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Old Jun 18, 11, 1:28 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Exclamation I won the "trip to anywhere in the world" (up to $20k)! So...where should we go?!

The trip background/details
So, I won a trip to anywhere sweepstakes (sponsored by American Express travel, but they have me working with a travel agent at Travel by Design to fulfill it). The prize I won "is a five (5) night trip for two (2) to a destination selected by winner (subject to Sponsor’s approval), not to exceed $21,000 in value." It includes:

• Coach-class air transportation for two (2) from a major airport near winner’s home to the winner's selected destination city
• five (5) nights' accommodations at a hotel (single room, double occupancy)
• $1,000 spending money (awarded as a check) for winner only
• $100 American Express gift card
• Depending on the destination of trip selected by the winner, other various activities, as well as meals and ground transportation may be included, but the total trip value, including the $1,000 spending money, will not exceed $21,000

The key part here is the $20k in that last bullet point. It has to be "spent" (meaning, we can't book a trip for $4k and ask for $16k in cash). It has to be sponsor-approved. And yes, we can go anywhere in the world (again, pending their approval...but they've already heard all of the ideas below and not blinked).

About us/our interests
We live in Manhattan. We have up to one year from May 2011 to take the trip. Our lease is up 10/1/11 and we may or may not relocate (West Coast - boyfriend's family is there). This means we have already told the sponsors we are likely to actually take the trip in 2012...but in any case, it means we will either be flying out of NYC or a major California airport (LAX, SFO, etc., depending).

We are safety conscious (meaning, not folks likely to travel to Afghanistan, other countries on the U.S. state department warning list). We are Spanish and English speaking. We have been to Europe (several countries). We have been to only one country in Asia (South Korea). We have been to Mexico, St. Maarten, Puerto Rico (and in any case, Caribbean is clearly not the best use of $20k!). We have not been to South America, although the boyfriend has family in Chile. We have one cat.

The question for you is...where should we go that maximizes the $20k?
Top contenders for us at the moment are:
  • African safari (private bungalows, security, the whole nine yards)
  • Tahiti (private yacht around French Polynesia, etc.)
  • Antarctica (although travel agent says this may leave us hard-pressed to spend the $20k...apparently there isn't a whole lot to actually do there)
  • Australia/New Zealand

Final points to consider
  • We are waiting to hear back if they will allow us to take biz class instead of coach (this would obviously use up more of the travel $$)
  • They have already indicated we can extend the stay at our expense (meaning, stay 10 nights as long as they only pay for the 5 nights in the rules)

I'm open to any and all ideas. This is obviously the trip of a lifetime and we really want to make the most of it, as we may never have the opportunity to go anywhere in the world and spend $20,000 on it!

The travel agent told me the best way to maximize the $20k is through "package deals," meaning a hotel that includes breakfast, etc. She may or may not be as experienced as the folks on flyertalk (she is based in Georgia, seems very nice, but I don't know her background whereas as I do know from my years on flyertalk that there are real experts here.

So...if you had $20k to spend on such a trip....and you could go anywhere in the world...where would you go? And if it's different than what you'd recommend for us given the above, where do you recommend we go?

Regards,
Katherine
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Old Jun 18, 11, 1:43 pm   #2
 
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Wow! Sounds like a lot of fun to do the research and planning, even!

Questions:
Can you include restaurant meals in the allotted budget--For example, michelin starred restaurant in Paris (or wherever)?
Can guided tour experiences that are booked separately from lodging be included, like a private, after hours tour of the Vatican or Lourve?
Have you considered the tax implications of the win? For most of us, a $20,000 "value" trip will result in additional income taxes of as much as $8000.
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Old Jun 18, 11, 1:57 pm   #3
 
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African safari. Definitely. It'll be the most incredible thing you've ever experienced. See if you can combine a trip to the Maasai-Mara, the Serengeti, and Kruger National Park.

-- ladytraveler
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Old Jun 18, 11, 2:02 pm   #4
 
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Answers.

