Travel

Of course, there really is no such thing as a “free lunch.” There are a few downsides to winning a “free” trip. These include:

  • Taxes. US tax laws require sweepstakes winners to pay federal income taxes on all sweepstakes wins as if they have earned the money working. Sponsors are required to report any win valued at more than $600 to the IRS. To offset this, many prizes include cash as well as the prize (but, of course, the cash is taxed, too.)
  • Trips are usually non-transferable. Sweepstakes sponsors generally require that you take the trip yourself. Don’t count on being able to give it to your daughter for her honeymoon or your parents for a weekend getaway. Usually, you’re allowed to take at least one guest. Family-oriented prizes, like those to Walt Disney World, are often for four people.
  • Sweepstakes trips often have date restrictions. Sweepstakes trips, especially those that revolve around a special event, generally have to be taken within a specific time frame. In addition, trips are for a set period (for example, three or seven days), although some sponsors will let you extend the trip at your own expense.
  • The Scams. Unfortunately, travel scams abound and take advantage of our desire to win a “free” trip. In general, any trip sponsored by a recognizable company will be legit. Equally, any contest that asks you to buy something to enter–or that asks for your credit card number to enter–is a scam.

Can You Really Win?

In one word, YES. You can win. The Internet is full of stories about “ordinary” people winning trips all over the globe. About.com’s contest site shares the story of one woman who won a three-day trip to Vail and of another woman who won a trip to Egypt. The sweepstakes site, ContestGirl.com tells of readers who have won trips to New York City and to any sporting event in the US.

 

Has anyone out there won a trip from a sweepstakes entry? If so, tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

 

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12 thoughts on “Travel for “Free” by Entering Sweepstakes”

  1. Anonymous says:

    This is a funny story (not really). I did win a trip just last month from Yahoo’s Facebook page, it was an 8 day trip all across California on an air cruise but this particular contest was void only in my state (FL) so no trip for me. Hoping to win another one I can actually take someday.

  2. I signed up for a contest through Marlboro. My husband and I won a trip for two to Montana to visit the ranch. It was amazing! They started out by sending us two luggage bags(nice ones, not cheap ones) two baseball caps, two 25.00 dollar gift cards for when we checked out luggage in. Two round trip tickets. They specified not to bring any money that everything was all inclusive. When we arrived we get shown to our room on the ranch. We stayed in the barbershop. Everything was rustic old Montana Ranch style. On our beds we had five packs of Marlboro’s in the flavor of our choice, two heavy duty jackets, two windbreakers, two cameras, two sunglasses, two zippos, two ashtrays, two calling cards. two stetson cowboy hats. They also sent us a check for 1250.00 to pay the taxes on the prizes. everyday when we came back there was a new gift on the bed waiting for us. Cook books, photo albums, address books, framed photo of the whole group that was there. All three meals were set up from set times. At 5pm they opened the bar and it was all you could drink(=D). All day there were snacks you could eat, and they had plenty of things to do while you were there! We chose to do skeet shooting, zip lining, horse riding, cattle drive, massages, four wheeling in hummers,Trail hiking.It was simply amazing. On the final day they even sent us back to the airport with snacks and non filled zippos. The bus that had picked us up at the airport took us back to the airport. It was three days of excitement and couldn’t have been nicer for free!

  3. SarahD says:

    I have entered many trip contests but never won. However, I have won other things: this year I won free lemonade, a year’s supply of Twinings tea (although it hasn’t arrived yet, and I have a rule that I haven’t truly won until I’ve got the prize in my possession), a bunch of free candy.

    I used to enter more sweepstakes but early this year I got a bad virus (despite updated virus scan) that necessitated a complete wipe of my computer. It was from a sweepstakes page. That said, in three years of entering sweepstakes online (sometimes very actively), that was the first virus. Still, I hadn’t backed up a lot of things and it took the wind out of my sails a bit.

