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nicolep91 Nov 26th, 2003 07:02 AM

Best time to visit - Fall or Spring? Newbie needs help!
I'm in the very early stages of starting to plan our 1st trip to Europe. It will be my husband and I and my brother & sister-in-law (all 1st timers) and somehow I got stuck with most of the planning. I'm overwhelmed by all the research that needs to be done and I'm trying to take it one step at a time. We have tentatively decided on visiting Great Britain, France & Switzerland for about 2 weeks total.

1st of all, we are debating on the best time to go. I'm leaning towards the fall of 2004 (mainly b/c I want to get there as soon as possible), but my brother would like to wait until spring of 2005 since he heard it's prettier that time of the year. However, I'm worried that the weather will be more unpredictable & rainy that time of the year. I know certain areas close at different times of the year but I wasn't sure if spring or fall was one of those times. Any help/opinions would be greatly appreciated!

jenifer Nov 26th, 2003 07:19 AM

I have only visited Europe (Great Britain and Paris) in the spring, and it was wonderful then. We had beautiful weather on 2 trips and the third trip was cold and a bit wet, but still a wonderful trip! I would also jump at the chance to go in autumn. I really think you'll enjoy yourself either time!

As for planning, I envy you - I've always considered planning a trip like this to be almost as fun as taking the trip. And you have plenty of time to do lots of great research. Start by listing the towns/sights in each country that it's important for you to visit and how much time you think you'll need in each, plus travel time between them. From there you can do the details of which sites on which days, etc.

Have fun planning - consider it a privilege rather than a chore! :)

andy Nov 26th, 2003 07:58 AM

I prefer Fall-- we were in London during a Sept and actually had sun....France in Sept is awesome-it is wine season and the weather is gorgeous-We did Britain in early Sept and France in Mid Sept...

We have also been to Britain in Spring- 1st week in May and had horrendous well as rain in the Med...

Keith Nov 26th, 2003 08:34 AM

Depends a bit on when in the Fall or Spring.

I like April, you will get more daylight in April than you will in March, October, November or most of September. Also London gets the least average rainfall in the month of April.

(who will be there in April:-)

nicolep91 Nov 26th, 2003 08:47 AM

Thanks everyone for the replies!

Jenifer - I normally enjoy planning vacations too, but I'm feeling so overwhelmed since everything is so (excuse the pun) "foreign" to me. Also, I'm worried about trying to make everyone happy which I know is probably an impossible task.

Andy - Fall sounds divine to me!

Keith - We were thinking either early to mid Sept. or end of March but nothing is concrete as of yet. Any thoughts on those times of the year?
We might try pricing flights and see if one looks better than the other.

I welcome any other planning advice, such as websites, books, etc. that anyone might want to recommend.

Thanks again!

ira Nov 26th, 2003 08:49 AM

Hi Nicole,

Both times are good. You might consider late April/early May for lower air fares.

May I suggest that for first-timers a week in London with side trips and a week in Paris with side trips would make a very good 2-week trip?

How important is Switzerland?

dixon Nov 26th, 2003 08:59 AM

I think late August or early September is a good time for Switzerland, particuarly if you want to visit the Alps. I spend a week or so each visit in Lauterbrunnen and hike some of the trails around there. The days are still long enough and the weather is often sunny. Later in September you can often encounter cloudy weather which makes a mountain visit less than spectacular because the peaks are shrouded.

I think you may be planning too much.
Paris alone can soak up 6 days like a vacuum cleaner. London and the surrounding area can do the same. My last trip to London was 8 days total and the clock seemed to run in fast forward.
It is like there was one big slurp and the week was gone.

Switzerland is the same way. Two years ago we had beautiful weather the whole time and 8 day were gone in a flash.

You will not be at a loss for something to see and do. Don't be daunted by the planning, just don't over plan. You cannot see it all, so pick what you think will interest you the most.

