As the air starts to cool down and the local residents of Europe recover from the tourist rush of August, hotel and flight prices start to fall too. With kids back in school autumn is a great time to visit Europe, especially if you’re on a budget. But you’re a travel pro so you already know that. Here are some further hacks for getting the most out of the European shoulder season…
When to Go
In recent years, summers in Europe are getting hotter and longer, and that means September and October are still attracting plenty of visitors. If you are planning on visiting southern Europe we suggest heading for late fall- between late September and the end of October to hit the sweet spot of cheaper flights and accommodation with weather still mild enough to enjoy the outdoors.
Don’t Miss These Fall Festivals
It’s easy to find parties and festivals in the summer but there’s still plenty going on in the fall too. In September the streets of Barcelona fill with music, dancing, street art and festivities as the city celebrates La Mercè, a Catholic feast day to honor Our Lady of Mercy. Or you could plan your trip to hit Paris for Nuit Blanche on the first Saturday in October. An all night arts festival with exhibitions and installations across the city and free public transport and entry to every museum and gallery in the city!
Next you have Oktoberfest in Germany, the largest folk festival in the world that probably also produces the largest hangovers. Munich is the city with the biggest party but you’ll find celebrations all over the country. If food is more your thing, Alba in Italy has a two month long (!) white truffle market and festival where you can gorge on all things truffle as well as other local delicacies. And finally if you want to party, Amsterdam hosts the biggest dance music festival in the world ADE, a five day conference and electronic music festival you might need a vacation to recover from.
Iceland, Norway, Finland
Fall is a great time to visit these northern, colder countries in between the big summer and winter rushes. You can catch the changing colors of the trees around beautiful fjords and waterfalls and prices are at their lowest too. Autumn begins around the end of August in Iceland and although there aren’t many trees, the mosses of the lava fields turn spectacular colors. It is also the end of the midnight sun season. Dark nights return and reveal the Northern Lights- an experience even more magical without the crowds of the high season.
Pick your Airline Carefully
Europe has a bunch of budget airlines and you’ve probably heard of the main two- Ryanair and Easyjet. Extremely cheap flights are less common post-covid but you can still fly across Europe for less than 50€, especially if you’re prepared to get up super early.
Ryanair has cracked down on their luggage policies though, and you will be charged for bringing anything extra than a small personal item (check out our backpacks!) that fits under your seat- so no more wheelie bags that go in the overhead locker. If you pay a little extra you can take 2 bags on board and get priority boarding. For short trips where you can pack lightly this could also save you hassle as airports in Europe have been chaotic this summer and luggage hasn’t always ended up where it is supposed to be. So depending on the length of your trip and your packing skills remember to consider baggage costs when researching flights.
Northern Europe definitely cools down from September onwards but while people in London and Berlin turn on the heating, Spain, Portugal and Greece are still enjoying afternoons on the beach. If you’re traveling anywhere in southern Europe you can still pack lightly in fall. During the day you will only need one layer and at night one sweater or a light jacket and a pair of jeans or pants will be enough. One travel pro hack is to get a light down jacket that packs flat.
Most owners of Airbnbs reduce their rates far more than hotels do in the shoulder season in Europe. Check out the site and you can even ask for special rates if you plan on staying for more than a week. Choose places with a kitchen to avoid eating every meal out.
Take the Train
Did you know it only takes 2 hours by train from London to Paris? And you can find prices for as cheap as 40€? Train travel in Europe can be cheap, convenient and a little romantic as you get whisked from one city center to another without any of the hassle of airport transfers, luggage restrictions or cramped seats. Sites like trainline.com or omio.com can help you find good deals if you book early or travel at less popular times.
Written by Laura Sedlak