Travel Oops: People Really Do Win These Things…


A lemon cake. That’s what I won at a school carnival in third grade at Forest Hills Elementary in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, USA.  Contestants walked around a circle marked by numbers on the floor while music played until the cake walk ringleader stopped the song. If the ringleader announced your number, you won the cake.

Despite the fact I didn’t particularly like lemon cake, I was quite impressed with my prize and my luck. It’s a good thing because that is essentially the only award by chance I have received. I’m not really counting a pair of ski gloves I won at a raffle last year since, basically, almost all raffle contestants  were out skiing or in the lodge drinking beer when the tickets were drawn. Due to several no-shows, I claimed the gloves with one of the last remaining tickets.

However, my luck karma reached jackpot levels at the end of 2012. After entering a Facebook contest sponsored by Lonley Planet, Tourism Australia and Virgin Australia Airlines, I won two roundtrip tickets to Australia. Yeah. I know. HUGE. MASSIVE. MEANT TO BE!! People really do win these things.

And the winner is all in photo

The Universe must have been listening. Ever since my family and I returned broke in 2011 from my exchange teaching stint in Adelaide, I have joked that I need to find someone else to pay for or sponsor our travel. The Universe came through — BIG TIME.

The contest involved writing a 25-words-or-less bit about who you would take to Australia and why. Of course, I chose my husband, Kurt. I must admit that in my entry writeup, I didn’t want to admit that we had lived in Oz already. So I wrote something rather vague and cheesy. Here’s the spiel:

“A real homebody,  my husband Kurt has just recently given travel a go; I want to share the world with him!”

I figured the part about “recently giving travel a go” was vague enough to cover…”he hadn’t really traveled outside the country until we moved to Australia, and then we traveled HEAPS.”

The contest also involved creating fake postcards for which you downloaded FB profile photos. Here’s the collection:

Here's one of the fake postcards that was part of the entry. Here's Kurt and I on top of the Habour Bridge in Sydney

Here Kurt and I are on top of the Harbour Bridge in Sydney.

Here we are in the Outback

Hanging out with cattle in the Outback

Here we are as surf lifesavers

Here we are as  badass surf lifesavers

Here we enjoy a picnic on the beach.

A picnic on the beach is right up our alley.

We are now on a trek to see the crazy Australian wildlife.

We are now on a trek to see the crazy Australian wildlife.

I didn’t think much of the contest because, of course, I hadn’t won anything since the lemon cake. However, in October 2012, an e-mail with a red exclamation point showed up in my inbox.

Congratulations! You’ve won the Lonely Planet & Tourism Australia competition‏!

Stephanie has won

After freaking out and then determining this e-mail was legit, I started weaving the dream. Kurt, who is the realistic one in our relationship, pointed out several reasons why both of us couldn’t go on this trip.

Although we had free tickets to get to Oz, we still had to get to Los Angeles, pay for expenses in Australia, and in the meantime, Kurt wouldn’t make any money while we were gone. Plus, we would need someone to look after the kids.  My argument that we could live off of peanut butter and bread and I would promise to go easy on refrigerator magnets didn’t convince him.

Basically, it wasn’t a problem because I asked my sister, Suzanne, to come with me. She immediately said, “yes!.” Suz and I haven’t traveled together in ages, and we were both thrilled at the opportunity to hang out together. After several weeks of calendar wrangling, we settled on May. The Prize coordinators at Lonely Planet had stated: The tickets are valid for 6 months from date of issue 01/09/2012. 

So, we were set. The tickets were valid from January 9 until July 9. At the time I thought it seemed a bit strange to begin the ticket eligibility on Jan 9, but hey, WHATEVER! I e-mailed Caroline, the Virgin Australia prize coordinator, just last month and told her of my plans to travel in May. Here was her response:

“The prize tickets are valid for 6 months from 19th October, so to keep within the validity you need to depart by 19th April.  The return date can be later but the outbound flight does need to be within the 6 month period.”

© /

© /


Well…I had been back in the US long enough that I read the dates the way a Yank would. Month, Date, Year. So what was really September 1, I read as January 9 (We’ll ignore the fact that I completely disregarded that 2012 was listed, which would have been a dead giveaway about the time frame).

In addition to finding out my dates were totally screwed up, I also knew that the entire month of April would be blacked out because of school holidays in Australia. “CRAP!!!” (an abbreviated and toned down version of what I really said aloud in a high-pitched tone)

I quickly e-mailed Caroline and said:

Hi Caroline,

I’m realizing now that I read the dates Lonely Planet sent me in an American fashion and thought the month came first, the day and then the year. So I read 1/9/ as January 9, and thought I had until July 9 to book a flight.

Clearly, I need to revamp. I know I need to book by 19 April, but isn’t the month of April blacked out anyway? So, actually, I need to book by 30 March. Is this correct?

© Stephanie Glaser

© Stephanie Glaser

A very understanding Caroline said that technically “yes” that was correct, but she could try to squeeze me in on an April flight. Not good for my sister. So, suffice it to say that Caroline, my sister and I scrambled to make everything come together for the last two weeks in March. Thanks to Virgin Australia, Lonely Planet and Australia Tourism.

That brings me to the actual trip, which began one week ago. Today my sister and I are in Melbourne on a day that is forecasted to have torrential rains, but I couldn’t care less. I’m in Australia again. And, although I’m not with Kurt, Eddie and Kasey, I’m “home.”

© Stephanie Glaser

Melbourne (yesterday, March 27) © Stephanie Glaser

Here I am (left) with my sister, Suz (right) at the Brighton Beach boxes near Melbourne.

Here I am (left) with my sister, Suz (right) at the Brighton Beach boxes near Melbourne.

15 thoughts on “Travel Oops: People Really Do Win These Things…

  1. It really would have been an oops if you hadn’t been able to go! Awesome that it all pulled together. (I entered a 25 words or less thing recently for a bear watching thing, I think, in Canada. I bombed.) You’re bound to be clocking up a few good travel stories I’m sure…

  2. Sitting in Boston’s Logan airport reading this and love, love, LOVE it!!! It features my faith in competitions like this when someone actually know wins it LOL Hope it’s been a fantastic trip and I can’t wait to hear all about it 🙂

  3. That’s phenomenal! I always wanted to win a trip. I guess you got a leave without pay from your job or are you on Spring break?

    • Actually, I left teaching last year (sort of). I am substitute teaching this year and doing some freelance writing. Although I really miss teaching, gotta follow the dream!

  4. This is crazy! congrats, I used to think that no one one these things either, but I have won TWO in the last month…this one got me a $500 airline voucher

    and this one got me a week in Norway(for one 😦 all accommodations, tours, boats, museum passes, railway passes, etc)

    I feel so lucky! congrats to you too! we should keep doing this…

    • Awesome! Wow…you really know what you are doing. Excellent!! Yes, I’m all about continuing the winning streak. Thanks so much for the comment and advice. Cheers, Steph.

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