Although summer is still raging across the pond and even here stateside at shore towns on the coasts, for many of us, summer 2020 has been less than ideal. Let’s face it, maybe it’s time we get on board with the #teampumpkinspice cult? Concede this summer in terms of travel hopes and start focusing on a winter getaway? That’s right, rather than trying to salvage a week staycation or a few days here or there, I’m suggesting we save a few bucks and ditch the whole idea of a summer holiday in favor of something with a bit more “cheer.” Trading in summer nights for twinkle lights.
While I was hoping we would be in Sicily right now, it’s still unclear as to when the EU travel ban will be lifted, so I’ve shifted planning to my go-to vacation season, winter! I happen to LOVE a winter getaway. And not to winter beach hot spots like St. Barts or the Maldives. My husband and I escape in December to enjoy our favorite European destinations. We relax and take in the season as we sip mulled wine and marvel at the holiday decorations. In fact, last year we shared our love for a winter vacation with friends and family as we brought 50 Americans to Ortigia, Sicily for a December wedding. So as winter getaway “experts,” specifically on Europe, here are some things to know and a few key tips for booking a magical vacation during the winter season.
Know Before You Go
- Where It’s Hot – Winter is the high season for some destinations around the world including Safaris, the Seychelles, and of course, winter sports havens like Switzerland. If you are looking to book one of these hot trip options, keep in mind that rates can be anywhere from 30 – 60% more expensive from November through February, with peak prices between Christmas and New Year’s.
- On Crowds – With the exception of the week before and after Christmas, popular European destinations from Rome and Paris to Prague and Vienna tend to be significantly less crowded in winter months, translating to easier access to the world’s top attractions.
- On Pricing – And if you are eyeing up a European tour (and maybe you will by the end of this post), revel in lower prices for everything from eating out to hotels. IE get way more out of your stay for a fraction of the cost.
- On Shopping – Shopping during the winter season is a delight as stores are stocked with the year’s best goodies and gifts. And once again, with smaller crowds you can actually enjoy an uninterrupted spree and maybe even shimmy your way up to the Chanel counter on Via Condotti without having to wait or hail down help.
- On Decor – What’s not to love about holiday decor? From giant trees to shining lights, holiday decorations are a magnificent sight that you can only enjoy during this short period of the year.
- On Closures – With fewer tourists during winter months, especially in mainland Europe, some hotels, restaurants, even museums may close to refurbish. Generally speaking, this has not been a huge issue for us as we’ve always found a plethora of world-class establishments open year round.
- On Weather – When booking a European trip in the winter months you can expect the weather will not be conducive to getting a tan and drinking tropical beverages on the beach. And while there are many destinations that allow for this experience at a premium cost (see point one), much of the top tourist spots are cooler and even rainier during the holidays. WITH THAT SAID, maybe you can look at the winter weather as a positive. You can trade your favorite bikini for a chic coat, trade your spritzer for a glass of body-warming full-bodied Chianti, and in bulkier clothes no one will notice any vacation lbs.
*Always check the annual average weather conditions before you book as you’d be surprised how temperate many destinations stay even during winter months. Our wedding was December 21st in Sicily and the temp hovered around 70F/21C.*
5 Tips for Booking an Epic Winter Getaway
- Define Vacation – Even in the winter months so much of the world is still “your oyster.” Decide what you’re looking for in an escape: skiing, beaching, or sight seeing? From there you can put together the perfect trip at a lodge, island, or multi-city Euro tour.
- Book Early – As with summer vacations, the earlier you book the better the pricing. Yes, in the winter you can book a bit later as there isn’t as much demand, but still do your homework and try to secure your trip early to be as cost-effective as possible. Also, always book a refundable/credit option so you don’t lose out if plans change.
- Expedia Bundle – The secret is out! If anyone has ever wondered how we have managed to travel and stay at some amazing hotels without breaking the bank, enter Expedia Bundle. And no, I am not sponsored by Expedia.
Through Expedia’s site you can book a Hotel + Flight or Hotel + Car and save BIG TIME on both your stay and transportation. As compared to Booking.com, you can save an additional 50% or more in some cases by utilizing the Bundle. AGAIN, always book with a refund/change option so you can get reimbursed if necessary. IE, read the fine print as like any deal there is ALWAYS fine print. In complete transparency, we have had an issue with Expedia cancelling our flight and issuing our credit so do be sure to click every single insurance option and ensure you’ve read all the policies.
*If you have rapport with a specific hotel or lodge, you can always book directly through them and use the Bundle to save on your flight; just add one night at a separate hotel in your destination city to get the Bundle pricing. Seem complicated or too good to be true? Learn more here.
- Winter Packing – I prefer winter attire. Give me a cozy sweater any day. Stock up on jumpers from Vince, Iro, Brochu Walker and more. Just a few key pieces will anchor your entire winter vacay wardrobe. Layer bulky items over tees to get the most wear.
- Celebration Research – Finally, holidays offer some of the best and most historic festivals. Do a bit of research on your destination and mark your calendars so you don’t miss any of the parties!