Sep 7 – Sep 15, 2021 Chateaus, Castles, Balloons & Beaches (and Mont St. Michele!) Small Group!
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Oo-la-la!! Yes, we seasoned travelers may have all been to Paris, but so many of you have begged for a deep dive into the best of France with its most iconic locations. Good wines tell good stories. You’ll have many to share as we explore the land of art, romance, dreamy landscapes and fine cuisines. Believe me, this is it – and it doesn’t get any better than toasting world-class wines in The Loire Valley.
We’re offering the ultimate French emersion that will turn AFSers to Francophiles. It’s been 18 years since our last France trip. We now choose to do France right. Rather than going in the cheaper off-season when you are likely to get wet, we go high season in the heart of sunny summer when France truly comes alive! The travel trend now is to “stay put” with easy air to maximize tour time in one country. This air is so easy, and France is totally trending in 2021, we had to fight to secure hotels.
For you bucket-listers, the medieval monastery of Mont St.-Michel is ours to explore. We’ll cross the tidal sands to visit this almost mythical place with a private tour that gives us amazing access. You’ll almost hear thunder of D-Day battle guns as our exclusive tour takes us to walk the historic beaches of Normandy. With each day, we mark off the must-sees of France – Honfleur, Ambroise, Tours, Caen, Château de Villandry, Château Clemenceau, Leonard da Vinci’s home in Clos Luce, and the castle and abbeys of the notorious William the Conqueror. Stroll the gardens of Giverny with its water lilies and irises, brought to life by Monet. Savor the finest French wine and cheeses in the heart of the fabled Loire Valley, home to the world’s grandest chateaus and its legendary wine caves.
Later we can take to the skies in a hot air balloon ride of a lifetime. Float over UNESCO listed landscapes of the Loire, Indre and Cher Valleys to gaze out at endless vineyards and fairytale-like castles which are even more impressive from on high. Celebrate a safe landing with a champagne toast! Back in Paris enjoy a walking tour with free time to discover its hidden gems. The finale of our trip ends with traditional Parisian cuisine on a dinner cruise along the Seine with the lights of the Eiffel Tower twinkling above us.
This is unlike any trip to France you may have ever taken and for first-timers – you’re getting the best of the best. It’s almost hard to fathom all of the gorgeous gardens, chateaus and stunning countryside we’ll experience. Oh, and don’t forget the amazing food! There is simply so much to see and experience that this group will fill up fast. Count of this being the ultimate Bon Voyage!!!
Our Glorious AFS Itinerary
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Sep 7 – Depart USA to Paris (CDG) Group air details to follow in Trip Tips. But it’s so easy to arrange your own air roundtrip to Paris on dozens of airlines. This lends flexibility so you can add an extension pre or post-trip. Land starts Sep 8 at 2PM.
Sep 8 – Arrive Paris D
Bienvenue a Paris!!! Welcome to Paris!
If you are arriving with the group, we will arrange for transportation to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza République. It is located right on the bustling Place de la République in what is known as the Marais district. Here you have 5 metro subway lines outside our hotel at your disposal.
You’ll have time to rest, check out the shops and restaurants in the neighborhood, or even explore further. Take advantage of your time. So many options on free time here. You can learn how to make macaroons at Galleries Lafayette or even take the train to taste champagne at Mumms Cellars! Or simply stroll the Champs-Elysee!
In the early evening, we meet in the lobby to walk to a nearby restaurant Che Jenny for a three-course Welcome Dinner to get to know your fellow travelers. www.chez-jenny.com
Overnight: Hotel Crowne Plaza République (1 night)
Sep 9 – Giverny, Honfleur and Normandy B
After breakfast, we make our way to the village of Giverny, home to artist Claude Monet. We will visit the painter’s final studio, the former Café Baudy, Monet’s tomb at the local church and the amazing water garden where Monet captured in his vivid Water Lilies paintings.
We continue through the beautiful Normandy countryside and visit a Dairy to learn about, as well as sample, authentic Camembert cheeses! Discover the differences between various cheeses while seeing the process from start to tasty finish.
Our drive to Caen is an incredibly scenic one and there is so much to take in on arrival. This is a medieval area dating to William the Conqueror’s time. Here, we find not only his castle but the Abbaye aux Hommes and the Abbaye aux Dames, built for himself and his wife.
