planning tips for parents

10 Tips to Help Parents Plan Ahead for Your Child’s Trip to France

Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity for any student. But as a parent, it’s easy to worry about your child. Here are ten tips to help you plan ahead so your mind can be at ease and your child can be prepared to travel abroad.

1. Traveling to another country requires a level of maturity and respect.

VIE expects students to conduct themselves properly and to show respect for others throughout the entire program. Failure to abide by these rules may lead to sending the student home at his or her parents’ expense. It’s best of your child is aware of all of these points BEFORE they travel. It might be worth considering if your child is ready for a trip abroad if they are unable or unwilling to abide by these rules.

  • I will show proper behavior at all times and remember that I am representing my school, my family, my community and my country.
  • I will show respect for local culture, language and customs that are different than my own. This includes acting and dressing appropriately, as well as communicating to the best of my ability in French with French people with whom I interact.
  • I will not go out alone. I will always be with at least two other participants and will let my Organizing Teacher know where I am going, with whom and when I will return. I will carry the name, address, and phone number of my hotel or French host family with me at all times.
  • I will refrain from smoking, drinking, and using drugs, and I will not accept or transport any of these items.
  • I will respect my Organizing Teacher, other school leaders, the guide and bus driver, and I will honor all rules that they set for me and the group. This includes hotel curfews, behavior guidelines on the bus, rules during all visits and at the hotel. I will also show respect for students from other schools with whom I travel.
  • I will refrain from inappropriate conduct and will not engage in any romantic or sexual involvement of any kind.
  • I will not operate any motor vehicle.
  • I will contact my Organizing Teacher or the VIE Paris office immediately if I am uncomfortable with my host family placement or if there is any emergency during my Family Stay.

2. Does your child know these personal safety basics?

Be sure to discuss the basics of personal safety before your child sets sail.

  • Cover safety in numbers and why the Rule of 3 is important (always being in a group of at least three people).
  • Recommend he/she avoids unlicensed cabs or rides
  • Never accept food or beverages from strangers
  • Know how to read a map and how to get back to your hotel
  • Know how to reach your Organizing Teacher
  • Cover what to do in case the student gets lost or separated from the group
  • Be conscious about with whom they are making eye contact, and engaging in conversation

3. Have you discussed how to keep belongings secure?

When traveling, it’s best to always be diligent about knowing where your items are at all times (such as bags, money, passport, cell phone, etc.) Pickpockets and theft are legitimate concerns for all travelers. Purses, backpacks and bags are all prime targets for theft. Any personal bag carried around while traveling should have a zipper and should be closed. VIE provides passport pouches to all of our traveling students and we highly encourage travelers to use them. Money and passports should never be left in the hotel room, especially not out in the open. 

Rule of thumb is: if you don’t want it to be stolen, it shouldn’t be visible to the public.

For help with packing, here is a detailed packing list from VIE for participants. Additionally, be sure when packing you are following the customs and airline guidelines to ensure smooth sailing at the airports.

4. Is your child prepared financially?

Get your child at least one type of credit card (two might be a good idea in case something happens to the first one) and inform the credit card company of the dates of the trip. Keep a copy of the account number and contact information for the company with you in case the card is stolen or lost.

Make sure your child has a bank account with an ATM card that will function overseas. It is safer to withdraw small amounts from an ATM than to carry large amounts of cash. However, please take note of international fees associated with using a credit card/ATM card while overseas.

Always contact the bank or credit card agency and alert them to your travel plans BEFORE you travel! Otherwise, if your child appears in France and tries to use their card, it may be rejected and flagged as fraudulent.

Please note, the most accepted forms of credit card in France are Visa and Mastercard. American Express and Discover will not always be accepted.

More information on money and budgeting can be found here.

5. Does your child have medical insurance? 

With Vistas In Education, medical insurance (secondary insurance) is included in the program price while traveling, as is our civil liability policy.

Before your student travels to France, you should contact the company which provides your primary medical insurance to find out what kind of coverage they will have while in France since that will be considered their primary medical insurance.

You may choose to purchase additional travel insurance coverage on your own should you feel it necessary.

6. Does your child have the correct documents to travel to France AND to return to the US?

It is the participant’s responsibility to be sure all their own traveling documents are in order to travel to France. 

Passports:  Details regarding U.S. passports can be found here: U.S. Passports and International Travel.

It can take 2-5 months to receive a new or renewed passport. In most cases, you will be required to have a passport before you can even book your air ticket. This means, you’ll need your passport LONG before your travel date. Without the passport, you will not have a ticket.

What constitutes a Valid Passport? According to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs; to travel to France a passport “must be valid for a minimum of six months at entry, and valid for an additional three months beyond your planned date of departure from the Schengen Area” (France being in the Schengen Area).

Visas: At this time a visa is not required for U.S. citizens traveling to France; we will notify you if this situation changes.

Non-U.S. citizens must contact their nearest French Consulate immediately for any necessary visas. VIE is not responsible for obtaining visas for foreign citizens; however, VIE will provide any necessary documentation to help in obtaining a visa, upon request.  To find the French Consulate nearest you, click on this link: French Consulate Map of the U.S.

7. Have you added your child to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (also known as STEP)?

Enrollment in this program keeps your child in touch with the State Department should there be an emergency or disaster in the area where the student is traveling. The program also informs registrants about concerns which may arise in the area and helps family back home reach the student in case of emergency

You should also know these important terms:

Travel Alert
The U.S. Department of State issues a Travel Alert for “short-term events we think you should know about when planning travel to a country.” Alerts can be issued for upcoming elections, international events, elevated risk of terrorist activity or health alerts. Note: VIE’s programs have successfully operated under these conditions.

Travel Warning
The U.S. State Department issues a Travel Warning “when we want you to consider very carefully whether you should go to a country at all.” Examples of reasons for a Travel Warning include unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks.

8. What is the emergency plan?

Our top priority at VIE is the safety and security of all of our travelers as it has been for over 40 years. We provide an extensive Safety & Security program through planning, partnerships, monitoring, communications, education and insurance policies, for our groups traveling to France.

VIE works closely with our Paris Office to provide planning and support every step of the way.  Our full-time staff in Paris work with local, on-call Family Stay Organizers to respond quickly and professionally to any emergency and support each group traveling in France.

