The Ultimate Guide for Planning a Trip to France with Students

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a Student Trip to France

Table of Contents

In this digital version of the Guide

Only in the full FREE downloadable version

  • Traveling in France
  • Travel Preparation Activities
  • Cultural Differences in France
  • Map of New regions
  • Shopping
  • Metro
  • Meals
  • Regions of France
  • Map of NEW regions of France
  • Activity Suggestions
  • France Trivia
  • Packing Tips and List
  • Post-Trip Celebration
  • Post-Trip Student Evaluation

Steps to Begin Planning your Trip

→ Receive School Board approval as soon as possible (preferably a year in advance).

  • “Dear Administrator” letter included as well as a sample letter for the
  • Include Liability Insurance from the Organization arranging your travel program and anything else your school may

Advertise program and hold informational meetings for interested travelers and their parents/ guardians as soon as possible to gauge interest (between February and April).

  • At these meetings you should discuss who the organization is planning your trip (VIE), travel arrangements, proposed itinerary, cost, rules and conduct, insurance, advantages of a family stay and how host families are selected, etc…
  • Have students complete the pre-travel application and schedule an interview so IF they are approved they are able to take advantage of the Early Registration benefits by June
  • Consider bringing in a panel of past travelers and parents to discuss their experiences with the trip and answer any questions the group may

Pre– Application returned from Students and their parents/guardians

Interview prospective students (10 minute interviews)

Discuss: Reasons for going on the trip Expectation/apprehensions

Past Experiences away from home Previous travels to France Standards of Conduct

Select students and have them complete an official online form with VIE and begin making payments.

  • Early Registration Deadline is June This gives participants the best program price, allows them to spread out their payments more, and gives them a Free dinner on the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Standard Registration Deadline is October 15.

Plan Pre-Travel Meetings

Information for Students and Parents for the Proposed France Trip

This is not a formal commitment to the trip. It is merely information on the nature of this trip. The attached colored sheets will need to be filled out and returned to the Organizing Teacher as soon as possible. This will indicate to us your desire to continue to consider the trip. Your name will then be put on the list for the next meeting, which will be the formal presentation of the trip.



Proposed Itinerary (order of visits/stays subject to change): Day 1
Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5
Day 6
Day 7
Day 8
Day 9
Day 10
Day 11
Day 12
Day 13
Day 14
Day 15 Cost:


Expenses (not included):

Cancellation Policy:

Payment Schedule

Mandatory Meeting Schedule:

Company sponsoring the trip:

*Student applicants must be “cleared” for participation by the school administration and school nurse.

Consider this…

What sort of student is a good candidate to travel to France and stay with a host family?

Someone who…

  • Loves to travel
  • Can be away from home for at least two weeks (and hopefully has already gone on a trip without parents)
  • Is willing to break away from their daily routine and live differently for at least two weeks
  • Is willing to try new foods and eat differently for at least two (If you consider yourself to be a

“picky” eater, this trip may not be right for you).

  • Can be Sometimes even the best plans don’t work out in Europe and the original plans may need to be changed.
  • Is curious about things and will ask questions
  • Is willing to live for 6 days with people they don’t already know
  • Knows how to be a good ambassador for the United States
  • Is willing to help someone else and not look for anything in return
  • Understands that this is not a shopping/beach vacation
  • Doesn’t get rattled, anxious or physically ill when things don’t go their way
  • Participates in class to build up speaking skill
  • Wants to go to France not just to please the parents who think this will be a good experience for them
  • Has made a conscious decision to go to France instead of the Caribbean over spring break

Discuss this with your parents. If they agree to consider the trip, complete the Pre-Application Forms and return them to the Organizing Teacher ASAP. Also remember to sign up for an interview with the Organizing Teacher as soon as possible.


Student in France Traveling

Letter to your School Administrator – for approval of your Student France Trip


Dear Administrator,

I would like to take this opportunity to answer questions that must be on your mind as you consider granting school approval to a group of students planning to travel to France on a Vistas In Education program.

VIE is a student travel organization, incorporated in Minnesota, which was created by educators with a personal background in teaching and overseas travel. Since 1976 VIE has been dedicated to providing American students with more than a whirlwind tour of France. The quality of our programs has given us a reputation for excellence among French teachers, many of whom travel with their students through VIE year after year.

We believe that travel is an important part of the formation of young people as global citizens. Our tours include an organized educational travel portion and a one week Family Stay experience that gives students the opportunity to live the culture and to develop lifelong friendships. We feel that it is now more important than ever to encourage international understanding among today’s youth.

Our itineraries allow students to explore different regions of France where they will learn from important historical and cultural sites. We pride ourselves on providing a comprehensive travel program which includes quality accommodations, outstanding tours and the unique experience of immersion into everyday French life through the Family Stay. Throughout the tour the students are accompanied by their own language teacher as well as bilingual French guides who are certified by the French government. Guides are chosen for their outstanding personal qualities and their ability to identify with the needs of the young Americans in their care.

For 40 years, Vistas In Education has been committed to educating young people. Through our programs, students are offered the exceptional experience of bringing to life what they have studied in the classroom. This is an unforgettable teaching tool, as well as an invaluable investment in the students’ futures.

We look forward to working closely with your school’s French teacher in the planning of this program in order to provide your students with the best travel experience possible. If you have any further questions regarding our program, please feel free to contact us.