In World War II, D-Day operations kicked off just down the Orne River, British airborne troops famously securing the vital Pegasus Bridge. Our historic hotel survived the bombs of WWII and sits in the heart of Caen, so you can easily explore the many monuments nearby as well as great shops and French cafes. Your evening is on own to explore.
Overnight: Hotel Best Western Plus Le Moderne (3 nights)
Sep 10 – Mont Saint-Michel Abbey B
Get your cameras ready for a sight so beautiful it looks surreal! This is an extraordinary day because we enjoy a private full-day tour of the incomparable Mont Saint Michel. One of France’s most popular and iconic sights, the magnificent island of Mont Saint Michel and its bay are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites. The stunning medieval abbey at the top of the rocky island is a genuine historical masterpiece, while the bay below changes with the rise and fall of the tides.
We’ll walk right up to the top of the island to see the fascinating and unique Benedictine abbey. Dating back to the 8th Century, it is a wonder of Gothic architecture on three floors, dedicated to the Archangel Michael.
Our evening is free to explore the pedestrian-only zone of enchanting Caen.
Overnight: Hotel Best Western Plus Le Moderne
Sep 11 – Touring D-Day Landing Beaches and Normandy B
Again, we have a rare day by experiencing a private full-day tour of the D-Day landing beaches of World War II to get you in the spirit of American bravery. We visit the Pointe du Hoc which overlooks the hundred-foot-high cliffs between Utah and Omaha beaches. Stormed by the American Rangers on June 6, it was one of the key German fortified sites along the Normandy coast and was equipped, at that time, with extensive heavy artillery.
We then visit the famous American Cemetery at Saint Laurent, located just above Omaha Beach, near the town of Colleville-sur-Mer. This 170-acre site used in many movies is home to 9,387 white marble headstones, lined up perfectly across the grass, a memorial, a chapel, and the Garden of the Missing. It is one of the 25 notable permanent military burial sites in the United States and abroad and pays tribute to soldiers that died during the Battle of Normandy. Follow the small trail down the hill to Omaha Beach, where we will walk across the sand where men died, and history was made. Overnight: Hotel Best Western Plus Le Moderne
Overnight: Hotel Best Western Plus Le Moderne
Sep 12 – Normandy to Amboise and Loire Valley with wine tastings B
After breakfast, it’s on the magnificent Loire Valley. Our hotel is the Château Belmont, located in the heart of the Loire castle region. Known for its beautiful grounds, including gardens and forests, the château also includes a world-class spa. Charming Amboise is like a postcard, high above the river Lorie and lined with boats you can rent. It’s crowned by a magnificent chateau.
We arrive in time for you to explore the grounds and take advantage of several activities which include visits to the Clos Lucé- where Leonard da Vinci called home, or the spectacular Château de Chenonceau.
But you won’t want to miss the optional sunset hot air balloon ride from Amboise. The sweeping vineyards, lush forests and fairy-tale castles of the Loire Valley are even more stunning from above and this 3-hour hot-air balloon experience is the ideal way to enjoy an aerial view. Float over the UNESCO-listed landscapes of the Loire, Indre or Cher Valleys. Here, you can spot landmarks like ChâteauChenonceau or the magnificent formal gardens of Villandry. And of course, there is champagne to toast when you land! (You can book on arrival to ensure weather will be fine. Prices avg. $295 and worth every cent. More detail in Trip Tips.)
You’ll love your elegant hotel in the heart of Tours set in a majestic park. Enjoy the spa and Turkish Hamman! Overnight: Hotel Château Belmont (2 nights)
Sep 13 – Loire Valley Castles and Wine Tasting B
(Optional morning ballooning will be offered again followed by breakfast – Limited to 20, see Trip Tips for details. The sweeping Vineyards, lush forest and fairytale castles of the Loire valley are even more impressive from above and this three hour hot air balloon experience is the ideal way to enjoy an aerial view. Float over the UNESCO listed landscapes of the Loire, Indre or Cher Valleys, spot landmarks like the Château Chenonceau or the gardens to Villandry in order to accommodate the hot air balloon, which is a must be done in the morning so days may be swapped. Other optional activities in the area included visiting Clos Luce or Chenonceau castle.)