And leave time for the unexpected. Paris has a way of unfolding while you visit. Some times I hate the place; sometimes I love it, but it is always interesting.

dln Nov 26th, 2003 09:27 AM

I agree that three countries in two weeks is too much, especially on a first time trip. I'd stick to London and Paris, with day trips from both if you so desire. (ie, to Canterbury in England; Versailles in France). Bear in mind that you might lose the first day due to travel exhaustion. And you will lose time getting lost since you aren't familiar with the layouts of places or the transportation system. Shortcuts only happen on subsequent trips! In regard to spring or fall, do you prefer one season over the other? My husband and I enjoy the fall the best and that's why we travel then. Another thing to consider is work schedules. Do any of you have a busy time that would make it more difficult to leave work for a vacation? Lastly, there is the consideration of when you will get the most bang for the buck in terms of cheap airfares, hotel rates, etc. You might want to compare fall prices and spring prices before you make your final decision.

flanneruk Nov 26th, 2003 09:36 AM

There's really nothing in it as far as weather's concerned. Both your proposed dates more or less coincide with the equinox, so you get 12 hours' daylight either way.

The only slight proviso is that some - generally minor - attractions (like some English stately homes) might not open until Easter (Easter Sunday is April 11).

There's no European equivalent of Labour Day, so closing dates are scattered throughout September and October.

nicolep91 Nov 26th, 2003 09:48 AM

I understand the concern about 3 countries being too much to cover in 2 weeks. I do agree with you but my husband has his heart set on seeing Switerland and I'm not willing to cut out either London or Paris. I plan on about 4 days in London & the surrounding area, 5 in France and 4 in Switzerland, understanding that I will lose a day or so in travel time. How does that sound? We had originally planned on trying to visit Italy also, but ended up cutting it out. I don't know if it matters, but we're pretty energetic, fairly young (ages range from 26-34) and none of us like to sit still for long!

Right now, I'm leaning towards September since I just know those 6 months between then & March will take forever!

Thanks again,

dln Nov 26th, 2003 09:57 AM

Nicole, you'll like travelling in September. You get the warmth of summer without its oppresive heat, and you miss the summertime hoardes of tourists. Good choice. If you fly an open jaw you can do what you want. You don't have enough time to backtrack. I sympathize with paring down a trip--we always want to cram as much in as possible, and it's a hard thing to do when you want to see EVERYTHING.

mvor Nov 26th, 2003 12:16 PM


This is a suggestion about how to do the initial research. Since there are four of you, and you plan on visiting three places, how about each of you take the lead on researching a specific area, e.g. husband takes Switzerland since that's his first choice (let the person w/least time or skill off the hook or combine their work w/their partner).

I think this strategy will prove helpful once you're in Europe too since you mentioned (in another post) that both your husband and sister-in-law like to take the can you lead if you don't know your terrain...

A technique that we use when traveling with my in-laws is for each of us to read about our destination(s) and then make a list of three "must dos" and then plan our itinerary around those. Frequently the "must dos" overlap so you can expand your list.

Lastly, savor the planning...make theme dinners, read books and watch movies set in your desired locations (lots of threads on here for Paris/London), buy tapes to learn basic phrases, etc.

Best wishes,


MzPossum Nov 26th, 2003 12:31 PM

My favorite time to be in these areas is fall--late September through early October. Spring can still be breezy and chilly. Also, there are harvest and wine festivals in the fall, particularly France and Switz.

nicolep91 Nov 26th, 2003 12:59 PM

Maureen - What excellent ideas!!! Thanks so much. I'm going to call my sis-in-law tonight and let her be in charge of London (Paris is all mine!:-) ) and my husband and brother can work on Switzerland together.

I really appreciate the suggestions/help, everyone!

marktynernyc Nov 26th, 2003 01:00 PM

I agree with MzPossum - the chill of winter is still hanging on in spring -(even late spring in some places). I really enjoy September - if I could take the whole month off I would. While the blossoms during spring are beautiful - they come and go too quickly . Fall seems to linger - the warmth of the summer is still in the air - crowds are winding down - there's a hint of fall (which is always a relief after a hot summer) - the golden orange hue of the afternoon sun. I vote for fall - but not too late.

nytraveler Nov 26th, 2003 04:54 PM

I prefer the late spring (May) to the fall because everything is fresher and the locals have not yet has a chance to grow tired of Americans. But - it really depends on wheat you want to do in Switzerland. I would check carefully with the Swiss tourist office - since a lot of the Alpine passes are still closed in April and intercity travel can be much slower.

