launches dream travel job contest for budding filmmakers

If you’re a travel buff with a passion for film, you could be in the running to win the gig of a lifetime from online travel agency

Through Viator’s “Win Your Dream Travel Job” contest, four winners will be tasked with traveling through 20 countries in 60 days in both North America and Europe, and documenting their adventures on camera. The winners will be placed in teams of two and provided with professional video equipment, roundtrip travel, and a budget of $15,000 per person to cover lodging and expenses. In addition to providing content for Viator’s library of travel videos, the teams will also produce final wrap-up videos, which will be pitted against each other in an online Facebook competition with $10,000 awarded to the top-voted team.

To enter, submit a one-to-three minute video on Viator’s Facebook page showing off your travel experience, storytelling abilities, and cinematic prowess on one of three subjects: things to do in your city, top travel tips, or memorable travel experiences. Every two weeks starting March 15, Viator will select a new winner. The last call for submissions is April 25.

For more of the nitty gritty, watch the following video, or check out Viator on Facebook.

10 free things to do in Paris, France

While Paris, France, is not typically thought of as a budget travel destination, with some research and planning it is possible to visit the The City of Lights without spending a fortune. Just add some of these free and fun activities to your itinerary to help you save cash while still exploring the city.

Take a walking tour of the city

While most tours charge a fortune to show you the sites and give you historical background, SANDEMAN’s NEW Paris tours are not only free but also fun. They run on the idea that their tours are so worthwhile that your tip will be enough to sustain the program. I took a tour with them when I was in Paris and our comedic yet knowledgeable guide had the entire group laughing the entire time. And at the end, he invited us to go out with him that night to see where the locals drank. Walking tours depart daily at 11AM and 1PM from the fountain on Place St Michel.Learn something new at a the Musée Carnavalet

The Musée Carnavalet is one of the many free museums in Paris and is one of the best museums for learning the history of the city from its birth to its present through exhibits, art, furnishings, artifacts, recreations, photographs, and letters as you learn about the French Revolution, Voltaire, Rousseau, death by the guillotine, 20th century paintings, and more. The museum’s structure itself is also historical as the museum resides within two mansions, one from the 11th century and one from the 17th century. Some other notable free museums include the:

  • Maison de Balzac- Museum dedicated to the French novelist Honoré de Balzac who produced works like “La Comédie humaine”, “An Episode of Terror”, and “Vautrin” in the mid-1800’s. The museum is actually housed in his former residence.
  • Petit Palais– A fine arts museum with a range of exhibits like The Eastern Christian World, Paris 1900, Renaissance, Graphic Arts, and The Classical World, to name a few.
  • Musée d’Art Moderne– Modern art museum that houses works from the 20th and 21st centuries from artists like Pablo Picasso, Juan Gris, Henri Matisse, and Pierre Bonnard.
  • The Louvre– While this famous and overwhelmingly large museum isn’t free everyday, it is always free on the first Sunday of each month.

Hear live music and get a bird’s eye view of the city at Sacré-Coeur

Sacré-Coeur is my absolutely favorite spot in Paris and sits on top of a giant hill. I love going there at sunset with a picnic and a bottle of wine and enjoying an all-encompassing view of the entire city. The area is named after the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which is a Roman Catholic Church that you can go inside and explore. You can also stroll around the church and visit little shops and small parks. The best part about the area, however, is the live music. There always seems to be a talented singer or musician playing for tips with a big crowd of people gathered around, sitting on the steps near the church, listening to music and sipping their drinks. It’s a really laid-back yet social atmosphere.

Do the Avenue des Champs-Èlysées stroll

This famous walk will allow you to see the many different sides of Paris all in one stroll, as there are bars, clubs, restaurants, theaters, monuments, landmarks, and tons of upscale shopping venues like Cartier, Louis Vuitton, and Hugo Boss (okay, so buying diamonds and designer clothing isn’t free…but browsing is!). You will also see the Arc de Triomphe, where you can get a great view of Paris as well as visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the Grand Palais, a historical palace and museum, and the Place de la Concorde, a huge square with monuments, fountains, and French architecture.

