Traveler’s Tips: Paris, February 2011
Do not over pack! The weather in February can vary, so plan accordingly. The average
temperature in Paris and Normandy is 35-45 degrees. Of course, you really can never tell so the
best thing is to dress in layers. You should bring clothing that can be mixed and matched and
wear everything at least twice. You’ll save a lot of space in your suitcase.
1. for our trip of about 12 days, you need no more than 5-6 outfits, plan to wear each
outfit or item at least twice. (The French do not expect a brand-new outfit everyday
and, in fact, will be surprised if you have one. Also, doing laundry is always an option.)
2. girls: you should bring one skirt or dress at most – it will be chilly and you’ll want to
wear pants most, if not all, of the time; also, don’t bring a skirt or dress that requires an
extra pair of shoes just for that outfit
3. choose 2 or 3 main colors and only pack items that go together and mix-and-match
4. lay out everything you think you want to take, then eliminate half of it (especially if it is
the only item of that color)
5. you should need no more than 2 pairs of shoes and they had better be warm,
comfortable, and go with everything – one pair should be comfortable enough for
several hours of walking in the city, the other could be for getting a little dressed up;
don’t bring brand-new shoes
6. bring a warm coat that a) goes with everything and b) will work rain or shine
7. bring a sweater that you can wear with everything, including to supplement your coat if
it is particularly cold
8. bring hat, scarf, gloves for walking around on cold days (all the chic Parisians wear
them, even men)
9. bring a mini-umbrella for rainy days
10. bring only one shoulder bag or back pack that you will use for day trips – it should be
large enough for bag lunch, camera, map, gloves, extra sweater, things you buy -- but not
so big that it feels too heavy to carry around all day
11. don’t bring jewelry, especially good jewelry, but do bring an inexpensive watch so you
won’t be late!
- you can always wash something (by hand if necessary) rather than pack two of them
- you can buy almost anything you might have forgotten, so don’t pack a ton of items “just in
Make an itemized list of everything that you need to take. Check off each item as you put it in
your suitcase so that you do not forget anything. Leave the list at home in case your suitcase is
lost on a flight.
Where to pack what:
In your suitcase:
Photocopy of your passport
Travel alarm clock
Toiletries, medicines, aspirin and band aids (except essential items which should be in
Washcloth, towel, soap – for youth hostel
Comfortable shoes - you will be doing a lot of walking
Jeans and nice pants
Long sleeved shirts, sweaters
A nice outfit to wear on dressier occasions
Light jacket or sweater to layer for warmth
Sleepwear and underwear
Hat or scarves
Rain gear (umbrella)
toothpaste and lens solution
any other liquids you might need to carry
In your carry on (a shoulder back or back-pack):
Passport (preferably in a carrier around your neck)
Copy of your itinerary and host family address and phone # (if you should somehow become
separated from your group)
Necessities in case you and your suitcase become separated (change of clothing and
toothbrush, and any essential medications)
Spare pair of eyeglasses, contact lenses, sunglasses
Book or magazine, your music, and your journal
Snacks (granola bars, crackers, etc)
Dramamine, if you get motion sickness, Advil or aspirin in case of headache
Gum (helps with air pressure which can hurt your ears)
Things NOT TO PACK in your carry-on (according to a major airline carrier):
No cutting tool, metallic or non-metallic, or anything that can be used as a weapon, can be
brought into the cabin. This includes nail files and nail scissors.
SPECIAL NOTE RE: LIQUIDS – Any liquids in your carry-on are limited to less than 3.4 ounces
and must be in a separate plastic bag. Therefore, pack liquids and pastes (contact lens
solution, nail polish remover, toothpaste) in your checked suitcase.
When in doubt, place objects in your checked luggage.
Prescription medications, contacts, eyeglasses:
If you are carrying prescription medication, it could be useful to also be carrying a note or
prescription from your doctor to a) verify the type of medication and b) help procure more in
an emergency (although bring as much as you anticipate needing).
AIR TRAVEL SUGGESTIONS
Unless you sleep on the plane, you will be up non-stop for about thirty-five hours. We will be
arriving in Paris in the morning, if we get there at 6 a.m. their time (when they have just gotten
up and are raring to go), it is midnight your time. You will have the most luck adjusting if you
try to keep going as long as possible that first day – try to stay up until almost a normal bedtime.
If you must nap, do not let it turn into a long winter’s sleep in the middle of the day.
Air and Motion Sickness:
Consult your doctor for advice, or if an over-the-counter remedy works for you, then use it.
First time flyers don’t worry; the flight is usually very smooth. Bring lots of gum for the air
pressure (during take-offs and landings). If you have a cold, take an antihistamine or
decongestant; otherwise, you may get an earache. If you get motion sickness, bring Dramamine.
MONEY AND DOCUMENTS
You will need to bring spending money and emergency money (in case you need to buy something
you forgot). The amount is up to you. You can change dollars into Euros ahead of time by
giving your bank a few days notice. You can also bring dollars that you can exchange at the
airport or a bank if necessary, but don’t count on being able to do that right away.
Most French ATMs will accept visa cards. Check with your bank as to whether your card will
be usable for taking money out of a cash machine in France. Credit cards can also be used to
pay for emergency purchases, if necessary.
These are often easier to use in a French ATM than a credit card and can be very handy to
have. Again, check with your bank.
