Guide to Off-Season Travel in Europe

The past 365 days have been a big year of off-season traveling for me. Sam and I backpacked through South East Asia during rainy season and now we are traveling Eastern Europe in the winter. Besides being way cheaper, there are a lot of benefits to traveling during the off season. So is traveling during winter in Europe a magical snowy wonderland or is it just cold and bleak? Here are the reasons I think it is great…and maybe not so great 

+Pros+

Less Crowds

This varies from place to place, but generally winter means a LOT less tourists. The difference on the Charles Bridge in Prague is astonishing, you can hardly get across it in the summer! In some smaller cities I have been to during off season there are almost no tourists which can be a bit spooky but it gives the town a very authentic feeling.

No Rush To Buy Tickets

We have booked almost everything the day of or a day before while traveling in the off season! It is perfect for me because I hate having to plan way ahead. Prices don’t go up as much and things are not likely to be booked up so you can be super flexible with your travels.

Great Time To Get Work Done

Between traveling during rainy season in Asia and Winter in Europe I have read every book in the Game of Thrones series, taken an online coding course, journaled and binge watched the Cosmos on Netflix- on top of working Monday through Friday! When the sun is out I feel this internal guilt that I have to constantly be out and doing something. But when it is cold and rainy it gives you the perfect excuse to hide away in a cafe or pub and get caught up on life or just drink the day away!

Make Some Local Friends

Some cities are bustling in the summer months but are completely empty during winter. In Kotor it seemed like we were the only foreigners there! We went to the #1 rated restaurant in the city and it was completely empty. We got to talking to the waiter and he said in the summer you have to make a reservation days in advance, meanwhile I got to pretend that Sam rented out the whole restaurant for us 🙂 Off season is an awesome chance to get talking to locals and meet some new friends – which is when you learn the secrets about a city that a guide book doesn’t tell you.

-Cons-

IT IS COLD

Europe obviously has many different climates, but for the most part during the Winter it is COLD! I always have such a hard time packing appropriately, because two counties can have drastically different climates. I thought I would be in Montenegro for a few months so I packed 2 light jackets and some jeans and dresses. Well, plans changed and now I am in Romania and it is COVERED in snow! I’m layering everything that I packed just to go outside! If you travel Europe during the off season without a plan pack a variety of clothes, and make sure you have some good layering pieces!

Lonely

I am all for solo traveling, I think it is incredibly liberating to be on my own schedule. But there are some cities I have traveled to where if I wasn’t with Sam I would honestly be pretty lonely. If you are traveling to major European cities, this will absolutely not be a problem- there is always something going on. In some smaller cities we have been to, like Kotor- there were almost no other tourists. We even went to a hostel bar to see if we could meet some people and it was empty! If some quiet time is your cup of tea, than this is the perfect time to go traveling! But if you crave the company of people, try and find a travel buddy for the smaller cities.

Hikes/Outdoor Activities May Be Limited

 I was so excited about all the hiking opportunities in Romania! The country is covered with beautiful forests and lakes. Unfortunately, these are all frozen right now and unless I stick around for a few months, it will be too cold for me to enjoy these things. If you are counting on seeing any national parks, or enjoying hiking, make sure to research the weather first because you may have to wait till Spring or Summer.

Bonus reasons that make off season travel the best!

+Snow makes everything more magical and most of Europe looks like a fairy tale anyway!

+Christmas markets!

+Endless supply of mulled wine!

+Get all cuddled up with a lover!

+Display your winter fashion, hats are my favorite accessory!

+Skiing! Ice skating! Sledding!

+Photos are much nicer without a million tourists in them!

+Drinking makes the cold not feel so cold!

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