Laurel Conrad was booking an overnight stay with Super 8 Motels online when she happened upon a Super 8 Celebrate the 8 Sweepstakes ad that promised a trip to Beijing.
"I saw that and I figured what the heck," Conrad said. She filled out the entry form in hopes of fulfilling a far-fetched dream to vacation in China.
Of the 25,000 entries, she was the grand prize winner, joining a couple of other Tampa Bay area residents who recently won trips to China through sweepstakes.
First, Michele Bluitt of Clearwater got word she would be headed to the Olympics through AT&T's How Are You Connected contest. Then John Fink, a bicycle-riding postal carrier from St. Petersburg, won a similar trip from AT&T.
Now, Conrad, 49, and her husband, Neil Greenstein, 58, will be taking off on an all-expenses-paid trip to Beijing.
Conrad's husband has always wanted to visit China. He developed a love for Chinese food in New York and, as a chef, he taught Asian cuisine at New York University.
The couple celebrated their 29th anniversary a few months ago, and had begun looking at brochures to spend their 30th in China.
"It was one of our highfalutin dreams," Greenstein said.
Though China was a place her husband was more interested in, Conrad said she always wanted to see the Great Wall. The Madeira Beach couple will head to Beijing on Thursday for a seven-day trip.
Super 8 Celebrate the 8 Sweepstakes was a gimmicky play on the Olympics' start date 8/8/2008.
The trip includes a car and driver, a local English-speaking guide and accommodations at the chain's Beijing hotel. The two also get to attend a day of volleyball at the Olympics. Conrad said that this day of games was not originally included in the prize, but Super 8 threw it in.
Conrad has won "hats, T-shirts and key chains from radio stations, but nothing like this," she said. "This is a trip of a lifetime that we get to share, and it's going to be a great memory."
Emily Rieman can be reached at (727) 893-8215 or firstname.lastname@example.org.