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Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

21 Aug 2019 05:43 AM

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

There’s nothing quite like a trip to Europe. You can experience hundreds of years of history, art, architecture, and culture all in one trip. And in the spring and fall, you can add in spring flowers or blazing branches of red and gold.

Picture yourself strolling along a Dutch windmill in the height of spring tulip season. Or exploring Vienna on a crisp, bright fall morning. There are so many reasons why we think you should plan an off-season trip to Europe, but here are a few of them.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

1. Lower prices on everything; from airfares to hotel stays

Yes, that’s right. Traveling in the off-season has immediate rewards to your pocket, leaving you more money to spend on having fun! Outside of peak season, many airlines and hotels will have great specials saving you hundreds of dollars on the basics. You might even get discounts on the ground, like happy hours and meal specials at restaurants.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

2. Thinner crowds mean less time standing in line and more time exploring

Do you think anyone goes all the way to Europe to stand in line? Obviously not, but in summer, it’s a necessity. In spring and fall—when the vast crowds are much smaller—you can expect lines to be shorter at all major attractions.

You might even experience the rare pleasure of a relatively empty flight on your way over, giving you more room to spread out. Public transport should also be less pressured, allowing you to travel in much more comfort once at your destination.

And, without the crowds, your photos are bound to turn out better. Rather than rushing from place to place, trying to find a gap to take a photo without a crowd of tourists in it, you can take your time. Your photo albums will thank you.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

3. The landscapes and scenery will take your breath away

There are many beautiful places in the world, but Europe in spring and fall is something special. In spring, flowers bloom and birds sing, adding a riot of color to every scene. In fall, the landscape appears to blaze with the vibrant reds and golds of the fall foliage.

Experience Holland in tulip season during spring or Germany during Oktoberfest for the most incredible display of color you’ve ever laid eyes on. In Prague, fall is also one of their least rainy seasons! That means you can enjoy seeing the sights and their incredible fall leaves at the same time. Head up to Prague’s Pet?ín Hill for the best views of the city in all its fall majesty.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

4. Less traffic means less time commuting between destinations

Our tours generally travel as a group, taking guests from place to place by motorcoach. But any road travel will subject you to traffic. In summer, there can be loads of traffic, clogging up the major sights, as well as making transfers between cities much longer. In the off-season—once all the families and kids are back at school—there’s far less traffic.

Open roads mean more time exploring and more time to enjoy the unique feel of each destination. Less traffic also puts everyone into a better mood, from the locals to the tour operators and visitors. It’s generally just nicer for everyone!

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

5. Cooler temperatures are perfect for traveling

If going to the beach, watersports and all-night partying is your thing, then summer is the right time to visit. But if you’d rather take a hike or explore the cobbled streets of a village, cooler temperatures will make it a lot more comfortable.

Before and after summer, you’ll have the pleasure of exploring your destinations in much more comfort. And since the temperatures haven’t dropped that far, you can still enjoy an ice cream or a glass of white wine.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

6. More locals and authenticity

One of the key reasons we travel is to experience other cultures. In the summer, Europeans tend to flee the popular tourist spots, leaving them to the hordes of visitors. In fact, August is one of the most popular times to holiday for most Europeans, including shop and restaurant owners.

Once the crowds vanish, the locals return and you can experience a much more authentic version of these European destinations. Enjoy a walk through one of Vienna’s many parks with locals walking their dogs and enjoying the last of the day’s light. See groups of men sitting outside cafes on the street enjoying a coffee together.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

7. Experience more culture

After the heat of summer, the European cultural calendar explodes. No matter what you enjoy—from theater and music to food and drink festivals—there’s something happening.

Experience the original Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, or one of the many vinobraní (wine festivals) held in Prague in September. In Amsterdam, you can enjoy walking through the many art galleries and museums, and even take in a few shows at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival from 5-15 September. The smaller towns tend to schedule local festivals and markets in spring and fall, adding the delight of stumbling upon a special local event which will often become the highlight of your trip.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

8. Service is much more personalized

When the crowds have died down, everyone can breathe. This means that rather than trying to shuffle you along so the next in line can get in the door, you’re given a lot more attention. From the waiter at the local restaurant who shares insider information with you or the shopkeeper who helps you find just the right gift; there’s no end to the delights that less pressure brings.