Sample letter to your superintendent

North High School Foreign Language Department

Mr. John Smith Superintendent of Schools North, MN 55408

Dear Mr. Smith,

We would like to inform you of our intention to accompany another group of NHS students of French to France in April 2018. This will be our third trip and with the thirty students who have expressed serious interest, we will have accompa- nied over 70 students on this very unique and positive experience. We have requested a family stay in the southern re- gion of France this year.

We would like to express our gratitude to you and to the North High School Committee for your support of these trips. Students who have participated state that it is one of the highlights of their four years at NHS.


Barbara Nelson

Student Pre-Application

Merci Beaucoup for applying to participate in our next trip to France:Dates:

Organizing Teacher:

You are applying for a great privilege and the chance to represent your community and country, and I am pleased that you are considering this challenge! I

In order to ensure that students accepted who are best suited for such a program, criteria have been established for student selection. You will be traveling in France as a cultural ambassador of our town and the United States. I must be certain that you are mature, flexible and willing to adapt to and learn from a group travel experience.

Furthermore, I must be able to trust you to be a positive traveler, to use as much French as possible and to respect the rules created for your safety and courtesy to others while traveling.

In addition to your excellent work in class, I am looking for your ability to interact in a group, with a French family and to have a cooperative spirit.

Write the names of three teachers in our school or guidance counselors who can vouch for your maturity and readiness

for a trip like the one being proposed:




Student Pre-Application

Are you ready to travel abroad?

Briefly answer the following questions:

  1. During your trip in France, many things will be How will you handle the situations that may challenge you?
  1. A variety of people will be traveling together, perhaps even students and teachers you do not What kinds of things will you do to get along with those who may be different than you?
  1. What characteristics/personal qualities can you contribute to your traveling group when you are traveling? (OR what about you will be a positive addition to the group?)
  1. What do you most want to get out of your trip to France
  1. Give an example of a situation in which you feel you used good Please describe the circumstances.
  1. What will you do to prepare yourself to go on a trip to France?

Student Pre-Application

To Parents and Guardians:

The France program proposed is an educational foreign travel and family stay program sponsored by our school. We seek participants of good to superior ability who demonstrate intellectual curiosity, motivation, sound character and en- thusiasm. Please consider your son/daughter’s maturity, as well as intellect, for this program.

Upon completion of this form, please return it with your son/daughter in a sealed envelope, and sign the envelope across the seal to ensure confidentiality.

Thank you for your time and assistance in completing this form and returning it! StudentName:

Parent 1




Best Phone Number:

Best E-mail:


Parent 2




Best Phone Number:

Best Email:

Please briefly answer the following questions:

  • Who in the family initiated the idea of your student’s participation in this travel/family stay program?
  • Why do you feel that your student is mature enough to participate in this program?
  • How often has your student been away from home for an overnight (or longer) stay? Please explain the circumstances:
  • What would you like your student to gain from his/her stay in France?
  • During the family stay, your student will have to adapt to a different family To what extent do you expect him/ her to follow family rules, share in family chores and join in family activities? What will be easy or difficult?
  • How does your student typically express frustration or anger? How do your student handle problem situations?
  • How will your student adapt to a different culture? What will be easy and/or difficult?
  • Please provide any additional information or describe special circumstances regarding your student (EG: relationships with parents/siblings, attitude about school, emotional/physical conditions, health history, etc…) that may affect your son/ daughter’s placement of

Parent 1 Signature:

Parent 2 Signature:


Student taking pictures in France

Standards of Conduct:

I understand that the objectives of this trip include the following:

Experience of the culture and the language by participating in life with a French family. The Gain of first hand knowledge about sites we have studied in French classes.

I will be ready to observe the way the French people do things and attempt to do likewise.

I understand that my behavior will positively or negatively affect the way people in France view my group, my school and my country.

I understand that for the cohesiveness of our group, for the above mentioned objectives and for personal safety while in France, I promise to adhere to the following regulations:

  1. I will show proper behavior at all times and remember that I am representing my school, my family, my community and my
  2. I will show respect for local culture, language and customs that are different than my This includes acting and dressing appropriately, as well as communicating to the best of my ability in French with my host family and other French people with whom I interact.
  3. I will not go out I will always be with at least two other participants and will let my group leader know where I am, with whom I am and when I will return. I will carry the name, address, and phone number of my hotel or homestay family with me at all times.
  4. I will refrain from smoking, drinking, and using drugs, and I will not accept or transport any of these items at any The only exception to drinking could be wine served at meals with my host family or during meals supervised by teachers. The Alcohol Beverage Permission must be signed by my parents if my teacher/chaperons grant this option.
  5. I will respect my group leaders, other school leaders, the guide and bus driver, and I will honor all rules that they set for me and the 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.
  6. I will refrain from inappropriate conduct and will not engage in any romantic or sexual involvement of any
  7. I will not operate any motor
  8. I will contact my teacher immediately if I am uncomfortable with my host family placement or if there is any emergen- cy during my Family

I agree:

Student Signature:

Parent 1 Signature:

Parent 2 Signature:

Traveling Students - Hands in the Middle

Student Orientation Meetings

Part of the orientation process for this trip is a series of student orientation meetings.

