Planning Tip: Navigating school holidays when picking travel dates
Having a sense of local travel patterns is a smart way of seeing Europe at its best and trimming costs. High school holiday dates are often a key determinant of accommodation costs. And with kids already heading back to school in some parts of Europe, that opens up opportunities for Cheapos looking for bargains.
Summer vacation dates
In Denmark and Finland, for example, children head back to the classroom over the next few days, and that leaves plenty of capacity in vacation hot-spots in those two countries which mainstream on the domestic market. And Denmark, ever-popular for family vacations with folks in northern Germany, will also see a slump in visitors from Germany. School resumes in Hamburg this week, and in Berlin classes are back next Monday.
Many countries have regional variations. For example, while many German schools have started the new school year, children in Germany’s two southernmost states – Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg – still have another month of vacation.
Four European countries that have notably late summer vacations are Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta. Indeed, school’s out in Malta until 26 September. The other three countries dispatch their kids to the classroom in mid-September.
Looking ahead to Fall, it pays to know the pattern of school vacations. The period from late September generally offers a feast of low-season rates on travel and accommodation right across Europe. But beware the last week of October and first week in November. Almost two thirds of schoolchildren in the European Union have a fall break in one of those two weeks, and it’s a time when hotels and resorts which have been empty for some weeks are suddenly full to overflowing for a spell.
Sometimes just shifting your travel dates a few days forward or back can have a dramatic influence on fares on intra-European flights in the Fall. And that same shift in dates may mean you benefit from low-season hotel rates rather than the premium tariffs that apply during school holidays.
The run-up to Christmas
Generally, the period from around 10 November thru mid-December is the cheapest of the year for European travel. But note the Advent effect in those European cities which are noted for shopping or Christmas markets. Cities like Augsburg, Dresden, Paris and Milan are judged by many as fine spots for a weekend break in the run-up to Christmas, so those low-season weekend hotel rates can quickly evaporate in such places.