Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Booking Your European Trip
The Slow Travel website has lots of great information to help you plan and book your trip, but we do not cover everything. Use this website, but also refer to travel guidebooks and other travel sites. This page contains some of my basic planning information and links to other pages with more details.
Use a Travel Consultant?
If this is your first trip to Europe or you don't have the time to research everything for yourself, consider using a Travel Consultant to help you plan the trip.
Travel Consultants: Lists of travel consultants to help you plan your trip.
When I am planning a trip, I start by booking my vacation rentals. These are normally booked six months to a year in advance (but are frequently available at shorter notice, and recent trends are that people are not booking so far in advance).
All About Vacation Rentals: How to find them, what to expect.
I usually book hotels after my vacation rentals and flights are booked.
Booking Hotels: What to expect in European hotels, how to book them.
If you are using airline miles for free flights or to upgrade to Business/First Class, book as early as possible. Most airlines let you book 330 days before a flight. Otherwise, you might want to wait for any sales or watch the prices until you find a good price.
Booking Flights: What to consider when booking flights, how to book them.
Booking Your Transportation
Having a car for the whole trip makes things easier, especially if you are used to driving in Europe, but can be expensive. A combination of train and car sometimes works quite well.
Flying into Europe and spending your first few nights in your arrival city, then picking up your rental car, lets you drive when you are over your jetlag and lets you pickup your car in the city, instead of at the airport (some car rental agencies have higher rates when picking up a rental car at the airport).
You do not want a car in any large cities, so plan your trip so that you drop off your car when you get to the city.
Booking Rental Cars: Much more information about renting a car in Europe and links to AutoEurope for booking.
Booking Trains: More information about trains in Europe.
When to Go?
The most crowded and the hottest time in Europe is July and August. Price-wise, this is also high season. If this is the only time you can travel, try to not spend your whole trip in big cities, which may be uncomfortably hot. Spend some of your vacation in the countryside. The upside to visiting cities in July and August is that they may not be as crowded as at other times. Europeans typically take long vacations in August, leaving the cities and going to the countryside. The downside is that some things may be closed for the summer holiday. This varies by country.
June and September are now so popular with Americans traveling to Europe that some agencies consider these high season. These are the perfect months in Europe. Less chance of rain, not as hot as July and August, but still hot enough to swim in many areas.
May and October can also be good travel months. You may run into rain or the weather may be perfect. One October in Italy, I could feel that winter was just around the corner. Then the next year, October was like September with a heat wave and no rain at all.
For trips to the countryside, the longer days in May through July make this a good time to travel. It is light later, so you are not so often driving in the pitch black of the countryside.
Christmas in Europe always sounds romantic, but some places are to be avoided unless you love crowds. I will never forget the Christmas (2003) that we spent in Rome: the streets and piazza in the historic center were so crowded that you could barely make your way through them. The caffes had lineups so long that even the Italians turned away (so what hope was there for us tourists to push our way in and get served?).
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