Now that 2012 has started we were expecting some fantastic airfare bargains between the United States and Europe, but for the most part prices are strangely high between most city pairs. Curiously, the cheapest airfares between New York and London are around $650 round-trip, which is about $200 higher than we’d normally see this time of year.
One place where airfares do seem quite reasonable right now is Italy, with round-trips between New York and Rome being only $640. The same fares are available from New York to Milan or even to Venice, so you can hit any of the major tourist hotspots in Italy right now for a bit less than flying to London.
Destination: Winter in Italy
One of the challenges of visiting anywhere in Europe during January is that the days are short and the temperatures are colder than most people expect. Even southern Spain is at about the same latitude as Washington DC, so you only get sun from about 8am to 5pm during January, and the temperatures aren’t even close to being warm enough for the beach.
So considering that you’ll be bundling up a bit no matter where you go, it’s still a good idea to go somewhere with mild winters and low prices. Save Copenhagen or Stockholm for April and do yourself a favor with an off-season visit to Italy.
One of the best things about visiting Italy during winter is that you can do and see what you want with almost no crowds to deal with. The major cities and attractions in Italy are all so incredibly popular that from April through October there is sea of tourists jammed into every museum and sight.
In January and February you can sit on the Spanish Steps in Rome without having to wedge yourself between obnoxious Canadian tourists and their maple-leaf gear. You can also get into Ancient Rome or the Colosseum without having to stand in line for two hours beforehand.
When you add up the time savings it turns out that you can still see just as many things while the sun is out that you can during June, because you save 4 hours of waiting in lines (in the hot sun).
Better still, hotel prices are at their lowest in January all over Italy. Rome is a surprisingly expensive city for hotels and a room at a 3-star can start at around US$150 per night in high season. But that same room might only cost $90 per night in January, and you’ll get better service as well because the same amount of staff will be looking after fewer visitors.
With cheap airfares and cheap hotels in Italy, and still a fair amount of sunshine, it makes for an ideal cultural trip in winter. Many people who can’t afford a trip like this in summer can actually pull it off with a bit of luxury in January, so it’s a sacrifice worth considering.