While living in France, I never took a plane to go from one country to the next or even to travel around France itself. Using my car or traveling by train was something I preferred. However, there were some students in the program who were frequent flyers across Europe. From what I learned, they all preferred to use either RyanAir www.ryanair.com or EasyJet www.easyjet.com. They are similar to JetBlue, low cost airfare going only to specific hub cities. Both companies are based in England and the cost of the tickets is on the pound. However, they have fairly good deals, you just need to keep a look out for them.
Buying your ticket it is based on a one way airfare. Obviously you need to arrive back at your departure city so make sure you book a return flight. This sounds pretty obvious, but I did meet a few students who did not realize that the ticket prices were for only one way and they forgot to book their returning tickets.
Both companies will also include a service fee. Usually one can find a ticket for about 50 euros one way, including the service fee. Since EasyJet and RyanAir do not book their tickets for round trips, it is a lot easier to hop from city to city. Many students said this is why they preferred to travel with these airlines. I never heard of a complaint while I was there. Most students seemed happy with the service and the prices.
France has an excellent bus system. You can go any where around town at just about anytime for 1 euro 10 centimes. If you want to know schedules and times, head for the Office of Tourism. It is located just in front of the Rotonde. When you enter the glass doors, go to the left. There is a counter where all the bus schedules are posted in brochures, according to their number. The people at the counter know how to speak English and if you tell them where you want to go, they can direct you to the right bus.
You can also by a one year student bus pass here. You buy it in September and it is good through June. Just bring in proof that you live in Aix and your student ID card from the IP Office. The cost is about 120 euros, or was when I was there, and it is a really good deal if you will be using the bus a lot. All of your kids can get one too. When you purchase the pass, the office will give you a card with your photo on it. Each time you board the bus you simply show it to the driver and you’re set. No more buying and keeping track of those tiny tickets!
If you think the bus is something you are only going to use occasionally, I recommend that you buy a book of bus tickets called “ Carnet du Ticket”. They come in a 10 ticket pack and are 7 euros 70 centimes. This way each ticket is costing you 77 centimes. It adds up to quite a saving since the bus driver will charge you 1 euro 10 centimes to buy one from him. These yellow ticket books can also be bought at the bus counter in the Office of Tourism.
Schedules and times of buses differ depending on the bus you want. Some buses run more often and later hours depending on where they go. The buses (except for 2 or 3 of them) do not run on Sunday. The few that do, have very limited times.
The buses in Aix are generally clean and very safe. It is actually quite enjoyable to take a bus ride there because everyone else is doing it too. Taking the bus in France does not mean you are poor. It is just a more effective way to get around in a town where traffic can be bad and there can be almost no place to park a car.
I would highly recommend buying a cheap car while you are living in Aix. For the in town stuff it is better to walk or take the bus, but if you want to do some serious sight seeing, having a car is the way to go.
I bought a cheap car while I was there and it was one of the best purchases I made. It allowed my family the freedom to take off on the weekends and do some great road trips. Having the car allowed us to go to towns where the trains didn’t go and we really got to see and experience a lot of nice places we would have otherwise not been able to.
Buying the car was actually very simple. If you hold a California driver’s license then you can drive in France. I simply started looking in the free papers that are all around town and that came to my apartment, like AIX HEBDO and PARAVENDU. I bought a small station wagon (they are called Breaks in French), and we drove that little thing all over France. I actually ended up putting 35,000 kilometers on it in 6 months! My kids now know the meaning of “road trip!”
When you decide on the car you want, you simply have to sign a few forms and so does the previous owner. The previous owner will have all these forms in his possession as it is his car that is being sold. I highly recommend using a bank/cashiers check for the purchase. This way you have proof that you actually paid for the car and the bank will also have proof when the check is cashed. Make sure you get insurance the day you buy the car. You can go to MAAF Insurance (see Insurance section). Once the car is in your name, the previous owner cancels his insurance immediately and you are held liable from that moment on. Don’t wait to get the insurance! Then you take all the paper work you signed, your proof of insurance, and your California driver’s license to the Sous-Prefecture. It is located in the center of Aix on:
24, rue Mignet
Tel: 04 42 96 89 00
Obtaining Your Carte Grise (Pink Slip)
There is a big sign at the sous-prefecture that says “Carte Grise”. A carte grise is their equivalent to our pink slip. Walk straight ahead through the double glass doors and go to the left. Take a number and wait to be paged. When your number is called, go to the window and give all your paper work to the person behind the desk. They will issue you a carte grise in your name and you will be set to go. Then you go back to the waiting area and they will again call your number to go to the pay window. I paid 70 euros to register my car. It was really that simple.