It’s all about castles and wine today. The historic castles of Azay-le-Rideau, Rivau, and Villandry are three of the Loire Valley’s most popular attractions and we’ll spend the day exploring. Rivau has the world’s finest rose garden with 460 varieties. They’re spread throughout the region and hidden in the hillsides. Our full-day tour includes a tasting of Loire Valley wines in the authentic setting of a troglodyte cave. Located 30 feet below the surface is a wine cave carved into the rock of the region, these bottles are raised with care, bottled and aged. We’ll delve into and truly experience centuries of Loire Valley history and gaze out over the majestic Loire River.
For free time in Tours, visit the Cathedral, museums, market and taste the best pastries on the planet. Overnight: Hotel Château Belmont!
Sep 14 – Paris Tour and Dinner Cruise B/D
We make our way back to Paris for a guided 4 hour afternoon Walking Tour of one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This is truly “The City of Light,” where we make history come to life at every stop! We can drop you off at the Louvre or fabulous Montmartre.
We end the day and our trip with an unforgettable 3 hour dinner cruise on the river Seine with a scrumptious 3-course French Gourmet menu. Watch the lights of the city come alive from our unique vantage point of the Seine, rediscovering the most emblematic monuments of Paris as we float along.
Even if you’ve been to Paris before, there are countless more hidden gems to discover… Like food he tours, hop on bus, Notre Dame cathedral, Musee de Orsay, Moulin Rouge, and even Versailles.
Overnight: Hotel Crowne Plaza République (1 night)
Sep 15 – Adieu to France B
After breakfast, we head back to the airport for our flights back to the U.S.
** BON VOYAGE **
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Land Price $2398 pp twin share Price based on 24 participants. If less, there may be a small increase.
Not included: Gratuities
It is too early to price our group air. This will be offered as we get closer. If traveling on your own, you will be offered the chance to book the internal flights with the group.
Group Air: We may present if enough in the group wants it.
- Land prices per person twin share. Trip price based on a minimum number of participants.
- Single rooms limited with $ supplement. Cost varies. Email us for availability. AFS will find you a roommate.
- The earliest we present group air is 10 months prior. We’ll send email to ask who wants it. A minimum number of 12 is needed.
- Please review AFS Terms and Conditions, Heading Abroad with AFS, Covid Policy. Travel insurance is important nowadays. It’s rare, but we reserve the right to modify schedules, tour and hotels.
- Read Trip Tips on its own tab next itinerary for latest details.
Group Air: We offered group air but not enough wanted it. See Trip Tips for details
We will ask via email if you want this. A minimum of 14 must want air to be considered a group by the airline. Group air included airport – hotel transfers. If there are any airline time changes, you need do nothing, we’ll handle everything.
- All prices are per person twin share. Single rooms limited per group and a single supplement applies. Cost set by hotel/cruiseline and vary considerably. AFS will find you a roommate match. All hotel rooms are “run of house.”
- Please review AFS Terms and Conditions as well as Heading Abroad with AFS.
- Land – Price based on a minimum number of trip participants, as well as local currency exchange rates which can fluctuate.
- We write our itineraries over a year in advance. Though unlikely, we always reserve the right to modify schedules, tours and hotels if necessary.
- Group air – Airlines may add surcharges to offset fuel inflation or taxes. The total ticket cost is not final until we receive your final payment and the group is ticketed. If doing own air, airport transfer may or may not be included depending on your air schedule. Do not buy air until the group air is set or we advise – though unlikely, airlines, times and dates can change!
AFS France Trip Tips
Prepare to be thrilled with a true French experience like no other. We have a wonderful small group of 20 solo travelers and openings for a few more, so tell your friends. After final payments are in, we will send you the contact and room lists and access to your private Facebook group ask for the FB group link and please ask to join.
First, we thank you for your trust in booking this AFS trip. Even as I write this, the trip dates changed from July to September. Together we will adapt to new travel norms for the Privilege of Travel. We are constantly adapting to ever-changing developments to ensure you’ll have a safe journey. As vaccines roll out, more opens. No vaccine is necessary to travel. Carefully read the “AFS Confidence Pledge” below. Our vetted local teams in each city are fully trained in the latest health and safety protocols according to WHO and are happy to greet you. Things are constantly monitored. Do not Google your destination on State/gov/CDC sites as they are often outdated to the updates our expert suppliers have.
JUN 3 Update:
It is your responsibility to read our important emails and updated notes to these Trip Tips. Let us sweat the small stuff as we strive to make your trip worry-free. This may well be the best time to go and fully enjoy your vacation! Trip Tips are always on our www.afstravelers.com next to itinerary in its own tab. They are designed to answer trip-related questions. It’s your responsibility to read this information. Pandemic rules are ever-changing. Updates and addendums will be posted. Check back from time to time.
