For some people the question of when can I travel only has one answer, when school is out. Due to my addiction to higher education, for a long time, I was one of those people. Summer or winter break was all I could get off. But as we all know, when we are off school, or have children on a school break, every other student is off as well.
Traveling at peak times, is much more expensive than off-peak times. Hotel prices and airfare can be more expensive. This leads to how can I plan it well enough that it does not break the bank. First of, all, the question is are you okay with crowds. If you really want to go to Paris, and the only time to do it is in the summer, then go. You will have a different experience than if you went in April or October, but if that is all you can do, then do it. Just know it is going to be hot and crowded. Even though you are going at a peak time of year, it does not mean that you can’t plan it in a way that will you save money and are able to do everything you want to do. When you know you want to do and are traveling at a peak time of year, then start planning early.
1. Hotel: Use TripAdvisor, booking.com, travel forums and guide books to choose your hotel and do this first. The good hotels that are a good value, book fast. I have a favorite hotel in Amsterdam that I found out about through a TripAdvisor forum and was also in a Rick Steves guide book. But this hotel books many months in advance and if i want to go to Amsterdam and stay at this hotel, I better book it as soon as I decide that I am going. If you wait too long you are going to either end up staying in a dump or pay a lot of money.
2. Airfare: Airfare is going to be more expensive, no matter what. But you can do things to make flying a little more affordable. Some people are willing to do longer flights with stop overs to save money. I want to go to Paris and I live in Minneapolis, well I will fly to Chicago, to Atlanta, to Frankfort and then land in Paris. All for saving $300. However, I have different way to get to get cheaper airfare. If your objective is to go to Paris, why not fly into Amsterdam, London, Brussels even Frankfort. Basically, get to Europe, it does not matter which airport, but find the cheapest, most direct airport that it is a decent train ride away from your destination. I usually end up flying to Amsterdam no matter where I am trying to go in Europe. I gives me a day in a great city to deal with the jet lag and then I take a train to where I really want to go. If you buy your tickets in advance, train rides in Europe can be quite reasonable and quick. You will spend less time cramped in a plane and will save money.
3. Dealing with crowds: If you travel in the summer, it is going to be crowded, no way around it. But there are some things that you can do to make it a better experience. First is buy tickets in advance. Buy your tickets to whatever museums you want to go to in advance online. Some museums do not even require you choose the date. Another option is booking a tour. I hate tours, but sometimes when it is really crowded booking a tour when you are short of time you won’t have to deal with standing in line or waiting for tickets. Yes, tours are crowded as well, but when you are dealing with crowded summer time, really what is the difference. One great thing about summer is that it is light for a long time. So you can get up early and go to places before the crowds get there. I think the morning is the most beautiful time of the day for pictures. Even in the summer you can find empty places early in the morning. I have the most beautiful photos of empty places that three hours later would be very crowded and hot. Late afternoon or evening is also a great time to visit museums or attractions. Several years ago I wanted to see the Ann Frank house but the line was around the corner. However, I went at 7:00 at night and there was no line. Take a nap at noon and get up early and stay up late, you have long days with lots of light so enjoy it.
Do you have any tips for planning to travel during peak summer times? Leave your comments below.