Where to go and what to do
There may not be a trendier European travel destination this fall than Dubrovnik, Croatia. Its narrow, cobbled streets and almost perfectly preserved Gothic, Renaissance and late Romanesque buildings continue to attract visitors long after the summer season has ended.
Crowds of visitors stroll along the historic Old Town esplanade in the unforgiving late summer sun, dipping into ice cream shops and pizzerias to escape the searing heat. The bravest of them climb the city walls, which offer breathtaking views of a turquoise Adriatic.
This year, it looks like summer may never end. At least that’s the opinion of Maris Picunic of Villa Orabelle, a boutique hotel just outside the city walls.
“We’re getting closer to where we were in 2019 in terms of visitors,” she says. Since Dubrovnik is so far south, the season is longer, so there’s still time to match – and maybe even exceed – 2019 visitor levels.
This is part two of a series on fall travel in Europe. Here is the first part with the outlook for autumn travel.
Graham Carter, founder of luxury travel operator Unforgettable Croatia, agrees. He says he has never seen anything like it.
“We expect the coming season to be much busier than previous fall seasons in Europe, with businesses perhaps still struggling to keep up with continued demand,” he told me. .
This is good news for the Croatian tourism industry. But for visitors looking for a bargain, maybe not. Picunic says prices have “come down a bit” since the end of the traditional summer travel season, but Dubrovnik remains one of Croatia’s most expensive places to vacation. Yet, with the euro at par, it is more affordable than it has been for years.
A new poll from Medjet suggests that Europe is a popular destination this fall and winter. In its survey, 91% of respondents said they intend to travel by the end of this year and 62% plan to travel abroad. The first region is Europe.
But where is everyone going – and where should you go? Once there, what to do? More importantly, how do you find the best deals in Europe?
Where is everyone going in Europe this fall?
So where is everyone going this fall? It depends who you ask.
Demand from American travelers for European vacation homes has more than doubled compared to the same period last year, according to Vrbo. This fall, Paris tops the list of the most popular European destinations. It is followed by Rome, London, Florence, Lisbon and Barcelona.
World Nomads Group reviewed the destinations of its policyholders and found that Italy, Greece, Croatia and Austria topped the list of European fall destinations.
“Travellers are less interested in visiting Spain and Germany,” says Christina Tunnah, managing director of global marketing at World Nomads Group. “There has also been a slight drop in interest in France as a destination.”
Fall bookings to Europe are up 16% from a year ago, according to Travelport. For the United Kingdom, they increased by 70%. In fact, many European destinations were busier than they were in 2019. For the recent Labor Day holiday, Travelport found that visits to Italy were up 8%, Greece by 23%, in Portugal 25% and in Turkey 44%.
It’s hard to gauge where people are going now because fall trips don’t usually get much attention from stat-gatherers. After all, it’s shoulder season — and it’s supposed to be quiet. But not this year.
Pro tip: I interviewed dozens of travel experts on where to go and what to do in Europe this fall. There is a consensus that choosing a less popular destination will give you the most bang for your buck. So if the prices in Dubrovnik are too high, go to Split. If Paris is too much, check out Nice. (It’s sunny this time of year.)
What to do in Europe this fall
Europe is a draw for all sorts of reasons, experts say. Kim Parizek, a travel consultant specializing in Europe, says her clients return to the countries they’ve visited, but not for the same old experiences.
“I spend a lot more time working with destination providers to research new experiences that are off the beaten path,” she says. “Guests are returning to France or Italy for the fifth and sixth time, but now want to explore unique new excursions, places to stay and restaurants.”
The hope is that they can do so without the massive summer crowds that have made many European destinations almost unbearable.
“Off the beaten path” seems to be a theme. I spoke with several tour operators who said their customers were looking for solitude – and maybe somewhere where winter doesn’t start too soon.
Turkey and southern Spain are particularly attractive. “The weather can still be pleasant in November, while the crowds tend to die out,” says Kelly Torrens, vice president of product for Kensington Tours. But, she adds, “it’s important to have patience when you go on a trip.” That’s always good advice.
What are the pros doing? Limor Decter, travel consultant at Embark Collective, will be heading to Sicily in October to enjoy the cultural and natural attractions. She says hoteliers she spoke to are hoping for a quieter fall. “They look forward to sharing their hospitality with travelers who have patiently waited and avoided the summer of frantic travel to enjoy a fall visit,” she says.
Pro tip: Many Americans wrote off COVID in Europe this fall. But that’s a mistake, says Kate Fitzpatrick, regional director of security at World Travel Protection. She notes that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still lists the UK and much of Europe as a “moderate” COVID threat. The CDC advises that you get up to date on your vaccines before traveling to a Tier 3 destination. “That means you’ve received not just the full initial vaccinations, but any boosters for which you’re eligible,” she says. . Here is my free guide to planning a trip.
How to get the offers in Europe
According to experts, the earlier you book your fall trip to Europe, the better.
“My best advice would be to plan and book your trip well in advance to get the best deals for every stop on your preferred route,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage.com, a travel insurance marketplace .
Prices tend to drop for the fall travel season, but airlines have already started pricing their tickets for the holidays.
The prices are all over the map and you have to search carefully for the best deals. For example, I recently rented a car in Split, Croatia for a week. On most US travel sites, I couldn’t find anything under $600, which isn’t an outrageous price. But I found an upgraded car for just $160 when I rented from an off-airport location.
Pro tip: If you’re looking for a cheaper plane ticket, aim for the week of October 10, says Expedia. “Average ticket prices are expected to be 20% lower than summer for international flights,” said Christie Hudson, spokesperson for Expedia.
Ready to visit Europe? Maybe it’s time to go
Despite higher prices and crowds, fall 2022 might be one of the best times to visit Europe. The euro is at par with the dollar, which means that prices are lower. Crowds have dwindled from the frenetic summer travel season. And the weather is getting colder. Even the locals I spoke to in Dubrovnik say the autumn weather is here. (“You wouldn’t have wanted to be here in June,” Picunic said. “It was way too hot.”)
Remember that prices will start to rise again as the holiday season approaches. And unless you’re lucky enough to be in a place like Portugal’s famed Alentejo region or Cyprus, you’ll need to bundle up.