Sunday, December 26, 2010

Europe in January

January is probably the least popular month for travel in Europe, and that can mean savings and a more pleasant experience for intrepid souls who don't mind cold, damp and the occasional blizzard. I have friends who visited Portugal last January, and liked it so much they are heading back again in the new year.
By travelling in the lowest season you can save on air fare and perhaps on hotels. Best of all, you do not have to deal with the hordes of fellow tourists who can make summer travel at top European destinations a nightmare. And you get to experience Europe more like the locals do, complete with often inclement weather.
The attractions of winter sports are obvious, and culture vultures will find theatre, opera and symphony seasons in high gear in the great cities of Europe. Shoppers can enjoy bargains at semi-annual sales at department stores and boutiques in London and Paris during mid- to late January.
On the downside, you need to be prepared for inclement weather with warm coats, umbrellas and boots, and be willing to concentrate mostly on indoor attractions like castles, churches and museums. This has been an especially snowy winter in Europe so far, and many holiday travellers were strended for days in major airports. A friend in Holland wrote that, lulled by many warm winters, local authorities in most of Europe are ill-equipped to deal with major snow falls.
Whatever the season, it pays to be ready for possible delays when travelling. I like to travel with a book or two, some trail grub such as nuts and dried fruit, and language tapes for the destination country.


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