Requirements for traveling to France Until June 9 – France remains closed to any foreign nationals who don’t have a residence permit or a valid reason (which includes a medical reason, traveling for work purposes, or visiting a sick relative)with proper documentation. Those who do must also show proof of a negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test taken 72 hours or less prior to their outbound flight and must self-isolate for seven days after arrival. Starting on June 9, non-nationals (including Americans) will be allowed entry given they present the Pass Sanitaire, or digital health pass (it is still not clear exactly how this digital health pass will work and if a paper certificate is likely to be accepted as well), that shows proof of vaccination and have tested negative for COVID-19.
When in France, masks are still required in all public places, even for those who are vaccinated (except when running or cycling), and gatherings of more than six people are forbidden. Alcohol consumption in public remains banned (prior to the pandemic there was no such ban).
Requirements for returning to the United States All international arrivals to the United States—including returning U.S. citizens—must provide proof of a laboratory-generated negative COVID-19 test result procured no more than three days prior to departure to the U.S. There is currently no exception for those who have been vaccinated for COVID-19. Getting a test is pretty easy all over Paris and appointments aren’t usually required, depending on the site, though you can make one using the Doctolib app. Tests are free regardless of your nationality or whether you have insurance, and results often take less than 24 hours. Though, when choosing your testing site be sure to specify it’s for a PCR test (not a rapid antigen test) and that results are guaranteed in 24 to 36 hours.
FINAL PAYMENT DUE JUNE 2 We prefer checks for Final Payment. Credit card fees are costly for a small company to absorb. While we build costs into smaller deposits, we incorporate a $60 credit card convenience fee as a line item on each invoice in order to defray processing costs. When paying by check, deduct this $60 amount. Make your payment to AFS or Adventures For Solo Travelers, 1907 Daniel Green Ct., Smyrna GA 30080.
Your fearless GTL (Gracious Trip Leader, not a guide but liaison between our guides and group to ensure things run smoothly) Janice McDonald
GTL Janice was an early AFSer and has traveled with Suzy since almost the beginning. She has visited more than 80 countries and all 7 continents both on her own and in her job as a writer and television producer! She has actually been to Antarctica TWICE – once with the legendary Jacques Cousteau and a second time with Prince Albert of Monaco. Imagine that. While she currently works mostly with ABC News, she spent 20 years with CNN, reporting news across the globe. A prolific writer, Janice has written 17 books on travel and history. She also has an independent production company called J-Mac Productions which has afforded her the opportunity to do independent documentaries as well as producing marketing, training and commercial materials. She has won numerous awards including 6 Emmys and three Edward R. Murrows for her work.
No words can describe her professionalism and bubbly personality. Janice consistently remains upbeat even when things don’t go as planned and is simply Large Fun to go on a solo travel tour with!
Trip Prep: Read all on Covid PCR test below and see revised Heading Abroad with AFS, especially if you are new to AFS.
- Ensure your passport is valid 6 months after return date with two blank pages. We recommend renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel as COVID delays have extended times considerably. Take a photo of your passport to store in the cloud or bring a copy. To speed through US Customs, download Mobile Passport. Look in your App Store for details.
- Notify bank and cc company of travel dates so they don’t block charges.
- Login to afstravelers.com and check to see if your passport details, mailing address, email and emergency contact are correct.
- Vaccines are rolling out faster than ever now. Be patient. I just got mine feeling it will eventually be necessary for travel. Many countries now are eliminating Covid test and quarantine for vaccinated visitors. Don’t laminate vaccine card as some countries won’t accept it. You can take photo of both sides and store on phone or copy both sides and laminate the copy.
- All airline Covid rules differ. It is imperative to read your airline rules to ensure a smooth departure! Click here for the latest info on PCR tests required to travel abroad. Failure to get the correct test may cause the airline to turn you away.
Fitness level – No trouble walking on our many walking tours.
