These planning tools are to help you get organized for your trip. Even though you may have your Paris List all sorted for your days in Paris, a little bit more planning will go a long way as you begin organizing yourself for your trip. A few checklists and a packing list are at the end.
You can go to Paris with only a credit/debit card and a passport and probably be fine. But, a little money planning up front may make it a bit easier.
It is a good idea to go to your bank and order 100 Euros. Banks used to have lots of currency on hand. Now, most locations require you to place an order for foreign currency. Often times it may take a few days, so plan to order your Euros at least 2 weeks in advance. This cash will allow you to purchase Métro tickets at the airport (if you do not want to go to the ATM), provide the money for a taxi to your hotel, tip the bellman, etc…. Or, buy souvenirs!
Also, call your bank about a week before you depart to advise the fraud prevention department that you will be in Paris and using your credit card and/or debit card. Having a payment method blocked while out of the country can be a time consuming problem. Be aware that sometimes, even if you advise your bank ahead of time, you may still receive text messages or telephone calls asking if you made a particular charge. Each bank handles its fraud prevention differently.
Which Credit Cards to Use in Paris?
Check your credit cards and determine which card does not charge international transaction fees. That is the one you want to use to avoid paying additional charges on your purchases. By using a credit card or debit card for purchases, you will get a fair exchange rate. And, if it your bank does not charge a foreign transaction fee, then using your credit card in Paris is about the same as using your credit card in the United States.
Should you be traveling by yourself, you may want to ask for a back up credit card or debit card in case one gets eaten by a machine. With a group, it may not be as necessary since someone else in your group could spot you, if needed.
Depending on your ATM withdrawal limit, you may want to ask for a temporary increase in that limit if you plan to use a lot of cash while in Paris.
American Express may be refused at many establishments.
Travelers checks are not accepted at most places.
Keep Your Money Safe
Plan to keep your money, credit and debit cards and passport safe. Check with relatives to see if someone has a money belt or security wallet that you can borrow for your trip. If not, there is no end to the design of security wallets available for purchase. Before leaving on your trip, make sure it is easy for you to use and that it protects your money, passport and credit cards.
Bottom line on money – be careful. Take steps before leaving home, and while in Paris, to keep your money, cards and passport safe. Safety and planning will help you avoid a really big problem (ie. hours of time and lots of money). While you are in Paris, you do not want to try to obtain a replacement passport. And, you do not want to telephone all of your credit card companies and wait for new methods of payment to arrive at your hotel!
Travel insurance can provide coverage for the trip, your luggage, medical care or any combination.
The U.S. Department of State suggests supplemental health insurance: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/your-health-abroad/insurance-providers-overseas.html
Another way to purchase travel insurance is through your credit card company. Some credit cards offer different types of travel insurance so it is worth it to check with your bank to find out more.
Most importantly, travel insurance can offer some peace of mind while you are away from home. Hopefully you never have to use it, but it could be there and you do not have to worry as much if something happens.
Plan on taking enough of your medications to last for a few days longer than the length of your trip – just in case you run into delays. Because there is a possibility of your airline misplacing your luggage, pack your medications in your carry-on luggage.
Ask your physician when you should take your medications while in flight to Europe and on your flight back to the United States.
Photocopy each of your prescriptions for medications and eyeglasses or contacts and bring the copies with you in your carry-on, put a copy in your checked luggage, and take a photo of each them and email them to yourself.
Also, check with your insurance to determine if it covers you while traveling out of the country. If your insurance does not cover you, consider purchasing medical travel insurance.
The U.S. Department of State has no requirements for vaccinations to visit France.
The Center for Disease Control has the following vaccination recommendations for France: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/france?s_cid=ncezid-dgmq-travel-single-001
Wrap up on Health
- Ask your physician when to take your medication while traveling across time zones.
- Copy your prescriptions and put the copies in your suitcase or take a photo of each one or the prescriptions and email it to yourself.
- Get any immunizations that you think appropriate or your doctor suggests.
- Determine your health insurance coverage while in Europe and purchase trip and/or health coverage as you deem appropriate.
- Pack your medications in your carry-on baggage.
First, follow the guidelines of your airline. Go to your airline’s website and find the rules for baggage and make sure your bags are the appropriate size for where they are going on the plane. If your baggage exceeds the maximums, the airline will assess additional charges and you will have to pay on the spot for the airline to take your bag.
Next, check the limitations from the Department of Homeland Security website – http://www.dhs.gov/index.shtm
Carry-On the Essentials
For your carry-on baggage, keep all of your medications and a change of clothes, toothbrush, and anything else that would be essential if your checked bag is lost. And, of course, your travel documents, guidebook (if you want to read on the plane), address of the hotel where you are staying. (I always keep my passport and wallet in my safety pouch.)
Do not pack your valuables, keys or medicines in your checked bag. Keep them with you!
Planning for the Worst – Lost Luggage
Check your identification tags on your luggage and make sure the information is up to date with your name and current mobile phone number including “+1” for the United States country code. Also, complete a tag like that for inside your luggage. The tag inside is for in case your outside tag is torn off, the inside tag will be intact and someone may be able to find you.
