In my early travels, "shoulder season" meant going to Europe outside of the school summer holidays. In May and September, while you'd deal with marginal weather, you'd have fewer crowds and save money on your flight.
In the last generation, European tourism has seen two big changes: more peak season crowds spilling into the old "shoulder season," and climate change making the heat of summer more worth avoiding and the "bad weather" of shoulder season less worth avoiding.
All my life, I've considered shoulder season to be May and September. Now I've realized those months, so famous for being "shoulder season," are actually peak season when it comes to crowds. And April and October, previously a bit dark and dreary from a weather point of view, have become more appealing from an avoid-the-crowds perspective and easier to accept weather-wise.
The point of all this? If you're planning a trip and wondering when it's the best time to go, the new shoulder season can be considered April and October. And, while you're broadening your travel season (avoiding heat and crowds and saving money on flights), remember that the Mediterranean region, while often horribly hot and crowded in the summer, is fine for travel all year long.
Our tour guides have their "Guides' Tour" in Turkey in December…and absolutely love it. I recently stood atop Milan's duomo to see new snow on the Alps thanks to the visibility of the crisp fall air. And I'll never forget spending a wonderful Easter in Greece. Following a parade of candle-carrying villagers through Nafplio, I headed to the main square to join a community-wide party. At midnight, as fireworks silhouetted the crowd, heralding the arrival of Easter Sunday…I was very thankful to be enjoying an amazing slice of Europe where the only crowds were festive locals.
Our November Tour News is a celebration of spring travel offerings. You'll find a lineup of our top spring tours, a day-by-day look at our Best of Turkey tour, raves from past tour members about shoulder-season touring, and an interview with Madrid-based tour guide Amanda Buttinger. You'll also see an invitation to enter your 2019 tour scrapbook in our annual contest, where you could win your next tour.
And we're proud to present our 2019 portfolio of Climate Smart Commitment grant recipients. We believe that when it comes to climate change, ethical travel companies need to pay their carbon bill. That's why at Rick Steves' Europe, with a self-imposed carbon tax taken out of our profits, we're mitigating the carbon emissions created each time a traveler flies to Europe for a Rick Steves tour. To cover the 30,000 who joined our tours in 2019, we've funded climate-smart projects with grants to 11 great organizations, totaling $1 million. And until we have a government that sees the wisdom in fighting climate change by making companies like ours pay the true cost to the environment of their business, we'll be doing it again every year. This is the kind of business ethics we know our travelers appreciate and can be proud of.