Europe always gets an influx of American tourists over the summer months. "The main advantage [of visiting in summer] is it suits families' schedules because school is out," says J.M. Pasquesi, author of the forthcoming Rome with Kids guide. She also cites the continent's good weather, particularly in early June, as the second main draw, which carries the additional bonus of having to pack and carry less clothing. "You can usually obtain direct flights during high season, [whereas] many airlines cut back off-season, forcing you to take two flights to connect to your desired destination."
Pasquesi typically plans a summer European vacation four to six months in advance, the earlier the better to secure her first-choice travel dates on her preferred airline. In addition, by planning early, "if you are applying for any airfare upgrades, you stand a better chance of taking the limited amount available on any given flight," says Pasquesi. The same goes for accommodations. "The earlier you book, the better luck you'll have," she says. "Large cities like Rome see the most desirable locations booked far in advance."
"Before we started Music and Markets Tours, we would plan our summer trips in March, roughly four months ahead of time," says Anne Woodyard. "If we're traveling from one place in Europe to another, I always check WhichBudget for cheap airfares. For car rental, I rely on Auto Europe, and often use their beat-rate offer if I find a lower rate elsewhere. I've found it's easier to use a U.S.-based auto rental company in case there's any reason to follow-up on the rental."
Whether you want to be part of a tour group, visit a specific museum, or see a popular historic site, book in advance to avoid disappointment. According to Pasquesi, "If you are in a popular city at peak vacation days, you can save lots of time by calling ahead and booking entrance—even if that means the day before you decide to visit, then you can avoid waiting in line."
Whether you're hoping for a beachfront vacation rental, a top-notch tour of Rome's Colosseum, or a few days on thrilling roller coasters, start planning now to ensure you get the vacation you've been dreaming about.