Are you considering a wintertime trip to Europe? Perhaps considering spending Christmas in romantic Paris or the shopping-heaven of London? Vacationing in Europe in wintertime can, on the surface, seem like a great idea, as the air-fare prices are lower, crowds are smaller, and travel is less heavily booked.
But the truth of the matter is that there’s a reason for this, and you may want to reconsider this plan. Today we will look at why winter European travel might not be the best option for you and your family.
To being with – Europe is truly a wonderful place to visit, and a trip will provide many rich memories for you and your family, whatever season you choose to visit in. Europe is steeped in history, and one of the most exciting things for American visitors is getting the chance to walk around different cities on foot and experience a culture that is thousands of years old.
Even the lowliest village or town in Britain is packed with landmark features such as castles built in the 1300s, five-hundred-year-old pubs, medieval ruins and dwellings, old stone bridges and beautiful turn-of-the-century estate houses, complete with landscaped gardens which are open to the public.
However, there is a downside to vacationing anywhere in Europe in wintertime. Winter in Europe is incredibly cold – colder than most parts of America will ever get – and the weather is also very wet. By ‘wet’ we mean sleet, snow, hail, oh, and did we mention the rain? Most visitors admire how beautiful and ‘green’ much of Europe is, but all that amazing plant growth is a direct result of getting dozens of inches of rain annually – and most of it falls in autumn and wintertime.
Added together, the cold and the wet is a recipe for a pretty miserable trip if you are not adequately prepared. Most visitors to snowy European ski-resorts pack and prepare well with thick snow boots, wind-resistant ski clothing, padded gloves etc. Yet many US visitors stroll off the plane in England wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a light jacket (I’ve witnessed it myself every time I’m at the airport) – then freeze when they open the airport doors to a howling winter blizzard!
So our advice is that if you really must visit Europe in wintertime, do your research ahead of time and at least find out what the local weather will be at the time of your visit. You might get lucky and get a rain-free week – or you might arrive in the middle of a snowstorm. If you have an iPhone, you can install a weather-monitoring app such as the Weather Channel app for an accurate 10-day forecast that will give you a good guide of what to pack.
If you choose to visit England in winter, at least invest in an umbrella. And with temperatures down to minus five degrees in London in December, we recommend a quality waterproof scarf, hat and gloves, and as much warm, water-resistant clothing as fits in your suitcase. Don’t forget your feet – freezing feet make for a terrible trip. Get some thick thermal socks and make sure that whatever your choice of footwear, that it’s waterproof! You don’t want to be freezing cold and wet throughout your entire trip, and walking from one museum or site to the next in inappropriate clothing in a snowstorm will get old incredibly quickly.
While a European ski vacation is great in the winter, sightseeing is really best avoided. Even if you think you will be inside for most of the trip, you will find that getting to the Eiffel Tower or exploring the Piazza in Rome require quite a bit of walking. Some towns and cities have banned cars in their city centers, such as parts of London, Amsterdam and Italy, so you’ll probably be using public transport to get around if you don’t want to spend a fortune on taxis.
But don’t let this put you off. So long as you know what to expect when you arrive, you’ll have a fantastic time and the memories will stay with you forever.
And consider taking our advice on this one – if you are looking to see, experience, and comfortably enjoy the many wonderful sights and sounds of Europe, spring and summer travel really are best choice for your vacation. Not only is the weather better, but you will be able to see the many street performers and other unique and colorful people who frequent the top locations in Europe during the summertime.
And – as an added bonus – you’ll be warm!