Essential Tips for European Travel This Summer

A record-breaking influx of tourists is anticipated in Europe this summer. In the first quarter of 2024, international arrivals have surged by 7.2% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to the European Travel Commission. This means 120 million international tourists visited the region within that period.

While this boost is promising for the tourism sector, visitors might face certain challenges, particularly during the bustling summer peak season. Potential flight delays, high temperatures, new regulations, and major events could all influence travel plans. Here’s what you need to know to ensure a smooth European trip this summer.

1. What you need to know about flight disruptions

Last summer, Europe saw 106.7 million delayed air passengers due to increased passenger numbers, staff shortages, and strikes. The August bank holiday in the UK alone experienced over 700,000 affected passengers following a technical meltdown at air traffic control. This year, EasyJet has already canceled over 100 flights from Paris due to a no-fly zone during the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Ryanair has also reduced its summer schedule after delays in the delivery of several new Boeing aircraft. If you’re scheduled to fly, visit the airport’s website for the latest information and check social media for real-time updates from fellow travelers. You may be entitled to compensation for disruptions, but the rules vary, so ensure you purchase a travel insurance policy as soon as you book your flights.

2. Why you should consider traveling by train

Keep your carbon footprint low and avoid airport hassles this summer by exploring new and expanded routes across Europe. New services include a high-speed route connecting Barcelona to Madrid and Seville, a sleeper train from Brussels to Prague, and a daily train between Vilnius and Riga. There’s also a relaunched night train between Paris and Nice, and a sleeper train from Rome to the Dolomites.

Following the success of Germany’s €49 unlimited monthly travel pass last year, France has introduced its nationwide rail pass for the same price. However, this pass is only for those under 27 and does not include high-speed TGV trains or travel in the greater Paris region of Ile-de-France.

3. What to do if you’re affected by wildfires

Last summer, wildfires swept through popular tourist spots in Europe due to high temperatures. These fires affected Tenerife, mainland Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Italy. This year, measures are in place to prevent similar disasters. Greece has banned outdoor fires from April and increased investment in fire detection and water tankers. To protect yourself, arrange travel insurance when booking your trip. Keep an eye on official travel advisories for the latest updates.

If wildfires or other natural disasters occur during your trip, follow emergency services’ advice and evacuate when instructed. Contact your tour operator or airline for assistance getting home.

4. How big events could disrupt your travel

Europe is gearing up for a summer full of major cultural and sporting events. Taylor Swift’s tour and the UEFA European Championship in Germany are just a few highlights. The Olympic Games in Paris are expected to draw three million more visitors than usual. This will likely lead to higher demand for accommodation, increased prices, crowded public transport, unexpected road closures, and heightened security checks due to the risk of terrorist attacks.

If your holiday coincides with an event, consider exploring beyond the city. Visit nearby tourist attractions that might be quieter, or simply enjoy the city’s vibrant atmosphere during the main event.

5. Why you should think about overcrowding

While many places are happy to see tourism return to pre-pandemic levels, some are trying to limit visitors. Barcelona has capped tour groups at 20 people. Athens’ Acropolis now only allows 20,000 tourists per day. Dubrovnik has reduced the number of souvenir stands by 80%. In April, thousands protested against tourism in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

They worry that overcrowding raises prices for locals and harms the environment, with more plastic pollution, damage to heritage sites, and traffic jams. Consider visiting less crowded destinations. Swap Santorini for Folegandros, just an hour away by ferry. Choose Šibenik with its medieval center and fortress instead of Dubrovnik. Visit Valencia, a seaside city, instead of Barcelona.

6. How to deal with heatwaves

2023 was the hottest year on record globally, with temperatures in Europe above average for 11 months. The Mediterranean was the most affected area, with temperatures exceeding 40°C in Italy, Spain, Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece. Consider traveling outside the hottest months of July to September, or visit northern destinations like Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Lithuania, or Ireland to avoid intense heat. If temperatures rise, use high-factor SPF, avoid being outside during midday, and wear light-colored, breathable clothing. Avoid alcohol, drink plenty of water, and keep a close watch on vulnerable people, including young children and the elderly.

7. How to avoid being caught out by local laws and taxes

Research before traveling to avoid breaking new laws. For example, Venice introduced a €5 tax for day-trippers in April, enforced on selected dates until July. You can pay it online in advance. Those staying overnight are exempt but must register. Additionally, a tourist tax of €1 to €5 per night applies to overnight stays and is payable at your hotel.

Some Airbnbs may ask for this tax in cash. In parts of Mallorca and Ibiza, new rules ban drinking on the street and restrict shops from selling alcohol at night. However, you can still buy drinks in bars and restaurants.