This is a lot to do in 2 weeks - but if you think of it as just a taste and try to figure out what you want to do in depth on later trips it makes sense. Also I asume you mean London and Paris rather than Great Britain and France - you would have trouble "doing" either country alone in 2 weeks - you reallyt only have time for 1 major city in each with perhaps a single day trip to a key spot (Versailles? Shakespear country?)

erinb Nov 26th, 2003 06:04 PM

hi nicole,

Oh the joy of a first trip to both London and Paris. You will love it and the planning is the cake, with the trip being the icing on it. I have been to both London and Paris 3 times each now. If you can believe it, all 6 times were in the fall. Either October or November. However, I would love to go to either country in the mid spring. Unless you are a hot weather person, avoid them during the summer months (late May to mid-September).

Travel periods. I have to mention that I would travel either in April or October. September can still be warm and both cities are notorious for not having air cond. in alot of places. I have also found that these are usually considered "shoulder" seasons months and rates are a bit lower during those times.

Out of our three trips to London in October, we had very little rain and with the exception of this last trip, very mild fall weather. Paris was in November and was cold during that month.

As to the rest,take your time and plan ahead. You do not mention if you plan to stay in each country in a major city or travel around each country, only staying in a place a night or two. That is important and will determine the how much detail will need to be planned ahead.

I personally think, unless you are going to be brave and have enough funds to rent a car, that first timers should pick a major city in each country and focus on that area rather than move around. For example, London, Paris, and then pick a city in Switzerland.

From those cities you can then make easy day trips; Bath and/or stonehenge, or hampton court and windsor castle, salisbury or cantebury or oxford, in england, are all easy day trips from london. In paris versailles, chartres, normandy beaches, etc. likewise.

I would also like to recommend that once you have an idea of the timeframe, book your hotels first, then start scouting out airfares. If you have to change your hotels because you have found a great rate on an airfare, it will be much easier to switch out those hotels. Once you have booked and paid for the are almost locked in.

Finally, you have plenty of time here to really plan a great trip. Even though they have given you this task, find some books to pass around to the other three. Make a list of the major sites within each city and have them check off the ones they want to really see. by giving them choices you will have a much more satisfied group. Do the things together that all of you want to do, then allow plenty of time for the others to do those things that only they want to do. Finally, once you have selected the main sites to visit, plan your itinerary with plenty of break/rest time and solo time.

I have found that after a long day of siteseeing, giving everyone an hour or two in the late afternoon to rest and change before dinner goes a long way to making a relaxing evening.

I have also found that in order to keep from getting on each others nerves, that solo time helps alot. You might want to consider setting up some afternoons to do things apart, and then meeting up in the evenings for dinner or dinner/movie, dinner/theatre.

My last trip, we spent 10 days in London, and finished our siteseeing in the 1st 4 or 5 days. The rest of the time my travel companion and I spent doing solo things and just met each evening. It was wonderful and so non- restrictive. (one of the reasons I hate group excursions).

If you are interested on tips on both areas, please feel free to email me. I love helping people do this.

Finally, have fun with the planning. There is so much to do and see!


StCirq Nov 26th, 2003 06:19 PM

September is my favorite month, but April/May is a close second. I'm a sucker for scenery, and the fall foliage and round bales of hay get me every time, but so do the fruit trees in bloom in early spring. Weather is about the same, with the rainfall being a bit softer in springtime, but the evening chill being a bit more in the fall.

nicolep91 Nov 27th, 2003 06:15 AM

nytraveler - Yes, we do plan on concentrating on London/Paris with just some small, less time-consuming trips out of the city. There's just that fine line between trying to see everything and also not over-extending yourself so that you *really* appreciate where you are! It's going to be difficult, I'm sure.

erinb - Thank you so much for the specific suggestions! I might take you up on your offer to help in the planning. I need all the help I can get and would love someone's suggestions on what is a "must-see". I'm still trying to decide what interests all of us (obviously it's different, but still somewhat similar). I've ordered some travel books from Amazon and once I get those I'll hopefully be able to narrow it down some.

Thanks again everyone who responded!

nicki Dec 1st, 2003 12:54 PM

Nicole, I prefer spring. That is partly because the gardens and parks are in bloom, making the cities seem so fresh and beautiful then. But more importantly, the sun will set later giving you more daylight hours for sightseeing. For example, in London in April the sun sets about 8pm and in October it sets about 6pm (up until the 4th Sunday in October when the time changes and it sets by 5pm, so you will really want to consider that if you are thinking about going after mid-October). This is a good website for checking sunset times of all cities for any day:

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