If you’re looking for flight deals to Europe, a good bet would be to check out dead-of-winter, not-around-the-holidays dates. However, as you hover your cursor over the “buy now” button, you may think to yourself — is it even worth it to travel to Europe in the winter? The answer, as it is for most subjective matters in life is — well, that depends.
In weighing the costs and benefits, traveling to Europe in the winter does indeed have many pros.
- Off-season pricing. If you pick your dates right, you can literally save hundreds of dollars. Airline prices from the U.S. to Europe peak in the summer months but taper off in the fall and are at their lowest from November through February (minus the dates leading up to Christmas and around New Year’s). Similarly, just as hotel prices can surge over a long holiday weekend, they can plummet around the non-holiday parts of winter. Furthermore, ‘stay two nights and get the third free’ sorts of deals are more often found during the off-season. Also, to be clear, this advice likely will not hold true if you are traveling to Europe for winter sports (drats). As a caveat, it is important to remember that some European destinations (I’m looking at you, Switzerland) are just more expensive than the U.S. whenever you go — so, budget accordingly!
- Fewer Crowds. In the summer months, it is not uncommon to find yourself queuing outside the door, under the sun for popular attractions. Furthermore, when you travel during the high season, you will need to book attractions early and stick to the plan, lest you miss out altogether when tickets are already sold out upon arrival. In the winter months, you will have an easier time making reservations and getting to the destinations that you would like to see. However, for very popular attractions like national museums, the Eiffel Tour, etc., it is still advised that you book early (weeks in advance), although same-day tickets still may be available on the day of (if you’re willing to wait in line).
- Air Conditioning. Unlike in the U.S., air conditioning is not available everywhere you will go in Europe (shocking, right?). Some hotels will not even have air conditioning, so it is important to do your research, because yes, it does indeed get hot in Europe. In the winter, naturally, you will not have this problem — heat is readily available.
Depending on your travel style, venturing to Europe in the middle of winter may not be your cup of English Breakfast tea for a few key reasons.
- Darkness. Northern Europe gets cold and dark, and it stays cold and very, very dark. In Reykjavík, Iceland for example, in the winter, the daylight hours can be as little as only 5-to-8 depending on the month. On my first trip to Tallinn, Estonia, our group arrived at around 3:30pm and I was in awe to see that the sun was already half-way to the horizon, marking an early end to the day. Additionally, at times, even during the “daylight” hours, you may find yourself looking up at gray skies for days on end. This environment is not for everyone. However, again, Europe is big and this description is not universal. For example, when I traveled to Germany in December (more here and here), I saw many crystal, clear (cold, cold) blue skies as well as some dismal-looking clouds.
- Limited Availability. Not all of the touristy things operate at full capacity during the off season. For example, when considering winter travel in Ireland, I found that some bus tours to the countryside only operated during the summer months.
- Inclement Weather. Bad weather can strike at any time, however, your travel plans are more likely to be interrupted in the winter. Below freezing temperatures, blizzards, strong winds, and dense fog can mean flight delays, cancellation of attractions, and just a miserable time walking through the streets during the winter months. Regardless, winters are generally milder in Europe (there are palm trees as far north as Ireland! Also, Icelanders swim outdoors in geothermally heated pools and hot springs all year round).
In the end, traveling comes down to personal preference and your availability to pick up and just go. Altogether, it’s important to do your research beforehand, book early, and set appropriate expectations for your experience.
Whenever you go — enjoy yourself! And, in the meantime, check out my comedic vlogs on Paris and London in the winter:
(VIDEO BECOMES LIVE ON JANUARY 25th 2023)
P.S. Yes! I have a YouTube Channel now, be sure to subscribe 🙂 https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnl-JwHAr7HbgoU1lZD78kQ