Selling Your Car
I put my car up for sale about three weeks before I was scheduled to leave. In France, one must take their car to a shop for a CT test. (Pay close attention to this when you are buying the car, also!!!!) You must have the results of this test with a passing grade given within the last 6 months or the car cannot be sold/bought (pay close attention to the date of the test, also.) This is a Controle Technique test which is required on all cars that are being sold in France. It is a test sort of like our smog test, but more thorough. They check everything out and make sure the car is running properly so you are not selling a bad vehicle to someone.
Passing/Not Passing the CT
There are a few ways that the car can pass or not pass. The car will obviously pass if it has 0 faults. The car can also pass if there are minor repairs to be made, but do not affect the general running of the car, for example: you need new windshield wiper blades, or the tail light is out. The test will tell you that the car passed with some minor repairs, but that they are not necessary to do for selling the car. This will also be on the print out that you receive. The test will also tell you if the car did not pass and the repairs that must be made in order to pass the next time. The car will not be allowed to sell unless these repairs are made. It is usually the more serious things, for example: tires are too worn or there is something wrong with the transmission. In this case you must do the repairs and then take the car back to have another test done to show that the car can now be sold.
This CT test is good 6 months from the date of the test. You must give the results to the new owner because it is part of the paper work they have to give to the Sous-Prefecture in order to obtain their “carte-grise”.
If it so happens that your car does not sell in the time before you leave, the French government will allow you to leave all the paper work with a friend and they can sell the car for you. This happened to me. I did the CT test and put my car up for sale about 2 weeks before I was to leave. The day arrived for me to say good-bye to France, but my car had not yet sold. I ended up leaving all the info and the car with my French friends and they were able to sell it for me. I did send them money to put ads in the paper and to wash it but other than that they said it was pretty simple. Then I contacted the insurance company and sent them a copy of the sale along with a cancelation notice. They immediately canceled my insurance and reimbursed my account for the unused portion.
This might sound like a lot of work just to have some transportation for a year, but I thought it was well worth it. It actually sounds like more work than what it really was. I would definitely buy another car if I was staying in France again just for the pleasure of being able to sight see whenever and where ever I wanted.
Renting a Car While in Aix
If buying a car is not right for you, then I definitely recommend renting one occasionally. I say “occasionally” because car rentals in France tend to be much more expensive than in The States. For the prices that are quoted, you get a very small car with low daily mileage. Usually a small car will run about 100 euros a day, and trust me, you do not get much for that. For the bigger vehicles and mini vans it can cost 250 to 300 euros per day.
There are a couple places in town I am familiar with. The first one is Hertz Rental. They are located across the street from the small train station in town at:
43 Victor Hugo
Tel: 04 42 27 91 32
Another one is ADA. They tended to be cheaper than the others. They were located at:
1, Avenue Henri Mounet
Tel: 04 42 52 36 36
16, Avenue des Belges
Tel: 04 42 38 37 36
The last one is Europcar. They tended to be one of the more expensive rental places, though. They are located at:
55 Rue de la Republique
Tel: 04 42 27 83 00
All of these locations are pretty comparable in price and terms. None of them are open on Sundays or holidays. The process to rent a car is the same in France as it is in The States. Make sure you bring your driver’s license and you have to be at least 25 years of age. Payment is due upon return of the vehicle. Make sure it has a full tank of gas.
There is also a web site that gives you a list of all car rental places in Aix. www.aixtase.com/location-voiture-aix.htm.
When you finally settle into your apartment or home in Aix, you will need to put your children into school. Just like in The States, your children will go to the neighborhood school. The dates for registration are generally the last week in August.
To find out which schools your children will be attending, go to the Hotel de Ville in Aix. There, they have a booklet on education which lists all the schools in town and they will also be able to tell you which school is your home school. Make sure you bring your rental agreement for proof of residency.
I found that my younger children, who were in elementary school (primaire in French ) were much easier to get into school than my older ones. Once you have established where they will be going, the Hotel de Ville will send you to one of their smaller offices in town to register them. The children going to Junior High or High School (college or lycee) will need to register at the school itself.