Print your itinerary of flights, hotel names, addresses, telephone numbers and dates you will be at those hotels. Then, when you close your suitcase, place that print out inside your bag and on top of your clothes. If the suitcase is lost, and the bag is opened by someone trying to find you, they can.
Once you leave your bag with the airline representative, make sure to keep the bag check. The bag check is a little sticker that has a bar code on it and that bar code matches the one that is on the baggage tag the airline uses to track your bag. In the event your bag is lost, you will need the bag check in order to find your bag! Also, if your bag is lost, do not leave the airport without seeing an airline representative, making a claim and receiving a claim number from the airline.
Do not bring items with you that are extremely valuable or that have sentimental value. It is not worth the risk of losing something that is very dear to you.
Re-Check Your Passport Now
No matter how much you travel, check the date of expiration on your passport. Make sure the expiration date is at least 6 months from when you are leaving on your trip.
Once, a trip to Paris was coming up in about 2 weeks. For some reason, I woke up from a deep sleep in the middle of the night and I darted to the closet to root out my passport. Sure enough, it was expired! I was in a panic and stayed awake all night, checking the rules online about how to get a new one the fastest way. Luckily, I was able to complete an expedited renewal and received the passport several days before leaving. But, there was no reason I should have done that. I knew better and should have checked my passport at the time I was purchasing the plane ticket.
Making sure you have the proper documents to enter a country you are visiting is your responsibility. Check with the U.S. Department of State for requirements.
Don’t overpack. You will be lugging all of this stuff around through the airport and while in a strange place. Try walking around the block with all of the bags you want to take with you. Can you do it? If not, lighten your load.
You probably do not need new clothes to go to Paris and can find what you need in your closet.
Dress for Comfort and Style
Black is always appropriate for women and men. Black slacks, a sweater or no-iron shirt, women add a scarf or shawl and a jacket, men add a sports jacket. That is all you need, day and night and anywhere in Paris to look smart, well-dressed and ready for anything from a museum to dinner at all but the finest restaurants. Add to that black or dark shoes and a lightweight coat for cold or chilly days and you are set. Only on the hottest days of July, August and September would you potentially choose more light weight options for daytime wear.
Only bring clothes that fit and are comfortable. Bring shoes that are worn in (not worn out). You will want to be comfortable while seeing all the sights. Ill-fitting clothes or new shoes will ruin your trip.
A Word on Clothes
Churches may not admit men or women who are wearing shorts.
Women should also bring a scarf in their satchel so that bare shoulders can be covered when visiting churches.
Unless you are in the gym, please no t-shirts or cut-offs. Whether or not you think so, you are an ambassador of the United States in your journey through Paris.
If you are dining at Michelin-starred restaurants, men take a tie and jacket or suit and dress shoes, women appropriate evening wear for the nicest restaurants.
Get to Paris and find you need a little something for your outfit? Go shopping and find what you need. BUY it in PARIS – THE fashion capital of the world! Great souvenir!
Packing for Paris is not difficult. I have gone for a week or more with only a small duffel bag that I carried on the plane.
On this list, there are only a few things that you may not take on other trips. The only other thing is that in Paris, you will want to look nice. If not there, where? It makes your photos nicer too. You are in the most beautiful place in the world, why not look nice to match it?
_______ Tickets/Boarding Passes
_______ Credit card
_______ ATM card
_______ Mobile phone
_______ Extra battery for camera and/or extra memory stick
_______ Glasses/Contacts prescriptions and extra contacts
_______ Medications (prescriptions, cold medicine, antacid pills)
_______ Prescriptions for medications including generic name
_______ Socks for at least the number of days you will be away
_______ Underwear for at least the number of days you will be away
_______ Undershirts, if you wear them
_______ 2 pairs of shoes – comfortable and polished
_______ Small umbrella
_______ Sports jacket/blazer
_______ Windbreaker/light jacket (this depends on time of year, may need a heavier coat)
_______ 2-3 pants
_______ 2-3 shirts
_______ Appropriate clothes if you are dining at Michelin-starred restaurants
_______ Your Paris Calendar
_______ Copies of passport, flight information, credit cards and id
_______ Adapter for electronics/converter if needed
_______ Keys to get back in your house when you return
I have a satchel that I carry everywhere with me like Linus’ blanket. It has a flap with velcro closures and buckles. If I take it off my shoulder I put it between my feet and put one arm through the strap. (It is as safe in Paris as the United States, but because many things can distract my attention over there, I try to be more aware of guarding my bag.)