Doing Own Air– We canceled group air because not enough wanted it. Trip dates are firm. Land tour officially begins June 30 at 5PM for Welcome Dinner. You may arrange your own air from your hometown. We like Google Flights and Skyscanner. We highly recommend that you not rush to buy air. If your arrival or departure times do not align with Group Air times, you’ll need to arrange your own airport/hotel transfers. If you need help getting your own air, call our friend Raj who’s an air expert at (281) 912-9173 email@example.com Give him your exact airdates, destination, passport name and details with birthdate. If you go early and check-in AFS hotel before group arrives, it’s your responsibility to change rooms with your roommate if necessary, day one when trip begins. All should check airline websites often for any new CV news or schedule changes. Airlines or the country may require a Covid test prior departure. See testfortravel.com – more later.
(In today’s air & hotel landscape, never book tickets on third-party booking engine is like Expedia, Google Flights, hotels.com and more! You’ll rarely get a refund and it’s near impossible to change your ticket. Use sites only to view air prices. Then go directly to the airline or hotel website and book through them for your best protection and price.)
• Air update (June 2021). Everyone, check your flights! Airlines are canceling routes left and right now, Many won’t even inform you by email that there’s been a change. If your flight has been canceled, they MUST rebook you book on any other carrier to accommodate your schedule. Stand firm. If you’re not getting anyplace ask for their supervisor. (Good news, conversely many airlines are adding other new routes which be a better fit for you.)
Transfers– We get only one airport transfer in and out to hotels and will give you set times closer to departure. Chosen times will be based on the majority of arrivals of airlines. If your flight time coincides with the group, you may take our single airport group transfer. It’s responsibility to find the group as they exit baggage claim. If your flight time falls outside the group, you’ll need to make your own transfer arrangements. Consider Uber or sharing taxi ride with group member.
Baggage– Think light to ease your burden, not like you’re fleeing your homeland. You change hotel properties several times. 1 carry-on bag & 1 medium suitcase not to exceed 45lbs – weigh on a bathroom scale – are ideal. This weight limit is set for our porterage and luggage vans. If you overpack by adding side pre-or post-trip luggage, make prior plans as to where to stow the excess luggage. You may be responsible for any overage charges. The new hard cases are difficult to fit in coach storage. Be sure to attach ID to both bags. Leave space for great souvenirs.
Packing: Pack your hygiene kit and munchies in clear plastic bags. Airport and inflight food service may be limited. This trip is so easy. Simply pack summer clothing with a light jacket for nights and long flights. Think umbrella, daypack, wide-brim hat, sunscreen, comfy sneakers.
Electric– EU 2 round 2 pin plug. Don’t forget a portable backup charger, cords, gadgets, etc. Cell phones and tablets do not need a converter; you only need an adapter plug. AFSers often leave charger cords in room, so be sure to double-check your room before check out. All properties have hairdryers.
Money Matters – You will need some cash for personal tipping, meals, and shopping. $500 in cash should suffice. (Venmo may be convenient at home, but useless overseas, ATM may eat your card. Always bring some cash! Wise to have new crisp bills.) Change currency arrival at airport, bank, or hotels or withdraw local currency from an ATM. Note -independent ATMs are risky due to skimmer scams. Safest ATMs are at airport and banks. Always shield your pin number when entering. Avoid using unless it’s an emergency.
Currency Exchange Rate $1= .83 euro Follow the link below to create a conversion cheat sheet https://www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates
Be sure you bring New Bills (dates after 2016) as countries may not accept older bills when changing money. Credit cards are far safer than using your debit card. I convert half of it upon entry. I use my credit card for most purchases. Many cards now offer no foreign transaction fees.
Gratuities – (Prepaid) It’s protocol to tip our local guides, assistants, porters, drivers and ground staff. Guidelines have increased globally, but around $12 to $15 per day should cover all for the trip. A $85 total has been added to your invoice. Please understand this is only the suggested minimum. For ease of distribution, your GTL will tip the different ground services for the entire group each day.
Tipping on own – If service is stellar, feel free to give more directly. All we tourists leave behind is our reputation. I personally carry a personal stash of US ones in an envelope to draw from as needed. Bell staff/porters – AFSers roll bags to their room. If you use a porter, please tip $2. Restaurants – 10%. For group lunches or dinners, please leave a dollar or two for waitstaff!