Registration for the Youngins'
To register your elementary age children, take them with you to the specific mairie along with your rental agreement, passports, and immunization cards. They will give you all the paper work necessary and it is really fast and easy. Also, let them know that your children will be eating lunch at the school cafeteria. There is a fee for this, but it is pretty reasonable. Just let them know that no parent will be home in the daytime to make lunch for them. I wanted my kids to eat lunch at school because this would encourage them to make friends and to speak French more. They always loved the food and it is made fresh each day on site.
To register your older children you will have to go to the school. At this level, it becomes more difficult. I initially had a difficult time placing my children in the local French schools. The administration was very apprehensive because my children did not speak French. I was persistent, though. I knew that I wanted them in the local system because they would learn French faster. I had also planned on being in France for 2 years. This will be a personal decision for each family. One really needs to look and evaluate each individual child. Some children are up for the challenge of having all their classes in French and others are not. If you have a child that is a self-motivator and does well in school, he or she will probably be fine. If your child is shy, has difficulty in some subjects or does not know any French at all, you might want to place them in the international schools where most classes are taught in English and French is acquired gradually.
If you’re up to the challenge of the local schools there are a few things you should know. On the day of registration, bring your rental agreement, passports, and the children’s immunization cards. Once you have registered, the school will let you know what to do on the first day. All school schedules, books, and a list of what the kids will need, will be given out the first day. Ask the school principal if there is a bilingual person who works in the office. In many cases there is and they will be an invaluable liaison between you and the teachers.
I encourage you to make a copy of each child’s schedule and put one copy up on the wall at home for everyone to refer to and give one copy to the child to keep in his or her binder. In France, the school schedule changes each day. Make sure you know what hour they start and stop. It will vary depending on the grade level and the day. Each week, however, it is the same: ex. all Mondays will be the same and all Tuesdays and so on.
What About Those Strikes
The other thing you need to watch out for is strikes. France is notorious for striking whenever and wherever it feels like it and teachers are no different. My children were forever coming home early because of these so called strikes. Some years can be worse than others. Sometimes it would be that a teacher just did not show up for work. There are no substitutes at the junior high and high school level. The kids simply stay in a room or they go home. In any case, it might do well to give your older children an extra key to your home in case you cannot pick them up. Elemenary age children usually have a substitute. There are no strikes in the Private School sector.
Where to go if You Need Help With Registration
If you go to register your child and the school says they can not enroll them, then go to the Inspection Academique des Bouches-du-Rhone. They are located at:
28 Boulevard Charles Nedelec
13011 Marseille (near the Marseille train station)
Tel: 04 91 91 10 94
Another place you might want to inquire about is CASNAV ( Centre Academique pour la Scolarization des Nouveaux Arrivants et des enfants du Voyage). They are located at:
Tel: 04 91 14 13 64
Their web site can be accessed through the above site. Then click on “les eleves” and then “scolarite”. This page will tell you all you need to know at each level of education. Pay attention to the end of the page which is specifically for children who are foreign.
They might want your children to take tutoring lessons on the side as a condition of enrollment or they might want them to take a test for French and academic proficiency. We had to have our children take French lessons outside the classroom the first year we were in France. By the second year, they did not need it.
Private Elementary and Junior High
If you feel that you would like to put your children in a small private school, I highly recommend Ecole Privee Protestante “La Nouvelle Alliance”. They are located at:
This is the school that my younger two children went to the second year we lived in Aix. It is owned by a British man and his French wife. The classes are small (10-12) and they are all taught in French but there is a class 2x per week for English speakers. This class is taught by the pastor’s wife of the English speaking church (see Church). The school was fabulous and my children really learned a great deal. There is a tuition charge, but it is based on income and a sliding scale. It was relatively cheaper than private schools in The States. Also, once per quarter, each family signs up to clean the school on Friday. Since two families work at the same time and the kids help, it takes only about an hour. It works out that each family cleans the school 3 or 4 times for the whole year. You get to meet other families this way and it helps the school cut down on costs. The school goes from Pre-school through Junior High.
With the small classroom size and the ability of some of the teachers being able to speak English, your children will do well. Many French families attend the school, but many of the families are foreigners, some speak English and others do not. Everyone is very welcoming and helpful. If you decide to enroll your child, tell them I sent you and that Cambria and Presley Fisher say “Bonjour” to everyone.
