While visiting Europe is always an amazing experience, summer in Europe can mean huge crowds, high prices and sweltering temperatures. This is unfortunate because for many people summer is the only convenient time to visit Europe. If you must visit Europe during peak season, take heed of these simple things you can do to make your trip far more enjoyable.
There’s a time to fly by the seat of your pants, but Italy in July isn’t one of them. Everything books up in popular parts of Western Europe during June through August, so you’ll want to show up well prepared. There’s nothing worse than showing up at the train station and finding out that all the trains to Paris are booked for the next three days. Prevent headaches like these and make sure you get the most reasonable prices by planning ahead. Book your plane tickets, train tickets, accommodations and even certain museum tickets well ahead of time. You can do pretty much all of this (including buying local train tickets) online before you leave home. Does this mean there’s no room for spontaneity during a summer trip in Europe? Not exactly. You can make much looser travel plans if you do the following:
Go Off the Beaten Path
Everywhere is more crowded during Europe’s high season, but certain areas are significantly more popular than others. If you’re up for an adventure somewhere lesser known, you can still have a relaxing vacation during the European summer. As a general rule, if it’s iconic, it’s going to be mega-crowded. Major cities in Italy, France, Spain, Germany and the U.K., for example, will be packed with throngs of tourists. At the same time, large swathes of Eastern Europe are still waiting to be discovered by the mainstream. The Balkans (except for Croatia) are a good bet. Try to think outside of the box even within popular countries. There are lots of lesser-explored regions of southern Italy, western France and northern Spain worth checking out for instance. You may not get your Eiffel Tower shot, but you also won’t have to wait in line for hours to get into the Louvre.
Most people are tempted to really push themselves during their short vacation in Europe. They try to cram in as many destinations and sights as possible. It makes sense in a way. You’ve probably been waiting to see these places your entire life, but what can be an exhausting strategy at the best of times can be downright hellish during the hot and crowded summer months. Pair back your itinerary to just your most desired destinations. Give yourself more time in each city than you anticipate needing—hot temperatures mean you’ll be moving slower and needing more breaks throughout the day. You’ll also be waiting in more lines, which means you’ll probably need to cut back on the amount of attractions you think you can see in a single day. So give yourself some leeway, you can always take a day trip if you manage to get bored.
Give Yourself a Break
For the reasons listed above (hot temperatures, crowds, long lines) it’s also important to work some down time into your schedule to prevent a massive burnout and to ensure that your trip stays enjoyable. Siesta is a thing in southern Europe for a reason—the mid-day sun can be blazing. Consider adopting the practice by sightseeing in the morning and evening and resting during the hottest times of day. If you’re out during the day take time to rest with a cold drink or a gelato. Remember that sitting and people watching can be just as much of a cultural experience as visiting a museum.