Rick Steves Shares One Thing Too Many Travelers Forget While Making A European Itinerary

Travel expert Rick Steves has inspired people to travel for decades through his guidebooks, television shows, and tours offered through his company. But while he helps us learn about locations of interest, he makes sure to teach us how to be savvy travelers no matter where we go. This often includes pre-planning as much as possible.

When building the perfect European travel itinerary, many people focus on the best time to visit as it relates to their own schedules. They may consider when it's most affordable to take a big trip or what events in their work or personal calendars they need to plan around. However, Steves reminds us that each European country has its own calendar as well. Europeans enjoy holidays, sporting events, and festivals just as much as the rest of the world. While these are fun for locals and travelers alike, they may throw a wrench into your travel plans if you unknowingly arrive at a destination during these periods.

Festivals show off local culture, but also bring crowds

Though some of Europe's popular celebrations have made their way to other parts of the world or have at least influenced global events, many flock to Europe to attend these fun events at their points of origin. But not every traveler wants to participate. Take Oktoberfest in Germany, for example. "If you're headed to Munich in early fall, be sure to check this year's Oktoberfest dates," he states on his website, noting that it actually begins in September. "It'd be a shame to plan a September visit and unexpectedly encounter fully booked hotels, higher room rates, and a crowded city center."

This is not to say that travelers should avoid all European events when planning a trip. "Seasoned planners know to check for festivals that could make for especially memorable experiences — good or bad," says Steves. Perhaps a unique event could get you closer to the local culture. A favorite for Steves is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which takes place throughout most of August every year. He told WFMT in Chicago that this was his best festival experience.

Keep national holidays and other events in mind

National holidays should also be taken into consideration. While you may be hard-pressed to find Fourth of July fireworks in Europe, each country has its own holidays which Rick Steves says can bring business closures or long weekend traffic. For example, France celebrates Bastille Day (Fête Nationale) to commemorate the French Revolution every year on July 14th. The parade and fireworks in Paris are beautiful, but metro (subway) and street closures might complicate your city navigation. Celebrations are not limited to just Paris and you may be able to find cultural yet quieter celebrations in other regions.

Though Steves does his best to keep tabs on each country's usual holidays and festivities with his own list, things can always change. "Check events calendars on the tourist information sites for each stop," says Steves, just in case. Special occurrences like the Olympic Games or the UEFA European Championship football (soccer) tournament find themselves in different cities each time but always come with massive crowds and extra infrastructure. Fortunately, there are lots of beautiful destinations in Europe you can visit if you hate crowds.