Meet the compers: Julia Linsley
Meet the Compers is back! For my first in the new series of interviews I’ve got the lovely Julia Linsley in the hot seat. I met Julia on our Just Plane Lucky prize trip to Majorca last year – she’s an active member of my Lucky Learners Facebook group, and full of enthusiasm for comping!
Julia loves travel prizes and shares some of her favourite wins and comping tips in this great Q&A, so grab yourself a cuppa and settle in for some fabulous winspiration!
Let’s start at the beginning! How did you first get into comping?
I grew up in rural Cumbria in the 1960s. Despite my Dad saying that I was born lucky, and predicting one day I would win big, I was embedded into the small village culture of fêtes, raffles, village hall bingo and competitions. Being in the Brownies & Guides we always used to have creative comps from arts and crafts to flower arranging, baking and even soap carving!
I won a book token with the local library, in a paper trail treasure hunt in the school holiday and chose a cookery book as my prize. I still have it today and I have won many cookbooks since, giving me an enviable collection – even including a recent win of a ‘Happy Dog Cookbook’ for baking dog treats!
I was soon hooked on entering magazine and purchase comps with my mum, and we had a steady stream of wins (mainly food hampers!) often from slogan and puzzle competitions.
We moved to the coast in my teenage years and I entered a local newspaper competition to be Carnival Princess. After an evening event, loosely modelled on Miss GB, I was chosen as the winner and presented with lots of prizes. I had an exciting year of representing my hometown at events and celebrations travelling throughout the UK; meeting TV celebs and raising money for local charities. I have enjoyed entering competitions ever since!
More recently, due to my knee surgery, I was frustrated by a lack of mobility and suffered from painful arthritic joint pain. Having been an active teacher I needed to focus on something to keep my brain active and I discovered online comping. Recently retired, I have more time now to invest in searching for prizes I would love to win, both to save money and also give us travel opportunities we might not otherwise have. I particularly enjoy treating family and friends with my wins. Importantly, I have made friends with people from across the country, some of whom I have met in person and enjoyed socialising with and sharing prizes and experiences with. I do think that I have always been lucky however I put time and effort and creativity into my entries and feel that enthusiasm and positivity go a long way. There are people who tell me I am lucky, but of course – they never enter anything themselves! I think that you can make your own luck.
What are your favourite competition websites, forums or resources?
I subscribe to Compers News* and although I like digital methods, I still look forward to the paper magazine dropping into my mailbox. It gives me motivation seeing everyone’s stories and I scribble all over it! I use PrizeFinder and Competition Database and belong to various Facebook groups aimed at my interests like Travel, Books, Food & Drink and Creative competitions. I started the West Country Compers Facebook group and it is great for local prizes. I am not that technical, but I am getting better with Twitter and Instagram!
I contribute to the Lucky Learners group and use Di’s advice and books for reference & motivation. I really enjoyed travelling to Brighton for SuperLucky Live and was lucky on the day winning multiple prizes, meeting up with Party Plane friends and making new friends who were happy to be tagged in social media comps! These lovely people give me support, encouragement and inspiration.
Do you have a comping routine?
Some days I may only enter a few targeted ones, so maybe spend a couple of hours comping. Or I might make a concerted effort to work through Compers News and Competition Database which takes longer. My husband is a carp fisherman and if he goes off on a trip or night fishing, I use the time for marathon entries with no interruptions and cheeky late-night sittings! I am an avid Radio 4 listener and comp along to my favourite programmes. I plan a weekly qualifier shop with a list from Compers News and Lucky Learners.
My comper’s radar is always on – I seem physically unable to walk around without spotting the word WIN. I check closing soon lists for anything I have missed. It is quick and easy to enter comps on my phone most times and I have been known to be sitting in the airport departure lounge entering travel competitions as I wait to fly off on a win! Comping friends also tag me in interesting competitions, and I have become more discerning at entering what I’d really like instead of responding to everything. My newsfeed and email inbox are always full of opportunities.
