March Newsletter Jr age Tour London
Airline tickets: Our airline ticket agent has looked at your hometown, looked at the best connections for you, and has made tentative reservations for your tour .... We will be finalizing the ticket purchase at the end of March. Prior to the purchase we will send the itinerary to you for your approval.
Some of our tour members (traveling with parents) have a flight itinerary that is more direct and will not need to meet up with the group meeting point prior to departing the USA. ALL INDIVIDUAL PLAYERS (not traveling with a parent) will meet a group leader at the international meeting point and fly to Italy together. Individual players will return together from Italy with our group leaders into our USA arrival city, we will put you on your domestic flight home.... where you will be met by your parents. Players traveling with parents may have a more direct flight to their hometowns.
How much money do I need?
The Real question is - how much do your parents want to spend?
Most of the basic expenses have already been taken care of by Volleyball tours. Players will only need to bring money for their lunch and dinner $10 - $15 per meal is normal yes food is a little more expensive in Europe). Additionally; money for souvenirs, snacks, tee shirts etc. will very from person to person. We have suggested players budget about $25.00 - $30.00 per day for miscellaneous expenses.
Many of the places; museums, galleries, cathedrals etc. there is no charge. The following will give a brief overview of some of the OPTIONAL activities and their approximate fees.
Plays/Musicals; it is possible to attend any play in London by picking up a ticket the day of the event at the theater ticket office on the day of the performance. Ticket prices vary depending upon the Play and your seating choices. When I attended Miss Saigon the tickets were about $45, and the tickets for Grease were about $35. This may seem a little expensive but — how many opportunities will you ever have to attend a play in London? Another attraction is The London Tower (to see the crown jewels, the bloody tower etc.) entry is about $12. The London Dungeons (a look back into the history of London) a scary/smelly interesting place — cost is about $10.
There are many sights to see, and many things to do when in Paris, most of which are free. To visit the Eiffel tower is free, but to go to the top of the tower is about $12. To go inside the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa etc. — is about $8 for the Adults (always free for children and free for everyone on Wednesdays. The boat cruse down the Seine River (the lights of Paris at night are wonderful) is about $10. For a really unusual experience a walk through the Catacombs is a must. Walking 200 feet under the streets of Paris through passageways carved out by the Romans, entry is about $8. Euro Disney now called “Disneyland Paris”; the choice of visiting Euro Disney (is something you may want to do with your family). On previous tours the entire group wanted to go, and on others only a few individual showed and interest. Disneyland Paris is about 1hr away from downtown Paris. The cost of admission is about $65. The American Disneyland is much more developed than Disneyland Paris, and many of our players felt that Disneyland Paris was not worth the expense. The Palace of Versailles is located about 30 - 40 min. outside Paris. We will be traveling to Versailles as a group. Versailles is a massive palace with gorgeous well manicured grounds. One could spend a day or even a week just looking at the grounds. Versailles has a couple of tours of the Palace. A self guided tour; you walk around the palace with a tape cassette and head phones the cost is about $8. An English speaking guided tour of the palace is about $20.
Where and when can we go shopping? Just about everyday there will be opportunities to have 2 - 4 hours of free time to go shopping or to go and explore parts of the various cities/attractions that you choose.
For individual players, there are strict rules to follow during the free time.
First — players will need to discuss with their parents prior to departure regarding how the players are to spend their “free time”/ “shopping time”.
Players will have 3 choices —
Basic Option 1.. during “free time” all players will be required to travel in groups of 4 or more or with parents. Players will get permission from the chaperone / coach as to where they are planning to go; and find out when they should be back. Players not following the rules of option 1 will be subjected to option 3.
Restricted Option 2. Parents my want their - players will stay with the chaperone / coach the entire time - where ever the coach goes the players will go too.
Room Restriction Option 3. player will not have any free time because of rules violation and will spend the free time at the hotel. Most parents and players opt for option 1. We have not had any problems in the 25 years of conducting tours. Players will need to exercise GOOD COMMON SENSE!
The normal curfew for everyone is 11:30 pm. Parents attending the tour, will be excluded from the rule..