To this end, we monitor all news and updates pertaining to travel to and within France.  We stay informed through a multitude of resources, including the U.S. State Department, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the French government (Ministère des Affaires étrangères).

Other safety systems in place while traveling to France with VIE:

  • Vistas in Education provides medical and trip insurance for all participants in our Travel and Family Stay programs.
  • When touring the provinces, groups will have a professionally trained, bilingual guide certified by the French government at all times.
  • VIE gives Organizing Teachers a French cell phone upon arrival in France for use while in France. Our Paris office can reach the teacher at this number at any time and the Organizing Teacher can reach our permanent staff in France.
  • Organizing Teachers and Travelers are given several important phone numbers in case of emergency
    • The phone number for our full-time Paris office staffed by bilingual French nationals.
    • The phone number for each hotel they are staying at as well as the address
    • If participating in a Family Stay, the phone number for the Family Stay Organizer who lives and works in the region.
    • The personal cell phone number for Michel Wolf, the founder and president of Vistas in Education, who lives in the Paris area.
  • Teacher and students are instructed on the use of 112, which is the French equivalent of 911

For over 40 years of business, we have cared for thousands of students and their teachers. We are proud of, and stand by, our impeccable safety record.

9. How do we keep in touch with our child while they are traveling?

Before your child heads off to France, be sure to contact your phone company/cell phone carrier. You will want to check ahead of time to see what the charges will be in the following instances:

  • American cell phone in US to American cell phone in France, and vice versa
  • American cell phone in US to French phone in France, and vice versa

You should also check to see what the data charges are while traveling. Hopefully, by taking care of this in advance, you won’t have any surprise charges on your phone bill while your student is traveling.

To call the US from France: (remember the time difference when calling internationally)

  • Dial 001 before the area code.

To call France from the US:

  • Dial 0 – 11 – 33 and the last nine digits of the number.

10. Encourage them to HAVE FUN, make the most of their trip abroad

Make sure they take plenty of photos to share with everyone when they get home. 

More helpful information can be found in our Travel FAQ’s and additional parent resources can be found here

exchange during the school year programs

Exchange Programs During the School Year

“Current events clearly show how much more interconnected all of us are to the whole world. This gives schools ever more impressive reasons for accepting international exchange students enthusiastically and using them as resources to broaden student and community perspectives on the world.

Youth exchanges provide foreign exchange students with an American experience, giving them a more balanced understanding of our country. They encourage new perspectives for the school’s own students that open their minds to the world. More importantly, these ‘connections’ help teenagers on both sides of exchange grow and gain maturity.

The concept of exchange programs began more than half a century ago with the Fulbright-Hays Act. High-level officials have supported international student exchange every year since. These cross-cultural experiences offer unique opportunities for American schools to help their students and communities:

  • Learn first-hand about other cultures and customs
  • Create life-long friendships across cultures
  • Gain new perspectives on our country and the world
  • Begin to understand how tightly connected the peoples and countries of the world are to each other, something our world seriously needs
  • Open young minds to the importance of understanding other languages and other cultures, particularly with respect to career and personal opportunities

International exchange students offer an exciting resource. Many schools have created special events and programs to encourage all students to get to know these guests from other cultures and expand their own horizons and interests. Such efforts also help exchange students feel comfortable in an all-new life by taking full advantage of their opportunities.

International youth exchange programs internationalize American high schools – one exchange at a time. Thank you for your support of these seminal programs. You are helping to mold our next generation of world leaders.”

Vistas In Education organizes exchange programs during the school year between American schools and French schools. If you are interested in learning more, contact us today.

CSIET, a national non-profit foundation, is dedicated to promoting quality international youth exchanges that enrich local high school communities. The Model School Policy on International Student Exchange can be found at and has been endorsed by: National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP); National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and American Association of School Administrators (AASA).

educational tours

Getting the Most out of Your Trip to Europe: The Complete Guide to Educational Tours in France

As a student traveling to France, you’re probably wondering how you can get the most out your trip to Europe. There’s obviously plenty to see when you’re traveling overseas to these countries filled with historical treasures. To make sure you make the most of your trip, an educational tour may be the perfect option.

Educational tours give you the chance to learn all about the most popular sites and hidden gems in Europe, led by a professional tour guide. You’ll walk away from the experience with a better glimpse into the history and culture of the countries, regions, cities and towns of Europe.

So, if you’re a student who is trying to get the most out of your upcoming trip, here’s your complete guide to educational tours in France.

Smithsonian Journeys

With several educational tours available in France, Smithsonian Journeys offers great opportunities for students to see the country’s popular educational sites. Whether you want to take a bicycling tour through the famous wineries of Burgundy, excite your taste buds with a tour of Parisian restaurants or take a historical tour of the United Nations World Heritage sites, Smithsonian Journeys offers a wide variety of exciting options for the student traveler.

Visit their website at or call 877-338-8687 for more information about the travel company.

CEI Europe Tours

CEI is the ideal tour company for those student groups interested in the culture and history of France. Offering personalized itineraries and travel schedules, students are given the opportunity to learn about some of the most popular attractions in Western France. Students will see breathtaking castles, visit historic churches and witness the breathtaking countryside of the region. With affordable rates, you can have an unforgettable experience on a CEI tour.

Visit their website at for more information about the travel company.

Education First

EF Tours offer a number of different educational tours in France, such as the 16-day excursion that visits eight historical cities. You’ll see Paris, Provence, Carcassonne and the famous beaches of Normandy, among other famous sites. Students will learn about a range of interesting subjects, from ancient Rome culture to World War II. EF makes it easy on the student traveler, providing logistics for airfare, hotels, sightseeing, entrance tickets and much more.

Visit their website at or call 800-637-8222 for more information about the travel company.


With WorldStrides, students can immerse themselves in French art, icons and famous places. With their Grand Tour of France, you’ll see experience an in-depth, 10-day trip to all of the best places in the country. You’ll see the Louvre in Paris, the grand monastery in Mont St. Michel and the picturesque French Riviera in Monaco. If this doesn’t appeal to you, you can create a completely customized trip to suit your interests.

Visit their website at or call 1-800-771-5353 for more information about the travel company.