I enjoy gardening, cooking and spending time with my family, so I try to keep a balance and have off screen time. I make time for creative entries, taking lots of photos of my animals, cooking, gardening, preserving and home growing. This year I discovered ‘The Happy Comper Journal’ by Rebecca Beesley* for inspiration and tracking my wins. I would highly recommend it and support her charitable giving for Juvenile Arthritis Research. There are a lot of very generous people within our community often raising money for charity and awareness of issues and I support them where I can.
You’ve won some wonderful holidays – tell me about your best prize trips, and how you won them!
There was a lot of trips booked that unfortunately because of Covid, have not been able to happen – but most promoters have been wonderful in reallocating dates. I have had some fantastic holiday wins in the UK and internationally, mainly through Facebook, although I am starting to win on Twitter and Instagram as I increase my entries there.
A visit this year was to Trevorrick Farm in Padstow where a Facebook competition gave the family a 2-night stay in a lovely hot-tub cottage with animal encounters. My daughters enjoyed taking sheep for a walk and the owners could not have been more hospitable. We arrived to wonderful views, a comfy cottage with newly laid eggs for breakfast and fresh baked Cornish pasties in the kitchen.
A fun Facebook win was with The Carlton Hotel in Bournemouth where we won a Christmas Party Table for 10 people. This included a 3 course Christmas Dinner, copious bottle of wine on the table, a disco with party decorations, quizzes & competitions. The room was full of festive fun & packed with party goers. We even won a return visit for an Afternoon Cream Tea by dressing up one of our members as Father Christmas using things on the table. Friends & family had a great night it was the perfect start to the Festive period.
A recent highlight was visiting Jamaica in February, won in a McDonald’s Facebook comp promoting a Jerk Burger. I did some research and posted about Caribbean food I’d like to try and was amazed to win two return flights with Virgin Atlantic! The same week I won a £1,000 LastMinute.com card with Parcelforce, so I combined the two prizes. We had an all-inclusive stay in a wonderful hotel in Montego Bay and had to pinch ourselves daily while on the private beach sipping cocktails in the sun, surrounded by white sands and turquoise waters, that this was a WIN! We also enjoyed birdwatching in the mountains to feed iridescent hummingbirds up close and enjoyed a river rafting experience.
My daughters have benefitted from trips and experiences including Festival Internacional de Benicassim in Spain, 3 nights at a hotel for Ibiza Rocks, One Love Festival, El Dorado Festival, Hyde Park Party in the Park Tickets where we enjoyed Robbie Williams, Barbara Streisand Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder.
There was also a fabulous win of 4 nights in a Blackpool hotel with meals, travel passes and tickets to the BBC Radio 2 All Star Party with Craig Charles, Trevor Nelson & Anna Matronic broadcasting their shows live from the legendary Empress Ballroom. It was a spectacular night of soul, R&B and dance music with live performances from The Shapeshifters, Brand New Heavies, Beverly Knight, Roachford and Heather Small. It gave me an amazing opportunity for quality time with my sister, reliving our youth on the Golden Mile and enjoying a memorable vintage tram ride to see the illuminations that we hadn’t seen since we were children – an experience you can’t put a value on!
We have a 2-night stay in a Bournemouth Hotel; a night’s stay in a Bridport Hotel and a 2-night stay in Cheltenham before Christmas – and I recently won return flights and a 3-night break in Malta at a top 5* Hotel, but that’s on hold due to quarantine restrictions.
And tell us about your amazing Jet2 prizes too!
I have much to thank Jet2 for (at this point I may break out singing “Hold my hand” by Jess Glynne – now my lucky anthem!). My first Jet2 win was a Facebook promotion for people working over Christmas so I nominated my daughter who was scheduled to work over the festive season. I was able to take her on an early December break for 4 nights in Krakow Poland in a 4-star hotel with Breakfast for the Christmas Market with flights and transfers. We arrived in a snowy winter wonderland. The hotel was very chic, 2 minutes away from the city central square in the middle of the Old Town historic district. Marvelling at the architecture and enjoying festive candle lit church visits we explored the history of the city. We browsed the traditional stalls selling frosted gingerbread and wooden decorations. We chose special pieces of amber jewellery and together selected intricate handmade glass Christmas tree decorations to take home. As foodies, we were spoilt for choice with the aromas and spectacle of Padja (enormous grilled cheese sandwiches); huge BBQ Pork knuckles with roasted potatoes and Churros drizzled in chocolate. We treated ourselves in candle-lit restaurants in the evening where the menus were delicious and surprisingly cheap, or enjoyed street food at the market eating on communal wooden tables in the snow. Funky doorways led us into late night cosy cellar jazz bars with massive beers and saxophone memories. We enjoyed a special mum and daughter break – the prize made for a gorgeous memory of Christmas spirit & it was magical!
