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What It Actually Means To Win A Trip On Wheel Of Fortune

Who among us hasn't dreamed of getting on a game show and walking away with a big win — say, a trip to someplace glamorous and just out of reach under normal circumstances? "Wheel of Fortune" offers that possibility with the spin of its titular wheel, a few well-chosen letters, and a correct guess of the latest word puzzle. Can't you just imagine yourself on that stage with host Pat Sajak and Vanna White? Would you scream if you won? Jump up and down with excitement?

Winning a trip on "Wheel of Fortune" is no small matter and contestants' enthusiastic reactions are part of what make the show so fun to watch — that and their sometimes muted responses to astonishing correct guesses. But we've all heard the rumors that game show wins aren't always what they appear — and there could even be some downsides to this kind of kismet. Does "Wheel of Fortune" really offer travel prizes with no strings attached?

Free trips from Wheel of Fortune? Not exactly

Alas, the rumors are true: prizes won on "Wheel of Fortune" are taxed in the state of California. So, if you win a high-priced trip, in a sense, you're going to have to pay for it. Another bit of bad news: as Frommer's reports, game shows get a deal on trips, and it's not a great one for contestants. While these prizes are usually donated to the game show, their values are inflated. For example, a trip to London and Paris was valued at nearly $10,000 when offered as a prize. But the same package cost only about $2,000 when purchased directly from the travel company.

That's not the end of the story, though. After all, the object of the game (aside from solving word puzzles) is to reward winners, not punish them. That's why "Wheel of Fortune" offers options. Behind door number 1: winners are allowed to forfeit the trip. That's what contestant Timothy Mark decided to do when he won a $7,000 trip to Antigua in 2018. "The income tax on that would be about $1,700," he wrote on his blog. "I decided I would rather save the tax money for something else, maybe a trip to Australia."

Trades are allowed on Wheel of Fortune

Taxes notwithstanding, not everyone wants to give up a trip they've just won on "Wheel of Fortune." That's why there's a second option. Behind door number 2: as MarketWatch reports, contestants can swap out pricey trips for less-costly travel packages. This was helpful when contestant Matt McMahon won a trip to Chile and a cruise down the Danube River valued at $15,300 in 2017. He found vacations priced at $10,800, for a significant savings that didn't cost him the opportunity to travel with his partner, Adam Hart. "(G)iven that it's just the two of us and we share living expenses, experiences are worth more than money right now," he said.

And really, that's a great, big-picture attitude, too. If you're going to go on "Wheel of Fortune" as a contestant, it's not all about winning is it? It's got to be about the thrill of using your brain power on national television, too, and walking a way with a great story to tell. The experience is a priceless slice of deliciousness. Winning a trip — even with some strings attached — is the cherry on top.