Planning For the Off-Season

It has been a crazy couple of weeks around here! If you didn’t realize, we are smack in the middle of peak travel season–which means I am one busy mama! Aside from writing this blog, celebrating (and then subsequently mourning) Bastille Day, and putting together some last-minute tropical getaways for clients in desperate need of a break, I’ve been occupied largely with the hyper-detailed process of assembling travel documents for my Europe travelers. You might think that my work is done once I’ve booked the major components of a trip, but the truth–particularly for my customized Europe trips–is that the document assembly is where the magic happens. This part {walking maps, shopping spots, dining recs + reservations, confirming everything, putting it in a working order that is user-friendly to you} is where I make sure all my hard work and all your money isn’t for nothing. It’s definitely where my OCD self gets to fly the freak flag!! And because it is high season, my office is FULL of your fun plans!

Can I tell you a little secret? As much as I love planning your summer trips, I have a closet enjoyment of designing the perfect off-season European vacation. For me, it is a geeky unique challenge to find you the perfect ways to spend your days. And though I adamantly believe the best time to go to Europe is shoulder season, there are some serious perks when it comes to off-season (winter) travel to Europe.


You knew this was coming, right? Your biggest savings is going to be on air…the very thing that often eats up a huge chunk of your budget. Airlines need to sell those seats, and winter fares will often be available up until the last minute. As a side note, you are more likely to get a great deal on a first-class seat in the off-season (and far less likely to end up the victim of an oversell situation). Just be mindful of flight routes that are prone to weather delays (i.e. don’t connect in Denver if you can avoid it).


While there will be the occasional closing (or limited hours) in the off-season, most major sights are still open for business! A travel professional can assist you with getting to the right places. If you love museums but dread the crowds, why wouldn’t you save your tours for when they are practically empty? 


…unless you’re on a beach, right? Look, you need to be strategic. Don’t go to Ireland and expect it to be green in December just because you’re there. For most of Europe, some cold  and even rainy weather is not going to be any more of an inconvenience than the summer-time heat. On the coast and into the South, areas such as Rome will probably be even more enjoyable to sightseers without the stifling humidity. For those of you wanting to see more indoor sights than outdoor ones (like all those famous museums and chateaux), ask yourself how much the cold will bother you when you’re indoors. Remember, you might be cold outside, but you won’t be outside all day!


November-December in Europe is an outstanding time and place to get into the holiday spirit! Most European cities display their own interpretations of holiday decor (both religious and secular) in this time, and experiencing different local traditions will undoubtedly inspire some of your own. Parentsplease consider how interesting and educational this would be for your children! Imagine them collecting childhood memories, engaging experiences and priceless souvenir ornaments from Salzburg, Venice, Copenhagen and Zurich. In fact, one of my very favorite things is Christmas Market in Germany (and Austria. and Belgium. and France.)

S I D E B A R // So many of you have asked about how to best approach a Christmas Market trip that I have decided to put together one or two small group tours for Christmas Market 2017!! These are going to be A LOT of fun for the whole family, so if you’re interested, please let me know!


My brother lives in a small, mountain town that caters to tourists from out-of-state. As a jeweler and shop-owner, he depends on the business tourists provide, but is also relieved when tourist season ends and he and the other locals get their town back. I have a feeling that it is much the same for Europeans. When you time your visit so that you’re one of very few tourists in sight, you’ll be amazed at the cultural integration you experience.


One complaint I hear quite a bit revolves around the differences between Western standards of service and European. Consider going in the off-season when guides, drivers, and waiters do not have to split their time between you and the rest of your group. They are usually anxious for the work and will offer more time to indulge you and more energy to spend educating you about their spectacular culture.


Christmas celebrations aren’t the only thing unavailable in the summer. Winter is the best time to enjoy easily visible Northern Lights in Norway and Iceland, and it’s the only time to savor the Vienna Boys Choir or the Carnevale of Venice. Even simple pleasures such as ice-skating and goulash in Budapest cannot be re-created at a different time of the year. Much like sipping Serendipity’s hot chocolate after taking in a performance by the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, some pleasures are simply meant to be enjoyed in the cold.


I will be the first to tell you that planning an off-season trip to Europe takes a little finesse. There are unique considerations that just aren’t part of the typical guidebook focus. No, you won’t be lounging seaside or picking lavender in Provence, but you will discover magic you never expected…and that is kind of what travel is all about, isn’t it?


Ciao Chow,