Topics for these meetings include: What to expect in the family stay Money; subways

Traveling in a group Gifts for the family

Spending money: how much and how Packing suggestions

French schools

We are asking the students to commit to attending these meetings, so that they get all the information in order to fully benefit from the trip.

I commit to attending all of these meetings


Student Signature:

10 Tips for the savvy traveler



take time to absorb the beauty of a mountain or a cathedral.


visit people and places with reverence and respect for their ways of life.


leave your life in the States behind for a while to experience a different way of living.


the ability to say “thank you” in any language is priceless.


know where your passport and money are at all times. Always be aware of the situation around you.


do not expect to find things as you have them at home. You left home to discover new things.

TRAVEL with imagination.

TRAVEL with humor.

TRAVEL with an open mind and a genuine desire to meet the people you will encounter. Leave your prejudices at home.

TRAVEL with the spirit of a world citizen. You will find that people are basically the same all over the world.

Pre-Travel Meeting Suggestions:



Once your group is established, it is a good idea to have a meeting with your travelers and their families to cover the essential information about the trip: travel arrangements, itinerary, cost, rules & conduct, how to budget, etc…The Travel FAQ’s are a great place to start.

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Travel FAQ’s


  1. W h y sho uld m y child trave l o vers e as?
  2. W hat lang uag e sk ills are n ecessar y?
  3. Can we pa y f or th e trip wit h credit cards?
  4. W hat f inancial securit y d o we ha ve whe n we enro ll in Vistas in Educa tio n?
  5. W hat is the cance llation po lic y?
  6. W hat t ype of hote ls are use d? W hich m eals are inc lud ed?
  7. W hat t ype of airlines are us ed?
  8. H o w m uc h m one y is ne eded ab out t he tr ip c os t, e . spend in g m one y?


Pre-Travel Preparation for Parents


This questionnaire will help clarify your thoughts, hopes and fears concerning your child’s trip to France. Please answer each question completely and honestly.

  1. I want my child to go to France because:
  1. I feel my child can make a positive contribution to the school’s group because:
  1. While in France, I want my child to see/do the following:
  1. I would like to learn if it is true that French people:
  1. What worries me most about the trip is:
  1. My child’s main concerns about France are:
  1. I hope my child will learn this from the experience of traveling abroad:


Pre-Travel Preparation for Students



This questionnaire will help clarify your thoughts, hopes and fears concerning the trip to France. Please answer each question completely and honestly

  1. I want to go to France because:





  1. I feel I can make a positive contribution to our school’s group because:





  1. While in France, I want to see/do the following:





  1. I would like to learn if it is true that French people:





5: What worries me most about the trip is:






  1. My parents’ main concerns about me in France are:






  1. I hope to learn this from my experience of traveling abroad:




Even though the Family Stay often ends up as one of the travelers’ favorite parts of their trip, it is also usually the part of the program that both students and parents worry about most before they leave. Students are nervous about having to use their French and parents are concerned about what kind of family will host their child. Therefore it is a good idea to have a meeting which focuses on the Family Stay.

The Family Stay Expectations Discussion Guide can be a helpful preparation tool for students to share their expectations of the Family Stay experience. The goal of the discussion is to help students form a realistic set of goals for their stay with a French family. It should be emphasized that this worksheet is to be used as basis for discussion and not as a “request” for the type of host family that the student would like to have!

Points to emphasize about the Family Stay:

F Students are responsible for the success of the Family Stay

Students need to contact someone in France (such as the Organizing teacher) immediately if they feel there is a problem with their Family Stay

F Those with special dietary needs should understand that they must be flexible and able to manage their dietary needs on their own

F Speaking English with their French host or trying to socialize with other Americans will detract from their experience, just like too many phone calls home

F Put your cell phone away! Be present with your French family

F A smile and a “merci” can go a LONG way.



Family Stay FAQ’s

à            How are host families chosen?

  • Are the host families paid by the organization?
  • How are American students matched to host families?
  • Are American students always placed with a French host of their same gender?
  • Can students spend their Family Stay with someone in France that they already know?
  • Can more than one student be placed with a host family?
  • What information will the student receive about their host family before departure?
  • What will students do during the Family Stay?


Family Stay Expectations—Discussion Points

What are your expectations for your Family Stay? Listed are some suggestions to help you answer, but feel free to add

any other answers you may think of.

  1. My family will probably live…

In Paris, in the suburbs of Paris, in a small town, on a farm

  1. My family will live…

In an apartment, in a house, in a château

  1. My family will be…

Upper class, middle class, lower class

  1. They will have…

1 car, 2 cars, no car

  1. My family will be…

A traditional 2-parent family, a 1-parent family, an extended family

  1. My French parents ..

Both work, 1 will work

  1. Living at home there will be…

Children my same age, teen-agers not necessarily of my exact age

  1. While I am there, my family will…

Take off from work, take me to the mountains, observe their normal daily routines

  1. Because I am there, I hope my family will do some special things like…
  2. The ethnic or national background of my family will be…
  3. I will probably eat…

For breakfast: For lunch:

For dinner:

  1. My family will speak…

Only French, some English, only the kids will know English

  1. My family .

Pay for everything, I will pay my own way when we go out

  1. I will be able to…

Shower every day, wash my clothes if needed, call/text my American friends every day

  1. Some questions or concerns I have about the Family Stay are…





Vrai ou Faux?