Get spiritual at the Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church designed in a stunning French Gothic style that is not only a place the spiritual will enjoy, but also the artistic, with 17th century paintings, a Virgin with Child sculpture, beautiful church bells and organs, intricate stained-glasses windows, and a trippy 360 degree panoramic view when you look up. The cathedral also plays the important role of housing the official chair of the Archibishop of Paris, which is currently André Vingt-Trois. It is open Monday-Friday, 8AM-6:45PM, and Saturday-Sunday, 8AM-7:15PM, and is always free of charge to enter. You can also take a look at their service times as well as times for free guided tours organized by language preference by clicking here.

Spend time outdoors in the city’s many parks and gardens

Paris is home to many beautiful parks and gardens where you can spend hours just relaxing and taking in nature. My absolutely favorite outdoor garden area to visit is the Luxembourg Gardens, which was once only open to members of royalty but is now open to everyone, regardless of class. They are formal gardens that are extremely well-manicured and peaceful with statues, fountains, and a large pond known as the Grand Bassin. There are also a lot of activities that go on in the park, like puppet shows, live music, toy boat races, chess games, and Tai Chi. The Tuileries Gardens, which is also a formal and immaculate park that was once owned by royalty, is also a favorite of mine to visit. If you’re there in the summer, there is an annual amusement park held there annually. To change it up a bit, I’d also vote the Jardin des Plantes as one of the best parks in Paris, as it is a bit more sprawling and unkept, in a natural way, with tons of tropical plants, irises, climbing plants, roses, medicinal plants, and more. It is also the site of the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (Natural History Museum), a zoo, and an aquarium.

Picnic at the Eiffel Tower

No trip to Paris would be complete without a trip to this iconic landmark. When I was in Paris I visited the Eiffel Tower both during the day and at night, and I would definitely recommend buying a bottle of wine and some picnic supplies and heading over there after the sun goes down. It’s a lot more striking at night when it’s all lit up, and every hour a light show occurs where thousands of flash bulbs start going off, which is a pretty mesmerizing sight to see.

Take in the music scene

There are many venues in Paris that offer great music free of charge. If you like dramatic organ music, visit Saint-Eustache Church at 5:30 on Sundays. You can also enjoy free classical music concerts put on by students at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Paris. Moreover, certain nightclubs like L’Opa (live bands on Tuesdays and Thursdays), Le Régine, and Le Showcase are usually free to enter and offer more upbeat musical fare. Another option is to show up to a free concert put on by Radio France (arrive an hour beforehand). Click here for a schedule.

Sample wines at Taillevent

Taillevent in Paris is well known for its superb wine selection, and every Saturday from 10AM to 5PM in their wine cellar guests can sample vinos in a tasting led by sommelier Brice Mancelet. Each week is a different theme and visitors will also get 10% off the purchase of a bottle of wine.

Nosh on couscous

Couscous is a popular bar food in Paris, and there are a variety of venues that offer the food free of charge. Le Grenier is the most popular; a laid-back jazz and manouche club that offers complimentary couscous with the purchase of a drink on Saturdays. La Chope du Château Rouge is another option as it serves free couscous Friday and Saturday nights after 9 PM to drinking patrons. If you’re out on a Thursday (or Saturday), head to La Cordonnerie, where they serve the delicious dish free from 8PM on.

[all photos via Jessie on a Journey aside for the glass of wine, which is by Davide Restivo]

Travel contest season is in full swing

January brings cold weather, post-holiday blues, dreams of travel and travel contest season every year. With few exceptions, sellers of travel roll out some of their best promotions during this time too. Aimed to make those dreams reality and have us focus on whatever travel product they are selling, travel companies want to bring our attention to their options over another.

Amble Resorts’ Life-Changing Travel Contest has travelers looking at their new travel blog, The Ambler, for a chance to win a free flight anywhere in the world. Launched in mid-December, the contest is quickly gaining momentum as globetrotters from around the world share their most life-changing travel moments in the hopes of fulfilling resolutions to travel in 2012.