Passports Educational Travel

Since 1992, Passports Educational Group Travel has partnered with teachers across America to provide high-quality educational travel experiences for their students. With pre-travel logistics taken care of, all you have to worry about is having a good time. With Passports, you can travel on a number of different itineraries throughout France in a wide variety of timeframes. Perfect for high school students, this travel company offers fun, unique and educational tours to every region in the country

Visit their website at or call 1-800-332-7277 for more information about the travel company.


Explorica is focused on educational trips for students and teachers, offering tours throughout the various regions of France. You can take a tour that will let you sample it all, like the Best of France tour, which takes you from Paris to the beaches of the French Riviera to the splendor of the Loire Valley. With Explorica, you can get a taste of everything.

Visit their website at or call 888-310-7120 for more information about the travel company.

Vistas In Education

Vistas in Education offers educational tours throughout every region of France, including standard tours of Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley; the Côte d’Azur and Provence; and Reims, Alsace and the French alps. Our tour guides are government-certified in France and provide unique, immersive experiences. Whether you want to learn about French culture, enjoy world-class cuisine or master the French language, our student tours will let you expand your knowledge and explore your interests.

With VIE’s exchange student programs, students become more than just tourists; they become a part of a French family. Students can take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to everyday life during their Family Stay. French host families will have a teenage son or daughter living at home and American students will have the chance to attend school when in session.

Visit their website at or call 800-343-4690 for more information about the travel company.

Son Tours

Son Tours brings the historical past of France back to life with unmatched history tours. You can see medieval castles, gothic cathedrals and captivating palaces in cities like Anjou, Picardie, Alsace and Champagne. Students can learn about the Renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman culture and even tour prehistoric Aquitaine, where cave painting still exists from Europe’s earliest human occupants. Son Tours has an option for every educational traveler.

Visit their website at or call 800-416-8212 for more information about the travel company.

French Links

For those student travelers that want to see the hidden gems France has to offer, French Links puts an emphasis on finding roads less traveled with their Unexplored Paris tour. This tour is perfect for a week or long weekend, taking you away from the tourist-soaked areas of Paris and into the fascinating areas that aren’t commonly seen. From little-known museums to private art studios and local districts and cafes, you’re guaranteed to see something unique with French Links.

Visit their website at or call 1-800-771-5353 for more information about the travel company.

ProActive Travel

ProActive travel gives students the chance to enrich their knowledge through cultural experiences they won’t find in a classroom. Students are able to travel to all of the most popular destinations in Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre, led by a professional tour guide. Combine their tours of Paris with a trip to Normandy or the Loire Valley to see what’s beyond the bright lights of Paris.

Visit their website at for more information about the travel company.

Educational Advantage Tours

Educational Advantage offers in-depth tours to some of the most historical places in France, such as the Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct, the Venus di Milo found at the Louvre and the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. Students and teachers will learn all about France’s extensive art and culture.

Visit their website at for more information about the travel company.


ACIS offers educational tours of Trouville, the Loire Valley, Paris, Provence and Cote d’Azur. Participating students will have an enthralling experience as they tour the most visited regions in the country. Students are encouraged to learn about the impact tourism has had in France over the last century, while also exploring a variety of unique historic sites, such as the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct and the Château de Chenonceau.

Visit their website at or call 800-888-ACIS for more information about the travel company.

Bon Voyage!

Whether you want to visit the famous wine region of Bordeaux, take in the beauty of the French Riviera, learn about D-Day and the Normandy Beaches, or cook up some delicious cuisine in the culinary capital of Lyon, there are countless student tour companies ready to provide you with an unforgettable educational experience.

Whether you’re a high school student that’s taking a class trip to France or a teacher that’s looking for help planning a student trip, there are learning opportunities for travelers of all ages. From its unmatched beauty to its rich heritage in art, culture, history and architecture, you’re guaranteed to have a great time on your upcoming trip. With everything that France has to offer, you may even find yourself wanting more when your trip is over.

Schedule Your France Tour Today with Vistas In Education!

If you’re dreaming of taking a trip to France, while learning everything there is to know about the country’s unique history, culture, language and more, contact Vistas in Education today. We provide a wide variety of educational tours throughout the country that benefit both teachers and students. We take the worry out of your trip, giving you peace of mind knowing that everything from plane tickets to lodging to dining is taken care of.

Whether you’re searching for a student exchange program or a custom educational tour, we offer our clients an experience that they won’t soon forget.

Find out why our clients continue to put their trust in VIE – get in touch with us today!

france travel guide

A First-Time Traveler’s Guide to the 2017 Eurail Map

Are you embarking on a trip to France for the first time? If so, you need to plan out how you’re going to get from city to city while you’re there. To explore more of the French regions, a Eurail pass is a great option to see the beautiful architecture, breath-taking countryside and historic sites of France.

If you’re a first-timer, here’s your guide to the 2017 Eurail Map.

The Best Way to get Around

Trains are the most convenient and enjoyable way to travel in France. You can tour the majority of the marvelous cities in every region, as you relax in comfort. In some cases, traveling on the Eurail may be the most memorable part of your trip. With a 2017 Eurail pass, you’re given unparalleled freedom and flexibility to travel where you want, when you want.

Eurail Passes Give You the Chance to Explore France

Here’s some background information on Eurail so you can prepare for your upcoming trip.

  • Eurail is not a company and they don’t have special trains. It is just a brand name for a rail pass available to out-of-country tourists from 26 partnering European national train operators. See a map of countries offering Eurail passes.
  • A Eurail pass gives you the flexibility for unlimited travel for various periods of time on the national rail networks of all 26 countries. Unlimited travel means unlimited – you can ride one train or 20 on any given day, going 4 miles or 400 miles, it’s your choice.
  • With a Eurail pass, you can board high-speed, intercity, overnight, local, regional or suburban trains that are scheduled by the national train operator.

Who qualifies for a Eurail pass?

  • You cannot buy a Eurail pass when you arrive in Europe, you must pre-purchase them before you leave.
  • Eurail passes are only available to people living outside of Europe.
  • Residents of Europe qualify for the InterRail pass, which is usually more affordable and covers the same train lines as Eurail. An American and French traveler can easily travel with one another, one using a Eurail pass, the other an InterRail pass.