Communication– Internet is available everywhere. With smartphones, be sure to check with your provider for rates and coverage for international phone plans before departure. Data Roaming rates can be expensive. To reach home – Texting, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook messaging when using WIFI. Be cautious using public Wi-Fi without using VPN. Without VPN never open attachments or view financial or personal accounts on the Internet while abroad. Phone calls, text messages, and data usage of all kinds, it is crucial to understand that, unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, every use of your phone incurs a data toll. That means that viewing and downloading email, browsing the web, viewing social media, and mapping all incur data charges, as do applications that we sometimes assume to be “free,” such as Skype and WhatsApp. Unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, however, WhatsApp is using cellular data, so you are getting charged at your provider’s international roaming data rate. You can buy a SIM card or another option for affordable data in many countries abroad is Skyroam. All the data you want to use Bluetooth for to access your devices are for just $10 per day for 5 devices. See https://www.skyroam.com for details.
Get Smart: “Avoiding Hackers on Vacation,” Experts say! …Thieves not only want your money but also your hard-earned Frequent Flyer Points! Change passwords often. Check device security settings before you leave for your trip. Back up, update, and encrypt your devices and data using a virtual VPN. It’s worth the cost. In hotel rooms, hide iPods or laptops to avoid “evil maids” that want to clone your tech. Bottled water is always best abroad, as our gut isn’t accustomed to local tap water. Eat clean food and avoid street vendors. Pickpockets are everywhere now, especially at night. Never carry your passport outside of the room. It’s wise to grab a business card from the desk before heading out on own. To get back just show the card to a taxi driver- no memory or English needed.
Retail Therapy – Too much to list here! Follow links.
- Top 7 Shopping Districts in Paris
- 25 Things/ Souvenirs to Buy in Paris & Where to Find Them·
- 20 French Food You Can Only Buy in France and Can Bring …
- 11 Things You Can Only Buy in Paris, France
Photography – Before taking pictures of locals, know it is polite to ask. Your AFS Private Facebook Group Page is a great way to share your best shots with each other. AFS loves photos with group participants (not typical churches, monuments, or any shot that looks like you pulled it off of the net, etc.) for our website. The best photos are ones that include a group member with a local, children, animals, or at iconic sites in the same frame!
Websites of Interest: The Tourist board website has info on all your regions and all you’ll see. https://us.france.fr/en/places-to-go
Eating out in France : how much does it cost? French restaurants generally offer excellent value. When eating out, most people opt for a “menu”, rather than choosing à la carte (dish by dish), though this is normally possible too. In 2020, average rates for a “Menu du jour” (menu of the day) in traditional restaurants were normally in the range of 14 € to 20 €. That’s for a three-course meal. Bread is always included as well. A menu du jour normally offers a limited choice. In many restaurants, the Menu du jour is only available for lunch: in the evening, it is necessary to choose a more expensive menu or choose à la carte. Most respectable restaurants offer a menu of some sort in the region of 20 €.
“Menus” include bread, and restaurants are obliged by law to provide a tap water free of charge (une carafe d’eau du robinet) if requested. They may also include a small carafe of wine. Coffee is normally extra. Check the wine list carefully; restaurants make big mark-ups on the wine, but there are usually house wines available, if you go to the end of the wine list.
Accommodations – Please see the itinerary Hotel tab for details. Hotels can change, but it’s rare. You can Google these or see web.
Roomies – Single supplements have significantly increased – if available at all. Save money and buy yourself an awesome local gift. We all live alone, but save money when traveling by rooming together. Suzy spends a lot of time on roommate matching. 99% of our clients are wonderful and you’re only in your room to sleep at night. Note, kindness begets kindness
Recommended Option– AFS Sunset Hot Air Balloon ride from Amboise. The sweeping vineyards, lush forests and fairy-tale castles of the Loire Valley are even more stunning from above and this 3-hour hot-air balloon experience is the ideal way to enjoy an aerial view. Float over the UNESCO-listed landscapes of the Loire, Indre or Cher Valleys. Here, you can spot landmarks like Château Chenonceau or the magnificent formal gardens of Villandry. And of course, there is champagne to toast when you land! (You can book on arrival to ensure weather will be fine. Prices avg. $295 and worth every cent. Email us by April 1 if you want to be included. First come basis. Limited to 20 and at this time, half full. $35 is non-refundable per balloon company.
Leisure Time – For your free time, it’s best to arrive and ask our local expert guides for suggestions. We notice many newer clients pre-plan many activities on the AFS trip well before they arrive, often with disappointing results. Our daily itineraries are pretty full, but there will be some free time. Expert travelers revel in the element of surprise in a new destination and allow the wind to blow them where it will. Use Google Maps on your phone to find everything nearby.
