A great many people travel to Europe in the summer but I prefer the spring and fall, commonly known as the shoulder seasons. Why? For one, thing it is much cheaper. If you want to know how much cheaper, just take a look at the tour schedules and prices on the CIE Tours site or the Avalon Waterways site. You will instantly see the difference between the peak and the non-peak seasons. You will enjoy the same savings whether you are traveling with a professional tour group or out on your own.
There are many other advantages to traveling off-season:
- The outdoor temps are more comfortable. I’d rather wear a light jacket and be comfortable than be sweltering on the hot pavement when sightseeing.
- The crowds at airports, restaurants and attractions are smaller. You can avoid standing in long lines at the museums and historical sites. When we toured the Roman Forum one fall, we didn’t ask for the private tour but there was only one other couple in our little group, so it felt very much like a private tour. When we took a CIE tour early one spring, there were only 6 of us on a bus designed to hold about 30 people.
- The service level increases because tour guides and service people aren’t as stressed as they might be during peak travel season.
- I like my fall clothes better for travel. It’s easier for me to pull together a polished look by layering fall clothes than it is to pull together a outfit that I won’t melt in during summer.
- Most people and places smell better in cooler months. Many Europeans, while very clean, do not use deodorant as we Americans do. For that reason, I’d rather enjoy their company during the cooler months. The same goes for enjoying the streets of Europe. Trash cans don’t emit the same aroma in March or December that they do in July or August.
- There are fewer weather related travel problems. Going in the spring and fall helps you to avoid the flight delays that frequently occur in peak hurricane and/or snowstorm season.
- The availability of hotel and B&B rooms increases, while the price goes down.
- The scenery is usually much prettier. Just to prove my point, here are a few off-season travel shots.
|Ireland in March|
|Pompeii, Italy in Autumn|
|Rome in Autumn|
|Westport, Ireland in October|
I’d make a list of the disadvantages of off-season travel but I can’t think of a single one. I know that some people have work schedules that get in the way or they can only travel when the kids are on summer break, but if you can go during the shoulder seasons, I highly recommend it.