The best and worst time to travel Europe

When planning your European trip, check your arrival and departure dates and see what they consider during peak, off-peak and shoulder travel periods.

Peak periods are the times when most travelers go in and out of the country and these periods are usually similar to school holidays, Christmas, Easter and New Year. Its peak duration will also be unique in the country you are flying in, so expect the flight and accommodation to be very much booked and the ticket to be more expensive. This peak period is usually from December to the end of January (due to the Christmas season) and the end of June to the end of August (summer break). Traveling over the Christmas holidays can be difficult because plane ticket prices go up and ski resorts start charging extra. Public transport has also declined in most areas as only a few trains will leave on Christmas day. The “shoulder period” occurs in spring and autumn and the lower or “off-peak” periods are usually in the remaining months and winter.

If you only have a limited amount of time to visit Europe, your best bet is to tour around the shoulder. Prices are almost at their lowest and travel conditions are great because you can accommodate crowds and extra prices. If you have a lot of time to retire in Europe, try flying at a lower season at lower prices so that you have more money to spread out in your accommodation. It’s always a good idea to start checking airports 3-4 months before you leave. Airlines are starting to discount discounts for early bookers and if you think they are too much. Cheap ticket prices can be turned on the net or at any time at your ticket office. And when you get there, make sure you reserve your accommodation 6 weeks to 2 months before you leave. It is a good idea to reserve a hotel for the days of your arrival and departure. The rest can be saved later. Also, check out travel risks and updates. Your government and insurance company can draw the line if they warn you of a specific area. Be aware of the country you are touring and the dangers and uprisings, and make last-minute updates to check the conditions just before you leave.

For most seasoned travelers, the best time to visit Europe is from April to June and from September to October when the weather is still warm, the holiday crowd is gone and regular accommodation and transportation are priced.

In contrast, the single worst time to visit most parts of Europe (especially the western and southern countries) is August. This is when many Europeans take vacations to nearby countries. Cities can be depopulated and, as a result, housing prices go up and it can be very difficult to get a bed. Buses and trains are often packed and it can be a struggle to get a seat when crossing countries. Even most tourist shops and sites can be closed because the owners have gone on vacation as well! July and August are the busiest tourist months in Europe (mainly because of the Americans on vacation) and will no doubt require a lot of patience and money. Avoid these months as much as possible. If you really have to travel in high season, your best course of action is to stay away from major cities and choose off-track towns and villages and indulge in the local culture.