Why contests give vacations as prizes so often?

OP says all. Why contests give vacations (or holidays for UKers) as prizes so often?

One possibility is that, in many cases, vacations cost far less to give away than their selling price, and in many cases they’re not really “giving away” very much at all.

If you give away a car, you have to give the person a car, and you have one less car than you started with, and you’ve given away the full cost of the materials and labor required to produce that car. If you give someone a flight and a hotel room, you are providing a service, and if that plane and that hotel were not already full, you’re also giving away something that would otherwise have gone unused.

Services like hotel rooms or hairdressing appointments perish. If no-one stays in a hotel room tonight, the hotel owner can’t bank or save that night of service until another time. If no-one comes to your hair salon for the 4pm Thursday time slot, then that slot is gone forever.

Remember also that the prizes in competitions are usually provided free, in exchange for advertising and promotional consideration, by the companies concerned. So, a travel company or a hotel might be more likely than the producer of a tangible good (like a car, or a boat) to give away something with a relatively smaller marginal value.

That’s one possible answer, based on some economic considerations. There could be related or unrelated issues that i’ve failed to consider.

On TV game shows and such, the vacations are typically free to the show. The airline and hotel donate their services in exchange for mentions on the show. They may have restrictions on when you can travel. So you may win a trip to the Bahamas, but you won’t be able to go during Thanksgiving. You’ll have to go during times when they would normally have lots of space available.

Many scam businesses will give away vacations as well. They will have a lot of restrictions and strange fees if you want to actually use the vacations. They will have very strange limitations on when you can travel. They make it so much of a hassle that most people won’t bother trying to take the vacation even if it is free.

The Master answered a similar question a mere quarter century ago. Essentially it is easier to sell something tangible (home, car, vacation) than a mere pile of money. Most of the time people do opt for the moolah but they like to dream about something real


The question that Cecil answered is not really the same at all.

He’s drawing a distinction between a cash prize and some other type of prize. The OP of this thread is asking why vacations, in particular, are so common in such competitions, rather than other prizes like cars or boats or whatever.

In many cases, the scam is that the “vacation” is either:

  1. Not really free - you may have to pay for your own airfare to get to the “free” resort you’ll be staying at. And…

  2. Once you’re at that resort, you’ll be held hostage and forced to sit through a bunch of spiels on buying time-shares.

That “free” tropical vacation may actually be very expensive if they’re not going to let you leave without paying for a time share.