    The biggest prize I’ve ever won was from my local grocery store. I won 1000 dollars around Xmas time a couple of years ago. And that’s the rule of thumb for the sweepstakes queens: you have the best chance of winning local sweepstakes, never pass them up. But beware, some of them also try to sell you things and you’ll get phone calls like “Hi, you signed up for a free inspection…” and you’ll have to say “No, I signed up to win a grill!”

    Regarding trips: Sometimes timeshare companies will call and tell you that you’ve won a trip, and after you’re excited you realize all you have to do is listen to the sales pitch. You can ask several questions that will lead you to find out if you actually won a sweepstakes (if you don’t specifically remember entering):

    “Who is running this sweepstakes?”
    “Where did I enter this sweepstakes?”
    “What do I have to do to get my prize?” The answer to this should always be that all you need to do is confirm your name and address. Anything requiring tax information will be sent in writing with an affidavit for you to sign.

  4. SarahD says:

    I have entered many trip contests but never won. However, I have won other things: this year I won free lemonade, a year’s supply of Twinings tea (although it hasn’t arrived yet, and I have a rule that I haven’t truly won until I’ve got the prize in my possession), a bunch of free candy.

    I used to enter more sweepstakes but early this year I got a bad virus (despite updated virus scan) that necessitated a complete wipe of my computer. It was from a sweepstakes page. That said, in three years of entering sweepstakes online (sometimes very actively), that was the first virus. Still, I hadn’t backed up a lot of things and it took the wind out of my sails a bit.

    The biggest prize I’ve ever won was from my local grocery store. I won 1000 dollars around Xmas time a couple of years ago. And that’s the rule of thumb for the sweepstakes queens: you have the best chance of winning local sweepstakes, never pass them up. But beware, some of them also try to sell you things and you’ll get phone calls like “Hi, you signed up for a free inspection…” and you’ll have to say “No, I signed up to win a grill!”

    Regarding trips: Sometimes timeshare companies will call and tell you that you’ve won a trip, and after you’re excited you realize all you have to do is listen to the sales pitch. You can ask several questions that will lead you to find out if you actually won a sweepstakes (if you don’t specifically remember entering):

    “Who is running this sweepstakes?”
    “Where did I enter this sweepstakes?”
    “What do I have to do to get my prize?” The answer to this should always be that all you need to do is confirm your name and address. Anything requiring tax information will be sent in writing with an affidavit for you to sign.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I just got a $ 829.99 iPåd2 for only $ 103.37 and my mom got a $ 1498.99 HDTV for only $ 251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an id!ot to ever pay full retàil prìcès at placès like Wàlmàrt or Bèstbuy. I sold a 37″ HDTV to my boss for $ 600 that I only paid $ 78.24 for. I use GrаbPenny.сom

  6. Lauren Thoman says:

    We actually won a trip once (not by entering a sweepstakes; it was a drawing held by a vendor we use) and opted not to take it. It was a cruise, but we had to purchase the airfare to get to the launch destination, and pay the taxes on the trip itself. We couldn’t afford our “free” trip.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Often the ARV of a trip is greatly inflated and the taxes you pay are not worth the trip. You may be able to negotiate the $ amount of the 1099 sent to the IRS. For example, say you live in Orlando and trip includes air fare for two to Orlando and then ground transportation to Port Canaveral for a 7 day cruise you won. On the other hand, dont worry about taxes, you usually have until the following April 15 to come up with the money to cover this. Yes, there is NO ‘free’ ride, Uncle Sam sees to that!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Often the ARV of a trip is greatly inflated and the taxes you pay are not worth the trip. You may be able to negotiate the $ amount of the 1099 sent to the IRS. For example, say you live in Orlando and trip includes air fare for two to Orlando and then ground transportation to Port Canaveral for a 7 day cruise you won. On the other hand, dont worry about taxes, you usually have until the following April 15 to come up with the money to cover this. Yes, there is NO ‘free’ ride, Uncle Sam sees to that!