If — for some reason there is a minor discipline problem it will be dealt with by taking away some of the players personal freedoms. Such as the freedom to choose whom the sit next to on the train, freedom to choose where you would like to visit on your free time.
If there is another occurrence, or if the problem is a major disruption, the player will be required to call their parents “collect” to discuss a resolution to the problem with the tour director.
If the problem cannot be resolved the player will not follow the tour safety rules, the player be SENT HOME at an additional expense to the parents. (parents will be required to provide a credit card number prior to departure)
Sending a player home has happened only one time in 32 years, and I trust this years tour we will have no problems. Mature choices and decisions equal freedoms and trust, Immature choices equal loss of freedoms and no trust.
The players Safety is our utmost concern. The players will hear the phrase USE GOOD COMMON SENSE many times on the tour, and is a good phrase to follow. All cities (perhaps even your hometown) have safe and unsafe areas in which to visit. We will be traveling to some very LARGE cities. There are persons in these cities, who make a full time occupation of taking money from young unsuspecting / trusting tourists. I say this to inform you not to frighten you. Not everyone has a heart of gold, like in you. Pay attention to your surroundings follow the group leaders instructions! When we arrive in each city you will be told what areas of the city you should avoid, and stay away from. DO NOT WANDER INTO THE AREAS OF THE CITY THAT ARE OFF LIMITS TO YOU!
We have never had a problem of this nature — and we do not want to start this year. I credit our good fortune to good kids making mature choices. I am sure this years players will keep up the tradition.
Money Belt or Neck Pouch REQUIRED:
Each traveler (Mom’s and Dad’s included) are HIGHLY ENCOURAGED to bring a money belt or neck pouch, to keep their money, passport, credit cards, and vital information safe UNDER their shirt. These money belts available at most travel stores or you can pick one up at the airport prior to the start of the trip…… These are a MUST!!
You WILL have pick pockets approach you… this is a certainty…. NOW..... BEFORE YOU PANIC……. The pick pockets in Europe are not a physical threat like in the USA. The European pickpockets are some of the best magicians in the world…. Most of the time you don’t even know when, how or where it happened. It is NOT A MUGGING (like here in the USA) it is AN ART FORM….. a magicians slide of hand…. We will teach you more about what to look for on the tour.
Why.... they select you..... because you are …
An American tourist
A naïve American tourist
A naïve American tourist that has money
A naïve American tourist that has money and does not want to make a fuss
A naïve American tourist that has money and does not want to make a fuss and who is clueless about what is going on around them
I will spend more time on this issue in future issues of the Gazette… You will be able to spot about 80%-90% of the pick pocket BEFORE they can get to you. (yes that does leave 10-%20% that you cannot see…. But the odds are in your favor, and that is WHY you put your valuables in a money pouch…. Inside your shirt….) The pick pockets in Europe are very good…. But lazy… They will select the most easy “MARK” to perform their MAGIC on….
Luggage what type and how much?
In a prior newsletter I suggested a backpack. It is the BEST way to carry your belongings on a tour to Europe, and it is. However — you will be allowed a MAXIMUM of 40 pounds of STUFF. It is best to use ONE suitcase with STRONG, WIDE wheels. You will also be allowed one carry on. YOU ! will need to carry your luggage up to 15 –20 minutes at a time (Paris train station to the Hotel is a 15 –20 minute walk). PACK LIGHT WASH OFTEN… DO NOT OVER PACK!!
The BIGGEST problem every YEAR; LUGGAGE … TOO MUCH LUGGAGE
Choices, Choices, Choices:
One measurement of maturity is the quality of our choices. When we were young an immature we needed to be taken care of all the time (baby sitter) and because we were young and immature we were given very few freedoms. As we mature and learn to make better CHOICES we are allowed to have more freedoms and trust. Our tour is based upon the premise that everyone will make mature choices, and will be given freedoms.
Immature CHOICES result in NO FREEDOMS, NO TRUST, ——— BABY - SITTING. The CHOICES are YOURS.
The US Dollar and the world economy. The value of the US dollar is always in a state of change just look in the local newspaper on a regular basis and you will see the daily change. Despite this fluctuation in the US dollar it is not anticipated that there will be any change in the price of this years tour.
