Pros & cons of visiting Europe in off season! - eNidhi India Travel Blog

Pros & cons of visiting Europe in off season!

What is the season and off season for Europe?

Europe has 4 seasons- Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter.. March, April & May is deemed Spring and June, July, August is summer. These two seasons or March to August are generally deemed a good time to visit Europe as temperature will be nice, snowfall is less to none. However different countries and regions may have their own best times as northern Europe is more colder and has lesser summer time. Southern Europe like Spain, Italy, Greece are a bit better and may have better weather from Feb till October.

Also keep in mind that as we plan our trip months in advance it is not possible to predict exact weather at a destination city on a given day. We should be ready to handle some disruption if it rains, snow or severe cold hits during the days of your visit.

While everyone plans to visit Europe during peak season, that is the time when everything is expensive, everything is crowded, and things get sold out fast. So some of us might prefer to explore in off season despite some known drawbacks. With that, let us understand the pros and cons or advantages and disadvantages of visiting Europe in the off season.

Pros or benefits of visiting Europe in off season (Autumn/winter)

#1 Tickets are cheaper

Flight tickets are usually cheaper in the off season due to lesser demand. Same destination in summer can easily cost 1.5-2x more. So your savings are higher.

Various attractions reduce their ticket price during off season- like In Acropolis, Athens, normal ticket is 20 Euros but till 31st March it was 10 Euros. You may easily save 50% on attraction entry fees in off season

Hotel rates are also lower. You will save a bit there as well.

#2 Crowd is less

  • While buying tickets, for metro, in the bus, at the attractions, everywhere crowd is less during off peak season, which is more comfortable, saves time
  • Airport security and immigration are quicker
  • Less wait for tickets, toilets and various other things
  • All the places where I wanted to use a locker, few lockers were always free in the off season. Same may not be true in peak season. In peak season if all lockers are taken you will have to carry your bags all around.

#3 Airlines are more generous

Because the flight is not full, airline staff may not strictly enforce baggage weight and size rules. In peak season when flight is full, airline crew will be more strict as no space will be left for some passengers if others are allowed to carry more than the stipulated allowance.

#4. Hotels are more generous

Again due to lesser demand, hotels may agree to early check in or late check out if you request. During peak season when every room is sold out, such requests may be rejected.

Many of the hostels I stayed in had like 50% occupancy, so getting to use bathrooms, lockers etc were easier. Getting a bed/room of your choice is also easier.

#5 Shopkeepers have more time to explain

When I walked into Columbus travel in Athens, lady there said they were not expecting any customers to walk in that day and explained the tour options in detail. Even other shopkeepers had time to explain things as there were fewer customers. In peak season if there is a queue of customers then shopkeepers may not be keen to spend lots of time on you- they might prefer to sell you something quickly and move to the next customer.

#6 No need to pre-book everything-

Like tours, hotels etc. Risk of booking everything online is if your plan changes or if tour is cancelled getting refund is tricky- websites try their best not to give you cash and give some vouchers/coupon which may not be useful for you. In off season you can walk-in or book the previous evening and might still get a good deal. Again because of low demand, there is no need to plan months in advance, pay and book your day trips, cruises, hotels etc. You can have a generic plan and finalize it closer to the travel date. All my day trips and cruises I booked the previous day, after verifying that the tour will operate the next day. In peak season they are more likely to sell out weeks in advance, so you’ll have to book in advance and say if you can’t use it (say due to delayed flight or bad health or change of plans) you may not get any refund.

#7. Snow- if you fancy experiencing snow, or snow based activities like skiing, off season gives a much higher chance of the same. Of course snow has its drawbacks- walking is tough, flight may get canceled, roads will get blocked for hours till it is cleared of snow and so on.

Cons or drawbacks of visiting Europe in off season

Off season is less popular for a reason. It is important to understand these reasons and ensure you are comfortable with them, before planning your trip. Else you will return half hearted.

#1 Compromised experience: In off season many attractions are closed or under maintenance or have reduced opening hours or partially open. Hard to predict and plan this- depending on your luck and decisions taken by individual attractions there will be limitations on what is open, when and so on. At times attraction might be open but because of repair work, you will not get best of the photos, or some part of the museum/attraction might be closed

On my trip Botanical Gardens in Bratislava, Athens etc were closed. Many churches or attractions had scaffolding around them or inside for repair/maintenance work.

#2 Weather not so comfortable: 

In general weather is colder, higher chance of rain and snow, thus you will need to carry more jackets/winter clothing.

Rain or snow may play spoilsport for your plans. If temperature drops too much your outdoor activities will have to be limited. Walking outdoor is not very pleasant in low temperature. If you fall ill that is another set of inconvenience, time loss and expense. Luckily my (Shrinidhi Hande's) health didn't give any trouble during the trip.

I decided to explore South Europe instead of north as the south is a bit more warmer. During my trip the temperature ranged from -2 degrees at night to max 13 to 14 degrees in day time. I was able to manage with a jacket, gloves and monkey cap during the day. I spent the night indoors.

Cloudy weather also means not so great photographs. At many spots I didn’t bother taking pictures because my hands would freeze if I took out the gloves. (You can buy touch sensitive gloves, I didn’t have one)

#3 Higher chance of flight/tour cancellation

Your flight or tour may get canceled due to reasons such as bad weather and airlines also cancel flights if say not even 50% of the tickets are sold. Similarly for a tour operator it is not viable to operate a 50 seater bus if only 5-6 tickets are sold. They will cancel and ask you to take something else. So be ready to lose a day or two if your originally planned flight is canceled and you are rerouted one stop two stop options taking whole day

Flight cancellation may happen any time due to dozens of different reasons- no way to avoid them though.

#4 Dull scenes everywhere

All trees have shed their leaves and look very blank and dull. Same location during summer will be a lot more lively. All the nature photos you see of Europe in brochures, advertisements, websites are taken in the summer season mostly.

Many fountains were dry as authorities didn’t bother operating fountains due to low footfalls or other reasons

#5 Many businesses are closed

Several Indian restaurants I visited were closed- most likely owners decided to close for a few months and visit India instead as business was dull. 

An amusement park I visited in Vienna had only one fourth of the rides working, rest all closed due to very few footfalls.

#6 Reduced daylight time and Limited nightlife

If nightlife excites you, be ready to handle cold temperatures. Your options may also be limited as shops may close early due to cold, less footfalls.

Thus while you will save good money if you travel off season and enjoy some of the benefits, be ready to compromise a bit and have a sub optimal experience.

Same trip during summer/peak season will cost much more and also you should be ready to deal with large crowds everywhere- ticket counter, restaurants, toilets, hotels everywhere wait time will be longer. You win some, you lose some. You can also try to balance both by visiting during a time when spring is about to end and summer is about to begin. Or Summer is about to end and autumn is about to begin.

#7 You will miss most events.

All popular events of Europe- like Tomatina and Bull flight in Spain, Europeade, Sail Europe and various other festivals, events and celebrations are all almost invariably scheduled during peak season or summer and not in off peak season. So off peak usually you will have zero chance of witnessing or experiencing these events. Of course if you have to visit during these events be ready to pay a huge amount for flight and stay as everything will be expensive.

Related: Schengen Visa process * Europe trip in extreme budget (coming soon) *

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