Best Eurail Itineraries for France

The most popular itinerary for the French Eurail map is the quick 12-minute trip from Paris to Versailles. With the high-speed train, it’s remarkable that travelers can hop onboard in central  Paris and be touring the Palace of Versailles in a half-hour.

For those looking for a trip that’s more substantial, another popular itinerary is from Paris to Mont St. Michel with a stop in Rennes. Mont St. Michel is one of the major tourist attractions in France, where a famous monastery sits atop a bluff that overlooks the Normandy coast.

After you’ve seen the famous town of Mont St. Michel, take a six-hour train ride to the port city of Bordeaux, otherwise known as the wine capital of France. Here, you can tour the historic region where wine has been produced since Roman times. This is a perfect place to travel by bike and view all of the famous sites, such as the Bordeaux Cathedral and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, where you can browse an enormous collection of famous European art.

From Bordeaux, you can hit most of the hot-spots like Carcassonne where you can visit a medieval citadel, Nice where you can relax on picturesque beaches and Lyon where you can get a bite to eat at the culinary capital before you arrive back in Paris. With a Eurail pass, you can see it all in just a short period of time.

Best of Luck Traveling the Trains in Europe!

Now that you know more about traveling Eurail, plan out an itinerary and buy your tickets today! Remember, you won’t be able to purchase these affordable and flexible passes when you get there. If you’re ready to see everything France has to offer, hop aboard a Eurail and take in the beautiful landscape, architecture, history and more.

If you’re taking a student trip to France, contact Vistas In Education today. We’re the number one academic travel company, offering immersive experiences for students of all ages. From exchange programs to group trips to professional tours, we’ll make your travels unforgettable. Get in touch with us today to see how we can help you take the trip of your dreams!

french currency

7 Things You Need to Know About French Currency when Studying in France

Traveling to France as a student is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you’ll never forget. One of the most crucial pieces to having a successful trip abroad is understanding French currency and how it’s used.

So if you’re preparing for an upcoming trip, here are seven things you should know about the currency in France.

1) United States-France Currency Exchange Rate

It’s important to know that most U.S. money is not accepted by the majority of French establishments, although certain tourist-focused places like hotels, gift shops or restaurants may accept U.S. dollars at an established exchange rate. France uses the Euro and comes in various denominations.

Here’s the current exchange rate for U.S.-France currency:

1 Euro equals

1.17 U.S. Dollar

2) Where to Exchange Currency

You can exchange your U.S. dollars for Euros at the majority of banks and post offices, as well as at train stations, airports or exchange offices located around tourist areas. Keep in mind that in addition to losing money on the fixed-rate exchange, you’ll also be paying an exchange agent commission, which will be established at the time of transaction. If you’re only exchanging a small amount of cash, your hotel may be adequate, although you may be paying a higher rate for the convenience. For larger amounts of money, go to a larger bank or exchange office in town, who can offer lower rates. Additionally, exchange your U.S. traveler’s checks at banks or exchange offices because very few businesses will accept them.

3) ATMs

Another option to lower your exchange rate is to use an ATM. By withdrawing directly from your savings rather than a credit card, the transaction is treated as a cash advance. Unless you have alerted your bank that you’ll be using your credit card overseas, it’s likely to be flagged and frozen. Almost every ATM in France will accept the major credit cards like Discover, Visa, MasterCard and even American Express in major cities.

4) Prices in France

Paris is by far the most expensive area in France, while the outlying regions offer much more affordable prices for hotels, restaurants and entertainment. For student tourists and those under 18 years old, there are discount opportunities for things like transportation, museums, tours and much more.  While prices are generally higher than what you might find in the U.S., taxes are included, making it easier to mentally tally up grocery items or the cost of a meal at a local café.

5) Tipping in France

Tipping in France is different from the United States. At nearly every restaurant in France, the bill will include a 15 percent service charge in the final price. If the food was exemplary or service was top-notch, another 2-3 percent is customary. If you visit a restaurant that doesn’t include a service charge, 15-20 percent is adequate, similar to the U.S.

Here are a few other helpful tipping tips:

  • Hotels – tip porters approximately 1.50€ for each bag and chambermaids 1.50€ per day
  • Taxi drivers – tip 10-15 percent of the metered fare
  • Washroom attendants, ushers – tips around 1€
  • Tour guides and bus drivers after an excursion – tip 1.50-3.00€, depending on your experience

6) French Bank Hours  

The normal banking hours in Paris are from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday. In other regions of France, banks normally stay open from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm, close, and then reopen from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. Banks shut down for public holidays.

7) Saving Money Tips

While France and Paris carry a stigma of affluence, you can make the trip on virtually any budget. To save money, there are several discount opportunities for seeing the sights, food markets for fresh, delicious food, and of course, local hostels to reduce lodging costs.

Have Fun in France!

Now that you know these seven things about French currency, you can have a worry-free and budget-conscious trip. Bon voyage!

Take a Trip with Vistas in Education

As a student traveling to France, you’re about to embark on an unforgettable trip to one of the most beautiful countries in the world. If you need help with budgeting, logistics or student exchange programs, get in touch with us today. We’re the number one student travel company for both French and U.S. students. Find out how we can help you.

Jumping off Bench

Having Humor in France

When traveling, it’s important to be an ambassador of your country. What does this mean? It means wherever you are, you are an American and whatever they think of you is what they will think of all Americans. If you strut your bikini top and leggings while you’re walking down the Champs Elysée, the French are not very likely to have the best impression of Americans. However, if you dress as they do, ask for things quietly and politely (even if you must ask in English), smile, and say “please” and “thank you”. You’ll leave them with a nice impression of Americans and thus be an ambassador of your country. It’s important to show respect to their culture, their traditions and their people just as you would if they were to visit your home town. 

That being said, it’s also important to have a sense of humor when traveling. Traveling is predictably unpredictable and if you don’t have a sense of humor about it, then having to take a two hour taxi ride instead of the planned 20 minute train ride due to a strike will send your mood down the drain pretty quickly.

 To put you in the laughing mood, here’s an excerpt from “Wicked French for the Traveler” by Howard Tomb.

