By Jenna Berndt
While you might be eagerly counting down the months to December, savvy travellers are planning beyond 2019. If you want to travel through Europe, the bucket list continent for so many South Africans, it saves to think ahead – a whole year in fact.
Here are 20 travel tips to get you prepped for Europe in 2020.
Beat inflation by booking a year in advance.
Flights can be booked up to a year before travel, so book early to secure the limited seats in the cheapest fare classes.
“Most other travel amenities can also be booked the year before,” adds Teresa Richardson, Managing Director of The Travel Corporation in South Africa.
Guided holiday brand Trafalgar has already released its 2020 programme with itineraries and pre-sale offers available until 3 October. “These deals afford travellers a 10% discount and their choice of departure dates if they book their 2020 holiday in 2019,” says Richardson.
Don’t be mistaken that a full year is too early. You might be surprised to know that seats on popular trips and flights quickly fill up, especially for travel in the peak summer season.
Minimise travel stress
As wonderful as travel is, it can be stressful. In 2018, a global survey conducted by Trafalgar revealed 72% of South Africans feel that flying by themselves is stressful. Minimise stressful elements of your trip that are within your control. A travel agent will help to eliminate the stress of planning and booking flights, accommodation and insurance, for example, and answer any questions.
When to go where
If you want that traditional summer in Europe or snowy winter wonderland holiday, here’s where you should go, and when:
- For summer in the cities and Med beach breaks, July and August are the hottest and busiest months. Travel in May, June and September if you want slightly cooler temperatures and fewer crowds.
- For snow – Innsbruck, Prague, Copenhagen, Riga, Salzburg, Hamburg, Stockholm, Tallinn and Helsinki are some of Europe’s snowiest cities. European Christmas markets in November and December are spectacular.
- For skiing – Most of Europe’s most popular ski resorts open from December to April.
Travel in the off-season
There’s a reason to travel to Europe every season. For further cost-savings and fewer crowds, go in the off-peak seasons of autumn and spring. Both seasons have unique experiences to offer. Think the parks abloom with budding flowers, Buckingham Palace surrounded by bright yellow daffodils, and trees ablaze with the fiery colours of autumn.
Pack like a minimalist
“I should have packed more clothes,” said no traveller, ever. Be ruthless. Check the weather and your itinerary and make a strict packing list. However, be prepared for all seasons and always travel with something warm and waterproof, as well as a pair of comfortable shoes. Don’t forget that universal adaptor!
Pre-book tickets for popular attractions
Do you know that you can wait up to two hours to go up the Eiffel Tower?
Pre-book popular attractions wherever possible. Plan to do them in the first days of your trip, too, in case unforeseen circumstances crop up and you then run out of time.
Guided holidays, such as Trafalgar’s, include access to popular attractions and a ‘skip the queue’ option. That can be a huge time and money-saver.
Do some research
Thirty-six percent of South Africans surveyed by Trafalgar, much higher than their global counterparts, said that the feeling that you’ve seen it all before on social media adds to travel stress. Ensure your reality lives up to your social media expectations by researching and consulting experts, and booking with traveller-recommended suppliers.
Don’t forget the documentation
Just like travel insurance (an absolute must, even though you hope never to use it), it is crucial that you have your paperwork organised before you board your flight. Have copies saved on multiple devices, and back up to the Cloud.
Beat jet lag
While South Africans are unlikely to suffer any serious effects of jet lag when travelling to Europe, planning something you’re looking forward to the day you arrive is probably not the best move. Give yourself a day before any of the ‘serious’ sightseeing to settle down and beat any lingering tiredness.
Plan a wish-list
Even if you have a set itinerary, bookmark a wish-list of some extra things you want to experience, coffee shops you want to try, photos you want to take, etc. Searching the destination’s geotag on Instagram can be a handy way of finding local-recommended treasures.
Know what’s happening in the destination. If you’re travelling for a specific festival or event such as Germany’s Oktoberfest, London’s Notting Hill parade, Keukenhof in Amsterdam, Venice Carnival and more, book early. If you’re not interested in the festival, you can then change your dates to visit when it’s less busy.
In 2019, a third of travellers looked for companies that promoted sustainable travel when researching their trips. Go a level deeper when travelling the tourist hotspot of Europe and look for companies that include visits to UNESCO sites, encourage visiting popular areas off-peak or off-hours to stagger the traveller impact, and include meaningful interactions with the local communities and environment.
Dine with locals
Travelling in 2020 is no longer about dining as the locals do. It’s about dining with the locals.
Join a food tour and cooking class or, if all else fails, befriend a friendly local and ask for recommendations on where to dine (you may even get an invite to lunch!).
Travel is no longer an excuse to let your health and fitness regime slide. Active travel is going to get a lot more, well, active in 2020. Research hiking trails and popular walking routes, hire a bike or join a local exercise class, yoga in the park or a park run and keep fit with the locals.
Bring the family
Never before has family travel been so popular. If you’re long overdue some family bonding, consider combining family time with your scheduled overseas holiday. Europe has something to offer every age and interest, so it is a perfect ‘starter’ destination for a family holiday.
Stays with stories
Choose a stay with a story. Book locally-owned or authentic accommodation to immerse yourself even deeper into the culture.
Public transport wins
Travel sustainably and offset your carbon footprint wherever possible by opting for public transport and your own two legs. Not only is it a good way to save money (taxis and hiring cars can be exorbitant for South Africans in Europe), but it’s also another way to discover hidden treasures.
Even in Europe, not everything runs to clockwork. Be open-minded, expect the unexpected and be open to new possibilities that may open up. Sometimes veering off-itinerary can lead to some of the best travel memories.
Explore alternative Europe
‘Alternative’ European destinations are on the rise, and often present more affordable options for South Africans. Consider heading off the beaten track in the Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania), Belarus and Scandinavia (pricey but very cool). Portugal is still a value for money destination, even for South Africans, as is Turkey.
2020 highlights for Europe in 2020
One of the most eagerly anticipated bucket-list travel experiences is taking place in Europe in 2020. The Oberammergau Passion Play in the tiny Bavarian town in Germany is staged once every decade, from 16 May to 4 October in 2020.
The fairytale can come true. With these 2020 holiday tips, you’ll see Europe with nothing but joy and ease, returning with a suitcase of the best travel memories.