Four Reasons This Spring Will Be The Best Time To Visit Europe In Years
There's more to Europe's appeal this season than the very favorable exchange rate.
In recent years, travel to Europe was a luxury, with exorbitant airfares, dizzying hotel rates, and a weak dollar-to-euro exchange rate that turned even everyday purchases into extravagances for U.S. visitors. But this year, thanks largely to the euro’s continued slide—it's now near a 12-year low against the dollar—Europe is again top of mind. Here are four reasons why this spring is the time to go.
A strong dollar The euro is currently trading at just $1.06, near the lowest rate in 12 years. “Europe will be bigger than ever this season," says Cathleen Casey, a Europe travel specialist with Tzell Travel Group. "Everyone is aware of it, from the luxury traveler on down to the budget conscious. Folks want to get in on it before the rate changes again.”
Spain is a particularly good value right now, says Stephanie Serino, also of Tzell Travel Group, "especially outside of Barcelona and Madrid."
"A tasting menu at a Michelin-star restaurant in Valencia is €50 ($55) per person with wine," Serino says, "and it's the same in Andalusia and the Basque Region. Everything is on sale in every store from Desigual to Zara.”
Average daily hotel rates in Dublin, London, Paris, and Rome have all declined since 2014, according to pricing data from Orbitz.com. In Paris average rates are down 14 percent. Countries such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain are offering great prices to fill rooms, and Eastern European countries continue to offer great value compared to the more popular Western countries.
Beyond the big cities While France, Italy, and the United Kingdom continue to be the most popular destinations in Europe, travelers are going further off the beaten path on return visits. “The tiny French towns of Dijon and Burgundy, the island of Sardinia, and Croatia have each brought new energy and vitality to the traditional vacation,” says Konstantinos Bastas, a travel advisor with Protravel International.
These relatively less visited places often deliver a greater value for travelers compared to more popular cities. For example, a room at the Hotel Plaza Athénée in Paris starts at €800 ($848) per night. In Burgundy, at the luxury Abbaye de la Bussiere, a room runs about €450 ($477).
“Savvy travelers should also consider time of year for extra savings,” says Bastas. “In Sardinia, a deluxe room that goes for €2,700 ($2,862) per night during the summer months goes for €700 ($742) in late May or early June."
Families finding value “As students learn about the Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum, and Big Ben, parents are taking education to the next level by discovering these locations in person," Bastas says. "The ‘global citizen’ mantra is becoming a way of life.” Data from Orbitz backs up the claim: London and Paris are the two most popular destinations in Europe for travelers this spring, and Rome is fourth after Dublin.
Families will find that getting from city to city will be more affordable, with new offerings from Rail Europe. Children ages four to 11 can travel for free with an adult on Eurail Global, Eurail Select, Regional Eurail, and One-Country Eurail passes. In Switzerland, the Swiss Travel Pass and the Swiss Family Card allow children from six to 15 to travel for free with an adult. The German Rail Pass lets two children ages six to 11 ride free when accompanied. And the BritRail Family Pass includes free fares for two kids aged six to 11 with a parent.
Quite simply better weather After much of the U.S. endured a rough winter, European cities beckon with comparatively balmy weather. While Dublin doesn't typically crack 60 until May, Barcelona, Paris, and Rome enjoy temperatures in the 60s throughout April. Compared to sub-freezing forecasts this week in Boston, New York, and Chicago, such weather might feel positively tropical.