International Schools from Elementary - High School
If you elect to put your children into an international school, there are a few to choose from. First off, there is Ecole Privee Val Saint Andre. This is a religious catholic school that ranges in age from 6-18 years of age. For the record, it is quite difficult to get into because there is a waiting list. Many French people send their kids to this school. It is worth a try, though. They are located at:
19 Ave Malacrida
Tel: 04 42 27 14 47
There is also a public junior high international school. It is called Mignet Secondary School. They have an excellent bilingual program which gradually teaches French to English speakers. My American friend who lives in Aix has sent her daughter to this school for three years and she is very pleased and impressed. They are located at:
14 rue Cardinale
Tel: 04 42 93 63 00
There are two international high schools located in Luynes, just outside of Aix. One is public and the other is private. The public school is called Lycee George Duby. Their phone number and email are:
Tel: 04 42 60 86 00
The private school is called The International Bilingual School of Provence (IBS). I had a friend whose two oldest children attended this school. She said it was the absolute best but it is pricey. The tuition is based on income and whether or not your child will be boarding there or not. They are also located in Luynes. Their phone number and email are:
Tel: 04 42 24 03 40
Both of the high schools offer curriculum in French and English. Depending on how long your family stays in Aix, you might want to ask them about the French Bac and the International Bac courses that are offered.
If your child is in Junior High or High School when you are planning on being in Aix, please let their current schools know. You will need to know what courses your children need to take while living and studying in France in order to receive credit when you return to the states. This is very important because if you do not fill out all required paper work or your child does not fulfill the requirements for his or her grade, they might have to repeat the grade upon return. Make sure you take all paper work with you so the schools in Aix can place your child in their correct French grade equivalent and keep all records for the time you are in France for their home schools in the states. They will need their report cards from France (called bulletins) as proof of enrollment and keep a contact number of their counselors at their home schools in the states as well as numbers for counselors at the French schools in case a problem or questions arise.
Since you will be a renter in France you will be required to have rental insurance. You must show proof of this to your landlord. For the two years that I lived in France, I had my insurance with MAAF. Their office is located at:
9 Boulevard de la Republique
13100 Aix en Provence
Their phone number is: 04 42 91 33 44
Their fax number is: 04 42 91 34 73
They also have a web site at: email@example.com
I had both my car insurance and renter’s insurance with them. They will also provide for you, free of charge, additional medical insurance for your children while they are at school or if they are at a school function off campus during school hours.
Before heading over to the office, make sure you have a copy of your rental agreement, your California driver’s license, and your passport. They will ask for all three for verification.
If you are asking for car insurance you need to have proof of insurance from The States. In this case, I had to call the car insurance company that I had while living in America and they had to fax over my policy from as far back as possible. Luckily, they were the only insurance company that I had had for a long time. They faxed over my policy to the MAAF office along with proof that I had been driving since I was 16 years old. That seemed to be important to them, too. They automatically gave me a discount and insured me the same day. If you would like someone else on the policy, so they can drive the car, the same information is needed on the other driver. Usually the second driver cost about the same as the first with a small discount. In my case, my husband was about 130 euros less a year to insure. Please note that children less than 18 years of age are not allowed to drive in France.
The insurance is relatively cheap for both the rental and the car. For example, I paid a total of 540 euros for the year in car insurance and a total of 132 euros for the year for my renter’s insurance. On account that half of this was given back to me when I left, I think I made out pretty well for myself.
When you pay for the renter’s insurance, MAAF will provide you will all the paper work for the policy. You must keep one copy for yourself and the other you give to your landlord. You pay on an annual calendar, therefore you will make one payment in September for the total amount that will be due from September to December and then you will make a second payment in January for the total amount that is due from January until December 31 of that present year. Don’t worry they will reimburse you for the portion you will not use due to leaving mid-way through the year. You will need to take the new paper work they will give you to your landlord for the present year.
When canceling your insurance, go into the office about 2 weeks before you are due to leave and let them know you are returning to the United States. They will need to know the day of your departure and you will have to bring in your airline tickets as proof. They will immediately cancel your insurance as of your last day of occupying your residence and you will be reimbursed the money that you paid for the remaining months of the year.
