Are you stressed out at work and ready for a vacation? Or perhaps the winter blues have you wishing you could head South? It is time to get away! How amazing would it be if that escape of yours was free because you won the trip? Sounds to good to be true, right? But it’s not. On any given day there are over a hundred legit travel sweepstakes you could be entering to win a vacation.
Last fall I had just gotten home from an amazing vacation in Thailand (I paid for that one out of pocket, unfortunately!). I realized I had no other planned vacation in my future and of course my travel budget was running low having just gotten home from a trip. Winter was coming though, and I really wanted a tropical escape- some sun and sand is so rejuvenating part way through the long winter. Filled with hope, I found a listing of travel sweepstakes, and went down the list entering them. In December, the phone call came, I had won a cruise from Florida to Mexico! The prize also included our flights and all ground transportation. A couple months later my husband and I were snorkeling in Cozumel and I couldn’t stop thinking “Wow, I won this!”.
To help beginners and advanced sweepers alike, here are some of my favorite tips for winning travel prizes. Hopefully this winter it will be you on that beach.
1) Find a reliable list of sweepstakes.
Actually, find a few reliable lists of sweepstakes. You can find your state’s listing and search for travel sweepstakes for your state or region. There are also large national listings that you can filter by prize. My favorite lists, for sorting by prize, are from The Balance. They offer a list of travel within the United States and a separate list for international travel. This can be nice if you don’t have a passport, you could just enter from the United State’s list. You will also want to filter listings to show which ones are expiring first, that way you won’t miss an entry before the sweepstake closes.
2) Enter daily sweepstakes daily.
Once you have had entering sweepstakes as a hobby for a while, you quickly learn the importance of this once. It is really just basic math. If the sweepstake has a 30 day entry period and you are allowed one entry per day, a person who enters 30 times is much more likely to win than the person who only has one entry in the running. Finding daily entries could increase your odds because most people aren’t going to remember or have the commitment to enter every single day, so you will hopefully have more entries when it closes. This does not have to take a lot of time. With a program like Roboform or using your phone’s autocomplete mode, you can fill in the entry form very quickly each day. Learn more about efficiently entering sweepstakes here.
3) Really focus on finding local ones.
This is all about increasing your odds again. If the sweepstake is only open to people residing in your state, think of how many less people are going to enter that than a large national contest. You can also be on the lookout for ones you need to enter in person. I’ve seen new banks and grocery stores both offer vacation giveaways when you came, in person, to visit their new location. Plus, I always get a thrill out of folding my paper entry form trying to put lots of folds in it, so they have so many spots to grab my lucky little slip (We should have seen this hobby coming when I was a child, because I’ve been doing that for as long as I can remember!).
4) Look for niche/demographic specific sweepstakes.
This once again, you guessed it, increases your odds. If you have a passport, enter all the international ones. Less people are entering those if they are focusing on US only trips. There are also hobby specific trips like dive trips, ski trips and rugged trips out West. I saw one recently for a ski trip. If it had just been for me to go stay at a ski resort in Alaska, I would have entered in a heart beat, but this trip included going out every day on off beaten paths and being taken there by helicopter. Now I ski, but it is much closer to bunny hill sking than being dropped out of a helicopter. There is no way I would have been able to keep up if I had won this trip, and I feel it would be a little rude to take a prize like that from someone who would be fulfilling a life dream by winning it. The point is, only very serious skiers could enter to win that one, and it really trims down the amount of eligible people to enter – less enteries, better odds for you.
5) Google “enter to win” and “all inclusive” or “Bahamas”.
Knowing key words to search such as “enter to win” or “official rules” and then searching a place or a phrase like “all inclusive” can help turn up results of sweepstakes not listed on popular listing websites. Make sure to set your Google search to results from the past week or month, so that you are only seeing current results.
6) Follow travel companies on social media.
Travel websites and resorts sometimes have giveaways that are only available on their social media channels and better yet, some of them have short entry periods. Make sure you are following the official page of these companies. There are quiet a few spam ones out there that claim to be giving away dream vacations, but they aren’t the official social media page of that company. Alaska Air wrote a nice blog post about this very topic. If you want to learn more about how to tell if a social media contest is legit, check out their post.
7) Expand to skill based contests.
Even if you don’t think you are the best writer or photographer, I highly encourage you to still check out some skill based contest. Instead of just throwing your name in a hat for these companies will judge your entry for a writing, photo, video or recipe contest. The key to these are to read the official rules and see what the judging criteria is and what rules are all in place. A photo contest might not allow logos to be shown in the picture and require the photograph to be a certain size. Think how many people enter these without reading the rules and get themselves disqualified. Simply following the rules will narrow it down to less entries. Really cater your entry to fit exactly what the sponsor is looking for in their judging criteria. Contest entries take much longer than hitting auto-fill, so many people won’t take the time or effort to enter. That helps make these contests more winnable. I’ve been fortunate enough to win a pair of airplane tickets from one writing contest and some cash that we used for a vacation on another- so needless to say I am hooked!
