Picking what time of year you want to visit is a deciding factor in how much you can get out of your money. The different tourist seasons are categorized into three types. Peak Season, Off Season, and Shoulder Season.
Peak Season is roughly mid-June through August. Peak is great for long days and warm weather, but it will feel like all of America has gone to Europe with you. You’ll see more children during peak as well for obvious reasons. Try to visit important sites early in the morning, midweek, or as close to shoulder season as you can. Bring Sunscreen, it’s not the easiest or cheapest thing to find once your there. Always book in advance as deals go fast, never look for a room once you have arrived during peak.
If your visiting a place with lots of day-trippers (Venice, Barcelona, Istanbul) mornings and evenings will offer you the most alone time. Ride the vaporettos in Venice after dark for a magical experience once the crowds return to their cruise ships and mainland hotels.
Peak is a great time to visit the road less traveled. Want to visit the town out of the way town your ancestors lived in? How about the off the beaten path cafe your friend said she frequented while studying abroad. Croatian and Turkish beaches are just as nice as the Greek Aegean islands but much less crowded and therefore cheaper. Remember that not everything is worth waiting in line in the sun for two hours. The Eiffel tower looks better in the background of your pictures, trust me. If possible pre-book as many entry times as possible to get in without as much of a wait.
Traveling in the British Isles and Northern Europe is best during peek. Rain holds off and these usually cold places begin to warm up. Get out of London and Stockholm for a better experience.
If you want Europe to yourself, the Off Season (November through March) is right for you. It’ll be cold, and you may have to lug heavier clothes around, but nothing beat walking up to the Uffizi and getting in immediately. Lodging will be cheaper, crowds will be nonexistent and fog will make your insta pics look so much better.
Most hotels that don’t close for the winter will have cheaper rates during the offseason. I once stayed in a lovely room in Venice close to the Accademia Bridge for $50 a night in January. In the off-season, it is possible to be looser with plans, like walking into a hotel and getting an extremely discounted room in the late afternoon/evening. This makes it easy to fly by the seat of your pants and to make last minute changes. Restaurants often have different things to eat in the offseason and souvenir shops often have sales trying to clear out old merchandise to make room for the next peak season. The best part really is the lack of other tourists. On that same trip to Venice, I walked up to the Doge’s palace, without a reservation, bought a ticket and walked right in. It was cold (and I got a bit sick a week later in Barcelona), but there is nothing like having Venice or Paris all to yourself!
Shoulder Season, the compromise of better weather and cheaper prices. The shoulder season is really two separate times of the year, April through mid-June, and September through October. Rooms are cheaper and more available than during peak, but booking in advance is still a good idea.
Shoulder season varies, the places that warm up quicker tend to have shorter shoulder seasons, while colder places have longer ones. Some places are famous for their springtimes, such as Paris, which can affect prices. Overall visiting during shoulder season is probably the best way to go. Plus you’ll get either spring flowers or autumn leaves wherever you go.
No matter when you go, Europe is a beautiful destination. London is just as beautiful covered in snow as it is with flower petals, Venice twinkles from Christmas lights just as from the summer sun, and Budapest’s Turkish baths are delightful year round.
Venice in Summer:
Venice in Winter: