Travels with Bob

            European Vacation Season Off To A Quick Start                        

 The summer vacation “high” season got off to a quick start a month before summer officially arrives this year, as 2023 shapes up as a record for European tourism. In fact, according to a recent study, about 75 percent of airline seats from North America to Europe this summer were reserved by mid-May. 

So, if you are even thinking about traveling to Europe before October, now’s the time to act, especially with so many people descending on Europe’s capital cities of London, Paris and Rome over the next several months. Rounding out the top five 2023 world destinations are Barcelona and Tokyo.

 At the same time, the summer cruising season in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Baltic regions also appears exceptionally strong, marking the cruise industry’s long recovery from the pandemic hiatus. Depending upon your final destination, I recommend direct flights from the United States to avoid connecting in major European airline hub cities, unless you have more than two hours to make the connection.

Europe Vacation Season - Montepulciano

Montepulciano, with only 1,500 residents living within the city’s ancient walls, is a perfect destination for getting off-the-beaten-path even though it attracts thousands of wine-loving visitors each year. Locals have been making great wines in this Tuscan region since the Etruscans arrived some 2,300 years ago.


  • Off-the-beaten-path destinations: While popular tourist destinations still attract large numbers of visitors, many travelers today prefer unique and lesser-known locations. Exploring hidden gems and discovering authentic cultural experiences clearly has become a growing trend (for example, visiting Lyon, Avignon or Bordeaux rather than Paris during the peak vacation travel season).
  • Sustainable and eco-friendly travel: There is a growing focus on responsible tourism and sustainable travel practices. Travelers increasingly desire destinations and accommodations that prioritize environmental conservation, support local communities, and minimize their carbon footprint.
  • Adventure and outdoor activities: A growing number of travelers seek thrilling experiences and outdoor adventures such as hiking, trekking, surfing, scuba diving, wildlife safaris and skiing. Destinations offering adrenaline-pumping activities attract adventure enthusiasts. It’s also why exploration cruises to polar regions and other remote destinations represent the fastest growing cruise segment this year.
  • Culinary tourism: Food and drink experiences continue to be a significant and growing focus for travelers. Exploring local cuisines, participating in cooking classes, visiting food markets, and enjoying gastronomic tours are all part of this trend. For example, many of my clients are interested in European cooking classes usually followed by lunch or dinner with the chef, particularly in Spain, France and Italy.

My recent trip to Italy combined several of these trends, particularly during my three days in Montepulciano, located well off-the-beaten-path some 40 miles southeast of Siena. Tuscany is home to some of Italy’s most prestigious wine regions, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.

The purpose of my trip, aside from getting to Italy for the first time since the pandemic, was to explore the potential for Tuscan wine tours and develop relationships with local vineyards and travel specialists, while exploring a Tuscan region new to me. By fall, I hope to announce wine and culinary small group and private tours of the region provided through my new travel partners.

New Ships on the Horizon

Although the flurry of new cruise ships has slowed a little this year, a dozen ocean going ships are anticipated to debut in 2024, ranging from Royal Caribbean’s 6,700-guest-capacity Utopia of the Seas (the latest in RCL’s Oasis Class) to World Seeker (Atlas Ocean Voyages) with a double-occupancy capacity of 198 guests seeking exploration cruises.

Cunard’s Queen Anne (2,996 guests) arrives in May, the Princess Sun Princess (4,300 guests) in February and Silversea’s Silver Ray (798 guests) in June, representing other exciting cruise offerings new for 2024. I also recommend the small new ships of Oceania and Azamara, known for longer itineraries that take guests to ports where the big ships can’t go. Both cruise lines also offer exotic itineraries providing overnight or late-night port stays.

 In the months following the pandemic as cruising resumed, you could easily find excellent cruise accommodations as late as three months from departure but that “booking window” has lengthened to a year for many itineraries and even earlier for limited exotic itineraries. In fact, while the 2024 Alaska cruise season is still a year away, the best itineraries are already selling ahead of expectations and many of the 2024 European river cruise itineraries already have limited availability for certain dates. The message is clear: reserve early!


Many Caribbean resorts still have availability for last-minute travelers at off-season rates. I particularly recommend Costa Rica (the daily rain showers last only 20 minutes), Riviera Maya along Mexico’s east coast and several islands in the Caribbean’s Greater Antilles.

Also don’t overlook the U.S. national or state parks you might enjoy, although you may have stay nearby since most accommodations within those parks are unavailable at this late date.

Whatever your summer plans include, stay safe and enjoy happy travels with family and friends!

Yours in Travel,

A narrow street leads into Montepulciano’s Piazza Grande bordered by 16th century noble residences (top), while our small group found time to enjoy a picnic on the outskirts of this medieval hill town before departing.

European Vacation Season - picnic