Step one, decide to go on a tour of Europe. Step two, try to decide when the best time to go is. Step three, start planning...If you're past step one, you might be asking yourself right now, “Okay, so when actually is the best time for me to take a tour of Europe?” Plenty of considerations should go into determining the best time of year for you to visit, including seasonal weather, local events, and what you’re hoping to see while abroad.
Luckily, Grand European’s Travel Specialists are happy to help you figure out the best time of year to visit the places you want to go and can explain how your experience might be different depending on the travel season.
Best Time to Visit Europe by Season
First of all, let’s consider the seasons. Not winter, fall, summer, and spring, but peak, shoulders, and off seasons. The year is divided into these seasons in the travel world, and they make a huge difference in your experience. Here’s the breakdown:
Travel Seasons in Europe
Off-Peak Season (Winter in Europe)
November - March
Shoulder Season (Spring in Europe)
April - mid-June
Peak Season (Summer in Europe)
mid-June - August
Shoulder Season (Fall in Europe)
September - October
For most travelers, the choice of which season to travel in falls along a spectrum of “I’ll go when it’s cheapest” to “I absolutely must travel in summer because that’s when it’s best.”
The truth is that there are benefits and downfalls to traveling Europe during each season. It's good to know what to expect when you start to plan, so do your research and talk to your travel specialist to get the most out of your trip.
To better understand, let’s examine each of these seasons.
Peak Travel Times
Summer is a fantastic time to explore 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. Such as, families with school-aged children who are pretty locked into traveling during the summer, so consider that when planning. While Peak Season sees the majority of people traveling, that doesn’t have to mean that you'll feel claustrophobic or have a less than custom experience. Our European vacation packages include plenty of culturally enriching encounters and insider experiences that connect you with locals and sites you'll visit.
Peak Season can be a hassle to plan for independent travelers. While nearly all destinations tend to have peak tourist season across July and August, this is not true of all European cities. Many independent travelers are surprised when they take a trip to Rome in August and find that temperatures are high and much of the city is shut down for a four-week holiday. So if you’re traveling independently and don’t want to travel to the coast, you’ll likely find a sparsely populated city center during these times and might have a hard time finding open shops or restaurants.
But you don’t need to worry about when you travel with us, because we handle all the details for you. If you’re wondering about the best time to visit your destination of choice, call us, and our Travel Specialists will be happy to answer your questions and offer expert advice you can trust. We can even offer you better Peak-Season rates than you would find on your thanks to pre-negotiated contracts with top hotels and local attractions.
Here are some more ways to maximize your Peak Season travel.
How to Visit Europe During Peak Travel Times
1. Embrace the Crowds
Traveling during peak season means people. There 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. You can bypass the lines at world-renowned museums and legendary sites, and you’ll also enjoy guided visits with local experts.
2. Try Something New
On a tour, you’re a traveler, and you’ll go way beyond the guidebooks, like learning to shuck oysters on a seafood farm on the Croatian coast. Or sampling tapas alongside Sevillanos in Spain. Or join nonna in Alberobello, in Italy’s Apulia region, to learn the secrets of perfecting the perfect gnocchi. The more new things you try, the more you'll enjoy your destinations.
3. Extend Your Stay
Our European vacation packages include the perfect balance of guided sightseeing and free time to explore independently. Still, you might find that you didn’t get to spend as much time as you would have liked in a certain place. 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 in your itinerary. If you’d like to spend additional time in a city included in the tour, your GET Travel Specialists will be happy to assist you and can book extra nights under our contracted hotel rates.
4. Remember the Essentials
Finally, wear comfortable walking shoes, and carry all the necessities for a day of sightseeing, such as sunscreen, maybe a hat, and always a reusable water bottle.
Off-Peak Travel Times
Often the choice of budget seekers or return visitors, it’s no secret that Off-Season’s largest perk is lower pricing. When fewer crowds are inclined to visit hotels and restaurants, major attractions tend to drop their prices. In addition to lower prices on your European vacation package, there are other benefits to choosing a tour during the Off-Seasons. 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.