In anticipation of our trip to France and the Family Stay experience, look over these statements and decide whether they

are true or false. After you have finished the exercise, we will discuss as a group.

  1. If the host student or family speaks English, I should just communicate with them in
  2. I should automatically use the “tu” form with the
  3. I should automatically use the “vous” form with the
  4. Politics and religion are good topics for discussion with the
  5. I should bring my host family a small gift in appreciation of their
  6. Doors to various room are left open in the
  7. The members of my host family will take long
  8. My host brother or sister will have his/her own
  9. I should offer to pay my own way if I am taken out to a movie, etc…
  10. Many French teenagers
  11. My host family will eat dinner around 5
  12. My host family will likely ask me to eat things such as snails, frog legs, etc…
  13. Teenagers often drink wine at meals with the
  14. The mother (or whoever does the cooking) may feel slighted if I do not eat what they
  15. My host family is required to act as my tour guide during my stay in their
  16. I should address the mother as “madame”? And the father as “monsieur”.
  17. I may feel a bit “blue” from time to time during our time in
  18. If my Family Stay is not going well, I should keep quiet and not tell
  19. I should call home every single







Since this may be the first international travel that most of your participants will experience, it is important to discuss the basics of traveling safely and wisely abroad as well as cultural differences they will encounter. This topic could be spread out over several meetings.

Have your meetings be informational and fun! Cover the practical side of travel, but don’t forget to do activities that will help participants feel comfortable with one another. Many topics concerning travel in France can be effectively developed into role-playing situations, offering participants a chance to improve their French vocabulary and speaking skills.

Such as:


—Meals in France —Shopping & souvenirs —Using the métro
—Cafés et restaurants —Budgeting / the Euro —French school system
—Tipping —Greetings (la bise) —Keeping a journal
—Breaking down French stereotypes —How to be a good ambassador


Activities for Student Travel Preparation

Local Trivia

You will be a representative of your country, your state, your city. People will ask you some of these questions, so it’s good to be prepared before you go!

How large is your city/state?

What is the population of your city? Your state?

What is the major industry in your area? What does your region look like?

It’s also important to know a little about France so that you can engage people in conversation. Take some time to re- search the following:

Who is the President of France?

How is France’s government different from the American system? Who are some famous French actors & actresses?

What French provinces will you be visiting? Which department will your Family Stay be in?



What Would Happen If…?

When you travel abroad, you will sometimes find yourself in an unexpected situation. Let’s have some fun and think about what you might do if:

A contrôleur stops you in the Parisian metro and asks to see your ticket? Your host family serves you a delicious roast rabbit?

You want your picture painted at Montmartre but the artists are asking for 100€? Your French student asks you if all Americans are rich?

You want your picture painted at Montmartre but the artists are asking for 100€? Your French student asks you if all Americans are rich?


Thinking Outside The Box

Consider some typical American customs or creations that the French might find strange.

How would you describe:


Football Drive-in movies Thanksgiving
Cheerleaders Snowmobiles Country Music
Marching band Others?


Faire les valises!

Create a packing list en français.



Vrai ou Faux?

In anticipation of our trip to France, look over these statements and decide whether they are true or false. After you have finished the exercise, we will discuss as a group.

  1. If I am in French IV or V, I will understand everything spoken around me in
  2. I may feel disoriented because of my surroundings once we
  3. Things in France will look the same as they do in
  4. I will be able to sleep in late while the group is on
  5. The rooms in the hotel will be small, with two, three or even four
  6. Our hotel will have a swimming
  7. Breakfast in the hotel will consist of pancakes, eggs and
  8. I can check the menu and prices of a café or restaurant before deciding to go
  9. I should always add a 15% tip to the bill in a café or
  10. Even if I don’t like what I am I should always taste it to be polite.
  11. I can ask to use the restrooms at a café if I am not a paying
  12. In some public toilets I will have to pay to enter or leave a bit of change for the
  13. Etiquette in public places demands calm and relative
  14. Once I have entered the métro, I can throw my ticket
  15. Clothing is very inexpensive in
  16. My electrical appliances will work in French
  17. I can bring fruit, cheese or meat products back home to the US as
  18. I can bring wine home as a gift as long as it’s in my checked





You are about to experience a culture very different from your own. In order to get the most from this experience, please keep the following in mind during your time in France:

  1. Don’t jump to conclusions about things that you don’t Think about possible explanations and try to keep an open mind. Some of the most important traits in adapting to a new culture are:


A good sense of humor            Patience

Curiosity                                      Open-mindedness

Empathy                                    Self-confidence Independence


  1. Because many stereotypes exist on both sides, you may find that you are asked a lot of questions about the American way of Try not to get angry or defensive even if a question initially seems rude. Remember that the people you will meet have a perspective different from your own and are genuinely curious about your country.


  1. Remember that what is acceptable in America is not necessarily acceptable in An open, friendly manner – a smile, a greeting, or giving out an address – could be misinterpreted as a sign of encouragement and lead to unwelcome attention. You should never give the name or address of your hotel to strangers or go anywhere with someone you don’t know. Often, observing and imitating the reserved manner in which young French people conduct themselves, particularly on the streets of Paris, can be helpful.