 “France has found favor with painters since Neanderthal times. Some of the greatest artists, Picasso and Van Gogh among them, left their native lands and moved to France permanently. Some historians believe that French sunlight has special qualities that bring colors to life for artists. Other experts insist that certain painters had simply bounced too many checks in their own countries. Whatever the reason for their presence, artists have left millions of paintings and sculptures in France.  You won’t be able to avoid seeing some of them during your stay.”

 Art museums have been idea pickup spots for centuries, since they naturally screen out the unwashed, thereby ensuring that the pool of potential mates is held at a relatively high intellectual an social level. But simply entering a house of worship such as the Louvre or Pompidou is not enough. Nor is the ‘knowing what one likes’ and gawking at it. Once muse en mettre plein la vue like Philippe de Montebello to be sure to impress one’s fellow art lover and prospective victim.

Note: Do not attempt to pronounce van Gogh. It sounds something remotely like ‘van gohjgkhh’. Stick with Vincent, ‘van-SAHN’.

Humorous phrases (with French translation) to use in the museum: 

Notice how the fruit is dramatically outlined in black.

Remarquez comme le fruit est soulingé en noir d’un façon dramatique. 

Cézanne’s little limes almost leap into your mouth.

Les petits citrons verts de Cézanne vous sautent pratiquement dans la bouche.

Have you noticed Monet’s bold use of blue here?

Avez-vouz remarqué l’audace du bleu dans ce Monet?

 The lone water lily signifies the essential loneliness of existence.

Le Nénuphar isolé incarne la solitude essentielle de l’existence.

Let’s talk about it over a cup of espresso.

Parlons-en tout en prenant un café express.

And  while you’re out at the café with your new beau or belle from the museum, you should follow some important café etiquette with your new beau or belle from the museum, you should follow some important café etiquette:

No matter how many espressos you drink while you’re there:

  1. Do not sing, even if you suddenly realize how to speak French.
  2. Do not make political speeches or announcements
  3. Do not slap strangers on the back
  4. Do not force-feed strangers or their dogs


Enrich your life

10 Ways Being a Foreign Exchange Student Will Enrich Your Life Forever

When studying abroad, especially while staying with a host family, there are the obvious advantages: learning a new language and making new friends. But there’s so much more to it. This experience of being a foreign exchange student and living as the locals do will serve you for the rest of your life.  Here are the top 10 ways it will change your life: 

1. Breaking out

The decision alone to be a foreign exchange student is HUGE! It can be frightening, exciting, worrisome, thrilling all at the same time. Just getting on that plane and taking that step into the unknown is amazing in itself, and not many people have that ability to just go and see where it takes you.

2. Experience a new way of thinking

Living with a host family will give you the opportunity of seeing everything from their eyes and it’s often different than what you learned growing up. Some examples may be: Seeing that bread is a staple in their daily lives and it comes straight from the bakery, not the grocery store. Lunch is a more important meal than dinner. It makes more sense to take public transportation than drive your own car. You need less space than you may think to live. Fresh meals are more important than frozen or pre-packaged meals. Cheese can be a dessert.  School days can be extremely long and rigorous, and sports are often not important in education. After seeing another perspective, in future careers, you’ll be able to see both sides of the coin and facilitate discussions between parties.

3. Respect diversity

People are different everywhere, yet they are also the same. Until you spend some time in another country, it can be hard to understand this. Maybe you’ll feel called to continue with a career along these lines, or doing volunteer work when you return to the states.

4. Become more independent

When traveling abroad, you learn to be very independent very quickly. You learn to speak with strangers to get directions, because you can only pretend you know where you’re going for so long. You learn to read maps, in other languages. You learn that you can do whatever you put your mind to. This is HUGE!

 5. Language Immersion

Yes, if you immerse yourself in another language, you will learn another language. You’ll also pick up slang words, speech patterns, sentence structure, accents, and favorite phrases of your host family. Maybe you’ll even learn to distinguish the different accents of the country depending on which region you are in. You’ll learn the language taking the bus, going to the grocery store, going to the bank, ordering a meal, telling people about where you are from, and when making new friends. And you’ll learn it all much more quickly than learning from a book or language learning podcasts. Your language skills will become remarkable and impressive.


 You need to be able to adapt to anything, and without letting it fluster you. Buses will be late, trains will be late, you’ll be wearing the wrong thing, you’ll misunderstand someone about a meeting time or place, you’ll have to eat food you don’t particularly like, you’ll have to wear damp clothes because you didn’t realize they don’t use a dryer and hanging everything to dry takes longer than you thought. Make no mistake about it, this is a SKILL that a lot of people don’t have and it will serve you well in your future careers. 

7. Learn more about your own culture

You may be amazed at how often people will ask you about where you came from while you are living abroad. Sometimes they may even know more than you! You may also be surprised to find that they may ask questions like the population of your state, what the transportation like, what the #1 import in your state is, what the economy and housing market are like in your state, what is your policy on immigration. You will become a walking resource for your state and country!

8.Become a local

 When you’re able to spend some time in a new country and become part of the community, it will go beyond what the famous monument for that city is, or where the best restaurant is. You’ll know the shortest route from your bus to your home. You’ll know which market is the best for cheese and where to buy a pastry or flowers when you’ve been invited to dinner at someone’s house (or even that you SHOULD bring a pastry or flowers when you’ve been invited to dinner!). You’ll learn where the pharmacy is and what to do if you get sick. You’ll learn how to set up a bank account. While doing these things, you’ll also become part of the community… your community. You’ll have an understanding of the country which is much deeper than anyone who just spent a 2 days there on a bus tour.

9. Stories for a lifetime

When speaking with people who have been a foreign exchange student abroad, whether it was 5 years ago or 50 years ago, they still have stories and often they still have friends abroad whom they are still in contact with. These are stories to pass down to your children and maybe even your grandchildren.

 10Travel bug

 The Travel bug is a real thing. Not real in that it’s a real bug, but that it really does exist. Once you’ve traveled abroad and learned ALL the skills above and you realize how amazing it is to discover new cultures and new places, you’ll want to keep traveling. There’s so much to see in this big world of ours, and so much to experience. You’ll no longer be satisfied with learning about a culture on the internet. You’ll long to be part of the culture and to experience it for yourself.

Enjoy the journey!

