Is Peak Season 
The Best Season To Visit Europe?

Peak season Europe, also known as high season, or more often the summer travel season, is the most popular time to travel to Europe.

The accepted high season travel months are June, July, and August, roughly between the U.S. holidays of Memorial Day and Labor Day, with random weeks backing into May or flowing into September, depending on who you ask.

Peak season can also form around holiday periods, especially in late December and certain periods for winter skiing.

These are Europe’s money-making seasons.

Witness the crowds, the higher prices, the large numbers of tour groups - all more abundant in peak travel season.  

Europe is spit-shined and dressed to the nines with an eye toward the tourist Dollar, the Yen, and [name your own currency here].

Hotels, and attractions are fully staffed, with some of the outdoor scaffolding removed.

Museums and historical sights are full. Restaurants are fuller.

There’s excitement in the air during peak season Europe, as tourists from around the world jostle to see the wonders of centuries of Continental history, culture, art, and architecture.

They come in droves, with lines for entering even mundane attractions as long as those at Disney World.

Hotels are full, making it difficult [if not impossible] to negotiate any sort of discounted rate.

Airports and airlines are tedious with more luggage, fuller planes, and [much] higher fares.

The summer travel season is the most crowded, most expensive season to travel in Europe.

Peaceful Resting Spot in Cambridge England

But before you decide against Europe's high season, consider the benefit of longer daylight hours, giving you more time to see what you came to see.

Summer evenings, when the best weather in Europe is mild and inviting, beguile you to be out with the locals.

Sightseeing is at its best in peak season Europe with attractions open, refur-bished, and welcoming. Many have flexible schedules, with longer hours well into evening to accommodate tourists.

The crowds may be unavoidable. But there are ways to escape them.

With the milder weather, getting away from other travelers in Europe's peak season is as easy as a short walk away from main tourist areas:

  • Detour just a few streets away from popular attractions - and crowds disappear.
  • Go early or late to visit the sights - and most of the tourists are gone.
  • Leave the cities to explore the towns, villages, and rural areas - you’ll leave the tourists behind.
  • Spend the night in areas visited mostly by day-trippers - evenings and mornings will be yours to explore and savor the sights.

How to Negotiate Peak Travel Season

Travel in peak season Europe requires flexibility and timing.

With the high number of tourists planning each year to travel in Europe's high season, it’s common for tours, hotels, and car rentals to be booked well in advance. You can’t delay checking for reservations until a few weeks before you hope to travel.

Escorted group tours are frequently booked as much as a year in advance, so begin checking international tour companies for group tours to your destination, as soon as you know your destination.

Many tour companies offer discounts or early booking specials for the next year’s tours. But there's no set time for pre-booking specials. 

Check operator offerings between November and February for their 'early bird' specials, which can result in $100-$500 [or more] per person off the standard price, depending on the cost of the tour.

Bookmark tour operators you're interested in, and check their sites regularly for specials and discounts for specific tour dates. Be flexible, if you can.

If you find a deal you like, act quickly. Once the 'purchase by' dates have passed, few deals will be offered, and the full fare will reign.

Peak Season in Rhineland

If your choice is independent travel, planning for peak season in Europe can be an exercise in competitiveness.

Begin checking for airfares at least six months before you plan to travel, but don’t expect to find reasonable prices until closer to 90 days ahead of your travel date.

Airlines optimistic-ally believe pro-spective passengers [their intended customers] will pay the inflated prices they offer early.

But grit your teeth and don’t give in to your panic. Wait instead for their panic - starting around 60-90 days out. A better fare will be your reward.

With empty seats to fill, airlines begin the discounting process for international airfares at about the 90-day mark. By this time they've begun to assess early bookings and get serious about filling seats.

When checking for airfares with either an independent agent, or scouting your  deals with online agents, always compare airline carriers, rates, and dates to find the very best deal.

Secure your hotel accommodations early as well, especially if you want to stay at a specific hotel or in a high-tourist area.

Contact hotels directly for the best price. Booking early - directly with the hotel - is often your best chance to lock in a discounted rate, before they have many reservations on the books.

Holiday peak season periods [Christmas, New Years, etc.] have their own set
of rules.

Plan your air travel for non-business travel days, usually Tuesday through Thursday. Look for late morning or early afternoon flights, while business travelers are conducting their business.

Never travel just before or just after a major holiday – like the Wednesday before or the Sunday after Thanksgiving - when everyone else is traveling.  Pick days further out from the holiday [or on the holiday, itself] when fewer people fly.

Once you choose your airline, read and understand its policy for cancelled or delayed flights.

Carry your airline's contact phone number or website address for the reservation system, so in the event of a delay, you can reach them without standing in holiday travel lines at airport ticket counters.

In fact, make sure you have online contact info for all pre-confirmed travel arrangements, in the event you can't get through by phone. 

And always, always, have a back-up plan.

Why Choose Europe as a Peak Season Destination?

Research your destination in advance, and you’ll find that most Europeans take their own vacations during the summer travel season, usually in July or August.

While you may find an occasional business closed, you’ll also find local traffic is lighter, native museum goers and sightseers are gone, and popular restaurants are available.

Europe’s northern countries have mild weather in summer, with a latitude equal to that of the northeastern United States and Canada.

The British Isles are comfortable, having many more days of sunshine and good weather in the summer season than during the rest of the year.

Amsterdam Double House

Belgium, The Netherlands, and Scandi-navia may have the best weather in Europe during summer.

In fact, the farther north in Europe the country is, the more important peak sea-son can be as the best season to travel there.

Countries in southern Europe [think near the Mediterranean] will be hot. Really hot.  

But there are charming towns and villages everywhere, with beaches to cool your heels.

Costa del Sol...the Greek Isles...the South of France....

The common element in each: water, water, everywhere.

In and around coastal resort areas, you'll find indigenous sites full of history and local charm - often overlooked in other travel seasons.

Outdoor activities are the rule. Alfresco dining is what to do for the in crowd.  And the tourist crowd.

Sun, sand, and unparalleled scenic beauty. Is it any wonder these are the places Europeans go for their summer travel?

During peak season Europe, wherever you travel on the Continent, both natives and tourists are out enjoying themselves. People watching is at its best.

When is the best season to visit Europe? Most travelers, tour companies, and even Europeans say - without hesitation - it’s peak season!

For more information on how to choose the best season to travel to Europe, check out the following pages:

Traveling in Low Season finds a different side of Europe. Toss your weather concerns aside and discover the Continent's true soul.

Traveling in Shoulder Season is the best of all worlds. The crowds are gone, the prices down, and the weather’s fine. Learn how to take advantage of Europe’s finest travel season.

Return to When To Travel Europe

Travel Tip

Discounts are hard to come by for peak season travel. As a rule, there are no 'late breaking deals'. Book early for the best prices. Avoid reservation centers, if possible. The further out you book – directly with the company when they show low occupancy – the more likely you are to save money.

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