Here are some of the major areas where you may notice cultural differences between France and the U.S. Thinking about these issues before you arrive in France will prepare you for much of what you will encounter. We have also offered a few suggestions for navigating your way through any potential difficulties that may arise:

Dress– What is considered normal to wear in America may be seen as too casual or risqué in France. For example, Americans often feel comfortable wearing shorts and t-shirts while the French tend to dress up more, even for regular daily activities.

→ Take pride in your appearance and avoid looking sloppy at all times. Remember that you are a representative of your school and your country.


Greetings– While handshaking is common in France, kissing on the cheeks (la bise) is a greeting exchanged between close friends and family. According to their custom, the French may greet each other with two, three, or even four kisses on alternating cheeks.

→ While it might feel awkward at first, greet others as they greet you. The more you observe how people greet each other in different situations, the more comfortable you will feel.

Formality– As you know from learning the “tu ” and “vous ” forms, social behaviors in France are more formal than in the

U.S. The “tu ” form is used only between people who know one another well or between young people who are less

formal in their speech and attitudes.

→ Use the more formal “vous ” form with people until they tell you that you may use the “tu ” form. When speaking to adults, address them as “monsieur ” or “madame ”. Remember to always use “s’il vous plait” and “merci”.

Privacy– French people are generally quiet in public places and respect the privacy of others. It is not considered an insult if you wish to be by yourself.

→ In public, keep noise to a minimum. Do not speak loudly or draw attention to yourselves as foreigners. Remember that you want to avoid the “ugly American” stereotype of a loud, obnoxious tourist.

Personal space– You will certainly notice right away that many things in France are smaller: cars, streets, shops, houses, hotels, and so on. The French are accustomed to living with much less “elbow room” than Americans.

→ Do not be surprised at crowded métro stations or small living quarters. Focus on the charming aspect of the smaller

scale and notice how “Americanizing” trends are leading to bigger shopping centers and cars throughout France.


Standards of cleanliness– Many Europeans think it is unclean to have a toilet and a shower in the same room, hence the separate “WC” for the toilet. On the other hand, the French in general do not necessarily shower every day like many Americans do.

→ Instead of laughing at certain attitudes towards cleanliness and hygiene, think about why cultures adopt different habits. Be sensitive and respectful toward your host family.





Shopping in France is a great way to learn about French culture and to find some souvenirs from your trip. Speak in French when you shop, even if the shopkeeper knows English. It is customary to greet the shopkeeper as you enter and leave a store. (Bonjour, Madame/Monsieur. Au revoir, Madame/Monsieur.)


Shopping time will be limited while you are on tour, so try to learn about regional specialties before you visit. If you see

something unique (and affordable), buy it on the spot! You may not be able to find it in another area.


You may have more time for shopping when you are with your French family. Go with them when they run errands, including grocery shopping. You will often find interesting items in grocery stores to bring home as gifts or souvenirs. If you have your heart set on buying something, ask your French family where would be a good place to buy it. They will often be able to help you get a good deal.


Make sure you know what the rate of exchange is before you decide to buy! Taxes are always included in prices in France.


U.S. citizens are allowed up to $800 worth of duty free purchases. Purchases over that amount are subject to U.S. government tax. You cannot bring back liquor, meats, fruits, vegetables or plants. For more details, go to the website at:




La taille                       clothing size

La pointure                  shoe size

Faire des courses       to go shopping for specific purchases   (such as groceries)

Faire du shopping/

Faire des magasins     to shop without specific purchases in mind

Aller au marché            to go to the outdoor market Faire du lèche-vitrines to go window shopping Solde/en solde            on sale

Quel est le prix de…? How much does … cost? Combien coûte…? How much does … cost? Essayer                          to try on




The métro (subway system) in Paris is rapid, efficient and easy to use. The many métro lines that cover the city are identified by the names of the stations at the termination points. To use the métro, just follow the name of the terminal point of the line that goes in the direction that you wish to follow. A wonderful interactive tool for learning the Paris Métro is the RATP website: Check out this website BEFORE you travel.

There are large maps of the métro system affixed to the walls inside of the métro stations. Usually there are maps outside of the métro stops as well so that you can study them before you enter. If you run into a problem, you can always ask an employee at the station for help. The directions of the métro lines are clearly marked on large signs in the tunnels of the subway.



Remember to watch out for pickpockets in the métro stations – hang on to your bags and purses at all times!



To enter the métro, you buy tickets from an automated machine near the station’s entrance. It is cheapest to buy a carnet, which is 10 métro tickets at a discounted rate. If you are with a group of people, you can buy a carnet and split the tickets among yourselves. There are also cartes touristiques which allow you unlimited use of the métro for a certain number of days, and t+ tickets which allow unlimited connections within 90 minutes. Check the ratp website for rules and restrictions.

There are turnstiles at the entrance of each métro station. You put your métro ticket in the turnstile slot and take it back out the other end and always keep your ticket with you since a controleur (métro security person) may ask to see it at any time! Then proceed to the quai (boarding area) for the train. You can make as many correspondances (line changes or transfers) IN the métro without needing another ticket. However, once you exit the métro system your ticket is no longer valid. With the new t+ ticket, your ticket is valid for an hour and a half from the first time it is validated to the last. This means that you can leave the métro system and re-renter as many times as you want during that hour and a half without having to use another ticket. This procedure is new in Paris! Please check the ratp website for rules and restrictions.