PROTECTING YOUR MONEY AND VALUABLES
Pack valuables in your carry-on in a closed (zippered) area not easily accessible to pick-pockets,
but be able to reach your passport easily yourself for going through Immigration and Security.
You might want a passport/airline ticket holder that attaches to your belt or around your neck.
Passport – Once you have cleared customs, we will collect your passports for safekeeping –
let us know if you need it for ID to change money. Carry a photocopy of it with you at all
times, as one is required to carry one’s ID papers and produce them from time to time.
Money – Once you arrive at your host family, stash your extra money in a safe place – only
carry with you enough for the day. It is wise to split up the money you are carrying and
keep it in two different places – some in your bag and some in your pocket, for example. If
you lose one, you still have the other.
- Boys and Girls: Keeping valuables in a back pack that you are actually wearing on your
back is not very safe. A sling back that goes across your chest is better because you
can keep it in front of you and keep your hand on it. As for girls’ purses, NEVER, EVER
put your bag on the floor or on the back of your chair in a restaurant or other public
place. Eat with it in your lap if you need to, but don’t let your bag out of your
- Girls: You should not keep all your valuables and money in your purse, in case it is
stolen. Keep some money in another location. You should have a purse that closes
securely and that has a strong strap that cannot be easily cut (pick-pockets are crafty).
It is best to have a strap that is long enough to wear across your chest – safer and less
trouble to carry. Always keep a hand on your bag, preferable over the closure, to
discourage pick-pockets from reaching in when you are not looking. Also, remember
that thieves might even try to cut your backpack (through the strap, side, or bottom) –
it is wise to have a bag that you can carry under you armpit. Best of all, do not even
use a traditional purse – see suggestions for boys, below.
- Boys: DO NOT keep your wallet with all your ID and money in your back pocket – much
too easy to lose to a pick-pocket. Keep some money in your front pocket and keep your
hand on it as much as possible (don’t be fooled – the best pickpockets can get things
out of your front pocket and you won’t notice). Keep some money elsewhere in your day
- Boys and Girls: Dorky as it may seem, you may want one of those money holders that
you hide inside your clothing. In it, you can keep your reserve cash for the day and your
ID, only keeping enough money handy in your pocket or purse for immediate needs. This
also allows you to have your hands free and not be tempted to put your bag down
Don’t even think of bringing one – you won’t need it.
I-pod chargers, hairdryers, etc:
You will need a plug adapter and possibly a transformer to use these items. The transformer
changes the voltage from 110 to 220. The adapter changes the shape of the plug – French
outlets have two round holes (as opposed to two vertical slits, as in the U.S.).
Most of your cell phones will not work in France, so don’t bother to bring them. If you happen
to have what is known as a GSM phone, it might work (check with your provider), but will be
very expensive to use unless you go to a French cell phone store and buy a French “SIM” card
for a certain number of minutes – this will turn your phone into a French phone with a French
phone number. You can pop your American SIM card back in when you get home.
Have a calling card that you can use to call home from any phone. You will probably have a
password to enter when you make a call and the charges should appear on your home phone
bill. Check with your phone company.
Most French phone booths work on “cartes téléphoniques” these days. You can buy these in
small shops, called “Tabac” – they are prepaid calling cards. You pop them into the public
phone and make your call – the minutes you use are deducted from the card. This might be the
easiest way for most of you to call home.
Host family phone:
If you are going to call home from the host family’s phone, be absolutely sure to use a phone
card that will charge the call to you and not to your host family. It is likely to be easier if your
parents call you at your host family’s home. Just remind them that you will be 6 hours ahead of
them – if it is 6pm in Cohasset, it will be midnight in Sucy-en-Brie. If they have trouble knowing
when to call you, try calling them with your calling card, then having them call you right back –
this is certainly going to be cheaper, especially if your parents have a special international
discount calling card (these can be bought in places such as 7-11).
When invited to someone’s home in France (for a week, a day, an evening, or a meal), it is
traditional not to arrive empty-handed. Here are just a few host-gift suggestions:
When invited to a family’s home for a meal:
It is thoughtful to bring the hostess a bouquet of flowers, a plant, a box of chocolates, or a
dessert wrapped up nicely from a patisserie. When you purchase it, mention that it “c’est pour
offrir” (“it’s a gift”) – they will add nice paper or ribbon for you. (One does not usually bring a
bottle of wine, as the host will have picked out something that goes with the meal.)
For your host family during the exchange:
You should certainly bring something to thank the host-mother and the host-student (other
family members are optional).
Try to think of host gifts that represent the region where you live and/or your special interests.
- maple syrup or other regional food items (pack syrup in suitcase – see rules re: liquids)
- shirts, sweatshirts, caps, or beach towels with local emblems (Boston, CHS, Cohasset,
local sports teams, local colleges)
- picture frames, calendars, or mugs with local images or sayings
- a modest jewelry item, pottery, or other craft made by a local craftsperson
- “coffee-table” books on Boston, New England, Cape Cod or the South Shore, or the US
- a small decorative item, preferable “made in the USA”, such as a vase, bowl,
candle/candleholder (pack candle in suitcase)
- a souvenir item from a regional historical or cultural site (museum gift stores are a good
- a nice scarf is always appreciated by a French woman