When’s The Best Time To Book Your European Holiday?

27 July 2017
Read Time: 6.6 mins

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

Vineyards in France, Europe The Champagne region of France is best visited in May/June or September/October. Image: Getty

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.

aerial view of beach in sardinia, italy, europe Sardinia in July is a prime beach destination for holiday-makers from around the world. Image: Getty

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

Woman looking at travel map A little travel planning goes a long way. Image: Getty

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

Wisley Gardens, England, United Kingdom The gardens of Wisley are renowned as the flagship garden of the UK’s Royal Agricultural Society. Image: Getty

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.

Bunker in Flanders, Belgium, Europe A tour of epic European battlefields will include relics such as this bunker pillbox in Flanders, Belgium. Image: Getty

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.

pasta making, Tuscany, Italy, Europe Learn how to make authentic Tuscan cuisine on a foodie tour of Italy. Image: Getty

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

Boat on Hong Kong harbour Learn how to make authentic Tuscan cuisine on a foodie tour of Italy. Image: Getty

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)

Woman taking selfie on bridge in London, United Kingdom Get a great holiday deal and set yourself up for a fantastic trip. Image: Getty

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.

Visit your local Flight Centre store or call 131 600 for more advice and the latest deals on travelling to Europe.

Erin Bennion

Based in Brisbane, Erin is a writer with a penchant for using fancy old French words wherever possible and an insatiable hankering for trawling through vintage markets in small Scandinavian towns (no really). One of her dreams is to take her family to see General Sherman in Sequoia National Park and give that old guy a group-hug. Don’t follow her, she could end up anywhere. Twitter @erinbennion