8) Share ones with referrals to get max entries.
Giveaways that are run through Gleam or Woobox and a couple other platforms usually have the option to share to receive more entries. Some of these are very lucrative and will offer you five more entries for each person you get to sign up, so it is definitely worth taking advantage of this. I prefer to post these shared posts on sweepstake specific Facebook groups that are set to ‘Closed’ or ‘Secret’, so that I am not constantly posting on my own Facebook page and possibly annoying friends and family that don’t care to enter.
Sometimes when I tell people about my sweepstakes hobby they respond that they would love to win too but don’t have time to enter. I think people on the outside of this hobby think that all of us sweepers must spend hours everyday to be able to consistently win prizes. It is true that some people view this as a job of theirs and put considerable more time into it. You don’t need to though, and you can still come out a winner.
It is all about efficiency and being a ‘smart sweeper’. I’m talking quality over quantity. That is why Sweep Your State was started- to help you with just that.
I came up with these seven tips to help you save time on entering sweepstakes, but still enter enough that you can win (and possibly win more) on a regular basis.
1) Enter sweepstakes that are winnable.
What do I mean by this? While all sweepstakes have prizes, some have much better odds than others. If there is a sweepstakes that is open to all 50 states, people have six months to enter, you are seeing it advertised on TV and there is only one prize- this sweepstake is probably not your time to enter. On the other end of the spectrum, let’s say a local florist is running a giveaway this week, good for one week only and you need to be able to pick up the prize in person. There are so many less people that are able to enter and with the short window of time to enter, it will help keep the number of total entries down. You can search for your state to find a list of local sweepstakes in your area.
If the prize in the first example of the nationwide sweepstake is a dream prize of yours and you have an extra minute someday, it certainly doesn’t hurt to throw your name in and dream of winning it. If it is a single entry sweepstake, everyone who enters will have the same odds. I just don’t tend to put my time or energy into entering daily sweepstakes with poor odds. When the HGTV Dream Home Sweepstakes comes around though, I do enter once or twice just for the fun of it. You never know, maybe some year it will pay off big time.
2) Enter sweepstakes quickly.
Keep a tab of favorites on your computer or tablet and add all of your daily entries to it. My husband enters on his phone and prefers to keep a window for each sweepstake and quickly swipe through each window. Once you are on the sweepstake entry page, fill in the blanks quicker using Roboform or Autofill. Some of our devices have the handy Autofill button that you just need to click and it puts in all of your information for you. If you are entering on your computer you can install Roboform and it also fills in all the boxes for you at just a click of a button. Sometimes the official rules will specify that entries need to be manually entered, so that is something to watch out for, but not typically an issue.
3) If an instant win sweepstake includes a game to play, you can usually save time by not playing it.Look near the bottom and see if there is an option to click ‘Skip Game’ or ‘Can’t See Game’. Either option will advance you to the next screen to let you know if you are a winner or not.
4) Set a timer for yourself.
Our time available to enter sweepstakes on a daily basis is going to vary greatly from person to person. Let’s say though, you have just ten minutes to enter sweepstakes today. Set a timer for the ten minutes and see how many you can enter in that time. When you are racing against the clock, you can really focus and get through a lot more than if you are just casually entering.
5) Some days casually entering may be a better fit for you.
If we are watching TV, especially football games, I find this to be a great time to get through my list of sweepstakes and search for new ones. I am too much of a busybody, so I can’t imagine just sitting and watching a football game for over three hours. I usually sit down and ‘watch’ the second half but find this to be a good time for sweepstakes. It is time I would be sitting around anyways.
6) Follow your favorite brands on social media.
You are likely going to be checking your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feeds anyways. This can be a quick and easy way to spot giveaways and contests. Brands will post a giveaway and it often just needs to be liked and commented on or retweeted. These are super easy entries and many of these have short entry periods, improving your odds.
7) Don’t get so caught up in contests or sweepstakes that require a ton of work.
Some sweepstakes let you improve your odds of winning by doing various, time consuming tasks. Before you know it, ten minutes have past and you have only entered for one prize. These are such a time drain! The only exception is if you can see the total number of entries and realize you actually have great odds, then it is worth it.
There are also skill-based contests. These tend to take longer but are more winnable as many people won’t put the effort in. I feel like those are a separate category because you are using your creative skills, and gaining fulfillment by expressing other talents of yours, rather than mindlessly clicking on more links.
I’d love to hear how much time you put into entering sweepstakes. How many minutes or hours a day do you enter? Are you entering seven days a week? How often are you winning prizes? It would be interesting to see if there are any correlations of time spent to prizes won.