There’s already a slight chill in the air in Split, Croatia in early September. The smell of ripe figs and pine needles permeates the old city center. Residents seem relieved that the fall travel season has begun in Europe.
But this year, their relief may be short-lived.
“Travel to Europe this fall is in full swing,” says Mandy Pullin, travel consultant at DPP Travel. “Travel suppliers and advisors are struggling to meet people’s intense need to get away from it all. Added to this urgency is the fact that the euro and the dollar are almost one to one, so travelers can more easily see the value of their dollars.”
Airfares and room rates are falling with the fig leaves in Split and elsewhere, but the dynamics have changed. Travel demand to Europe remains abnormally high for the season. And there are the wildcards, like inconsistent air service and COVID. All of this may have you wondering if it’s still worth visiting Europe this fall.
In Split, hope for a return to “normal”
Vjeran Mlačić, a tour guide in Split, says the city’s tourism officials are delighted to have returning visitors after two slower pandemic years. But the tourists kept coming, and there’s no sign of them stopping.
Downtown Split, with its narrow streets and Roman ruins, is busier than ever. In some of the smaller crossings, bottlenecks can even cut off pedestrian traffic altogether.
“When flights to Split stop,” he says. “Things are getting back to normal.”
But this year, seasonal flights from European hubs will continue until October. Each year, says Mlačić, the dates move back further. This is something happening across Europe as interest in tourism remains at record highs.
“September is actually busier in Europe than August was for the first time in my 22-year career,” says Jack Ezon, managing partner at EMBARK Beyond.
Sales increased by 34% in September and October by 34% compared to 2019 and 37% compared to 2018, a new record. Croatia and Montenegro are among the hottest destinations, with guests flocking to resorts like the new One&Only Portonovi, “which is probably the best value for money in the Mediterranean and amazing,” according to Ezon.
Fall prices to Europe are lower, but…
- Airfares from the United States to Europe are down 24% from this summer, an average savings of $182 per ticket, according to Hopper.
- The region’s hotel occupancy rate in September is 54%, which is comparable to the performance in 2019 but well ahead of 2021 (31%), according to travel technology company Amadeus. Expect discounts in tourist areas, where rates can be $136 per night lower in places like Mykonos, Greece.
- But short-term rental bookings in Europe for the rest of the year are up 7% from pre-pandemic levels and 36% from last year, according to Airdna. September and November are the two best performing months, with a 10% growth in bookings compared to 2019. Compared to last year, October sees a growth of 49% in bookings.
Demand is strong for trips to Europe
Earlier this year, Allianz Partners predicted that travel to Europe would increase by 600% in 2022. By all accounts, that may have happened this summer – and it may also be true for the fall. There are no reliable forecasts for autumn in Europe. The European Travel Commission has not released a forecast for the fall, leaving experts to speculate.
“While some expect travel volume to Europe to remain down from pre-pandemic levels, this will likely be the busiest fall travel season since 2019,” Narendra says. Khatri, director of Insubuy, a travel insurance company. “Plus, with so many canceled flights, it might seem like it’s busier than ever for the average traveler.”
But talking to people in Split, you think that summer may never end. There is no Labor Day in Croatia, but the streets are still packed with tourists this weekend. On a hot Friday afternoon, you can hear English, French and German spoken by visitors on the streets and in the cafe. August, the traditional holiday month, may be over, but these people apparently didn’t get the memo.
How to save money on a trip to Europe this fall
In Europe, prices can be deceiving. Croatia, for example, still uses the kuna as legal tender — it is switching to the euro at the end of this year. But even with the dollar at par with the euro, inflation in Europe remained high. This means you can pay more for your hotel, restaurant meal, and tour. Here is my complete guide to planning a trip.
- If you want to save on lodging, aim for late fall. That’s when everyone here expects a bigger drop in visitor numbers. But aim well. If you arrive in Europe too early, you will still face crowds and high prices. Arrive in Europe too late and it’s too cold to truly enjoy the outdoors. Depending on your destination, mid-October or late October is about as late as you’ll want to go.
- Restaurants don’t typically lower their prices out of season, but many visitors to Europe save money by booking a vacation rental and cooking for themselves. Or they venture out of town to find a restaurant outside the tourist areas at a more reasonable price. These are proven strategies that will work this fall.
- When it comes to transportation, one of the best secrets is public transit. It is cheap and reliable in most European countries. So unless you’re visiting alpine villages by car or driving up the Norwegian coast, you’ll want to check bus and train options before renting a car.
But let’s face it: Europe has never been a cheap travel destination. You can save some money because of the favorable exchange rate, but you will not be able to buy a castle.
Expert advice for your autumn trip to Europe
Here are some expert tips on how to plan a better trip:
Don’t wait to plan your fall trip to Europe
Plan ahead to ensure access to all sites on your list,” advises Sara Kramer, director of marketing at Ker & Downey. If you do, you may have more options, like special tours, private villas, river barges, and yachts, which fill up quickly even in the fall.
Yes, COVID is still an issue
This is the assessment of Betsy Ball, co-founder of Euro Travel Coach. “COVID is still a problem because it’s still with us,” she says. But she says it is much easier to travel in Europe than in recent years. Additionally, the United States no longer requires a negative test to enter, making your trip home easier.
Give yourself more time in the field
“Allow two extra days before and after the main trip,” advises Marino Cardelli, CEO of BellaVita Experience. “I’ve had many clients whose flights have been canceled or delayed. So having more time before and after allows for a safer trip.” That’s always good advice, but with this summer’s airline delays set to continue indefinitely, it’s essential not to let our guard down. Your trip to Europe could be seriously disrupted this fall.
So should you visit Europe this fall?
With everything going on – high prices, continued airline chaos, COVID – should you still be visiting Europe this fall? Absolutely, say the experts.
“Autumn is probably the best time to visit Europe,” says Kat Kalashian, special projects manager for Live and Invest Overseas. “The weather is cool and pleasant, a bit like spring but without all the spring tourists. together.”
If you’re visiting Europe, expect fall conditions, but treat it like summer. Prepare for airline delays, monitor COVID, and keep tabs on your results. COVID has turned everything upside down, including the predictable nature of fall travel in Europe. At least, that’s what they’ll tell you in Split.