Just about two years ago, the countries of the world began to close their borders due to the spread of Covid-19. Now, those same countries are opening their borders up and dropping restrictions – left and right! There are many reasons this could be a good time for planning a trip to Europe so let’s break it down to see if it may be right for you.
Should You Plan a Trip to Europe Right Now?
Why You Should Plan a Trip to Europe
Let’s tackle the “why you should” version of this first – why right now could be the good time to book travel to Europe.
As I said in the opener, restrictions are dropping all over the place. If you are vaccinated, many places have dropped the requirements for pre-travel testing and even if you aren’t vaccinated, some places have opened up their doors wide again (but with a pre-departure test).
These restrictions that are dropping include things like: no more masks outside, no more masks inside, no more covid pass for entry to places, no more tests, no more forms, etc.
Now, each country will have their own rules and restrictions so make sure you check that country’s website. But, restrictions due to covid-19 are far less than what they were last year.
There was a time a few years ago that the dollar almost reached parity with the euro. Right now, (at the time of the writing of this post), the dollar is at just $1.09 to €1. The last time it was this low was April of 2020, or just when Europe and the US were closing their borders to each other.
This means your dollar is going to go further in Europe than it did before (for some things – more on that in a bit). Particularly, this could be true for things like hotels. If you were comfortable pre-paying (some hotels still will let you cancel and get your money back so read the terms), you could lock in a rate that may be much better now than when you may actually stay, say in July or August. If the dollar drops again to like 1.2, you would have saved a significant amount booking now.
Beating the Tourist Rush
Even with the war in Ukraine, parts of Europe are likely going to see the highest influx of tourists from the US since 2019. People are ready to get out and spend their vacation money/points that they have been largely unable to for a while.
The good thing is that some countries (like Greece) have pushed the start button the tourist season much earlier than in any year prior. While that doesn’t make the weather nicer, it does mean certain tourist destination hotels will be open earlier than before.
If you are in a position to travel before the tourist rush, you may possibly experience Europe in a way that has never been possible before. By this I mean not only having tourist hotspots have more space than in pre-covid years but also having many tourist attractions be open. More places for tourists to go + lack of tourists means a much more enjoyable travel experience!
But, this will likely only last up until June!
While ticket prices are far from the lowest we have seen from the US to Europe, they still aren’t that bad. But, the reason you may want to book now is that these increased energy costs that are being seen all over the US are about to passed on to you when you buy your ticket. United has already said that (next quarter) they will be passing along 60% of these increased fuel costs to the customer via the ticket cost.
The good thing is that US airlines have more generous change policies than they did prior to the arrival of covid-19. This means that you could book most tickets with a US departure (typically not a basic economy ticket) and then make changes after the fact if prices drop. If they do drop, you can get a voucher for the amount. This is a nice way to at least lock in a trip now and then see what happens as time goes on.
Bonus tip: Visiting Europe right now could be a huge help to many of the locals as they have faced a huge slump in tourism the last couple of years. Tourism counts for a significant portion of income for some of these countries and many hotels have already closed for good so check out some of the smaller, more boutique lodging places and restaurants to enjoy a more cultural experience and help the local economy.
Why You May Not Want to Plan a Trip to Europe Right Now
The world is focused on the war in Ukraine and this is certainly a major, horrible event going on in Europe right now. In addition to what is going on in Ukraine, countries bordering Ukraine are seeing a huge influx of people that are fleeing the war going on (some numbers put it at over 2 million people). I have friends helping out with the housing and feeding and the giving of supplies for these refugees right now and it is a huge undertaking.
For this reason, I would suggest that (unless you are volunteering with a NGO to help in this crisis) you avoid those border countries to Ukraine. The lodging situation in these countries is certainly being taxed in the areas near the refugees and you could find yourself taking some kind of lodging that may eventually be needed for those assisting or the refugees themselves, as well as other resources that could be needed. At the same time, I am sure these areas would welcome tourist dollars so that is why this is up to you!
There is, of course, the uncertainty with what may happen in Europe this summer as well. I am certainly not a foreign security expert so don’t go from some blog to decide if it is safe for you to visit a particular country (check the US State Department list here)! But, depending on when you are thinking of a trip to Europe, it may be difficult to determine what will be the state of travel in many areas later this year (though I would imagine things will be as they are today). Whatever you do, make sure you are booking travel that can be changed/refunded/credited in case changes need to be made.
I said in the above section that your dollar could go further than it did before, thanks to an exchange rate that is more favorable to the dollar now. However, there is a big asterisk there. That is because the costs of goods in Europe and energy costs have been rising before the war in Ukraine and are continuing to go up now. So, while your dollar may be worth more than it was last year in Europe, you may also find yourself paying more than you had remembered.
When Would Be a Good Time for Going to Europe?
So, now we see the pros and cons – if you come down on the side of still wanting to plan a trip to Europe, when should you go? I certainly think that you are going to get the best bang for your buck if you go within the next two months. Tourist seasons are kicking off very soon for some destinations and that means more flights and hotels opening up. This should translate to better deals for you as more of an early vacationer.
In addition, beating the actual summer holiday timeframe is definitely going to help you to get the best locations to yourself and not having to deal with an overflow of tourists. Keep in mind various holidays in the countries in Europe as some of these holidays do shut everything down (for example, the Easter celebrated in countries like France, Italy, Spain, and most of Europe is April 17 this year while the Orthodox Easter celebrated in Greece, Bulgaria, Cyprus and other Eastern European countries is on April 24).
I think that the normal shoulder season of May could end up being your best bet this year since many countries will actually be fully open for tourist season by then, the weather should be warmer, and the deals should still be pretty good. But, if paying for hotels and airfare, consider booking that soon to avoid any increase in fare costs due to the rising energy costs.
Are you thinking of planning a trip to Europe this year? Which countries are you wanting to visit?