If you bought a vehicle and it has already been sold, cancel your insurance for the vehicle on the day you sold it. If the vehicle has not been sold yet, let them know and they will reduce insurance on it for only fire and theft. If you return to The States and the car is sold afterwards, call MAAF and let them know and they will cancel the policy over the phone. The person who sold the car for you must bring into the office proof that the car has been sold.
I found MAAF to be extremely easy to work with. The people in the office were friendly and helped me out when I did not understand something. When I added the car onto my policy and when I wanted to raise the level of my insurance they were very helpful. They are very patient with foreigners and will walk through all your questions.
Where to Find Good Medical and Dental Care
The IP Program has insurance that you will pay through all your fees. This insurance, however, is for hospital stays and emergencies. If you go to the doctor while you are l iving in Aix, the cost will be about 20 euros for a general doctor. The price varies for specialist, but it usually is not too expensive. Keep all the receipts they give you because at the end of the year you will need to turn them into the insurance company for reimbursement.
While living in Aix, my family went to the medical offices located at 19 Cours Mirabeau. The doctors’ offices are located on the third floor. There are several doctors in this office. Some speak English. Sometimes there is a doctor that fills in by the name of D. Evangelista. I highly recommend him and he does speak English. There is a fee of 20 euros to see the doctor.
During the winter of 2004, my youngest daughter had to have her tonsils taken out. The procedure for hospitalization in France is some what different in that you have to do everything separate and on your own. It might sound a little scary, but it was very easy and I was able to take more control of the situation than here in The States. If you do need to have surgery or some other type of hospitalization while in Aix, you will need to first visit your primary doctor, like the two I listed above. They will then refer you to a specialist. These doctors can range any where from 35 euros and up.
Ears, Nose and Throat
If by chance, someone does need to have their tonsils removed, I recommend Dr. Daniel Latil d’Albertas. The name of his office is
Centre des Specialistes D’Oto-Rino-Laryngologie.
15 cours gambetta- Espace Forbin
I believe his suite number is 11. It was 45 euros to see him.
Anesthesiologie-Reanimation Chirurgicale Conventionee
783 Chemin du Pont Roux
For any blood work that you might need done I would suggest going to Laboratoire D”Analyse Medicales. Their address is:
30- Laboratoire Roguet Philippe Conventionee
37 Ave. Henri Pontier
There are two hospitals that I recommend. One is more of a private clinic and this is where my daughter had her surgery. It is called Clinique Provencial de la Tour D'Aygosi and is located at:
67 Cours Gambetta
The initial cost was 100 euros and then they sent me a bill about a month later for 477 euros. I could not believe how cheap it was to have the procedure done. All the doctors and nurses there were very nice and the surgery went very well.
The other hospital is called Centre Hospitalier General and it is located at:
This is across the street from the laboratory that is mentioned above. I became acquainted with this hospital when my son had an accident on his bike one day and had to be rushed to the hospital in an ambulance. He ended up in the emergency room with some semi serious wounds but was well taken care of. I ended up getting a bill from them for 35 euros and about died because this also included the ambulance ride.
Even though there are pharmacies on just about every street, the one that is best is Pharmacie du Cours Mirabeau and is located just 2 doors down from the primary doctors office that I mentioned above. Their address is:
17 Cours Mirabeau
Some of the pharmacists speak English and they are very helpful in dealing with foreigners.
Two other doctors that I recommend is Dr. Sylvie Lederle. She is a dermatologist. She happened to be a very good friend of a friend of mine and she also speaks English. She is located at:
Residence la Touloubre
75 Avenue Jean Orsini
13540, Puirycard, Aix-en-Provence
To get to her office, you will have to take the bus or a taxi. To see her for any treatment is 45 euros.
Allergies and Asthma
47 Boulevard de la Republique
I have a daughter who has severe asthma and she seemed to be having a lot of trouble and numerous attacks during the second year we lived in France. He was recommended by my good friend Odile whose son has allergies. I took my daughter to see him and they did a full work-up for allergies and asthma. They put her on special medication and were able to tell me how to help prevent attacks. She is still on the medication and is doing well. His fee for all the testing (a total of three days) was 92 euros.
