Exploring the forgotten castles of the Scottish Highlands, discovering a sun-drenched village on the Italian coast… you can’t stop dreaming about it. For most travellers, an epic European vacation is often a well-planned masterpiece. While the amount of time devoted to planning is different for everyone, industry insiders will tell you there is definitely a golden time to book. Here’s everything you need to know about locking in the best deal.
Time Your Vacation Right
Timing will play a big part in knowing you’ve got the best holiday deal. What’s the point of a really low airfare if most of the hotels haven’t opened for the summer? Peak season is peak season for good reason – the summer is at its height and the rest of Europe is also on holiday. There is an unmistakable buzz to Europe in summer. Yes, the key attractions can get pretty crowded but in summer you also have the luxury of longer days, relaxed locals and practically every place that you want to visit will be open.
If you want to try and avoid the crowds, ‘shoulder season’ gives you the benefits of both peak season and off season travel. As the name suggests, ‘shoulder season’ falls either side of peak season, so generally March through May and then October and November. The weather is a little cooler, the days are a little shorter, most Europeans will still be at work and the prices may be a little lower. The first step to planning any big trip is working out what dates are going to suit you. Keep in mind, however, a little flexibility with those dates will stand you in good stead when it comes to booking the best fares (more on that shortly).
Plan Out Your Holiday
It’s a brave person who attempts to arrange every step of their holiday themselves and if this is you, bravo. However, no matter how strongly you wish to be the master of your own destiny, do not underestimate the untold advantages of allowing a travel expert to help you out. Honestly, they’re worth their weight in gold.
Before you talk to a travel expert, however, you can do a huge amount of research yourself, thanks to travel magazines, websites, TV shows and books. Chances are, you’ve already been to Europe and are seeking some different, in-depth experiences this time. Cue the travel consultant – this is when an expert can really help you out.
Follow Your Passion
One option for a new kind of European holiday is to time your trip to include a special interest tour. There are some fascinating escorted journeys out there, catering to a wide range of tastes. If you love flowers and gardens, you could plan your European holiday to line up with a tour of the best English and Welsh gardens, which would also include entry to the world famous Chelsea Flower Show in London in May.
Dedicated history buff? Make it easy on yourself and jump on a dedicated tour of Europe’s most significant battlefields, where all the travel planning is taken care of for you. You’ll also have the chance to get to know like-minded travellers as you explore important historical sites such as the Somme, Ypres, the beaches of Normandy, or across to Dublin to learn more about the Easter Rising of 1916.
Maybe a bespoke cooking experience is more your thing, where you can learn how to make the most of mouthwatering regional flavours and take a whole lot of tips home after your holiday is over. There are myriad cooking tours to choose from in Europe, which combine everything from market visits and practical cooking lessons to unforgettable dining experiences and, of course, breathtaking scenery. This is the kind of holiday that you need to book well in advance because there are often only a relatively small number of places available – but that’s what makes a special interest tour so good.
Include A Short-Stay Stopover
Any flight to Europe will include a stopover, and one of the best ways to get the most value for your travel dollar is to turn that stopover into a mini-break. Get to know Singapore, Hong Kong, Dubai or any of the other popular stopover cities with a few days on the ground to break up your trip. Your travel expert can help you work this into your flight itinerary.
The Earlybird Catches The Worm (And Best Deal)
Once you know exactly what you want from your European odyssey and when you want to travel, the only thing left to do is book. Savvy travellers will be ready to book when the major airlines and tour companies release their Earlybird fares in August and September, for travel in the European summer of 2018.
Earlybird pricing is a travel industry term and indicates the first release of the new season’s pricing with significant discounts for customers. Don’t feel that you have to choose from the flights listed online, either. Your travel expert will have access to a host of deals unavailable to the general public and can advise on the best value route, based on your budget. They can even create a custom-built round-the-world-airfare that may be better value for money for you.
Flight Centre travel expert Sheridan Murphy has helped countless customers lock in the best deal and knows all about the difference personalised service makes. “Your consultant becomes an essential part of your holiday right from the beginning by providing industry expertise from the fare through to the finer details such as requesting your preferred seating and meals on board your flight,” she says.
It’s not just flights that are on sale, too. Often before the flights go on sale, would-be travellers can pick up some very big bargains on European tours and accommodation. So keep your eyes open for all things Earlybird, put your travel expert on speed-dial, and don’t stop dreaming about your big European adventure.