Best Time to Travel to Europe
Taking that big trip abroad to the destination of your dreams is full of excitement, and not a small bit of anxiety. You want everything to be perfect. Perfect weather, the sites completely to yourself, and all for a bargain price. Setting healthy expectations is important, but there are a few things you can do to try to better your odds, and one of the most significant factors you can plan for is the time of year you visit. That's right, the time of year you decide to travel influences many things, from the size of the crowds you're competing with, expenses for all tourism related activities, and of course the weather.
Nothing dashes your postcard-perfect travel dreams faster than thousands of other tourists blocking your view, pushing, jostling, and bumping into you, and causing the loss of precious hours in long lines. Aside from waking up early and staying up late, there are other ways to avoid the crowds. The height of tourist season coincides with summer break for school, or June through August, which also typically brings the best weather.
Coinciding with the crowds, the prices of everything related to tourism skyrockets during summer's high season. You can expect to pay more for lodging, restaurants, airfare, and anything else near the main attractions. The reason is simple: supply and demand. All vendors understand that tourists will be descending upon their location, and are taking full advantage of the opportunity. If you want to pay less, travel during off-peak times.
Europe is a big place, and therefore the weather varies greatly depending on where you're planning to go. In general, if you're looking for warm, dry, sunny weather, the summer can't be beat. However, you can still get stretches of clear days as early as April or May. Additionally, you can expect warmer and drier days during longer stretches of the year the further south you go. We recently visited southern Spain during January and were more than comfortable in short sleeve shirts during the day as we enjoyed beautiful sunshine. Of course, if you're in a mountainous region, such as the Alps, and you want warmth and sun, you'll need to wait until later in the spring or even early summer. Near the end of the year, the warm weather can linger as late as October in most areas.
Taken together, the sweet spot of fewest crowds, lowest cost, and best weather is early Spring or late Fall, otherwise known as shoulder season, but these windows are narrowing every year. Ultimately, you must decide which is most important to you. If good weather is a must, prepare to deal with large crowds. Conversely, if large quantities of people steal your joy, understand that you may have a few more rainy days on your holiday.