I do have addresses and phone numbers for other specialist. I did not go to these doctors, but they came highly recommended to me by a great friend. The first is a doctor for sports medicine and injuries. Dr. Dessandre-Novarre. The location and phone number is:
La Tour d’Agosi
Tel: 04 42 26 40 90
Next is a phone number that I have for a gynecologist. Her name is Dr. Alice Touzaa and her phone number and address are:
4 Place Barthelmy Neollon
Tel: 04 42 93 76 49
Lastly, I have the name of a doctor who specializes in laser hair removal. Her name is Dr. Christine Luneau and her phone number and address is:
34 Cours Mirabeau
Tel: 04 42 27 31 89
I hope this helps in estimating some of your medical costs and in finding quality doctors. Medical care is significantly cheaper in France. Even so, it is superb and I never had a problem getting good care when we lived there.
The dentist that my family went to is located at:
150 Ave Georges Pompidou
Her name is Dr. Valerie Thomas El Kaim. She took care of my whole family and there is a woman in her office that speaks a little English. The care was great and the cost is some what similar to what it is in the states. She also does emergency work.
Riding the Trains
The trains in France are safe, economical and easy to ride. If you plan on going to a somewhat larger city, and don’t have a car, then the train is your best bet. The two most common trains used, are the TGV and the Corail. The TGV (Train Grand Vitess) is used the most often, but it does not go to all cities, yet. Sometimes you will have to use the Corail train, which is not as fast, but does the job of getting you there as well. It is also less expensive than the TGV.
To book a ticket you can either go to the local train station or buy them online at www.voyages-sncf.com. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the British flag that is located at the far left. The English version of the site will pop up. The site is self explanatory and you can easily pay online with a credit card. Just to the left of this page is a passenger guide that comes in both English and French. Click on it to find out which travel pass you can qualify for. You can order your tickets and your pass at the same time online or in person. When you purchase the tickets you will be asked to purchase the pass at the same time. However, you must pick up the pass at the train station. All passes are good one year to the date of purchase.
If you have 3 or more children and at least one of them is 12 years old or under, you can get the “Enfant + Card”. All you need is your ID, the child’s birth certificate and his/her picture. They will make the card for you on the spot at the train station. This was the card that I purchased. It is good for one year from the purchase date and allows the child and 4 others traveling with him/her to a discount of up to 50% off of each ticket! During peak travel times it is 25%. This is a big money saver. You can use this pass on both the TGV and the Corail
If your children are older (between the ages of 12-25) you can purchase the “Decouverte 12-25” card. The rules are the same as above. The child’s passport or birth certificate and a photo are all that is needed. In this case the child is the only one who gets the discount with this pass. It is good for 25%-50% off a ticket depending on the hours you are traveling. Again, peak hours will be less of a discount.
Please note that you must have the pass at all times when you are traveling by train. On each trip you will be asked for your ticket and your pass. If you do not have the pass with you it is a hefty fine. Last I heard it was about 200 euros. The French controllers cannot be talked out of it either, so do not even try. Each year they are cracking down more and more on people riding the train without proof of the purchased ticket price. Apparently they were having too many fraudulent issues.
Eating on the Trains
If you are traveling on the Corail, there is a small cart that an employee will be pushing that travels from car to car. You can get just about anything ranging from sandwiches to candy and they also carry bottled water, soda, and coffee. It tends to be a bit pricey, so I would recommend you purchase something (like a sandwich, or pizza) at the station before you board, or bring something from home.
If you are traveling on the TGV, there is an entire car that is just for food. It has chairs and a few tables and there is a much larger variety to choose from. As with the food on the Corail, the food on the TGV is expensive. You might want to try it once just to have the experience, but after that you would probably do just as well to bring your own food.
On both trains there is an area for your larger luggage at the front and back of each car and in the overhead of your seat. For bikes or large items, try to find a car with an open area just to the back. It doesn’t have to be necessarily in your car. I did this many times since my children and I had bikes in France. It is highly unlikely that your stuff will be stolen. In any case, you can lock your items, if possible, to a rail or just go back every so often to check on them. If it is a holiday or ski season, these areas become very crowded due to the fact that everyone brings their equipment with them.
If your children are small, bring a lot of things to do for entertainment. For a child, the first 20-30 minutes of the train ride is quite exciting. After that, my kids would start to get bored. I made sure they always had their CD players, some books to read, workbooks so they could work on their French, all sorts of card games, paper or coloring books, and crayons. All of their items along with snacks fit neatly into their backpacks. This way they could each help carry their own entertainment! Bon Voyage!