Student taking pictures in France

Educational Tours in France

Whether you’re passionate about art, culture, history, architecture or exotic food, France has everything for those who love learning. Even before a college study abroad program, there are dozens of educational tours to help middle and high school students get the most out of the unique and interesting country of France.  

Enjoy coffee at a chic cafe at the Champs-Élysées, or an unforgettable meal in a brasserie hidden in Paris’ Latin Corner. Stroll the beaches of Normandy and stand on the battle site where Allied forces landed to liberate occupied France.. No matter what site or region piques your interest, France has plenty of gorgeous and educational destinations for students of all ages.

Explorica – Best of France Tour

Explorica, a travel company based out of Boston, offers plenty of opportunities for educational travel in France. For those students looking for an overview of the country, try Explorica’s Best of France tour. The 15-17 day trip introduces students to the culturally rich and diverse regions of France. From the chic shops of the Champs-Élysées to the historic Gothic châteaux in the Loire Valley to the picturesque beaches of the French Riviera, students will be able to explore the best sites in the country.

Prométour – French Classes & Homestay in Nice

Prométour Educational Tours have a few different options for students traveling to France, including their French Classes & Homestay in Nice tour, which lasts eight days. Throughout this educational tour, you’ll visit four cities in the southern part of the country: Nice, Monaco, Cannes and Eze. In each city, the students partake in a three-hour French class, where they learn the language, lifestyle and culture of France. Additionally, students are allowed to explore the cities and learn about the history of each place.

Education First – Paris in Depth Tour

Education First offers a comprehensive tour with their eight-day trip, Paris in Depth. With all-inclusive benefits, like round-trip flights, transportation throughout the trip, accommodations, a dedicated tour director, meals and activities, teachers can rest easy knowing everything is taken care of. Students will have the chance to take guided tours of popular attractions like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre and Notre-Dame de Paris, among others. On day four, students are allowed to explore Paris on their own.

Jumpstreet Educational Tours – France Class Trip

If World War II history sparks your interest, Jumpstreet Educational Tours offer a 10-day trip to Paris, Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley. The trip starts in Normandy and Brittany, where you’ll retrace the roots of the Second World War. An afternoon can be spent exploring the beaches of Normandy at Longues-Sur-Mer where you can learn about the battles that happened during World War II, as well as the fortifications of the Atlantic Wall built by Nazi Germany. Of course, the tour also offers more than just war history – on day three you’ll visit Leonardo da Vinci’s home, the Clos Lucé, and the next day you’ll visit the expansive Palace of Versailles, among other adventures.

Vistas In Education – Family Stay & Custom Tours

VIE and their French partner APEC use their expert knowledge of France to offer custom educational tours throughout all of France, including standard tours of Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley; the Côte d’Azur and Provence; and Reims, Alsace and the French alps. Touring with a French government-certified guide allows travelers the opportunity to immerse themselves in French culture, enjoy authentic regional cuisine, and brush up on their French language skills before the capstone of the trip, a stay with a French family and a group dinner at the Eiffel Tower.

With the Family Stay, Vistas In Education gives students the unique opportunity to immerse themselves into the culture and become more than just tourists. Students make the most of what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to real life. Each student is welcomed as a member of their French host family and experiences the French lifestyle firsthand.. French host families will have a teenage son or daughter living at home and American students will have the chance to attend school when in session.

Son Tours – France History Tours

Son Tours strives to bring the enchanting past of France back to life with their History Tours. From imposing gothic cathedrals to royal medieval castles found in Burgundy, Anjou, Picardy, Champagne, and Alsace – students will be transported back to the time where kings and queens ruled supreme. Give your students a chance to learn about the age of the Renaissance, the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans or even back to the prehistoric period in Aquitaine, where cave paintings still exist from Europe’s earliest humans.

French Links – Unexplored Paris

French Links offers the self-proclaimed “Francophiles’ Delight” with its Unexplored Paris tour. Ideal for a week or long weekend trip, the main intention of this tour is to take you away from the standard tourist-flooded attractions and let you see another side of Paris. These hidden gems will educate and delight the student traveler, as they travel through the Marais District, the Covered Passages and the Bercy District, as well as little-known museums, art studios and more. With several different types of guided tour offerings, such as A Women’s History of Paris, Celebrities in Stone, the Middle Ages in the 21st Century and even a private cruise on the Seine.

Educational Advantage Tours – Rome Florence, Nice, Paris

This 10-day tour from Educational Advantage will give students an in-depth look into some of the most historical places in France. The Rome Colosseum will introduce students to the majesty of Roman architecture and learn about their culture. After three days in Rome, students will head to Florence and marvel at the most famous sculpture in the world, Michaelangelo’s David. On day seven, they’ll explore more of great works of classical artists, when they visit the Chagall and Matisse Museums in Nice. The trip concludes in Paris, where students can wander the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, Palace of Versailles and the Eiffel Tower.

ACIS – Le Grand Voyage Tour

With this educational tour of Trouville, the Loire Valley, Paris, Provence and Cote d’Azur, students will have an action-packed 10-day tour of the most visited regions of France. Students will be tasked with learning about the appeal and impact tourism has had in France over the last 150 years. They’ll also have the chance to explore a number of different historic sites, such as the Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct and the Château de Chenonceau.

Travelbound – Normandy-Château du Molay Food Technology

With this culinary-themed tour offered by Travelbound, student groups have the opportunity to learn about the rich culinary heritage and traditions of Normandy. Highlights of the tour include an exquisite frogs’ legs and snails tasting at dinner, some quality time with goats at a cheese farm, bread baking courses at a boulangerie, and French food preparation and ingredients training. Those students interested in learning about the food of France will relish in the chance to take expert cooking lessons at a local restaurant or culinary school.

Anglo Educational Tours – Tour The Somme

Anglo Educational Tours offer many options to the student traveling to France. One of their most popular choices, however, is the tour of the Somme. Here, students can explore some exceptionally interesting sites and enrich their learning by visiting the places read about in books. As the location of the largest battle of World War I on the Western Front, the Battle of the Somme, this tour will take students through the history and outcomes of this major international upheaval. Visit the Museum of the Great War and learn how the Allies fought off the Central Powers in 1916 during the four and a half month battle, in which more than one million soldiers were wounded or killed.

