Backpacking in Europe is usually thought of as a summer trek, however many tourists chose to take advantage of smaller crowds and cheaper prices during what is known in the travel industry as the ‘shoulder season.’
Pros and Cons of the Shoulder Season: Europe from March to June
The shoulder season is varies from region to region, but generally it is between March 1 and June 1. Special considerations need to be made by travelers during this period of time. Alterations in itinerary, budget, site-seeing and clothing are all necessary when traveling in Europe in the spring.
The pros of traveling during off-peak times are obvious:
fewer crowds to battle
shorter lines to contend with
discounts offered by merchants
cheaper airline tickets
more likely to meet locals who aren’t exasperated with tourists (like they might be at the end of a busy summer season
The cons of visiting Europe from March to June include:
fewer open tourist attractions that often keep shorter hours
For some the cons of traveling during this time do not outweigh the pros, however, anyone sensitive traveling in colder weather or who is looking to fully experience all that Europe has to offer tourists may be better suited to wait a few more months.
Clothes to Wear While Backpacking Europe in the Spring
One of the biggest noticeable factors of traveling Europe in the springtime is definitely colder less predictable weather. Leave the shorts and flips-flops at home, since even in the lower altitudes such as Italy, travelers are unlikely to experience weather warmer than about 60 degrees.
Clothes to bring during spring:
water-proof walking shoes, like Ecco Gore-Tex boots
wicking, quick dry layers of shirts
long underwear and hiking socks
Scarves and gloves are probably unnecessary, as they take up a lot of precious room. Travelers will likely stay warm enough with a good set of long underwear and multiple, lightweight layers.
Itinerary Considerations for Traveling Europe in Spring
Travelers should consider starting south and working their way north. Rome is a popular winter/spring destination for Europeans, and is a great place to begin a shoulder season trek. As the weeks pass, the north will slowly warm up, so that by the end of the May, travelers can experience Amsterdam or Brussels in a little warmer climate than if they had started out there in March.
However, if saving money is the traveler’s main goal for setting out in spring, then it is probably more cost effective to complete the journey in a loop, or even north to south. Check out Rick Steves’ Itinerary Tips for more useful advice on planning the trip.
If travelers are prepared for colder weather and few less tourist stops, traveling Europe in spring can be a great way to save money while still having the experience of a lifetime.