Take advantage of this by chatting with your hotel concierge or the host at the restaurant. After all, the locals have a much better understanding of their city and you can learn so much by just asking.

Why You Should Plan an Off-Season Trip to Europe

9. Everything is easier, leaving you to enjoy your holiday

From flying and public transport to traffic and queues, there’s just no end to the things that are easier when there are fewer people around. Head out early in the year and experience the joy of spring blooming all over the continent. Or, take advantage of the clear, crisp weather and even the odd Indian summer day, and tour Europe in the fall.

Ready to go?

In one trip, you can experience the delights of a cheese factory, a boat ride and enjoy the medieval architecture of Maastricht. Cruise down the Rhine, and learn more about Nuremberg and Rothenburg. Enjoy the Oktoberfest atmosphere in Munich’s Hofbrauhaus and visit an Alpine village. See the city of Vienna, where the Sound of Music was set and experience beautiful Starom?stské nám?stí (Old Town Square) in Prague.

Can you picture yourself strolling down the canal yet? If you’re ready to start planning your trip to Europe, take a look at our Heart of Europe tour and make it a reality. Not quite ready? Sign up for our brochure and we’ll send it through to you free of charge. Just think of it as food for daydreams.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

03 Aug 2019 12:16 PM

Guided Tours of Europe Everything You Need to Know

There are so many incredible reasons to visit Europe—there are 27 countries in the European Union alone, all remarkably different yet closely connected and easy to navigate. Is it any wonder that it’s on the bucket-list of so many? A trip to Europe is something everyone should do at least once. Escorted tours are the perfect option for your trip overseas, for a number of reasons. Here’s what you need to know about taking a guided tour of Europe.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

Why book a guided tour of Europe

You may think it’s much cheaper and easier to DIY your tour of Europe. But it’s not as easy as it looks and you may spend a lot of hours searching for the best hotels, attractions, flights, and restaurants—in seven different countries. An experienced travel operator works with local experts. They’re the people who know the perfect places for a great view, delicious dinner, or hidden gem. You don’t have to waste your time researching the can’t-miss attractions, mouthwatering dishes, or paging through TripAdvisor to find that one off-the-beaten-path place with the most breathtaking views.

Better still, your guide usually speaks the native language too—very helpful since the European Union has over 20 official languages! A guided tour through Europe includes accommodations, most meals, and transfers during your whole tour. It even includes tips for waiters, bagboys and other service providers —everyone except your driver and guide. It’s helpful for budgeting because you can simply book the tour and your flights, and you’re done. At the same time, it saves you both time and money because your tour operator (that’s us!) can get the best deals at restaurants, accommodations, and transfers since we travel with a group and have a personal relationship with most of the places we visit.

We’ll take care of the details so you can spend your time at destinations and not researching your next mode of transportation.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

When to visit Europe

Unlike many travel destinations that lose their luster during certain times of the year, Europe is a year-round destination—its major cities are always bustling and welcoming to visitors. That being said, however, some seasons are definitely better than others, depending on your travel goals.

Summer is peak season; usually, the months of mid-June to August are busiest, but the weather is sunny and the days are long. It’s a great time to visit, but the crowds will be a bit larger.Of course, if you’re visiting southern Europe, the temperatures can get rather high—sweltering even. And many southern European cities in France and Italy practically shut down during the “holiday” month of August.

We like to schedule our guided Europe tours during “shoulder” seasons, April and May in the spring and September and October in the fall. The weather is mild, there are fewer crowds to contend with, and those in the tourism industry are happy to welcome visitors.

The winter months are the off-season in Europe and there are a few advantages to traveling then—lower airfares chief among them. But you need to be prepared for unpredictable weather, including rain, snow, drizzle, and cold...and the days are very short.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

Before you go…

Our best packing advice? The most important items are your passport, tickets, and a credit card. Anything else can be bought at your destination! While we take care of your tickets, you should make sure to have (or update) your passport, check with your bank that you can use your card abroad (and let them know you’re going to Europe, before they block your card!), and be sure to get travel insurance.

A good outlet adaptor is key—you won’t be able to plug in your electronics and devices without one. These are inexpensive and easy to buy. Bring a power strip to make sure you can plug in all your electronics in your hotel room! It never hurts to know some key phrases like please, thank you, excuse me, how much, where is. A few words in German, Dutch, French, and Italian will go a long way on our most popular tours. Danke, dankjewel, merci, grazie!