The métro trains run about every 3 to 5 minutes from 5:30 am to approximately 1:15 am. You MUST catch your last train

BEFORE midnight in order to ensure you will make it to your destination before the trains stop for the evening!

You will also see markings for the RER (Réseau Express Régional). This is an express railway that serves the Paris suburbs. You will need to buy a supplemental ticket if you take the RER as it passes through multiple “zones” of the métro system.

You may wish to take a bus instead of the métro . Bus routes are identified by number and each bus stop has a sign indicating the number of the bus lines that stops there. In Paris, you can use your métro ticket for the bus. Buses run from 6 am until about 9 pm.




Excusez-moi, je descends ici.   Excuse me, I get off here.

Laissez passer, s’il vous plaît. Let me by please.





Mealtime in France is a wonderful opportunity to experience French cuisine, which is famous throughout the world. You are sure to discover some favorites, so be open to new foods. Please be willing to at least try everything you are served at your French family’s home and in restaurants. The French go to great lengths to offer you their specialties, and will feel offended if you don’t even taste what you are served.


***If you have special medical dietary restrictions, please let your teacher and guide know. They will do their best to accommodate you; however, it will limit the variety of meal options.


It is important to note that the French take great pride in their cuisine and regional specialties and really want to showcase them for you. Often this includes bread, a meat and more than likely a cheese. Although restaurants and host families will try to accommodate such things as vegetarianism, veganism, and the like, these sorts of restrictions are VERY uncommon in France and often not understood. Less than 2% of French citizens consider themselves vegetarian which gives you an idea of how rare it really is. Please be understanding of this at restaurants and with your host family.


Petit déjeuner: Breakfast usually consists of coffee, tea or hot chocolate served with bread or croissants, butter and jam. Don’t skip breakfast. It may be late in the day before you have a chance to stop for lunch, and it’s not fun to sightsee on an empty stomach.


Déjeuner: While you are with your group in France, you will be responsible for buying your own lunch. Your group may decide to picnic or choose to eat in restaurants.


Dîner: Throughout the touring portion of your program, dinner will usually be served between 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. and will last a couple of hours. You will eat in typical French restaurants or in the dining room of your hotel. We make every effort to vary the dinner menus and to feature regional specialties, but because the dinners must be planned in advance for groups, you will not be able to choose your own dinners.


Beverages at dinners are not included. Water is not served unless you ask for it. Keep in mind, you will have to pay for bottled water. If you just want tap water, ask for une carafe d’eau, which is generally free. You will pay your server directly for any other beverages you order.


In Paris, you will usually be free to choose where you will eat dinner. Fast food restaurants are becoming very popular in France, but they are generally more expensive than their American counterparts. Choosing traditional French cafés and restaurants will enable you to experience more of the fine food France has to offer.


Menus are posted outside cafés and restaurants so that you can see the offerings and prices before you enter. You may order from un menu à prix fixe, which usually consists of choices of an appetizer, a main course and a dessert for a set price. Or you may order from un menu à la carte, which is generally more expensive.


Service is usually included in your restaurant bill (l’addition) under Service Compris. If it isn’t included, 15% is the usual amount. During the tour, your guide will pay the tips for your breakfasts and dinners.




The French generally spend more time at the table for meals than most Americans do. Meals are considered a social

event to be enjoyed as they provide an occasion for good conversation as well as fine food.


A typical French dinner consists of several courses served one after another, rather than being served all at the same time. You may find that your French family serves an entrée to start the meal, then serves the main course followed by salad or cheese and finally a dessert!


Some of the differences in table manners that you will see are:

Bread is served with every meal in France, but butter is not usually served. In homes, bread may be torn rather than cut. Bread is always placed on the table, not on the plate.


In the European style of eating, the fork is held with the left hand with the tines facing down and the knife is held with the right hand. When the French have finished eating, they lay their knife and fork with the tines down across the middle of the plate. This signifies that they have finished with that particular course of the meal.

Almost everything is eaten with silverware during a French meal. It is very rare to eat anything with your hands. Even fruit is peeled and eaten with a knife and fork.


The French rest their forearms on the edge of the table when they are taking a pause from eating. It is not polite, however, to put elbows on the table.


A note about alcohol


This program is considered an extension of your school. As such, the same rules that apply to other school functions will still apply to you. Restrictions or guidelines set by your teacher apply above and beyond any rules set by VIE.


In Europe, it is customary for adults and occasionally their children to drink wine with meals. This drinking is not done in excess but is considered a beverage to accompany the meal. Your host family may offer to serve you wine during a meal at their home. The issue of how you respond must be settled with your parents and your school before you leave for France. It is important that your parents understand the French custom of drinking wine with meals and discuss their preference with you. You are responsible for your behavior at all times, including the Family Stay.






Background information on the history and geography of France is also very helpful for travelers who will be visiting many historical sites throughout varied regions of the country. As you visit a château, a cathedral or other monuments in France, you will no doubt marvel at their size, beauty or even some of their architectural features. But your appreciation of each site will be much greater if you have a bit of historical background surrounding the places you visit.



Another idea to involve participants in trip preparation is to assign them to do research on various cities and regions that the group will visit. Have them present their findings to the group. They can also create handouts with important information that the travelers can take with them on the trip.