In answer to your first two questions: it's all "sponsor-approved," so while I have not yet posed the first two questions (about meals and tour experiences), my sense - after speaking with the travel agent a total of just once, thus far - is it is "no" to meals unless they are part of a hotel package (meaning, an all inclusive, or breakfast included, etc.) and a huge YES to tour experiences. In fact, one of her first recommendations was "tours" and I am open to them as long as they are private (I HATE groups and want no part of groups tours - it is not a way I enjoy travel).

Tax implications: yep, I know all about 'em and we are totally comfortable with it for a number of reasons, but one is probably obvious: this is a trip of a lifetime!

Quote:
Originally Posted by DeirdreTours View Post
Wow! Sounds like a lot of fun to do the research and planning, even!

Questions:
Can you include restaurant meals in the allotted budget--For example, michelin starred restaurant in Paris (or wherever)?
Can guided tour experiences that are booked separately from lodging be included, like a private, after hours tour of the Vatican or Lourve?
Have you considered the tax implications of the win? For most of us, a $20,000 "value" trip will result in additional income taxes of as much as $8000.
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Old Jun 18, 11, 2:17 pm   #5
 
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safari

Safari+++++. Most uplifting experience of my life!!!
can u pack me in ur carryon???
Have fun!!
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Old Jun 18, 11, 2:23 pm   #6
 
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haven't read the other replies yet so maybe this is mentioned...

If I really had to go coach, for a 5 day trip, anywhere in the world, and I'm being taxed on an inflated $20K worth of value, I think I would decline to accept the trip for tax reasons.

How can you spend $20K in genuine costs on a five day trip if they don't fly you out in business???

I guess instead of asking flyertalk, I would be asking my accountant how much this prize might cost me. Sorry to be a Debbie Downer, but there is a big difference between "having $20K to spend to go anywhere in the world" and, oops, it must be approved, it must be in coach, it must be 5 days! That makes it seem to me that they're not seriously intending to give you anywhere near $20K worth of value but you get taxed on what they put on that 1099. I would be very cautious before accepting this prize...
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Old Jun 18, 11, 2:24 pm   #7
 
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A five night safari? It won't be the experience of her life in FIVE NIGHTS. That's the restriction that really bothers me...I like how they're generously allowing her to extend the stay. My guess is that this prize will cost her as much as if she'd paid for the whole trip soup to nuts herself, only she'd have more flexibility if she paid for the whole trip herself soup to nuts.


It used cost about $20K to fly over the South Pole, which would be a once in a lifetime thing that's actually expensive and could be done in a short period of time...but it sounds like she's getting the brush-off from the contact about Antarctica.

Quote:
Originally Posted by boss315 View Post
Safari+++++. Most uplifting experience of my life!!!
can u pack me in ur carryon???
Have fun!!
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Old Jun 18, 11, 3:05 pm   #8
 
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Trip recommendations, please! No worries re: the taxes...

Hi, guys; thanks for your concern - I really mean it!

I don't want to clutter up the thread with my knowledge on this topic but it is extensive and to just sum it up:

1. You are only taxed on what you use, so if we decide to take a trip to Philadelphia and it costs $2,500, that's what I'll be taxed on - not $20k.
2. We do want to use all $20k if we can (and yes, that means we will be taxed on it).
3. There are IRS laws about these things and you can adjust your tax return accordingly (e.g., if you tell me I won a used sleeping bag and then sent me a 1099 saying it was worth $15,000, I can make an adjustment on my tax return and explain/document that in fact it is worth, say, $50 - and I will be only be taxed for $50).

There is a lot more to this but as someone who has been entering sweepstakes for years, I will just sum it up as: this is a legitimate sweepstakes, a legitimate trip and no one is trying to screw me over! I've won trips before (Korea, Hawaii) but nothing near this level of a trip (and I have a lot of experience on the tax implications of winning things, trips, items that are hard to declare the value on, etc.).

If we insist on Antarctica, I'm sure they'll let us go. I'll be honest as gently as I can: I suspect the reason she was not enthusiastic about Antarctica is because she just doesn't know a lot about it (not trying to put her down - she is very friendly - but she is based in Georgia and I did not have the sense she deals with a lot of international high rollers who go on $20,000 trips).