As we boarded the plane for Poland my daughter had photographed me approaching the plane. Little did I know that this picture would make me the ‘poster girl’ of another competition entry. A fellow Lucky Learner had applied for the Jet2 Party Plane competition and I entered to be a guest. Our photograph was used for the entry after skilled editing by another comper.
I worked enthusiastically to contribute to the Lucky Party Plane group entry and just knew we would win. I was so excited by our entry that I was dreaming about it – I was so excited at the prospect of meeting a hundred other compers, and win we did! I took my youngest daughter. I even won Rylan’s onboard competition to do a safety demonstration – so I won a competition, on a competition win, at 35,000 feet! The prize was two Jet2 return flights to anywhere in Europe – my husband and I had planned to fly to Italy but are now hoping to go in 2021. The whole Party Plane experience was wonderful and was a great experience for me to spend quality, fun time with my daughter making lots of memories – she was converted and has had a few wins herself since that holiday!
(Di’s note: read about our Majorca trip in my blog post Our Jet2 Party Plane weekend in Majorca!)
A third Jet2 win followed with a Facebook competition for a Manchester Travel Agency! I won a voucher that I put towards taking my family to Budapest Christmas Market this December, again this is something we may have to defer until 2021.
Do you have any tips specific to travel comps?
- It’s obvious but always check the T&Cs. Some people enter and find that they are unable to accept travel prizes as it does not fit their family circumstances or available dates (although some promoters can be flexible, not all of them are!)
- Check what is included – flights, meals, transfers… I look for travel competitions without extra expenses. Check flight times so you won’t need a hotel beforehand.
- Keep in mind that there will be expenses for holiday wins, even if it’s petrol to a location or airport parking. There are hidden costs, and you do not want to be out of pocket.
- Keep a copy of Compers News magazine in your bag – take a photo with it on your travels, and send it to the Editor for the chance to win another prize with your comping story!
Which prizes are top of your wishlist at the moment?
An African Safari prize would be the ultimate and I would love to visit Cuba, the Maldives and Sri Lanka. I have been looking at house raffles to give my girls a footing in property and am tempted to participate. I would also love to win a Campervan!
Travel remains top of my list however like everyone in these times I am spending more time at home. After 30 years in our lovely family home, a lot needs replacing, upgrading or re-decorating – so home or garden makeover prizes are of interest. I am hankering after a Leaf blower, but I would be equally happy with a bundle of Spring Bulbs for my garden.
What’s your favourite prize, and why was it so special?
The Great Swap with Bulgaria competition – it included the elements that my husband and I love: food, wine, architecture, history and culture. This fabulous win came from a rainy-day search for holiday competitions on Google. The task on an entry form was to submit a joke about the British to be told during Bulgaria’s presentation at an International Travel Trade Show in London. A one line joke about the British & Brexit that I submitted gave us this amazing opportunity – although I can’t remember the exact joke!
After our arrival in Sofia, meeting our tour guide Rossitsa and check-in at the Ramada Spa Princess Hotel we were treated to a five-course gourmet dinner with tasting of Bulgarian wines in the wine restaurant Vino Vino with live Jazz music. The food was amazing with the chef attending our table at each course personally. We tasted the Bulgarian wines known to connoisseurs and served by our own personal sommelier.
The second day after a sumptuous breakfast we visited Alexander Nevski cathedral and the National Theatre on a personalised Sofia city tour and were treated to a lovely lunch. In the evening there was an elaborate taster dinner menu in another famous restaurant where we sampled traditional Bulgarian delicacies.