How much is it?
Today .. if you paid 1 EURO for a Coke, that coke it would cost you about $1.20 US Dollars. Another way of looking at it is, for $1.20 US dollar you should get about 1 Euro. Here's what we need to know: Euros come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 banknotes. Coinage is issued in amounts of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50. Fractions of a euro are called cents. If you have marks, lira, francs or other currencies from previous trips, bring them along. You can exchange them at the central banks.
Countries trading in euros (for our tour): France 1 euro = $1.20
Countries not trading in euros (for our tour): The United Kingdom. 1 pound = $1.40
Beyond the logistics, why should we care about the euro? The answer lies in a very simple rule of frugal travelers: change money as little as possible.
Most European ATMs do work for visitors from other countries. Use them if at all possible. Virtually all of them will give you the currency of that country.
Credit card purchases are a great idea, because you are accorded the preferential exchange rates reserved for big banks. Look carefully to assure that they are accepted before heading for the checkout line.
Exchange rates; If you think the US dollar will fall in value it would be best to purchase foreign currencies now, prior to leaving. If however; you think the US dollar will increase in value it is better to wait and purchase the local currency in Europe. (get out your crystal ball no one know for sure) The amount of money you will be spending will not adversely affect your transactions.
Storefront exchange bureaus, do not have the best rates and they will charge a transaction fee. The best rates are at the bank, the Thomas Cook office or the American Express office. Even these locations will charge a transaction fee but it will not be as much.
Credit Cards / Debit Cards “are accepted all over the planet” and you don’t have to worry about figuring out the exchange rate — the bank will figure out what the exchange rate is at the time of the transaction. (and you don’t get the shock until the end of the month when you statement arrives) (if you can “predict” the future please let me know I would like you to buy my next lotto ticket).
Plumbing viva la difference;
In some of the countries we will visit one of the first things you will notice is the difference in the - - bathrooms. One of my first trips to France, I was sitting at a little sidewalk café having a cup of coffee and a ham and cheese sandwich (ham and cheese is very popular in France - and that’s the only thing I could pronounce in French). After eating the sandwich and drinking the coffee “nature” called. I decided to use the “facilities” at the café. I walked into the café and looked for the international “stickman” sign for the men’s & women’s rest rooms — there were no signs — just one sign "WC" I know NOW that "WC" stands for “water closet” but at that time I was not sure. The extra strong European coffee that I had began to percolate inside (as coffee does) I became desperate and decided “what the heck, give it a try”. I was somewhat relieved (no pun intended) when I walked inside to discover, several floor to ceiling toilet stalls. Looking inside one of the stalls was something that looked like a toilet. With no time to waste I proceeded to “take a seat” and take care of business. It was just about then that I heard the door to the WC open and two French WOMEN'S voices chattering away. I glanced up to see if my door was locked, (at that time I was not wishing to entertain anyone) no problem my lock was securely fastened. The two Woman continued to chat away one sitting to my left and the other to the right. Many thing crossed my mind as I quickly finished my business and proceeded to “sneak” to the exit. One ... of the many thoughts entered my mind was ...I wondered if I was in the Women’s WC, I wondered if I was going to be arrested, I wondered what the heck those two women were talking about. Just as I reached for the “exit door” a large man pushed the door open, we both stood there for a moment in silence. I was expecting to be arrested. HE SAID “PARDON MONSIEUR” as he rushed past me to the nearest stall. (it was obvious he had too much afternoon coffee too) You can imagine how relieved I was (in more ways than one) to find that it was a common WC and I really was in the right place ...
Many European rest rooms are not as — hygienic as the one’s we are use to. Un-like my previous experience, most restaurants will have separate WC’s for men and women. The cleanest rest rooms are in the McDonald's and the Burger King. Expect to pay for using the toilets however there will be an “attendant” there to collect a few “cents” (.25 - .50) of your money.
Next Newsletter April. Specific Airline Schedules, Train Schedules, Questions and Answers, details of when and where to meet, a final check list of what to bring (and what not to bring)