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Meg Nesterov

- thenotoriousmeg.com

Meg Nesterov is a travel publicist, blogger, and loyal Brooklynite living in Istanbul, Turkey.

How to Win Free Travel (Hint: You'll Have to Get Creative)



Like free travel? Of course you do. There are a few contests you should enter, especially if you are a seasoned business traveler or a bubbly sociable traveler. Like most online contests, they will require social media savvy and some old-fashioned popularity contest-winning charm, but hey, you could win free travel!

-Jauntaroo's Best Job Around the World: The vacation matchmaker site is looking for a "Chief World Explorer" to travel the world for one year (or at least a few exciting destinations like Berlin and the Maldives), with all expenses paid. You'll be representing Jauntaroo and creating social content, and earning a $100k salary for your trouble. There's also a "voluntourism" component, promoting the site's partner charities and "travel with a cause" motto. To enter, upload a 60-second video detailing why you should win by September 15 and get your friends to like it, as only the final five will make it to the interview.

-"American Way" Road Warrior: Already been around the world, with an expertly-packed carry-on and the efficiency of George Clooney in "Up in the Air"? If you're a true "road warrior" you know that "American Way" is the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, and they have an annual contest to award the ultimate business traveler. The grand prize includes a half million AAdvantage miles and a trip to Curacao, plus a slew of other prizes befitting a frequent flier, such as noise-canceling headphones. Fill out the application (sample question: what makes you a true road warrior?) by August 31, and the five finalists will be posted online for the public to vote on the top three winners.

Like a more honest day's travel work? Check out a few unusual travel jobs.

Why Do We Give Countries Different Names?

Endonym map of country names
EndonymMap.com
You booked a trip to Germany, so why does your passport stamp say Deutschland? Your name didn't change from John to Johann, so why should the country's name change? If you've ever wondered why countries go by different names in different languages, you can check out the Endonym map, that displays each country by their own name. Endonyms are a country's name within its own borders (see: United States of America, Detschland, Estados Unidos Mexicanos), while exonyms are what it's known by in other languages (a.k.a. Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika, Germany, Mexico). Many of them are similar-sounding cognates that are easier to say or spell in our native language (Brazil/Brasil or Italy/Italia), or some are descriptive and sometimes derogatory names for a place (see this literal Chinese translated map of Europe, like Italy/Meaning Big Profit).

Can you figure out some of the more difficult English exonyms with a hint?

40 Crazy Facts About the World, in Maps

world maps flags
Andrew Fahmy
If you love maps and data, you should click on over to TwistedSifter.com, which has rounded up 40 maps to give you perspective on the world. See the global distribution of McDonald's and the rainbow of Antarctica's time zones. You can marvel at America's rivers and many researchers, share the love of coffee and beer and sigh at our resistance to the metric system and paid maternity leave. One of the more surprising maps shows the busiest air travel routes of 2012, with the busiest flight path between Seoul and the island of Jeju, the "Hawaii of Korea." There are no U.S. or European cities on the list, but if you've seen enough maps, you'll have enough perspective to see we're just a small part of this big globe.

See all 40 maps here>>

5 U.S. Beaches You Can Get to Without a Car

Beaches with a car - Chicago's Oak Street Beach
Flickr, Tom Gill
Summer may be winding down, but there are still a few weekends left to spend at the beach. Rather than sit in traffic or rent an expensive car, you can ride public transportation to many beaches in the U.S. Seasonal routes are especially likely to be popular, so go early and pack light.

Boston - CapeFLYER train to Cape Cod
Reintroduced this summer, the CapeFLYER train goes every weekend from Boston out to Hyannis, connecting to ferries for Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard and buses up and down Cape Cod. Fares are from $18 from South Station, with a few bucks' savings if you buy round trip. You can bring a bike, get concessions onboard and get free Wi-Fi. The train will run through Columbus Day, October 14.

Chicago - El train to Oak Street Beach
Not everyone thinks of this city smack in the midwest as a beach town, but thanks to Lake Michigan, there are more beaches around Chicago than Bermuda. There are many to choose from, but Oak Street Beach is the most central with the most spectacular skyline view. It's a few blocks from the El train at Clark and Division, though a bus up Lake Shore Drive will get you there closer. Beaches are free and open until Labor Day, but you can enjoy the water views year round. CTA fares are $2.25, with deductions for transit cards.

Will This App Make Sleeping on Airplanes Easier?



Have trouble sleeping on an airplane? There may be an app for that. AIRSLEEP is an iOS app that combines nature sounds, ambient music and "slow wave" audio to hypnotize you into sleep. The combination is supposed to cancel out cabin noise and match your brain's low-level "delta waves" as you fall asleep. The app itself is free and comes with some basic sounds including rain, beach waves and desert wind, but you pay to expand your "sleep library" with additional sounds such as "monk chant," holiday sleep sounds (think snow falling and the crackling of a fireplace) and a "control freak" customizable program.

Does it work? There are only a few reviews on iTunes so far, and they are a mixed bag.