This contest asks visitors to reflect on their own life-changing travel experiences and draw inspiration from the stories of others, encouraging people to broaden their travel horizons and explore the world in 2012. The contest will reward one commenter with a trip to the destination of their dreams, in the form of a $1,500 travel voucher (OK, maybe not anywhere in the world) on the airline of the winner’s choice, valid any time in 2012.Getting serious, Travel+Leisure has the Dream Of A Lifetime $25,000 Spain + Venice sweepstakes where the grand prize winner gets a travel package worth up to $30,000 or can take a $25,000 cash option as well.

Even non-travel companies are getting in on the January travel mania with Fisher Boy frozen food company giving away a Caribbean vacation at one of Beaches Resorts worth $8,000. You’ll have to tell them why you like their products (fish sticks) as part of the entry but liking them on Facebook is not required as many contests are.

The cruise industry has “wave season“, that time of the year when everybody wants to buy a cruise, going full speed ahead. In addition to some of the best values of the year, multiple lines are having contests that result in someone winning a cruise. Holland America, Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Disney Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean all have their versions

One of the best payouts comes from a contest run by TripFilms, a travel website that brings destinations to life through video. Their Watch and Win contest grants one entry for each video watched from start to end. The prize? A trip for two people that the winner may select from a bunch of destinations as well as a travel stipend of $500 per person ($1000 total).

The choices include Costa Rica Natural Paradise, Guatemala with Tikal, Panama Canal Cruise & Tour, the Grand Canyon, Mount Rushmore & Yellowstone, California Coast & Yosemite and others.

Most of these contests end January 31, 2012. Many of these and other contests can be found at TravelOnion where most current travel contests are rounded up and updated frequently.

Not feeling lucky? How about some money-saving tips if pay you must?

Flickr photo by Tostie14

Budget travel: Megabus is giving away 200,000 free tickets

Because transportation is often one of the most expensive parts about traveling, it’s always nice to get a free ride. And for people traveling around the United States and Toronto from January 4 through March 1, 2012, Megabus is giving away 200,000 free seats.

Megabus, which launched in April of 2006, is already known for it’s budget-friendly prices and offering rides that start at $1 when booked on the internet. The company services nearly 50 cities through the United States and Canada from five major hubs which include New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., and Toronto. For those who value comfort, Megabus’ single and double decker buses offer panoramic windows, free wi-fi, and at-seat plug ins.

To reserve a free ride, use the promo code GOFREE when booking. The offer is based on availability and if you can travel midweek and/or on some of the more popular routes you shouldn’t have a problem taking advantage of the offer.

10 free things to do in London

While London, United Kingdom, is often thought to be one of the more expensive cities to travel to, it doesn’t have to be. If you plan ahead and add some quality, budget-friendly options to your itinerary, you can actually spend a vacation in London without going bankrupt. To help, here is a list of ten free things to do in London.

Visit a museum

Unlike many other cities, there are many top museums in London that are free to enter. The most popular museum to visit in the country is the British Museum, which was founded in 1753 and was the first national public museum in the world. It is a good idea to visit this museum not only because it will save you money, but also because it will give you comprehensive insight into the history and culture of the region you are visiting. Other noteworthy London museums that offer free entry include:

  • Imperial War Museum – See antique guns, tanks, artillery, and aircraft and trace the history of armed conflict, especially that which pertained to Britain and the Commonwealth.
  • Wellcome Collection– This museum is very unique, and sometimes even a bit disturbing, but is a must-see for those with a curious mind. The exhibits explore the connection between medicine, life, and art in the past, present, and future. Some interesting things you will see include Napoleon’s toothbrush, used guillotine blades, and naturally preserved mummies.
  • V&A Museum of Childhood– For something fun and whimsical, visit this museum and peruse an extensive collection of toys, games, costumes, and exhibits that explore the world of design through childhood.

Take in some art and creativity

As with museums, London also features numerous top-quality art galleries that are free to enter. One of my favorites is the Tate Modern, which features five floors of modern art including abstractions, pop art, cubism, minimalism, and expressionism. If you want to see paintings from the early Renaissance to the Post-Impression periods, the National Gallery features over 2,000 works. And, for the photographers out there (or those who simply like to look at pictures), the Photographers’ Gallery, which opened in 1971 as the first independent gallery in Britain devoted to photography, houses displays of themed photo galleries.