Go over packing lists in detail, emphasizing what should and should not be brought to France. Discuss weather for the season and regions you will be visiting. It may be helpful to go over a conversion chart to explain conversions for temperature, clothing sizes, etc.





New Region Map of France as of June 2016.


Fun France Trivia

  • Sneak down underneath the Palais Garnier, home to the Opéra National de Paris, and you will find:
    1. A Buddhist Temple
    2. A Pet Cemetery
    3. A subterranean Lake
  • The “Miracle of the Marne” refers to the World War I battle in France which was saved by:
    1. New British tanks
    2. Parisian taxicabs
    3. Diphtheria
  • Which of these treasures is not housed at the Louvre Museum:
    1. “The Thinker”
    2. “Mona Lisa”
    3. “Venus de Milo”
  • Which Paris neighborhood was home to the Moulin Rouge, Le Chat Noir, and other famous entertainment venues:
    1. Marais
    2. Latin Quarter
    3. Montmartre
  • Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde and Frédéric Chopin are among the many luminaries buried at which Paris cemetery?
    1. Pere-Lachaise
    2. Montparnasse
    3. Passy
  • What is Café Procope’s claim to fame?
    1. World’s largest éclair
    2. Oldest café in Paris
    3. Singing waiters
  • To what subject is Le Musée des Egouts de Paris dedicated?
    1. Dolls
    2. Costumes
    3. Sewers
  • About how much of Paris is covered in parks and gardens:
    1. 5 percent
    2. 15 percent
    3. 30 percent

Answers listed on the next page



  • Answer: An underground lake lies beneath the Palais Garnier, making construction in the 1870’s extremely The hidden lake and other elements of the opera house (including the deadly crash of a chandelier in 1896) inspired Gaston Leroux to write the Gothic novel The Phantom of the Opera.



  • Answer: Victory was secured for French troops fighting the German Army in the First Battle of the Marne (September 5-12, 1914) when some 600 Paris taxicabs carried 6,000 reinforcement troops to the battle along the Marne



  • Answer: The Musée de Louvre houses more than 380,000 items, including Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th century oil por- trait “Mona Lisa”. But “The Thinker”, a bronze–and-marble statue by Auguste Rodin, stands in the Musée Rodin, also in



  • Answer: Artists Amedeo Modigliani and Pablo Picasso made their homes in the early 1900s in Montmartre, a center of decadence and entertainment that housed the Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir cabarets, among other



  • Answer: The largest cemetery in the city of Paris, Père-Lachaise was established by Napoleon in Thousands of visitors a year come to visit the graves of Morrison, Wilde and Chopin—plus Honoré Balzac, Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, and many, many others.



  • Answer: Opened in 1686, Café Procope purports to be the oldest café in the Intellectuals and others, including Benjamin Franklin, John Paul Jones, and Thomas Jefferson, flocked to café Procope during the 1780’s and the writ- er Voltaire is said to have downed 40 cups of coffee a day at the establishment.



  • Answer: Want to see underneath the City of Lights? Head to Le Musée des Egouts de Paris (the Paris Sewer Muse- um). Located in the sewers beneath the Quai d’Orsay on the Left Bank, the museum offers a first-hand look at the city’s ancient and fascinating public work system



  • Answer: Some 450 parks and gardens cover more than 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares) – almost 30 percent of the city– making Paris one of Europe’s greenest





Find this quiz at:


20 “Mind Twisting” Trivia Questions about France

  • What is the oldest monument in Paris?


  • What is the official name of the department that encompasses the city of Paris?


  • Who is the first in line to the French Presidency?


  • How many francs make one Euro?


  • What was Jacques Chirac’s job before he became president of France?


  • What is the name of the French Prime Minister’s residence?


  • Where is Napoleon’s tomb?


  • How many arrondissements (districts) are there in Paris?


  • How many departments are there outside of mainland France?


  • What do the colors, blue, white and red, of the flag stand for?


  • What administrative number is on each French license plate?


  • What is the second most visited cathedral in France after Notre Dame de Paris?


  • Which French governmental body does the Luxembourg Palace house?


  • Why is the Ile de France (Island of France) called the Ile de France?


  • When was the first Cannes Film Festival held?


  • What is the biggest lake in France?


  • What is the second largest city in France?


  • What is the longest river in France


  • When was the Fifth Republic founded?


  • What is the hightest mountain in France?


Answers on the next page




  • The Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde is the oldest monument in Paris at over 3000 years


  • The official name of the department that encompasses the city of Paris is the


  • The President of the Senate becomes president of France should the current president leave office before his or her term is


  • To be exact, 55957 Frances make one Euro.


  • Jacques Chirac was mayor of Paris before he became president of


  • The French Prime Minister lives in the Hôtel


  • Napoleon’s tomb is at Les Invalides in


  • There are 20 arrondissements in


  • There are 6 departments outside of mainland France, Corsica, Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique, Réunion and Pierre et Miquelon. All but Guyane are islands.


  • The blue was the color of the republican army uniform just after the French revolution, white the color of the French royalty, and red the color of the royal army uniform before the French


  • The administrative number on each French license plate is the number of the department the car was registered


  • Notre Dame de Strasbourg is the second most visited cathedral in France with around 3 million visitors a


  • The French Senate is housed in the Luxembourg Palace


  • The Ile de France is called that because so many rivers run through


  • In 1946 the first Cannes Film Festival was


  • The Bourget lake in the Savoie department is the biggest in


  • Marseille is the second largest city in France with about 800,000 Lyon actually has a larger urban population at around 1.3 million people compared to 1.2 million for Marseille.


