Getting around Europe this summer won’t be easy. There are long queues at airports, possible public transport strikes and crowds of visitors.
“Traveling to Europe this summer can present some challenges,” says Stephen Anderson, chief marketing officer at FocusPoint International, a travel risk management and crisis response firm. “Public transport strikes, for example, can create headaches for tourists with pre-set plans to get around European cities to soak up culture and landmarks.”
Even worse: almost everybody wants to be in Europe this summer. Daniel Durazo, director of external communications at Allianz Partners USA, said American interest in European travel was “explosive”.
“Our latest International Traveler Confidence Index also revealed that a majority of Europeans plan to go on holiday in their own country this summer,” he adds. “Italians and Spaniards are leading the way, filling beaches and rural destinations with travelers from around the world and likely straining transportation systems during a recovery.”
Last week I shared my ultimate guide to traveling Europe this summer. In the second part of this series, I focus on transportation issues.
What do you need to know to travel to Europe this summer?
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about traveling in Europe:
Can I go on holiday in Europe this summer?
Yes. Virtually all pandemic-related restrictions have been lifted in Europe. But getting to Europe could be a challenge. Flights are full and transportation systems have been disrupted due to labor shortages.
What should I avoid in Europe?
Avoiding the most touristic areas on the busiest days of the summer season will save you headaches. For example, I spent last Saturday in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. It was overcrowded with foreign visitors. Also, if you hear of a transport strike or a particularly crowded airport, stay away if you can.
Is it a good time to travel to Europe now?
It depends. If you like warm weather, now is the time to be in Europe. But everyone wants to be here too, which means the prices are higher. Flights and trains are crowded. If you like a quiet vacation, this is definitely not time to be in Europe.
Will Europe really close in August?
Yes. This is the most popular holiday month. Thus, in addition to foreign tourists, you will share your hotel with locals. Additionally, many local businesses, such as restaurants, cafes, and gift shops, may be closed during the month. August could be chaos in Europe if the predictions are correct.
What you need to know about flying in Europe this summer
You’ve probably seen the images of mountains of luggage at London’s Heathrow airport or queues at Amsterdam airport terminals. This is still the case, and it makes air travel in Europe one of the least popular modes of transport.
Michael Stalf, who runs a car rental company in Germany, describes the situation as a “horror story”.
“We have summer vacations in some federal states, and all the airports and airlines are completely understaffed,” he says. “This has resulted in many canceled flights and delays.”
There are even talks of importing foreign workers to ease the labor shortage.
“Airlines are struggling to keep up with demand,” says Valentina O’Kane, travel consultant at Incognito Global Travel. “Airlines are rescheduling or canceling flights with little or no notice to travellers.”
His advice: Arrive as early as possible for your international flights. Two hours is not enough. You will need at least three to clear check-in and security. Also plan a hand luggage with clothes for two to three days, in case of an unexpected stopover.
My Consumer Advocacy site offers more strategies for dealing with canceled or delayed flights. It will help you get around Europe this summer.
What you need to know if you take the train in Europe
Most trains are running normally in Europe this summer. But strikes are always a possibility. In Athens and Paris, locals I spoke with always spoke of the fear of public transport strikes.
“The British railway workers’ strike in the UK could signal future strikes across Europe to improve their job security,” says Bryn Culbert, low-cost travel expert on travel booking platform Wanderu.
She says careful research can keep your summer trip from going off the rails.
“For example, if you’re planning a train trip across France, do a quick search online for transport unions across the country. Check their social media profiles for announcements of upcoming actions,” she says. “You will quickly see that the SUD-Rail union in France is planning a strike for July, so it might not be a good day to travel by TGV.”
If you think social unrest might affect your ability to get around Europe, consider a new mode of transportation. This usually means traveling by bus or renting a car.
Should I rent a car in Europe this summer?
If you can find one – and if you can afford fuel.
The rental car shortages that have plagued US car rental companies have also affected European operators. Renters report that in some cases, rates have doubled from pre-pandemic levels.
Experts say you should make sure you have a car rental reservation before you leave for Europe – preferably made at the same time as you make your airline reservations.
Stalf, the owner of the car rental agency, says that although cars offer the most flexibility in Europe, they are among the most expensive ways to get around.
“Gasoline prices are at an all-time high in Germany,” he says. “The government has introduced a gasoline tax reduction in Germany for the months of June, July and August, but the prices are still high. And in the other European countries, it’s the same situation.”
How much does it cost to travel in Europe by car? Experts say you should budget around $15 per 100 miles just for gas.
The essentials on transport options in Europe this summer
The summer of 2022 will be one of the busiest – if not the busiest – in modern travel.
If you are going to Europe, you will need to choose your mode of transport carefully. Each has its downside. Air travel is fast but crowded and often unreliable. A rental car offers flexibility, but it’s expensive. Public transit is better for the environment and more cost effective – but watch out for social unrest.