The Best Time to Visit Europe
You’ve decided on a European vacation- that’s great!
Now, you might be asking yourself “when is the best time to actually visit Europe?” Plenty of considerations go into determining the best time of year, including the travel seasons, the weather seasons, and what you’re hoping to see while abroad.
First of all, let’s consider the seasons. Not winter, fall, summer, and spring; but peak, shoulders, and off seasons. In the travel world the year is divided into these seasons, and they make a huge difference in your experience. Here’s the breakdown:
- Off-Peak Season: November - March
- Shoulder Season: April - mid-June
- Peak Season: mid-June - August
- 2nd Shoulder Season: September - October
For most travelers the choice of season falls on a spectrum of, “I’ll go off season when it’s cheapest,” to, “I simply must go in peak season because that’s when it’s best, right?” But the truth is that there are pros and cons to traveling Europe in each of these seasons. Finding the “best” time to travel all depends on what you’re looking for. Grand European’s Travel Specialists are happy to help you decide on the best time of year to visit your destination and can explain how your experience might be different depending on the travel season.
To better understand, let’s examine each of these seasons.
Ah, summer in Italy. What a daydream. It exists for a reason. Summer is a grand time to travel through Europe. The weather is warm, the sun is shining, and the outdoors are filled with festivals and things to do. It’s also the time of year when most people have vacations and are willing to travel. Families with school-aged children are locked into this season, and that demographic will color your trip substantially. Peak season often also boasts the most saturated tourist carousels, but that doesn’t have to mean that you feel claustrophobic or have a less than custom experience. In fact, our European vacation packages include plenty of culturally enriching encounters and insider experiences that connect you with the locals. Here are some more ways to maximize your peak season travel.
- Embrace the Crowds: Travelling during peak season means people. There just are no two ways around it. Approach your vacation with the acceptance that there will be other people, likely many other people, traveling with you. Embrace the positive aspects, such as the likelihood of meeting different types of people and forming new friendships. And, perhaps most importantly, remember that traveling in a group on one of our guided tours gives you special access to Europe’s legendary sites. That means you’ll explore alongside local guides and never waste time waiting around in line. Finally, be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes, and make sure you carry all the necessities for a day of sightseeing, such as sunscreen and a bottle of water.
- Try Something New: Everyone wants to see the shores of Santorini, right? This, unsurprisingly, means that these beaches and shops will be packed with people. If you have a free evening, why not grab a taxi and head a few miles up or down the coast to a lesser known beach town for dinner? The air and water temperatures will be the same, the cultural experience won’t differ, but the crowds will be dramatically reduced. You’re more likely to receive personal attention and an authentic experience by seeking out nearby places that other tourists may not have ever heard of before.
- Extend your stay: Day trips are popular options for travelers hoping to maximize their vacation days as much as possible. Our European vacation packages include the perfect balance of guided sightseeing free time to explore on your own. Still, you might find that you didn’t get to spend as much time as you would have liked in a certain place. You might want to consider adding a few extra nights at the end of your vacation, either to revisit a town you enjoyed during your trip or to explore a city that wasn’t included on your itinerary. If you’d like to spend additional time in a city that’s included in the tour, your GET Travel Specialists will be happy to assist you and can book extra nights for you under our contracted hotel rates.
- Get advice from a Travel Specialist: While nearly all destinations tend to have their peak tourist season across July and August, this is not true of all European cities. Many independent travelers are surprised when they plan a trip to Rome in August and find that temperatures are scorching and much of the city shuts down for a four week holiday. In fact, much of Europe shuts down in the summer for several weeks at a time. Typically around the first and 15th of July and August, locals will schedule long vacations to the seaside in both France and Italy. So if you’re traveling independently and don’t want to travel to the sea, you’ll likely find a sparsely populated city center during these times and might have a hard time finding shops or restaurants that are open. If you’re wondering about the best time to visit your destination of choice, just give us a call and our Travel Specialists will be happy to answer your questions and offer expert advice you can trust.
Peak season can be a hassle to plan for independent travelers. But you don’t need to worry about when you travel with us, because we handle all the details for you; we even offer you better rates than you would find on your own thanks to pre-negotiated contracts with top hotels and local attractions. And with our collection of European vacation packages, not only can you bypass the lines at world-renowned museums and legendary sites, but you’ll also enjoy guided visits with local experts.
Off Peak Season
Often the choice of budget seekers or return visitors, it’s no secret that off-peak season’s largest perk is lower pricing. When fewer crowds are inclined to visit, hotels, restaurants, and major attractions drop their prices. In addition to lower prices on your European vacation package, there are other benefits to choosing a tour during the off-peak season. For example:
- Experience Europe like a European: When the crowds leave, the locals stay. This means that when you travel in the off-peak season you’ll mingle even more with the locals. This allows for a more immersive experience as to what it is like to truly live in the country you’re traveling to.
- Have it to Yourself: How often do you behave like a tourist in your own hometown? Chances are you don’t regularly explore museums and attractions in depth in the city where you live. Europeans are no different. Off-peak season travel means that many of the places you want to visit will be sparsely populated, and some may even be empty. This allows your experience to be intimate and very personal. Imagine visiting Europe’s renowned cultural sites with few other visitors around—an experience made even richer with a local specialist to guide you and answer all your questions.
- Be Prepared: Days are shorter and weather is less predictable in the offseason. This means that you should plan for, and be OK with rainy, cold, gray days as well as crisp, clear, cool ones. Be sure to bring the right essentials to keep you comfortable during your trip, such as comfortable walking shoes and a raincoat. For helpful ideas on what to pack, take a look at our packing list.
- Off Peak Doesn’t Mean Uninteresting: Sometimes the most cultural experiences a country can offer happen to fall outside of peak travel season. For example, in Vienna, the famed Boys’ Choir and Lipizzaner Stallions are best observed in the off-peak season. And you have the best chances of seeing the northern lights on a guided tour of Iceland during the darkest months of winter. Looking into various off-peak season attractions can open the doors to an incredible vacation.
Seen by many experts as the “sweet spot” for European travel, the shoulder season offers plenty of sunlight, comfortable temperatures, fewer crowds, and a tourism industry eager to please the remaining tourists they see for the season. Positioned in April through early June with a revival in September and October, shoulder season is certainly worth considering for your travel plans. The one caveat is that shoulder season is going to vary by destination more than by month.
For example, as we previously mentioned, popular Paris often sees a tourist slump during the peak season months of July and August. Meanwhile, in Italy, Spain, Croatia, and the south of France, the cooler temperatures of the “shoulder season” months can cause crowds to come out in droves. The increase in tourist activity means that, while you may be expecting a decrease in crowds, you’re likely to experience peak season conditions and crowds.
The good news is that, unlike peak and off-peak seasons, there are two shoulder seasons annually. So, spring shoulder or fall shoulder? Look into weather and bear in mind that your airfare rates will be determined by your departure date, and not your return date. This can help you greatly when balancing the experience you want with the budget you have in mind.
Grand European Travel Specialists are happy to answer your questions, offer expert advice, and help you find the perfect departure date for your destination of choice.