Amending tour pre-or post-trip or arranging private tours during free time. We often see many AFSers on Facebook urging others to join them to countries before/after our trip. Stopovers are great to add, but understand AFS has nothing to do with this and is not responsible for the quality of these trips.
Emergency Contact – AFS Phone 770-432-8225, or email us at https://www.afstravelers.com/contact-us/ and more contacts will be provided with your Final Docs email 2 weeks before departure. Your guide can handle all home for true Emergency. Do not expect to use your trip leader’s cell phone; you’ll need to use your own cell phone. 3 weeks prior to departure more details on this will be emailed.
At booking, we sent you our terms and conditions. Open the following link to review our terms again:
Travel Insurance– If you would like the security of travel insurance and have a pre-existing condition (elderly parent, medical, etc.) or want to be covered for Covid caused delays, you must purchase insurance within 15 days from your initial trip deposit in order to assure full coverage. The trip cost can be amended or adjusted as needed after your initial purchase (eg. adding an air ticket cost later). You can buy travel insurance at any time, just know that there may be some possible limitations if purchased outside the 15 day period. Unfortunately, you need to ask specific questions to your insurance company. A standard policy may not cover Covid related issues. Often CFAR or canceled for any reason may, but ask carrier. Before purchasing, we suggest you phone an insurance agent to discuss your exact policy coverage needs related to all things Covid.
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Travel Psychology 101 – Prepare for your departure joyfully with no contempt before investigation upon arrival. Please understand that with travel, things are not like at home and changes may occur. Great trips work best for those with an open mind, flexible attitude and adventuresome spirit. If changes occur, embrace them with serendipity. Who knows?… The unexpected may prove to be a better experience. Adapt and go with the flow with a laid-back attitude. Be spontaneous. Be tolerant of foreign cultures in respecting their centuries of traditions. Embrace the differences. Be curious, not shy. Smile – locals will sense your energy of kindness and kindness always begets kindness. Our common goal is to experience different cultures, make new friends, get great photos, have large fun, and return home safely with memories worthy of recollection.
The best spirit of an Explorer requires the openness of a child – Suzy
“When traveling, remember that a foreign country isn’t designed to make you comfortable. It’s designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clinton Fadiman
Please note that AFS is non-partisan – With our homogeneous groups, we all want to focus on the common denominator – our love of travel. In today’s divisive world, we suggest members not discuss politics and if you must, please practice my rule of TOK: Tolerance, Open-mindedness and Kindness.
Book AFS with Confidence 2021– Thank you for booking! We are blown away by the support from all of you throughout this pandemic. It validates the trust and values AFS was built on over 35 years. As countries reopen, so will we. Travel is a shared experience. Together we press on and travel boldly. Below are new guidelines. We all must adapt and embrace any challenges with confidence for the freedom and privilege to travel.
We’ve faced many challenges over decades and the health of our travelers always comes first. As the world slowly opens, we are dedicated to creating responsible adventures! All our trips are different, so specific plans in each region may be circumstantial. We work closely with our local suppliers and vetted partners to know the best practice in each country. That being said, we present a blanket procedure below to be followed on ALL AFS trips. Our local guides will brief you on arrival with the support of our Trip Leaders to ensure we follow local safety protocols. They are fully committed to aiding your well-being.
We will re-discover the world through more slow, easy and mindful travel. Our groups will be smaller. All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are Covid free and will follow all safety protocols. Booking travel now is complex because rules always change. Tour companies can’t become “health and safety experts” when policies are inconsistent. Even experts are in the dark at times with the changing patchwork of government laws, but we are committed to doing our best. This is a learning process for all of us and as we go, we will strive to make each step as safe and seamless as possible for you.
As in life itself, travel comes with some inherent risk the minute we step out our door. Travel isn’t dangerous. Being irresponsible is. For your protection we want you to be proactive in following new health guidelines. They involve teamwork and personal responsibility, but they do not preclude you from having fun and enjoying your trip! Things constantly change and it’s a huge challenge for airlines, airports, hotels, cruises and tour companies. We will do our best to keep you up to date with any adjustments. Please understand we reserve the right to amend any tour activities, if needed. To present responsible travel, we at AFS do our part: Our vetted suppliers uphold the highest standards under CDC guidelines.