This is what I keep in my satchel:
- Two or three super-light-weight ponchos that are about 99¢ at the grocery store in case it begins raining
- Several paper napkins – spill something on myself, wipe off a wet chair bottom to sit in, wipe the sugar off my face after visiting a patisserie
- Travel-size disinfecting wipes, who knows when you may need one
- Eye re-wetting drops
- Lip balm
- Pocket map, if not in the guidebook
- Metro map, if not in the guidebook
- Water bottle
- Small umbrella
- Hotel name with the address and telephone number
Necessities in Paris
Most of the time my satchel it is very light. I keep it slung over my shoulder, stuff my jacket in it if I get hot. Have a water bottle, which I always need and can refill, and room to poke in some postcards when I see one I want to send.
Many women have bags they are comfortable carrying and one of those would be great as your satchel. Comfortable and useful are key. But you have to have some way to tote your essentials around in or you will be staying within walking distance of your hotel room.
Do you need medication during the day? Put it in your satchel. Do you need those wipes for your eyeglasses? Put them in your satchel.
Take note of what you use during a regular day and make a list of your necessities. Review the list, then review it again and make that the list for your satchel. Only those things that will make your day comfortable in your satchel. Don’t overdo it – just the necessities. Remember, you are in the most civilized city in the world, a pharmacy or a Monoprix is never too far away and you can easily find the things you need.
Contact and Itinerary for Family at Home
Everyone has mobile phones now, but for a variety of reasons, someone may need, or want, to make contact with you, or simply follow your progress each day. Make paper copies of your itinerary to provide to interested relatives, or email it to them. I always email a copy of my itinerary to myself and to my family. This way, they have a paper copy, an email copy, and if I need to access it, I can use the hotel’s computer and pull up any numbers, confirmations, schedules, etc…. that I may need.
Connectivity to the U.S.
Check with your mobile phone provider for international calling and data plans. Most likely they will discuss whether or not your telephone is capable of working on the European networks and then the available plans.
Also, multiple apps are available for mobile telephones that offer messaging and even telephone capability for little or no charge. You may want to coordinate downloading those apps with the people you most want to stay in contact with at home.
If you are in doubt about what your mobile phone provider allows (that is me all of the time), then leave the phone in airplane mode, then connect to wifi back at the hotel to check email, text, check the weather, post on Instagram, etc.…
Most computers, tablets and phones can be charged with a simple adapter (maybe put in a link to purchase one?), but you must confirm with the manufacturer of your phone to avoid any issues. If you have other electronics, you may need a converter.
Two Weeks Before Departure
- Re-check your passport. Make sure you know where it is and that it is valid.
- Confirm Flight Details
- Airline Record Locator
- Departure Time
- Order 100 Euros from your bank
- If you have special needs, call the airline and let the representatives know. They will set up in-airport transportation for you.
- Reconfirm hotel reservations via email and confirm you have the correct name, location and telephone number on your itinerary.
- Reconfirm arranges for pets and house.
- Refill any prescriptions that are needed.
- Place hold on mail; ensure payment for bill that will become due while you are gone will be paid.
- Email yourself copies of your passport, credit cards, ATM card, hotel name, address and telephone number, copies of your flight itinerary.
One Week Before Departure
- Confirm flight details again so that you are confident in what airline you are flying and when you need to be at the airport.
- Arrange transportation to the airport.
- Arrange transportation from the airport upon your return.
- Email a copy of your itinerary and give it to your family and put a copy in your carry-on luggage and a copy in your checked luggage.
- Email one relative who you can contact from Paris with a copy of your passport, credit cards, ATM card, and telephone numbers for credit cards and your bank.
- Send your itinerary to your family and friends.
- Get your cleaning/laundry back from the dry cleaners.
- Check the weather forecast and, if needed, make changes to your anticipated clothes list.
- Advise credit card and debit card banks that you will be out of the country and using these cards in France.
- Reconfirm restaurant reservations via email to the restaurant or your concierge.
One Day Before Departure
- Check-In online for your airlines and print your boarding passes.
- In your carry-on luggage, make sure you have: 1) boarding pass for the airline, 2) a copy of your itinerary, 3) copies of your prescriptions for medications and for eyeglasses or contacts, 4) the name, address and telephone number of your hotel, and 5) a copy of your passport.
- In your suitcase that will be checked, make sure you have placed inside: 1) a copy of your itinerary on top of your clothes that include your flights, the names of hotels and the telephone number of the hotel and dates of overnight stays, 2) a luggage tag inside your bag with your name and telephone number that includes “+1” for the United States country code, 3) copies of your prescriptions for medications and for eyeglasses or contacts.
- Confirm you can access via email your flight information, record locator numbers, itinerary, passport, and your prescriptions for medications and for eyeglasses or contacts and any other travel documents that you may need while out of the country.
- Re-check all of your travel documents that you are taking with you.
- Confirm the time that you need to be at the airport and determine your departure terminal. Boarding pass should have this.
- Double-check your transportation to the airport.
- Confirm transport from the airport (when you return).
- Charge phone, camera and anything else with a rechargeable batter.
- Tell friends and family “au revoir.”
Do Not Be Over-Confident
Even if you have traveled extensively, double check everything. And remember when in Paris, double check each other if you are traveling with others. It may get old, but ask each other, “Do you have your passport? Do you have your wallet?”