The next day was a very memorable sightseeing tour of The National Historic Museum and Boyana church on the outskirts of Sofia, which is UNESCO heritage listed. We were honoured to receive a personal tour of this most important and valuable historical place with such artistic significance and humbled to see the ancient frescoes painted in 1259 making it one of the most important collections of medieval paintings & one of Bulgaria’s most holiest places. We later enjoyed a lunch in the mountains with amazing views. On the last evening we were hosted at a farewell dinner with a folklore cultural programme at the Chevermeto National restaurant in Sofia. We joined in with traditionally dressed dancers and participated in local customs throughout the evening having great fun and appreciating traditional music with the locals. This trip may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it was perfect for us. We flew home replete with fabulous foods, wines and friendship. I do not think we ate for a week after that trip!
I remember you winning a year’s supply of popcorn a few years ago! What other unusual prizes have you won?
The popcorn was eventually eaten by my daughter’s Ladies University Rugby Team – they took it on the coach to their away games! There was also a year’s supply of Dorset Tea from a local radio station, and a year’s supply Of Loyd Grossman cooking sauces, which came with an amazing £500 worth of Le Creuset cookware. A month’s supply of smoked salmon posed a challenge as did a year’s supply of pies, whilst the 10 cases of cider were somewhat easier to manage…. and I also won a singing salami that frightened the dog!
What are your top tips for Facebook comping?
- Read the instructions – do you meet the requirements if you’re chosen?
- Build up a library of photos so you can add a relevant photo to your comment
- Do your research – is there something you can post that is relevant to the prize, that could make your entry stand out?
- Use emojis for relevance, effect and enthusiasm
- Interact with the page over time and mention or tag the promoter
- Try last minute and end of month entries
- If required tag relevant friends who will also follow the page
- Never miss a Facebook prize by Joining a Winners group – sometimes this is the only way I’ve known I’ve won a prize. The comping community are incredibly supportive in posting winners lists
- If you don’t win, stay positive and do not give up!
- If you do win, then celebrate and say thank you to the promoter, or share their page or website with the comping community!
- If it looks too good to be true – it is! Beware of fake competitions
- Limit your screen time and do not let a hobby that should be fun, informative and entertaining become exhausting or disappointing
What are your most memorable wins?
I am a big believer in Christmas spirit comping! Many years ago when my children were small Tellytubbies were the must have, sold out Christmas toy. Early evening on Christmas Eve a delivery man knocked my door with a box so huge I couldn’t get it through the door and had to unpack huge amounts of straw on the snowy doorstep, thinking it was a last-minute gift from relatives. Snuggled in the bottom was the complete set of Tellytubbies, from a long-forgotten postcard entry to a magazine. I felt like the best Mummy in the world at that moment and my daughters still have them 20 odd years later!
I once received a mobile call whilst standing in the supermarket queue with the Christmas food shop the day before Christmas Eve. It was the usual stress and panic all around me whilst a lovely lady from Bedroom Athletics explained that if I could get back to her by 5pm that day she could ship my winning order in time for Christmas. I’d won a huge amount – and she added that as they presently had a sale on it was an even more fabulous win! I literally sped home to choose my items on the website just in time. We don’t usually do Christmas Eve gifts, so my family were staggered at the surprise box of luxurious slippers and loungewear we unpacked in front of the log burner on Christmas Eve – I love my hobby!
What would be your ideal competition prize?
I suppose I have already won an ideal prize but Covid has suspended it! I’ve won an all-inclusive holiday to Costa Rica through British Corner Shop and Travel Local – it was a Facebook last minute entry where I simply wrote two words “Fabulous Opportunity” and never expected to win. I was able to add flights through another win and the itinerary includes a guided visit to Tortuguero Village, Hanging Bridges walk in Arenal, a boat tour in Tortuguero National Park, a naturalist walk & relaxing in Arenal hot springs and visiting Manuel Antonio National Park. The company handling this has been fabulous in their communications during Covid and we hope to go in 2021 – we cannot wait to enjoy the nature, food & culture!
A huge thanks to Julia for this brilliant interview – I struggled to edit it as all her stories are so brilliant. I can’t wait to hear all about the Costa Rica trip! If you enjoyed this interview please do check out the others here.
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