For example, when I mentioned safaris, she said this was a great idea and there were a lot of good ones, including Abercrombie etc. BUT: I'd already heard from our roommate (director of sales at Raffles, extensive international traveler) that Cox & Kings is an example of a REALLY high end safari company. Obviously we'd want that. She may not even know who they are (and if you're wondering, his vote was for an African safari).

So, I DO think....which is why I'm posting here...that we are going to need to direct her on specifics if we get exotic (like, say, Africa or Antarctica). She seemed to have more knowledge on Tahiti and Australia/New Zealand...I'm guessing just because more people go to these places.

Therefore, if we can all assume for the moment that the lawyering and accounting is handled on this....and that even if you suspect I'm an idiot and it isn't, you acknowledge that only I will have to deal with the consequences....where should we go?

Regards,
Katherine
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Old Jun 18, 11, 3:07 pm   #9
 
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Singapore, and SPLURGE as hell

At least that's what I would do
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Old Jun 18, 11, 3:12 pm   #10
 
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I'm not opposed to Asia, but our roommate (who is from Indonesia and been to almost every country in Asia except Korea I believe...is in Asia now for 6 weeks...) said even if they let us tour many countries, it would just be too difficult to spend the money.

Plus, his other argument was simple: if we really wanted to tour Asia, we could do it ourselves very cheaply and still "middle class" or even in some places "high end" WITHOUT spending a fortune...and if we really want this to be the trip of a lifetime, the money is better spent elsewhere.

In fact, Tahiti was MY number one suggestion and he had a similar argument against it: a beach is a beach and he has been to Seychelles, etc., and he says in the end, how are you going to spend $20k sitting on a beach?

(Hence my question to the agent if they will, e.g., let us fly over there and then hop on a cruise that goes around Australia, New Zealand, French Polynesia, etc....awaiting a reply)

Quote:
Originally Posted by YuropFlyer View Post
Singapore, and SPLURGE as hell

At least that's what I would do
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Old Jun 18, 11, 3:25 pm   #11
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peachfront View Post
If I really had to go coach, for a 5 day trip, anywhere in the world, and I'm being taxed on an inflated $20K worth of value, I think I would decline to accept the trip for tax reasons.
Good point.

I am UK resident/citizen and prizes are not taxed here, but it looks like the average flyertalker will pay what 30% tax on this? More? So $6k?

Ok, so basically you are getting a 70% discount.

The furthest point in the world from New York is basically Perth. Off-season rates are around $2000. Quite along way from $20k, but you are saving $2k....

Bali is cheaper, $1500 off-season (October) on Singapore airlines.

Still leaves $17,000 to spend. What could you get for that? Amanresorts run to about $1,000/night, but for $3,500/night you could get a top suite at Amankila (pool: http://www.amanresorts.com/uploadedI..._pool1_236.jpg). With excursions you could easily spend $20k, but if you're paying $2500*30% = $750/night in taxes on top of the already luxurious base room, well I think most people would find that questionable value.

Better than spending the money on dry land, why not charter a boat?

Aman's Komodo trip runs to US$25,000 plus taxes for 7 nights, so it seems about the right price. http://www.amanresorts.com/exclusive...w.aspx?id=1708

Inclusive:
"Rates include five nights’ accommodation on Amanikan, full crew, two nights at Amanwana, all meals and non-alcoholic beverages, two dives per person per day on board Amanikan, one dive per person per day at Amanwana and rangers fees for Komodo National Park."

So this would be what you would do:

Ask Amex for 2 * flights JFK-DPS, cost for 2 is $3k-$5k depending on season. This leaves you with $15k-$17k, a hotel room is a hotel room (well not quite, but the principal is there), but most people don't charter their own yacht on vacation, so take the money and spend it all on the chartered yacht.

Negotiate with Aman for 5 nights on Amanikan with the $17k (after paying for airfare), pay your own way for the 2 nights on Amanwana, and when you're done with that (or before), go see the rest of Indonesia on your own dime, 5* hotels in Indonesia (JW Marriott) start from $70/night all in.

