See the photo that earned a free trip

The saying goes that a picture is worth 1,000 words—but this year a book could be written about the wonderful entries that poured into the 2013 Traveler Photo Contest. Not only were they reminiscent of some of our travelers’ most popular trips, as in the case of grand-prize winner and 13-time traveler Cindy Hummel’s entry from her Cruising Burgundy & Provence to the Cote d’Azur River Cruise Tour; but they really inspired a travel bucket list for many associates from our Boston office.

Grand Prize Winner, Cindy Hummel, 13-time traveler, Billings, Montana

One such associate is is Grand Circle Photo Manager Meredith Gausch, one of the lead contest judges this year. Besides wanting to snap for herself an up-close-and-personal photo of an adorable Gentoo penguin, captured so on Antarctica's White Wilderness well by 8-time traveler Paula Kaplan of Phoenix, Arizona, Meredith said this year's contest reinvigorated her motivation to experience new places.

Best in Category (Nature), Paul Kaplan, 8-time traveler, Phoenix, Arizona

The first place on her bucket list: China. “It’s a country that’s just very different from ours, and I enjoy interacting with local people. There’s a good amount of opportunity to do that on China & the Yangtze River.” That’s just what 4-time traveler Steve Malay of Cape Carteret, North Carolina found when he captured a fellow traveler sharing images on her digital camera, much to the delight of Chinese schoolchildren.

Best in Category (Travelers), Steve Malay, 4-time traveler, Cape Carteret, North Carolina

The image also speaks to Meredith’s other insight: Contest entries have gotten so much better over the years because digital photos make it easier for travelers to see their images instantly, thus giving them another chance to capture the best vacation photos possible.

Our landmarks category winner, Ann O'Hagan, 26-time traveler from Ypsilanti, Michigan, perfectly framed her shot of Budapest's Parliament building at Fisherman's Bastion, capturing two landmarks at once—not only creative, but efficient!

Best in Category (Landmark), Ann O’Hagan, 26-time traveler, Ypsilanti, Michigan

Of course, no matter how far we advance with digital photo technology, nothing will ever replace the importance of waiting for the right moment—especially when photographing people. It's apparent that first-time traveler Merrill Heit waited until his subject was comfortable with being photographed—which shows in her relaxed, natural, and lovely expression on his Russia Revealed: Moscow to St. Petersburg vacation.

Best in Category (Local), Merrill Heit, first-time traveler, Massapequa Park, New York

The "best in category" winners all receive a $300 travel certificate, and Cindy’s image of a farmer and his horses earned her a free trip for two. Get ready to shoot your own photos for a chance to win a free trip in 2014. For details about how to enter, please click here. We look forward to seeing your vacation memories!