  • The Loire is the longest river in It travels for 612 Miles from the Massif Central to the Atlantic Ocean.


  • On September 4th, 1958 the Fifth Republic was


  • The highest mountain in France is Mont



Find this quiz at:


Fun Facts About France

By Debopriya Bose at


While all the stripes of the official French flag are of equal width, the one used by the navy has bands that increase in width from blue to red.


French people love cheese. Though traditionally there are around 350 to 400 varieties of French cheese, there are in fact over 1000 different types available in the French market.


The first flight of the Concorde took place in 1969, from the French city of Toulouse, one of the centers of the aerospace industry in Europe.


The concept of jean clothing was born in the Languedoc-Roussillon city of Nîmes, France, from where it was imported by

Levi Strauss to California to make tough clothes for gold diggers.


The Statue of Liberty, one of the most widely recognized structures of US, was made in France. It was then gifted to the US in 1886 to celebrate its centennial. In fact, the face of the Statue is believed to have been modeled on Eugene Boyer, the wife of Isaac Singer, the famous sewing machine manufacturer.


April Fool’s Day is believed to have originated in France, in 1564, when the country started following the Gregorian Calendar. Those that did not know about the switch in the calendars, were mocked on this day as they continued to believe that 1st April was the first day of the French new year.


France is the home of the TGV – Train à Grande Vitesse, French for high speed train. A TGV test train set the record of

being the fastest train when it reached a speed of 357 mph on April 3, 2007.


France is where the Gothic Art and the Baroque style of architecture were born. This is the reason why there are numerous cathedrals and buildings that are fine examples of Gothic Art.


From the French Alps to the marvelous beaches lining the azure waters in the French Riviera, France is one of the most visited countries in the world. In 2007, it attracted as many as 81.9 million tourists. This number was greater than its population!


France is an amazing nation. The old world charm that it still preserves in its architectural splendors, along with the dizzying modernity, allures people from all over the world to this country that is a beautiful amalgamation of cultural heritage and economic progress.




Bring clothes that can be layered as changes in temperature occur from region to region in France. Spring in France is usually beautiful, but can be quite chilly. During the summer, the weather is mild in France, but be sure to bring a sweat- er or light jacket as it can be cool, especially at night.

A small backpack or tote bag can be handy. It can be packed in your suitcase and used to carry your camera, an extra sweater, etc. for daytime excursions on foot. When you return to the U.S., you can use it to pack souvenirs if you run out of space in your suitcase.




What to bring on the plane

In Carry-on:

  • Hotel list & itinerary
  • Medications & prescriptions
  • Camera
  • Pocket dictionary
  • Student Handbook & Journal/ Pens
  • Essential personal items: eyeglasses or contact lens case, one set of clothes (in the event that your luggage is delayed)
  • Emergency phone numbers (including numbers for ATM card, and credit cards if lost or stolen)

Carr y -ons must comply w ith the 3 -1 -1 rul e s et by T SA (



In Passport Pouch:

  • Dollars/ Euros/ debit or credit card
  • Passport, Driver’s license and/or student ID card




What to pack in your suitcase


  • Two pairs of jeans and/or pants
  • Two pairs of comfortable walking shoes
  • Several shirts (short & long-sleeved)
  • Sleepwear & slippers (hotels are sometimes colder at night than what Americans are used to)
  • Underwear and socks
  • Swim suit/small beach towel
  • One sweater
  • Windbreaker – waterproof!
  • One nice outfit to wear for special dinner or outing with host

Misc e lla n e o u s

  • Lightweight wallet / coin purse for change
  • Sunglasses / Sunscreen
  • Small umbrella
  • Hand wipes or antibacterial gel
  • Watch & travel alarm clock






When your group has returned home, it’s time to celebrate what you have experienced!

Some Organizing Teachers have celebrated their return by having participants prepare an authentic French dinner together, perhaps with some of the favorite new foods they discovered on the trip, or using recipes they may have received from their French host family.

In order to help participants process all that they experienced from the trip, as well as to help you in your preparation for the next trip, it is a good idea to use an evaluation form to stimulate discussion about what went well, what they wish had gone differently, etc…


Student Evaluation: Post-Trip

  1. What was the most memorable experience of the trip for you?



  1. What do you wish you had known before going to France?



  1. What advice would you give to the next group of students traveling to France? Is there anything that you wish you would have done in France that you didn’t do?



  1. Do you have any advice about the Family Stay to offer to the next group of students?



  1. How much money did you spend during the trip (approximately)? Did you encounter any problems using debit/credit

cards or changing currency?



  1. How has your view about the French changed?



  1. Now that you have traveled abroad, you probably see things at home in a different How does America look dif- ferent to you? What in America would seem strange to a French person?





  1. You have no doubt noticed many differences between France and the US, but what are some similarities between the two cultures? (Examples: food, music, films, clothing, and family life)





  1. What did you miss most from home during the trip? What do you now miss most about France?





  1. How has your experience in France changed your perspective of yourself?