On a Sunday afternoon in September, Zagreb’s Ban Jelačić square is practically empty. A statue of Josip Jelačić on horseback stands in the town square. It’s one of the most iconic sites in Croatia, and just a few weeks ago, you couldn’t take a picture without fighting the throngs of tourists.
But with the summer travel season over, things are much calmer.
“We had a busy summer,” says tour guide Ivana Mudronja. “Not as busy as 2019, but much better than last year.”
And this fall?
“We’ll see,” he adds.
That’s good news for American visitors, many of whom have Croatia on their bucket list. Fewer visitors means lower prices and more opportunities for an authentic experience while traveling in Europe. There are still European travel packages available to places you couldn’t visit this summer, and yes, there’s still time for the perfect European vacation in 2022.
When it comes to destinations, Europe is in high spirits this fall. A report released yesterday by Bounce found that 8 of the top 10 fall destinations were in Europe. Amsterdam, Paris, London and Berlin topped the list.
Can Americans travel to Europe now?
Yes. Most European countries have restrictions on books that require proof of vaccination, recovery from COVID-19, or negative test result when entering countries or areas with “high epidemiological risk”. However, no country is on that list as of September 17, 2022.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe, there’s one thing you need to know: next year, the European Union will introduce the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS). It is an electronic system that tracks visitors who do not need a visa and works similarly to the US Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The ETIAS application fee is $7 and you can pay by credit card. credit. Here is my free guide to planning a trip.
It’s still too early to tell what autumn travel will be like in Europe
At the Esplanade Zagreb Hotel, business is almost back to normal. The hotel, opened in 1925 as a stopover for the Orient Express, is one of the most luxurious in the city. However, room rates this time of year are just $136 a night, meaning the centrally located property is also affordable for many American visitors.
Ivica Max Krizmanić, the general manager, says that occupancy could reach the record levels they achieved in 2019 by this year. But it is still too early to tell.
“Summer was good here and fall is looking good, but you can’t see too much going forward because booking patterns have changed,” he told me.
Still, Krizmanić thinks the window for bargain hunters is small. Summer travelers stay later, moving into fall. And there’s no room at the inn when Zagreb’s famous Christmas market starts on November 26. Krizmanić says that he can’t be sure of availability, but he recommends booking as soon as possible.
Experts say this uncertainty and the likelihood of a shorter window for bargain hunters is widespread in Europe this fall. And it may be the grand finale of COVID pricing. In fact, one of the biggest trends I’ve been following for 2023 is a return to normal booking patterns. That means the last-minute deals we’ve seen during the pandemic could go away.
What to see in Europe this fall
I asked Claire Saylor, marketing manager at luxury agency Audley Travel, where to go this fall.
“Europe has long been one of Audley’s main destinations,” he told me. “And this continues after the pandemic.”
Among its first places this fall: Italy, Spain and Portugal.
“Our clients particularly enjoy cultural tours, meeting the locals and really getting to understand the character of a country,” he added. “The strength of the dollar helps offset some of the inflation-related price increases seen in the destination, making it a great choice for travel this year.”
These are some of the European travel packages that your company currently offers.
september in spain
Spain in September is pleasantly warm and mostly dry. Visitor numbers are lower than during peak summer months and temperatures are more comfortable for hiking and sightseeing, Saylor says.
His company has tour packages to Madrid, San Sebastian and La Rioja tour this fall. Among the most sought after visited attractions in Spain are its museums, including the Prado in Madrid and the Guggenheim in Bilbao. Spain’s historic capital Toledo and wine tastings in the Ribera del Duero and Rioja wine regions are also high on their client lists.
October in the UK
Saylor says nothing compares to a visit to England and Scotland in October. You’ll see vibrant fall foliage in the city’s parks and countryside. Plus, temperatures remain moderate, so you can explore the cities without the summer crowds.
A typical autumn itinerary includes stops in London, Edinburgh, Bath and the Cairngorms. She says that travelers enjoy exploring the mountains and lakes of the Cairngorms National Park and drinking tea in the Roman baths.
november in italy
Thanks to its mild Mediterranean climate, Italy is the best destination choice in November, Saylor says. In southern cities like Naples and Palermo, daytime highs are often in the 60s, allowing visitors to spend time outdoors. There are hardly any crowds.
Americans like to visit places like Florence, Rome, and Naples in the fall. One of his best tours includes a Tuscan cooking lesson with a local chef in Florence, a tour of the Archaeological Museum in Naples to see original artifacts from Pompeii, and a visit to the Vatican Museums. The Sistine Chapel is much less crowded at this time of year.
Is there still time to plan trips to Europe this fall?
Travel agents like Saylor say there’s still availability for their fall tours. But they are filling up fast. I spoke to tourism experts (hoteliers, tour guides, and restaurateurs) and they all agreed: right now, demand for travel to Europe is strong, but even the experts don’t know if that will last.
Back in Zagreb, the weather is still warm this time of year. Finding a table at a popular restaurant is easy. Skip the line for the Zagreb Funicular on Tomić Street, one of the shortest public transport funiculars in the world. If you wanted to plan a last minute trip to Croatia, it would be easy. A flight next week from Washington, DC, to Zagreb would cost him about $1,100.
But October and November are a bit more murky. The energy crisis in Europe could intensify, disrupting travel but lowering prices due to the advantageous exchange rate. The war in Ukraine could escalate, scaring some visitors. But it’s also possible that other hotels will follow the Esplanade: a strong summer, followed by an equally strong fall.
And if that happens, you won’t be able to book your European vacation soon enough.