It’s becoming easier and easier to stay online while traveling the world. WiFi hotspots are easy to find all over Europe, and you can use different WiFi messaging and communications apps to stay in touch. WhatsApp provides free texting and voice and video calls. Contact your cell phone provider about short term international data and calling plans before leaving for Europe though. If you will use your phone for photos, consider increasing your memory and taking a USB battery pack.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

A word about packing

Packing for your guided tour of Europe really isn’t that different from any other vacation. You’ll want to pack light—a single suitcase—since most tour coaches and airlines limit you to one bag. Some other packing tips to consider:

    • Pack clothes you can layer for warmth rather than bringing a bulky coat or jacket.
    • Lightweight fabrics that can be washed and dried in your room overnight extend your wardrobe so you can pack fewer items.
    • Remember that many religious sites in Europe do not allow bare legs or shoulders, so be sure you have modest clothes for visiting churches and cathedrals.
    • Do bring at least one dressier outfit for cultural events or nice dinners out.
    • Bring a well broken-in pair of good walking shoes. In warmer seasons, a comfortable pair of sandals is a nice break for your feet. Remember, you may be wandering through cities and hiking Alps on the same tour!
    • Bring an assortment of resealable plastic bags to help organize your packing and store any dirty laundry.
    • A small day pack is a great idea to keep your hands free and your essentials safely stashed during your daily excursions.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

While in Europe

Most of your expenses are included with an escorted tour, but be sure to bring some extra cash for souvenirs, shopping, beverages and individual meals, or if you want to join an optional excursion. As for tips—most of them are included in your tour. During independent meals, the general rule at restaurants in Europe is 5% to 10%, depending on the level of service.

Don’t forget to leave some space in your suitcase if you plan to buy keepsakes and souvenirs. Do follow the tour itinerary and listen to your tour manager for departure times; it’s hard to miss the bus if you do. Just in case, carry your passport and your accommodation address and contact information with you at all times.

Just so you know: stops are usually followed by some free time for independent sightseeing and frequent stops are planned to stretch your legs and go to the toilet.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

About guided tours

Wondering what it actually looks like on a guided tour? Your transport will be a motor coach with heating and air conditioning, and there’s an enclosed portable toilet for emergencies. These are comfortable buses with big windows, so you won’t miss a thing while riding through stunning landscapes. Our partner hotels are typically 3 or 4-star hotels and inns with amenities such as a private bathroom with toilet, sink, and shower; free WiFi; breakfast buffet; and a tv with a few English channels. You can check the list of hotels for your tour on our website.

With a guided tour, most of your itinerary is set. You know which city you’ll be in on each day and even most of the sights and attractions you’ll see on those days. When you make a sightseeing stop, your tour manager will typically indicate points of interest while on the motor coach and/or with a walking tour, followed by 45 minutes to 2 hours for independent sightseeing, depending on the location. We also offer optional excursions that you can add to your itinerary, so you can see even more of your destination.

For example, with our 15-day Heart of Europe tour through Germany, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands, you can choose to explore Salzburg’s treasures, discover the Venetian lagoon, travel to the top of Mt. Stanserhorn in the world’s only open-top cable car in Switzerland, experience a typical Parisian evening, and take a panoramic tour of Amsterdam’s canals on top of the already planned sights and attractions.

If you want, you can also add days to your trip before or after the tour. Just let us know when you book your tour, so we can help planning your trip and find you the best hotels and flights.

Guided Tours of Europe: Everything You Need to Know

After your tour

You’re back at home—now what? Make sure to reach out to fellow travelers you exchanged information with. It’s so great when friendships blossom on tour. Sometimes new friends even book a future tour together! A trip like this is memorable, but it’s nice to have some physical reminders of your guided tour of Europe. Create a photo album with your favorite pictures, put together a box with some photos and souvenirs your brought home, or journal your favorite memories.

Send your favorite photos to our photo contest email address and your picture may end up in next year’s brochure or shared on the Image Tours Facebook page (follow us to see pictures our guests took on tour).

Ready to make new friends and great memories? Get in touch today to find your next guided tour in Europe.