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Two Travel Contests Worth Mentioning

A Kennedy Space Center Tourbus with the launch platform visible in the distance.
Photo © Carl & Peggy Backes.

People all around the world dream of traveling to exotic destinations. Even those who live in enviable places—such as Hawaii, Paris, New Zealand, and Costa Rica, just to name a few—probably long to see other cities and landscapes that are markedly different from their own. For instance, I might be from New Orleans—a town that many people include on their travel wish lists—but while I appreciate the uniqueness of this place, that certainly doesn’t keep me from dreaming of other locations, from Ireland to Japan.

So, it’s no wonder that the Internet is rife with travel contests, sweepstakes, and giveaways of all kinds. In fact, just this afternoon, a random Google search netted several disparate results, from Virginia’s “I’d LOVE to Go There!” Vacation Sweepstakes to the Cook Islands’ “Win a Romantic Week for Two” offer to the Travel Channel’s Trip of a Lifetime.

On any given day, the list of available travel contests could go on and on. I recently discovered two, however, that I thought my fellow explorers my appreciate.

NASA’s “Why Space Matters?” Video Contest

It’s no doubt that space exploration has inspired and challenged the human race for more than five decades, spawning everything from satellites to medical devices to better versions of Velcro. To celebrate this fact—and the possibility of space exploration in the future—the Coalition for Space Exploration and the NASA Visitor Centers Consortium have launched an expanded version of the Coalition’s existing “Why Space Matters to the Future” video contest. In essence, the contest urges U.S. residents (who are 13 years or older) to envision what life would be in like 10, 25, or 50 years if humans continue to explore the vast unknown and push the boundaries of space travel.

“Some people think the U.S. space program is ending,” said George Torres, chairman of the Coalition, “which couldn’t be further from the truth. This contest engages the public during an important time, giving them a powerful voice to our nation’s leaders.” After all, according to the Coalition’s website, “NASA and the space industry are currently developing technologies, systems, and strategies to explore space beyond Earth’s orbit.”

To enter the contest, you simply need to submit a short video (of one to two minutes) that encapsulates your reasons for why space exploration matters and how it will benefit future generations, from the ability of humans to migrate onto other planets to the development of as-yet-unseen technologies. In other words, consider how space has influenced or inspired you, outline the values and benefits of space exploration, and justify our continued efforts to explore the endless vastness beyond Earth’s orbit.

Entrants can upload their videos and share them online from now until April 7. Public voting will then occur April 8-14, so it’s important that entrants ask their friends and relatives to vote. A panel of judges will use several criteria, including the number of votes accrued, to determine three winners on April 17. Beyond the fact that the winning videos will be shared with the public as well as national leaders, the three winners will each receive a VIP trip for four people to one of three of NASA’s visitor centers: the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Alabama, or the Space Center Houston in Texas. The prize includes travel and accommodations—not too shabby for a die-hard space lover.

My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest, Bucket List

As the name indicates, this is one doozie of a contest. Dubbed the “ultimate travel competition,” My Destination’s Biggest, Baddest, Bucket List invites travel lovers of all shapes and sizes to vie for a chance to venture around the world for a whopping six months (from June to December 2013), during which the lucky winner will experience more than 25 destinations (of his or her choosing) on six continents. Not only is this “trip of a lifetime” of the all-expenses-paid variety (meaning that all flights, accommodations, food, and activities will be taken care of, up to $50,000, which, incidentally, includes $10,000 of spending money), but the winner will also receive a $50,000 cash prize once the trip is over. As a bonus, it was recently announced that 10 lucky finalists will enjoy an all-expenses-paid, weeklong trip to the United Kingdom, where they’ll meet the My Destination team as well as guest judge Ben Southall (the winner of Tourism Queensland’s 2009 “Best Job in the World” campaign). From this pool of fortunate finalists, the grand-prize winner will be chosen.

To enter the contest—which, besides My Destination, is co-sponsored by, Travelex, and Viator—you simply have to prepare a short video (of up to three minutes and with you featured) about a destination for which you’re passionate (whether you live there or not), write a brief tale (between 200 and 500 words) about a memorable travel experience, and provide three photos to accompany said tale—and do all that by March 31. For all of the above, passion, enthusiasm, and originality happily matter more than technical prowess. The only “catch” is that the winner will be required to write blog posts, take photos, and film short videos about his or her experiences in each destination, from riding in an Austin rodeo to learning to surf in Bali to visiting a Bollywood movie set in Mumbai; lots of Tweets and status updates are also encouraged.

But, seriously, that’s more than a fair price to pay for such a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, and what’s even cooler is that the winner doesn’t have to travel solo. Besides the fact that he or she will be meeting new friends along the way, it’s also possible for the winner to bring along a partner or spouse—whose accommodations will be taken care of and whose other expenses (such as food and local transportation) can be covered, in part, by the $10,000 spending money and/or the $50,000 post-trip cash prize.

As I said, the application process closes on March 31, after which 10 finalists will be selected by April 8. In what I consider to be a pretty fair method, five of these finalists will be chosen by the contest judges and five will be based on the most top-rated videos—so there’s a chance that people could win a finalist spot even if they don’t rally votes from every person they’ve ever met. The finalists’ week in the U.K. will begin on April 20, and the grand-prize winner will be announced on April 26, after which he or she will start planning their own personal “biggest, baddest, bucket list.”

Both contests, while obviously very different, could lead to some amazing experiences. If you’re interested in entering either or both, just check out the websites noted above for more details and caveats. Seriously, what are you waiting for?