ProActive Travel – Educational Tour to Paris

With ProActive Travel’s Tour to Paris, students will be thrown into a rich and cultural experience that they can’t find in a classroom. Students are guided through all of the best attractions, like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée Marmottan Monet. Students can also easily combine their trip to Paris with guided tours of other cities, such as Normandy and the chateaus of the Loire Valley.

CEI Europe Tours – West France Tour

This tour, offered by CEI, is ideal for student groups interested in history and culture. With customizable itineraries, students can learn about some of the most intriguing attractions in the Western France region. From famous castles to the breathtaking Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, CEI offers an unforgettable experience at an affordable rate.

Rocknroll Adventures – Educational School Tours to France

With Rocknroll Adventures, students will be whisked away and immersed in the French culture on a completely custom trip. To ensure that the student group enjoys every moment of their trip, Rocknroll offers a healthy balance of outdoor adventure with historical and cultural experiences. With a designated program every day, they take the stress off of the teacher or group leader and do all the organizational work for you.

Bon Voyage!

Whether you want to take a stroll along the Seine River, look out upon Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower, cook up some local cuisine or learn about the solemn history of WWII, there’s no shortage of educational tours for students in France.

Whether you’re a teacher or student looking to travel to France, there are learning opportunities for learners of all ages. With a France’s rich heritage in art, culture, history and architecture, there’s something for everyone in this beautiful country. There’s plenty to see, so what are you waiting for? All you need is a sense of adventure!

Schedule Your Tour Today with Vistas In Education!

If you’re dreaming of traveling to France, while learning all about the country’s history, culture and language along the way, reach out to Vistas In Education today. We offer a number of different opportunities for teachers and students alike. We’ll take the stress and hassle of organizing a student trip off your shoulders, giving you peace of mind knowing that everything like flight tickets, transportation, accommodations and meals are well taken care of. From personalized Family Stay programs to custom educational tours, we offer our clients an experience that they will never forget.

Find out why our clients continue to put their trust in VIE – get in touch with us today!


Easy tips to Learn French

How to Learn French Faster: 10 Tips

Bonjour ! Êtes-vous prêt à apprendre le français ?

As one of the most beautiful and romantic languages in the world, learning French will benefit you in more ways than one. Learning the French language will let you converse with over 220 million people and ensure that your trip to France will go smoothly.

Learning a new language can seem daunting, however with the right strategy, you can build confidence in your French in no time. Whether you’re preparing for a trip, hosting a French exchange student or just want to learn the language of romance for fun, here are 10 tips to help you learn French faster.

1) Understand How You Learn

The first step to learning French faster is to actually understand how you learn – are you a visual or auditory learner, or a combination of both? In other words, do you learn best by looking at something yourself or hearing something spoken by an instructor? This will dictate how you approach learning the language. Flash cards may be the best for you if you’re a visual learner while listening to an audiobook may be the better option if you’re more of an auditory learner.

In the majority of courses, you will do a lot of French writing, but most likely less speaking. If you’ve taken foreign language classes before, revisit those materials and try to distinguish which learning tactics worked well for you and which ones didn’t.

2) Learn the Language Structure

As you begin learning French, it may seem overwhelming. However, as you pick more and more things up, things that you learn in the beginning of your training will make much more sense as you improve.

A solid foundation is the key to getting started. The first thing you need to learn is the structure of the French language. You should know how verbs, adjectives and nouns work in conjunction with each other, and learn to distinguish present, past and future verb tenses. When you can apply basic grammar and proper pronunciation to your sentences, you’ll sound much more intelligent when conversing with a native speaker.

As you learn French nouns, always include an indication of its gender, such as a flashcard for le crayon to remember that the French word for pencil is masculine. The gender of nouns in French is not based on an object’s inherent masculinity or femininity, but rather on the ending of the word itself. Analytical learners will appreciate research done by linguists that list which endings are more likely masculine or feminine.

Proper pronunciation is incredibly important when speaking French. From an English-speaker’s perspective, the rules governing which combinations of letters indicate which sound, also known as phonetics, is not intuitive. For example, the French language has vowel combinations like “-oi” that are pronounced, “wha”, and “-eau” which is pronounced “oh”. Learning the basics of French phonetics will take out much of the guesswork in French phonetics.

3) Learn how to Read and Write in French

This is a basic function for anyone who wants to be proficient in French. Learning to read and write will help reinforce the terms, sentences and phrases that you’re learning, as well as teach you new ones. If you’re not ready to pick up a French novel, try something a little simpler like a children’s book (after all, they are designed to help children learn the language, so they can help you too!). Another tactic is to pick up one of your favorite books in a French translation and try reading a few passages here and there. Knowing the plot and literary context will make it easier to take in the grammar and new vocabulary. If you can’t find a book that’s suitable for you, try writing your own. Write in French as much as you possibly can, even if it’s just a few sentences a day or putting together your grocery list in French – this will let you track your progress as you develop your skills.

4) Speak in French as much as Possible

One of the best things you can do to learn French quickly is to speak it as much as possible. No matter how poor you are at the beginning, speak with confidence until you start to grasp the unique sentences and phrases that make the language so compelling. We all had to start out somewhere, but as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect.

If you’re searching for ways to inject some French into your everyday conversations, try some of these approaches.

  • Narrate your everyday life in French – if you’re taking out the trash, doing the laundry, mowing the lawn, writing down a grocery list or driving your car, try speaking some French out-loud to yourself as you complete these day-to-day tasks.
  • Interact with a French person – there are plenty of websites and programs that connect students with native French speakers to work on their communication together.  
  • Join local French clubs, organizations or schools – if you’re in a larger city, there are conversation groups, meet-ups and networks for students of French to meet one another. Use these resources to your advantage by becoming a member and connecting with others in your local area who share your passion.

5) Listen to French

Whether it’s a TV show, a French film, an audiobook or some French music, there are plenty of things you can listen to in order to improve your auditory understanding of the language. When you find something that catches your ear, mimic what it is you hear to reinforce French pronunciation. Professional translators and those who grew up bilingual swear by this method, in which you “shadow” what others are saying. Absorbing French culture by listening not only reinforces pronunciation and intonation, developing a taste for French music, film or television can make learning more fun and engaging.