Baby On Board: Babies Born In Train Stations

MTA train station baby
MTA Police Department
Last week, the hashtag #MetroBaby was trending after a Washington, D.C. woman gave birth to a baby boy on a Metro platform. Despite many humorous suggestions for the baby's name (my favorites: Stan Clear and Doris Closing), Amir Mason was born a few weeks early and delivered safely.

Yesterday, New York got its own Metro Baby when police helped deliver a baby boy in Penn Station. On her way home from a doctor's appointment and waiting for a Long Island Rail Road train, the mother was overcome with labor pains and taken to the police station office inside the train station. Paramedics from St. Luke's Hospital were on hand to deliver baby Oscar, and assisting MTA Officer Melissa DeFrancsco noted, "It was awesome."

The D.C. Metro baby got a train-themed gift basket and $100 transit card from the agency. The New York MTA is presumably still picking out a card.

Are train station babies a new trend? What station is likely to be next? I'd vote for somewhere like London's airy and renovated St. Pancras station, with plenty of restaurants and shops, a luxury hotel, and an easy hop to Paris by Eurostar.

The Love Boat Makes Final Voyage

Quail Love Boat
StefanoF, Flickr
The iconic MS Pacific, better known as "The Love Boat," has made her final voyage.

Purchased for 2.5 million euro by a Turkish ship recycling company and taken to a scrapyard on the Aegean Sea coast of Turkey, the cruise ship will be stripped for metal and parts, as a renovation of the 42-year-old ship would have been too costly.


On the Aaron Spelling comedy, the Pacific Princess sailed between California and the Mexican Riviera from 1977 to 1986, with cruise director Julie, bartender Isaac and Captain Stubing at the helm. The actual ship had been decommissioned years ago and was languishing in Italy's Genoa port, after sailing for Princess Cruises until 2002 and later Quail Cruises.

Book A Night On An Airplane With AirBnB

AirBnB airplane hotel
HotelSuites.NL
Vacation accommodation website AirBnB has no shortage of unique places to stay, from a "boatel" aboard a converted ferry, to a private island in Fiji. For airplane nuts and those wanting the luxurious exclusivity of a private jet, AirBnB has a collection of airplane accommodations.

Accommodations range from a New Zealand two-unit motel inside a 1950s Bristol freighter plane (rates start at $180 per night, sleep in the cockpit or tail), to $10,000 for a night on a Gulfstream G5 jet in Beverly Hills (rate includes one hour of flight time and three hours of flight attendant service. Divide that by 18 passengers and that's...still a lot of money, but a priceless experience. Don't want to leave the airport? If you can find a flight into Teuge Airport in the Netherlands, you can stay aboard a former government plane, now fully tricked out into a private suite. If you'd prefer a more traditional place to stay, you might enjoy the Wine Country Airplane House in Sonoma county, which has not only an airplane tail on the front of the secluded house, but also a piece of the old Golden Gate Bridge.

Check out more unique AirBnB listings in their collection of wishlists.

Tour Paris By Zeppelin



Looking for a way to avoid the tourist crowds in Paris? You might try looking up. Airship Paris is a new company offering tours of the French countryside around Paris by zeppelin.

Tickets range from 250 euro for a half-hour "first flight" tour of the castles around Vexin (including the Villette Castle from "The Da Vinci Code" movie), to 650 euro for a royal tour of Versailles with Paris in the background. Flights take off from the Pontoise airport about 25 miles from Paris. The 250-foot-long airship carries up to 12 passengers and cruises at an altitude equivalent to the Eiffel Tower.

After takeoff, you are free to take in the views from the panoramic windows, sitting or standing. Unlike a hot-air balloon or blimp, the zeppelin is wind-resistant and heavier than air, with a low level of vibration and noise (the company compares it to that of a dishwasher). Airship Paris is the first commercial airship service in the area in 30 years.

Read more and book tickets here.

The Best Lifetime Luggage Warranties

Best luggage warranties
Flickr, Robert S. Donovan
Picking up my luggage from the JFK baggage carousel on my last trip, I discovered Alitalia had managed to rip off an entire wheel from my 5+ year old suitcase. I didn't even bother to file a claim with the airline, as it's a Briggs & Riley, with one of the best luggage warranties in the business. I took it to Manhattan's Modern Leather Goods (an authorized repair center) and five minutes later, my bag was as good as new. I filled out a short form with my contact information and walked out with my repaired bag, free of charge.

My other bag, a Swiss Gear four-wheeler purchased at Target two years ago, is also showing some wear, with a few tears in the nylon exterior after a few big trips. However, since the receipt for that bag is long lost, I fear, so is my chance of getting it repaired free of charge. Depending on the collection, some Swiss Army bags are covered with a free warranty for several years or even a lifetime, under certain conditions, but only with the original sales receipt.

If you are shopping for some new luggage, here's a look at some of the easiest, most comprehensive luggage warranties to help you decide. They won't cover regular wear and tear or the contents, but if a wheel or handle breaks, you'll be covered. And don't forget to save that receipt!

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