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Dec 08 2015

Costa Rica, Here I Come!

Costa Rica pinI ran into the store, hot, flustered, frantically looking for the birthday sign.  I couldn’t see one, so I went up to the first advisor I saw, who wasn’t serving anyone, and whispered, ‘Is this the right place?’  She looked up, bewildered, ‘Sorry?’  ‘The tweet!’ I whispered under my breath, while my eyes darted from side to side.  ‘Ah, yes’, she responded.  My next question was, ‘Am I the first?’  ‘I think so’, she replied.  ‘We weren’t sure if anyone would turn up,’ she continued.  ‘Where’s the birthday sign?’ I asked as I looked around the store.  ‘Here!’ she said, as she pointed to what looked like a table mat in front of me.  The advisor, who I later found out was called Simin, offered to take a photo for me.  Wishing I wasn’t so hot and sweaty, and looking so bloomin’ awful, I did my best to smile while she took my photo.

The winning tweet

After that, I posted the photo on Twitter with the hashtag #20tyearsoftravel, and waited for confirmation that I was the winner.  I didn’t want to get excited too early, just in case.

An hour earlier, I was sitting on my bed, having just finished chatting to my mum.  I awoke early that morning, as usual.  My body doesn’t realise it’s the weekend, so I always wake up at the same time every day.  As I was feeling tired, I had decided to have a chill out day.  I obviously needed it.  So, I sat there, flicking through the Facebook posts that came up on my phone.  There was one by Flight Centre.  I have no idea what prompted me to click on it because I never click on promoted posts, but I did.  It took me to Flight Centre’s Facebook page.  I read three posts about Oxford, so I clicked through to Flight Centre’s site to find out what it was about.  That’s when I read about the £500 voucher that was up for grabs to the first person to suss out the clues, get to the correct store in time, and post a photo of themselves on either Facebook or Twitter.  I thought it was an old post, so I looked at Flight Centre’s tweets.  The tweets had been posted that day, just 30 minutes earlier, in fact.  ‘What do I do?’ I wondered.  Initially, I thought about leaving it.  I mean, there’s no way I would be the first.  I wasn’t far from the centre, but I wasn’t there, and, being as it was Saturday, there would be so many other people who could easily walk in and claim the prize.  I ummed and ahed for a minute or two, then I grabbed my coat and bag, and headed off.  I had to at least try.  I walked briskly, with purpose, into town, checking my phone frequently to see if anyone had beaten me to it and posted a photo of themselves on Twitter or Facebook.  I couldn’t see that anyone had.  I weaved my way through the crowds on Cornmarket Street, then navigated my way through a protest march on Queen Street, and dived into Flight Centre.

I was hot and sweaty from walking so quickly, but a little concerned in case it wasn’t the correct store.  That’s why I was a little vague at the start.  Once Simin confirmed I was the winner, she congratulated me, gave me a much needed glass of water, and presented me with the voucher.  It was worth getting up off my backside, and making my way to the centre of Oxford after all.  I couldn’t quite believe I had won.  It took a while to sink in, but I couldn’t stop smiling.

A couple of weeks after winning the voucher, I returned to the Flight Centre store in Oxford to book my trip.  Using the voucher wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be.  I had originally wanted to go to Antigua because the Caribbean is high up on my list of places to visit, but under the terms and conditions of the voucher, I had to book a minimum of four nights accommodation along with return flights.  I had done a bit of research beforehand, and found out that I could stay in AirBnB accommodation in Antigua, which would keep the price of the holiday down.  Accommodation  on both Montserrat and Barbuda, two islands close to Antigua that I wanted to explore, was more difficult to find.  Because of that, I wanted to use the accommodation I had to book in line with the terms and conditions of the voucher, for those islands.  The problem was, the only accommodation on their books was in Antigua, not Montserrat and Barbuda, and it was too expensive, even with the voucher.  If I only went on holiday once a year, it would have been fine, but I don’t.  I like to travel as much as I can, so I have to travel in the most cost effective way.  I had to go away and think of what to do.

That evening, I decided to go to Costa Rica instead because it has been on my list of places to go for a while.  After a bit of internet research, I found out that there are two airports in Costa Rica, and it would be cheaper to fly to Liberia than San Jose.  It also looked as if it would be easy enough to travel around by bus.  I emailed Simin with my ideas and went to bed.  The following day, after a couple of glasses of wine at my work’s Christmas party, I slipped out, and went to Flight Centre to book my trip.  With Simin’s help, Google maps, and TripAdvisor, I booked return flights to Liberia in Costa Rica as well as four nights accommodation.  Even with the constraints of the terms and conditions of the voucher, I managed to book something that will allow me time to explore independently, with a bit of luxury thrown in at the beginning and end of my trip, and it works out cheap because of the £500 voucher.

Costa Rica plane tickets

I am so excited about the trip now it’s all booked, and it was all down to a promoted post I saw on Facebook.  Costa Rica, here I come! 🙂

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If you won a £500 travel voucher, where would you go?

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