Sometimes, the most cultural experiences a country can offer fall outside peak travel season. Take the incredible European Christmas markets that flow across market squares with stalls, festivities, and seasonal treats galore. And you have the best chances of seeing the northern lights on a guided Iceland tour during the darkest winter months. Looking into various Off-Season attractions can open the doors to an incredible vacation.
When the crowds leave, the locals stay. This means you’ll mingle even more with locals when traveling in the Off-Season. This allows for a more immersive experience of what it is like to live in the country you’re traveling through.
2. Have It to Yourself
Off-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—an experience made even richer with a local specialist to guide you and answer all your questions.
3. Be Prepared
Days are shorter, and the weather is less predictable during the Off-Seasons. This means you should plan for and be OK with rainy, cold, gray days and crisp, clear, cool ones. Be sure to bring the right essentials for your trips, such as comfortable walking shoes and a raincoat. For helpful ideas on what to pack, take a look at ourpacking list
4. Off Peak Doesn’t Mean Uninteresting
Sometimes, the most cultural experiences a country can offer fall outside 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 chance of seeing the northern lights on a guided Iceland tour during the darkest winter months. Looking into various off-peak season attractions can open the doors to an incredible vacation.
Shoulder Travel Seasons
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 the region's weather patterns and remember that your airfare rates will be determined by your departure date, not your return date. This can help you greatly when balancing the experience you want with the budget you have in mind.
Spring Shoulder-Season Travel
Seen by many experts as the “sweet spot” for European travel, the Spring Off-Season offers plenty of sunlight, comfortable temperatures, fewer crowds, and a tourism industry eager to please the remaining tourists they see for the season. April through June, most cities are lovely and full of blooms. There are famous Spring Tulip festivals in the Netherlands and Cherry Blossom festivals in Japan.
Fall months are always full of amazing experiences, no matter the destination. From the changing oaks of the east coast of the USA to the wine festivals of Germany, autumn is truly one of our favorite seasons for travel. When that first crisp day arrives, thoughts of apples, bonfires, and cozy sweaters float on Autumn breezes. The world waves goodbye to summer and starts painting in bright reds, warm golds, and vibrant yellows. Celebrate the changing of seasons in any one of our top spots for fall colors, and enjoy an autumn adventure you won’t soon forget.
Off-peak season—early November through mid-to-late March—is typically the cheapest time to fly to Europe. Without intermittent fare spikes, it's usually cheaper to fly to Europe mid-week, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Some travelers think Europe is best in the warm summer months when the weather is enjoyable, the sky is beautiful, and the air is refreshing. However, this also means higher travel expenses and larger crowds of people. Fall travel in Europe means more festivals. Spring travel through Europe means blooming gardens and sparser crowds. Winter travel in Europe offers travelers the chance to visit the magical Christmas Markets held in town squares of most European countries.
We recommend you start to plan your trip to Europe between 3 -10 months before you want to travel. Airlines don’t publish fares much further out than 10-11 months. You should look to book your vacation once you can lock in your flights. Luckily, we take care of all of that for you. If travelers want to go for a special anniversary or event, they’ll book years in advance so they know they’re set and can let us handle it from there. It’s important to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after you’re planning to return to the states. Planning earlier allows you plenty of time to renew your passport if needed.
Email Sign-up Travel Credit: Receive a $125 per person ($250 per couple) discount toward your first tour (operated by Trafalgar or Insight Vacations) when you sign up for GET emails; valid for each full-paying adult who signs up with a unique email address. Valid for new bookings only for travel through December 31, 2024; full payment is due within three days of booking. Discount is not combinable with any other discount or offer, including our GETAWAY Deals, Limited Time Offers, AARP member discount, Past Traveler discount or Multiple Trip discounts. Offer cannot be booked online. Savings not valid on all itineraries and/or departure dates, are subject to availability and may be withdrawn at any time without notice. Offer excludes Edinburgh Tattoo and Floriade departures. GET reserves the right to validate bookings and will remove any additional offers added online that are not combinable. Other conditions may apply.