There is always the risk that your baggage will get lost, but taping an address card on the outside of your checked bags will increase the chances that it will get back to you. Write the following for your address card:
Copthorne Tara Hotel
Wrights Lane, Kensington, London
W8 5SP, United Kingdom
You should also place a similar card on the inside of your checked bags. We also recommend everyone set up their own frequent flyer account, before we depart. Once you’ve done that, you might also want to download a smartphone app so that you can see where your luggage is. To do this, go to the “Track My Bags” tab, then touch the “Bag Tag #”. If you do this on an iPhone, the camera will be activated, and you can take a picture of the bar code on your checked bags before it goes on the conveyor belt to the plane.
Make sure you bring anything you want to guarantee makes it to London, like your money, medicine, and electronics (computer, phone, camera), in your carry-on bag. You should always assume that the airline will misplace your bags, and you should have 3 to 5 days worth of clothes in your carry-on bag. If your luggage gets lost, we should be able to get your bags back within 3-4 days.
Pack all your carry on liquids that are under 3 oz. in a clear plastic bag. Beware packing large shampoo, conditioning products, or other liquids greater than 3 oz. in your carry-on bags because TSA will not allow you to take it with you and will require you to throw it out.
Small cosmetics and toiletries, electronics, and magazines are all good carry-on items.
We will be doing a large amount of walking, and in the past have seen the disastrous effects the wrong pair of shoes can cause. Even though flip-flops are comfortable, they should be kept in the shower. They don’t provide any support, take up space, and are unsafe to use climbing up the Eiffel Tower. Ballet flats may be stylish, but with the amount of walking we do, your feet can blow up to the size of tree limbs ( MBA trip of 2010). Bring comfortable shoes with good support, that are broken in. Cross trainers (sneakers) or hiking shoes/boots are appropriate, though you also might want to consider having something a little dressier for our plays, fancy dinners, and business briefings. Professor Fiorelli brings Rockport “Dressport” shoes for the briefings because they are lightweight, comfortable, and passable in a business setting.
If you use wash cloths, please bring them, because European hotels typically do not provide any.
Finally, speak with your health care provider and ask for any medicines you normally use to make sure you’ll have enough to get through the trip. You may also want to talk with your health care provider about bringing some additional medicines. If you get sinus infections several times a year, you may inquire about getting some antibiotics (e.g. Z-pac), and if you think you might have trouble with the time change, you might ask about using a sleep aid. You may also wish to bring naproxen (not available over the counter in the UK) or other remedies for aches and pains.
For more information about what to pack visit our FAQ or Pinterest board.
Contact your credit card companies and banks before you depart for London and Paris. Inform them of the dates and countries you’ll be traveling so when they see charges from the UK and France they should not freeze your card.
You should also make a copy of the front (card number) and back (contact information) of your credit cards, ATM cards, and debit cards. Keep this, along with a copy of your passport, in a safe place.
When making purchases, you may want to use credit cards for large items (best exchange rate), but keep in mind your credit card provider may charge a transaction fee. When using cash, withdrawing money from ATMs will give you a better exchange rate than you’ll get at a US bank (or at the airport), however your bank will most likely charge a withdrawal fee, so you should take out what you need for a couple days.
Take a look at what the British and French coins look like so you can ensure you’re getting proper change.
You’ll be getting lots of coins, and in the US we tend to disregard them. Imagine each £2 coin is worth $2.45, and you’ll tend to take your coins more seriously. You may want a small change purse organize all of your loose change.
Food and Other Customs
Here are a few simple things to know that will make your time easier.
If you go into a pub for food, there may be a metal plate with a number somewhere on the table. This means there is no table service, and you need to decide what you want, then go to the cash register, order your meal, and give them the table number.
If a waiter/waitress does come to your table and asks you if you want water, they typically mean, “Do you want to pay for bottled water?” And if so, do you want still (non-carbonated) or sparkling (carbonated water, like Perrier). If you don’t want to pay for water, you typically ask for “tap water”.
There are typically NO FREE REFILLS of soft drinks. If you order a soft drink, they probably won’t give you a lot of ice. Americans feel like we’re being cheated without the ice, but Europeans think they are being cheated out of their drink if they get too much ice.
Tipping is not as common in Europe as it is in US. 10-12% would be considered a very good tip. If a group goes to dinner together, look at the bill to see if there’s a “service charge”. If it's on the bill, you don’t need to tip any more.
Make sure to specify 'tap water' or 'carafe d'eau" if you do not want to pay for bottled water.
When entering a small store in France, it is customary to greet the owner with a quick “Bon Jour!”
Try to learn some basic French phrases. While most people will know English, they will appreciate your effort.
When taking the escalator, stand to the right, so others can pass on the left. If you stand on the left, or you have your luggage on the left hand side, it won’t take long for you to be bumped.
When we cross the road, PLEASE REMEMBER, IN LONDON CARS TRAVEL ON THE OPPOSITE SIDE OF THE ROAD. This is confusing at first, but most walkways have reminders (e.g. look left, or look right). Professor Fiorelli’s rule of thumb is to wait for the “green man” (go symbol), then look left, then right, then left again. Then quickly cross.
Please, please, please be careful when crossing the street!