Listening to native French speakers will let you understand the many nuances of French usage and intonation. The more things you can listen to, the better you will get – so on your morning commute, instead of NPR, put a French audiobook on. Rather than watch your favorite program in English when you get home from work, stream the French version online instead (and turn on subtitles if necessary in the beginning). In the long run, you’ll benefit from hearing how people interact with one another and be better able to apply it to your own way of speaking.

6) Practice Often

You won’t get anywhere without practicing those words and phrases that you’ve learned. You can learn proper French quickly with the proper amount of practice. Here are some strategies to help you shorten the time it takes for you to learn the language.

  • Turn the language of your browser to French – browsing Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media will help you understand more of the casual, informal intricacies of the language. It also helps you apply what you’re learning in a practical way.
  • Try thinking in French – if you have a loud inner voice, make an active effort to think in French instead of English. This will only further your ability to say words out loud.
  • Learn 30 words and phrases every single day. If you stick to this schedule you will learn about 80 percent of the language in only three months. The most common words make up the largest amount of conversations, so start by memorizing the basics.
  • Attach labels to household items with the French word and make sure you say the words out loud whenever you use them. From blowdryer to kitchen sink to television, you’ll learn some important nouns quickly after you’re exposed to the labels for a few days.
  • Make yourself a stack of flashcards and use them when you’re on the subway, during advertisements while you’re watching TV or whenever you have some time to yourself.
  • Never, ever give up – throughout the process, you may sometimes feel like you’re never going to grasp the French language. If you’re struggling, try switching up your learning methods. As long as you diligently practice, there’s no reason you can’t become a fantastic French speaker.

7) Learn the Basics of the French Language for an Upcoming Trips

If you’re preparing for an upcoming trip and are trying to cram some French words and phrases into your brain, start with some of the most commonly used ones in the language. This will help you interact with the locals, order food, find directions if you’re lost or communicate with emergency personnel.

8) French Salutations

These are useful phrases and words to start with, since most people begin and end an interaction in similar ways. Here are some of the most popular ways to say “hello” and “goodbye” in French.

  • Bonjour – Hello
  • Comment allez-vous ? — How are you?
  • Quoi de neuf ? – What’s up?
  • Coucou ! – Hey there!
  • Allô ? – Hello? (when answering the phone)
  • Salut ! – Hi/Bye-bye!
  • Au revoir ! – Goodbye!
  • Je suis désolé(e), mais je dois y aller – I’m sorry, but I have to go.
  • Bonne journée ! — Have a nice day! (often said to shopkeepers when leaving a store)
  • À plus tard ! (À plus !) – See you later!
  • À tout à l’heure ! – See you soon/see you in a while!
  • Je m’appelle  – My name is…

Remember to thank the people who help you. Say “merci” or “merci beaucoup” which means “thank you” or “thank you very much.”

9) Ask for Help in French

This is important when you’re traveling the country, as you may likely need to ask for directions or help along the way. Here are some of the most popular ways to say ask for help in French.

  • Parlez lentement, s’il vous plaît –  Please speak slowly
  • Désolé(e), je ne comprends pas – Sorry, I don’t understand
  • Desolé(e), je ne parle pas français (très bien) – I’m sorry, I don’t speak French (very well).
  • Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous me dire où est… ? – Excuse me, can you tell me where ______ is?
  • Pouvez-vous me diriger vers… – Can you direct me to…
  • Excusez-moi de vous déranger – Excuse me for bothering you

10) The most Common French phrases

Learn the most common French words to cover the basics. Here are ten survival words & expressions that are a must know:

  1. Oui / Non – Yes/ No
  2. Bonjour – Hello
  3. Au revoir – Good-bye
  4. Merci – Thank you
  5. Pardon / Excusez-moi – Excuse-me
  6. Parlez-vous anglais ? – Do you speak English?
  7. S’il vous plaît – Please
  8. Je voudrais – I would like (use along with ‘Please’)
  9. Combien ça coûte ?  – How much does it/this cost?
  10. Où sont les toilettes ? – Where are the restrooms? (use with ‘Please’)

Bon Voyage !

Now that you know some tips and tricks to learning French faster, you should feel more comfortable about traveling to the country. If you’re dreaming of learning the language of romance, try sharpening your French with any of the above tips today!

Profitez de votre voyage en France !  Bon apprentissage !

La fête de la musique!

Ernest Hemingway écrivait en 1964 « Paris est une fête ». Depuis le 21 juin 1982, la France entière devient une fête chaque année à la même date. En 1981, Jack Lang, alors ministre de la Culture, nomme un nouveau directeur de la musique et de la danse, Maurice Fleuret. Ce dernier souhaite alors créer un évènement d’envergure qui permettrait une rencontre de toutes les musiques, « sans hiérarchie de genre ni d’origine ».  La Fête de la Musique naît ainsi la même année et se déroule depuis plus de trente ans le 21 juin, jour symbolique du solstice d’été, le jour le plus long de l’hémisphère nord.


La Fête de la Musique est un évènement national, gratuit et sans but lucratif. C’est majoritairement une manifestation de plein-air, des concerts sont organisés partout en France. Des représentations sont également organisées dans les prisons et les hôpitaux, afin de ne laisser personne en marge de cette célébration.

Le succès de cette célébration a permis à la Fête de la Musique de s’exporter dans le monde entier. Elle a d’abord séduit l’Europe grâce à la charte de « La Fête Européenne de la Musique » signée à Budapest en 1997. En 2016, la Fête de la Musique a été célébrée dans 120 pays. Afin de faire vivre l’esprit de la Fête de la Musique tel qu’il a été imaginé en 1982 par Maurice Fleuret, chaque pays doit respecter la Charte européenne de la Fête de la Musique dont les principes sont la gratuité, la date du 21 juin, la diversité des pratiques musicales ou encore les concerts organisés en plein-air.

La ville de New York a adopté cette tradition. Organisée par Make Music New York, la Fête de la Musique est célébrée depuis plusieurs années dans la ville qui ne dort jamais, de Times Square à Greenwich Village en passant par Staten Island.


Si vous avez la chance d’être en France à cette période de l’année, ne manquez surtout pas cette opportunité de profiter du soleil, de la musique et de la convivialité à la française !

1 2 3 5

Get Started Now

Request Trip Information

-or- Contact Us