Laugh until you cry at a comedy club

For almost every night of the week you are in London there is a venue that can deliver free laughs. Here is a guide to a week of knee-slapping comedy:

  • Monday- Archangel features new material from established comics as well as up-and-coming comedians working on their first five or ten minutes of jokes.
  • Tuesday- The Source Below features Brooklyn-native Lewis Schaffer every Tuesday (and sometimes more) as he continuously adds new jokes to his already sharp act.
  • Wednesday- Comedy Cafe is one of the best comedy clubs in London and is where many big names in comedy first got started.
  • Thursday and Saturday- Camden Head is a pub, comedy, and music venue that brings in a mix of top-headliners, up-and-coming comedians, and first timers.
  • Sunday- Queen’s Head is a traditional English pub that features a mix of big name and beginner talent in an intimate and friendly setting.

Stroll through beautiful parks

London is home to some of the most beautiful parks in the world. Regent’s Park offers the Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens while Hyde Park is home to the Diana Fountain, a memorial to the Princess of Wales. Green Park is literally right next to Buckingham Palace and has the beautiful Canada Gate while St. James’s Park is the oldest park in London and is surrounded by three palaces. No matter what park you choose, you are sure to be surrounded by beauty on a budget.

Listen to some live music

From Monday-Saturday at 5:45PM and Saturday-Sunday at 1PM you can head over to the National Theatre on the South Bank for free performances of music styles from around the world. Furthermore, on Saturday afternoons at the Notting Hill Arts Club there are free live music concerts hosted from 4PM-8PM. If you’re into a more bar/club type vibe, The Old Blue Last often holds free shows. This is considered by many to be one of the best venues in London and artists like Lily Allen, Amy Winehouse, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford and Sons have all played here.

Peruse the street markets

While it costs money to make purchases at a market, it doesn’t cost anything to browse. Budget-travelers will especially love Borough Market, an enormous open-air food market that has everything you could possible crave: breads, soups, sandwiches, meats, cheeses, spreads, sauces, cookies, candy, granola, pate, polenta, and more. The best part of all is almost every stall gives out free samples, so you can literally have a free lunch. There is also the famous Portobello Road Market that features an expansive collection of antiques, and the Old Spitalfields Market which sells everything from arts and crafts to clothing to antiques. If you’re looking for a more funkier market in an alternative setting, head over the numerous Camden Markets in Camden Town.

See the changing of the guard

No trip to London is complete without visiting Buckingham Palace and seeing the changing of the guard. This is when a new guard replaces an old guard, kind of like switching shifts, but is a lot more complicated and involves a formal ceremony that must be performed. Click here for a schedule of dates and times.

Take in a street performance

When in London, there are a few places you can go to see the talented street performers of the area. In the West Piazza of the Covent Garden Market, right outside St. Paul’s Church, you can see acts that are just as good as if you went to the theater. In fact, the street performers actually have to audition before performing, and there have been some really well-known acts, such as “Beautiful Stu” Goldsmith, the Scottish National Busking Champion, the world-renowned comedic stuntman Sean Bridges, and Cirque du Soleil-style performer, Courtney Orange (pictured right). If you’re more in the mood to see a debate or live discussion, head over to Speakers’ Corner in the north-east corner of Hyde Park, which mostly takes place on Sundays.

Learn something at the London Public Library

The London Public Library not only offers a wealth of knowledge through their myriad books and publications, but also through workshops and classes. Learn how to research your family tree, practice Tai Chi, work on mixed media art, relax with Yoga, and even play the Ukulele. Click here for a complete schedule.

Take a SANDEMAN’s NEW Europe Walking Tour

SANDEMAN’s NEW Europe Walking Tours are a favorite within the backpacking circuit and can give you a quality tour for a budget-friendly (free) price. I have personally been on a few of their tours throughout different cities in Europe and can vouch that they are exceptionally run. Most, if not all, of the guides have college degrees and have studied and trained to be knowledgeable in what they are talking about. You will get to see major and less-known sites and learn all about the history and culture of the region. All of the guides I have had have also been extremely funny and entertaining.