You could easily spend $4k on airfare, $3k/night for 5 nights, and then spend under $100/day after that.... Why not? You get more value for your airfare, and I don't see that the taxes on a $3k/night hotel room, no matter how fancy (try 7-bedroom suite at the Pensinula Hong Kong - what do you want to do - eat the furniture?) are ever going to be worth it.

There are other ways to spend $20k of course, the African safari is nice, you can probably spend $2k/night there, but $20k is going to be pushing it IMO.

Last edited by meester69; Jun 18, 11 at 3:44 pm.
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Old Jun 18, 11, 3:31 pm   #12
 
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I'm liking the private yacht idea!

I just emailed that link to the travel agent to get her thoughts....said we are still researching things but are considering private yachts, etc....will see what she says.

(and I also asked in the email if she'd heard back re: the feasibility of business class airfare...)
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Old Jun 18, 11, 3:38 pm   #13
 
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F1 Paddock club

Are you an F1 fan?

There are still plenty of races left this year around the world for this season, or next season if you like.

Pick a race, get the VIP pass, get wined and dined at the paddock club, meet the drivers, attend those plush fashion shows/parties, and have the best seat in the house to watch the race.

What do you think?
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Old Jun 18, 11, 4:12 pm   #14
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BettyKat View Post
I'm not opposed to Asia, but our roommate (who is from Indonesia and been to almost every country in Asia except Korea I believe...is in Asia now for 6 weeks...) said even if they let us tour many countries, it would just be too difficult to spend the money.

Plus, his other argument was simple: if we really wanted to tour Asia, we could do it ourselves very cheaply and still "middle class" or even in some places "high end" WITHOUT spending a fortune...and if we really want this to be the trip of a lifetime, the money is better spent elsewhere.
Actually, Singapore is quite different from Asia, and I can tell you it's very easy to spend lots of money there. Get a personal limousine to drive you around, visit all the attractions as VIP, will cost you lots of money and you can splurge on the food even more. Get drunk in the Raffles, have your dinner for two on the Singapore Flyer, enjoy some Dom on the Endless Pool at the new Marina Bay Resort, definitely NOT something you could have on a budget (Singapore on a Budget is nice too, and I would never splurge like that if I had to pay it myself)

Quote:
Originally Posted by flyhen View Post
Are you an F1 fan?

There are still plenty of races left this year around the world for this season, or next season if you like.

Pick a race, get the VIP pass, get wined and dined at the paddock club, meet the drivers, attend those plush fashion shows/parties, and have the best seat in the house to watch the race.

What do you think?
Paddock club access is only 4500$ per person per race, and it's all included. Now for the F1 issue, all hotels will increase prices by 300-600%, meaning if he wants 5* in something like SG, it will be 1k$ per night. For a "normal" room. Suites will be off limit. And Paddock is just 3 days during day time (unless he goes Singapore), he'll have to spend some more money. Will restrict him quite a bit.

Edit: plus, the best events will be sold out long time ago. Abu Dhabi is sold out afaik, Singapore as well. And seriously, no one wants to go Korea or Brasil*..

*nothing against the race, but the 1 in 10 chance of a armed robbery every day is slightly too much intensive for most.
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Old Jun 18, 11, 4:27 pm   #15
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by YuropFlyer View Post
Paddock club access is only 4500$ per person per race, and it's all included. Now for the F1 issue, all hotels will increase prices by 300-600%, meaning if he wants 5* in something like SG, it will be 1k$ per night. For a "normal" room. Suites will be off limit. And Paddock is just 3 days during day time (unless he goes Singapore), he'll have to spend some more money. Will restrict him quite a bit.

Edit: plus, the best events will be sold out long time ago. Abu Dhabi is sold out afaik, Singapore as well. And seriously, no one wants to go Korea or Brasil*..

*nothing against the race, but the 1 in 10 chance of a armed robbery every day is slightly too much intensive for most.
Nice info! I am thinking about that for the next season in Melborune. And Yes, no one wants to get robbed in Sao Paulo. For the OP, as smy original suggesiton, if this is something you like, next season might be the way to go. Of course, who can resist the glamour of Monte Carlo...
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