Polly Kildares just returned from the trip of a lifetime—and unlike most others coming back from vacation, she hasn’t spent a dime.
That’s because she won fully paid leave in a competition—and it’s just one of thousands of prizes she’s won over the past 20 years.
The 63-year-old from Kent has earned cash prizes and everything from home appliances to cars, bikes and musical instruments from her years of entering competitions.
Her lucky win has also seen her travel the world with holidays in Maldives, Disney and Australia.
Last year, he achieved selling playstation 5 She is seen on the back of a pack of Doritos after entering a prize draw for her grandson.
And that didn’t buy money, along with famous faces including tennis superstar Serena Williams, chart topper Ellie Goulding and designer Orla Keeley.
Polly, who is semi-retired and works part-time as an exam supervisor, told The Sun: “I have been extremely successful and still enjoy my hobby.
“Just today, I got a winning text from Tesco for a fancy dinner at a country hotel and one night with travel allowance.
“I joke that comping is my job but I actually put a lot of work into it, it’s just not luck.”
So how can you maximize your chances of winning the top prize – and is it worth the effort? We chose Polly’s brain to find out.
“It changed my life, because I could never afford all these trips.”
How did you start entering competitions?
I entered my first competition in 1996. It was a full-spent voyage to New York, traveling there on a QE 2 ship and returning to Concorde.
I saw this on a pack of pork at my local supermarket and thought it looked great. To enter, you had to write a slogan.
I didn’t win, but I did win the runner-up prize – a week’s all-inclusive trip to Alton Towers, spending £600 on its newly opened hotel.
It seemed to me that the starters were in luck and got three good prizes in a row, and it surprised me.
My other first wins were a dishwasher and a stereo.
In the past you often had to come up with a slogan or buy entry to a contest, but these days you can usually just fill out a form or enter on social media.
It’s not that much fun, but they’re certainly easy to find.
I usually look for competitions while watching TV in the evening, and enter whatever I can for about two hours.
What are the best awards you have won?
One of my biggest wins was a trip around the US on a Miller Beer branded jet that cost £20,000 – holidays are the most valuable prize.
I’ve vacationed in Maldives, San Sebastian, Munich, France (to watch the World Cup), Las Vegas, Disney World, San Francisco, Ibiza, Mexico, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand.
Due to competitions, I have barely paid for each trip myself. Even when I want to visit my brother in America, I use the money I won to buy tickets.
I’ve probably won prizes worth several thousand pounds each year on average.
I recently got a £50 voucher for Harvey Nichols, but because I don’t have one, I sold it for £30.
In the past I’ve won a flat screen TV and used the cash I got from selling it to pay off my mortgage for two months.
One award I’m sorry to sell is a piece of Damien Hirst’s artwork. I think the price has increased significantly since then as he has become more famous.
What’s your best tip?
Being on social media is important these days, and I get a lot of contests on Instagram and Twitter.
Once you start entering them, you start getting ads in your feed for other contests as well.
Following your favorite brand can help you find prize entry opportunities, and so can search hashtags like #win or #winholiday.
You can also search on Facebook or even Google, especially if you have a specific reward in mind, like a trip to a specific location.”
Local newspapers and free magazines are also a good source of potential prizes – and you may have a better chance of winning one that is more widely publicized because they will probably get fewer entries.
I follow Kent Council online because it has prizes for winning tickets to places like Leeds Castle.
It can also pay off to find specific areas, such as by hobby, as there are likely to be fewer entries, plus you may win something you really want.
Target whatever’s going on in your life – if you have a child, look for rewards that offer a free pushchair.
Is there anything to see?
Yes! You need to make sure that the contest you are entering is from a valid brand and account, so that you can use a . to avoid falling into scam,
Jeremy Stern, founder of the promo Veritas behind the promotions of the likes of Cadbury and Virgin, said: “Of course most promotions are completely legitimate, but be aware that some people are definitely out to deceive you.
“Check if there is a link to the promotion on the brand’s website or other social pages.
“Ask yourself, is the award too good to be true? And if it’s on social media, are there any blue ticks to prove it’s real?”
What is your advice to beginners?
You’ll get dry spells with no rewards, no matter how hard you work for it.
But then it’s just like that and you’ll get three wins at once.
People tell me I’m lucky, but I think it’s persistence. They complain that they didn’t win, but they didn’t enter.
Most people think that if they don’t win the first person to enter, or they won’t win something in a couple of weeks that no one does, and they give up. But if you keep at it you will win.
First you have to find a contest, second you have to enter – then you have to keep doing it
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