Safety measures on a trip; frequent handwashing, (bring personal sanitizer), exercise social distancing and wear a mask when applicable. Insurance provides trip cancellation, but not from fear, trip interruption, added medical protection. Call them to understand coverage. We are not responsible for any additional cost to you due to quarantine or illness
Helpful CV Resources– Below are helpful links to facts and stats for you to reference as you gear up for all your travel domestically and abroad.
- Facts about coronavirus-symptoms/transmission/precaution/treatment
- CDC entire situation summary
- US State Department Travel Advisories (Often old news)
Our Pledge to You – Our global suppliers uphold the highest standards under new CDC guidelines. We at AFS assure you we will continue to offer you quality trips to countries where you will feel protected – countries that are going to extraordinary lengths now to provide a safe visit. Each destination is far less crowded than ever before and that means better personal attention. We can trust our astute suppliers when each country is clear to visit. We’re taking great precautions and encourage you to remain positive. We will strive to make each step as safe and seamless as possible for you!
- We ensure that heightened sanitation methods have been adopted in every place we visit and that all hotel properties and vehicles have passed cleanliness protocols.
- Our guides and drivers must test negative and pass stringent safety measures.
- Most of our groups will be limited to half the size of normal in the past.
- We are choosing destinations with wide-open spaces for physical distancing. You will be spaced at meals to socialize safely.
- Some private tours for groups of friends only can be arranged.
- We’ll monitor your trip closely and provide a 24/7 emergency number if your trip is disrupted.
- All clients must take the AFS pledge that they are COVID-free and will follow all the safety protocols. Most AFSers have gotten vaccinations now.
Your Pledge to AFS – We ask you to assume personal responsibility to protect your health and the well-being of your fellow travelers, guides and locals.
- Read and print all updated Trip Tips on AFS website
- Consider travel insurance with trip interruption
- Stay healthy with vitamin D and zinc. Confirm within 14 days of departure but you have no symptoms of Covid nor being in close contact with anyone diagnosed with it.
- You agree to assume any risk of participating in trip activities, comply with applicable government, airline and health authorities.
- Exercise social distancing and local guides directions whenever possible.
- Sanitize your hands and phone throughout.
- Read our terms here – https://www.afstravelers.com/terms-and-conditions/
Rapid COVID-19 PCR Tests – Rules are changing daily! At this time, we must rely on each airlines policy. Read Covid rules at the top of airline website up to a week before departure. Every airline and country differ. 2 weeks prior we will send you final AFS departure letter with instructions specific to your trip.
At present, a Rapid (RT) PCR test is needed for international flights and to enter most countries and needed to return to USA. We hope this will be eliminated by the time your trip goes. RT-PCR is best some airlines are accepting other tests now.
- RT – PCR Test – This is PCR test with Rapid Test Results within 24 hours. Most urgent care places offer these. Read Covid news below.
No mailing kits. All tests are free or covered by insurance. To get fast with no wait, make appointment at private lab for a fee. They are now thousands of labs around US. Also, more testing sites opening daily with easy drive through. Call your healthcare provider or Urgent Care near you. Or Google “free no cost Covid testing near me”. Most state and federal programs provide this. Or Google airport to see if Test is available there (JFK $75). Rural areas are more challenging. You may need to drive to an appointment in a nearby city. At present it’s free at Walgreens and CVS. They will bill your insurance company of $119. (Best trick – if you say you may have been “exposed to a Covid person” or if you feel “symptoms” like fatigue or say CDC recommended, it must be free.)
Outbound – Most airlines require negative PCR test within 96 to 72 hours prior to departure of your first flight. This new rule makes travel more challenging, but we must follow to protect ourselves and those on the flight. Read specific airline rules on website, also any rules on connections in transit. Those vaccinated still need to show a test, but may change. Get RT-PCR test with guaranteed results within 24 to 48 hours. They email result to you. Print out to bring at check in. Also screenshot copy on cell phone. Test must read “PCR”. (We’ve had nobody test positive yet, if so, call us 770-432-8225. Many tests are inaccurate and a re-test shows negative.) Don’t forget to bring your vaccine card if you have one!
Homebound – Airline may require negative PCR test to board departure flight. Each carrier differs. We hope this is eliminated by your trip date. If test is necessary within 72 hours of departure, we can help arrange test for group in each country. Details later by email. As of May 10 new mail in-home kits the CDC announced you can now bring to do there for return into USA. The CDC only certifies kits from eMeds- 6pack $150, however, outbound some airlines may not accept this for departure.