Everyone's Going to Europe This Summer—But Here's How You Can Beat the Crowds

The EU is ready to open its doors to fully vaccinated Americans

Illustration of woman reading about Venice crowds

TripSavvy / Ellen Lindner

Americans have come a long way from the summer of 2020 when the EU announced that the U.S. did not make the cut on its list of epidemiologically safe countries. But now, with a third of the American population vaccinated, the EU has announced that it's ready to open its doors to fully vaccinated Americans, and many people are eager to hop across the pond.

Every time a country announces its reopening plans, industry experts tracking flight prices have seen search interest for those countries jump way up, which counterintuitively causes fares to go down, making the destination even more attractive. As Scott Keyes of Scott’s Cheap Flights told TripSavvy, “The airlines adding routes on these particular destinations is what keeps fares from spiking.” With more interest and more flights serving cross-Atlantic travel, some places are bound to be more popular than others.

Most experts will tell you that nothing makes a destination more popular than a cheap and direct flight route, so TripSavvy reached out to a couple of air travel experts to find which European destinations are drawing the most interest. As Adit Damodaran, an economist at the travel booking app Hopper, pointed out, some destinations have moved up the search interest ranks. “By comparing the rank in 2021 to 2019, Lisbon is up six spots, Athens is up five spots, and Reykjavik is up four spots,” Damodaran said, adding that fares to Iceland can be found for as low as $503 round-trip.

Considering low fares and search interest to determine which countries will be the most popular this year, we identified which European countries are most likely to be buzzing with travelers this summer. And if you’re still feeling crowd-shy, we’ve also identified a few off-the-beaten-path destination alternatives within each country so you can still visit your dream destination without getting bogged down in the post-pandemic tourism frenzy.

United Kingdom

Status: Open for Americans with testing and quarantine requirements

No longer a part of the EU, the UK never officially barred Americans from entering but still requires travelers to agree to test and quarantine, regardless of vaccination status. Regardless, according to Hopper, daily flight searches to London are up 14 percent over the last two weeks, meaning people are hopeful that the country may open up later. Until then, Americans will still need a negative test and must also agree to 10 days of isolation to enter. The UK is traditionally a popular destination for Americans, Damodaran explained, so the interest aligns with pre-pandemic levels.

Off the beaten path: As long as these restrictions are in place, it’s unlikely that you’ll find many other tourists in London but if you prefer to escape the city anyway, consider a trip to the Lakes District. This gorgeous national park is prime real estate for a socially distanced trip with grand estates scattered in the folds of northern England’s low rolling mountains. 

Iceland

Status: Open for vaccinated travelers.

Iceland was topping bucket lists before the pandemic. Still, thanks to the actively erupting and lava-flowing Fagradalsfjall Volcano, even more travelers are eager to visit before the fissure seals up. (Volcanologists don’t know if that will take years or just a few weeks, so visitors would be wise to take advantage of this uniquely safe opportunity to see molten lava in person). Iceland was also one of the first countries to announce it would open to vaccinated travelers. Delta and United added new flight routes to Reykjavik to meet the demand, causing fares to stay low and making the land of fire and ice a desirable prospect for vaccinated Americans.

Off the beaten path: Iceland is a small country, and you’ll find most tourists making the rounds on the ring road, particularly between Reykjavik and Vik. However, you may be able to find fewer crowds if you veer into the Westfjords region, where you can take a boat to Hornstrandir Nature Reserve, a remote and uninhabited island where wildlife—like puffins and arctic foxes—flourishes.

Spain

Status: Opening to vaccinated Americans in June 2021.

Spain has been open for Europeans, who can show a negative test, but in June, Americans with proof of vaccination will also be welcomed. Spain was one of the hardest-hit countries at the beginning of the pandemic, not only because of its high infection rates but also because it relies heavily on tourism. With Hopper reporting an eight percent daily increase in flight searches for Barcelona, it’s clear that travelers are eager to get back to this sunny country’s beaches and historic cities. However, Americans won’t be the only ones traveling to Spain this summer. Many Europeans, like Brits and Germans, who have been on strict lockdowns since Christmas, are eager to escape and major cities and resort areas.

Off the beaten path: Crowds are likely to congregate in the major cities, so unless you’re brave enough to brave the heat of summer in the south of Spain, consider keeping it cool in the Pyrenees and visiting the Basque Country. Tucked beneath the French border, you’ll find a unique culture and a gastronomy scene absolutely bedazzled with Michelin stars.

France

Status: Reopening for Americans on June 9.

With Hopper reporting daily search interest to Paris up nine percent, it's fair to say that dreams of freshly-baked croissants and sun-drenched vineyards have probably gotten many people through the dreariest days of the pandemic. One airline looking to capture this interest is Air France, which just launched a new direct route from Denver to Paris. However, at the time of the announcement, many businesses in France were still closed or under restriction. The government announced a phased reopening plan that should have restaurants and museums opening again by late June, but all will be operating at limited capacity throughout the summer.

Off the beaten path: Movement restrictions are likely to be harshest in Paris, which typically attracts the immense bulk of tourists in France. Because of this, it will be even more difficult to find a seat at a restaurant or visit a museum since you won’t only be competing with other tourists but also locals who have been cooped up for months. If you plan to travel to France, consider venturing out to take a trip down the rugged west coast, where you can visit medieval cities like La Rochelle, taste wine in Bordeaux, and maybe go surfing in Biarritz.

Croatia

Status: Open.

Croatia was one of the country’s that chose to welcome American tourists in 2020, and after closing to travel for a few months in the winter, has already reopened again for summer 2021. This coastal country was already a trending destination before the pandemic, but getting there usually required transferring through a major hub. Now, airlines have made it even easier for Americans to visit with direct routes to Dubrovnik available from New York and Philadelphia. On the southernmost end of the Dalmatian coast, Dubrovnik is a major cruise port and famous for being one of the filming locations for "Game of Thrones." Pre-pandemic, this was often cited as one of Europe’s most overtouristed destinations.

Off the beaten path: Although cruise ship traffic is not what it used to be, the port of Dubrovnik will reopen to some ships this summer, and the city is likely to be crowded with travelers crossing that "Game of Thrones" trip off their bucket lists. However, there are many more places along the Dalmatian coast worth visiting. At the northern end of the coast, Istria is a charming and quiet region where you can cycle through vineyards and olive groves and visit tiny hilltop villages like Groznjan or Oprtalj.

Greece

Status: Open.

Greece is already open for vaccinated tourists, and airlines across the U.S. are meeting summer demand with new direct flight routes to Athens from Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York. There have never been so many non-stop flights to Greece from the U.S., and this convenience is sure to bring in more visitors who might then choose to connect from Athens to another popular island destination like Santorini, Corfu, or Mykonos, where you’ll find many seaside resorts that have been eager to see tourisms return.

Off the beaten path: Greece has over 6,000 islands, but somehow most tourists always end up on the same ones. If you’re looking for more adventure, you can avoid the bulk of visitors by traveling to less-visited islands like Folegandros, Ithaca, and Kythira.

Italy

Status: Reopening for vaccinated Americans in June.

Scenes of empty piazzas and other tourist attractions shocked the world when Italy was one of the first countries to go into lockdown, but now Italy is ready to reopen its doors, and Americans are ready to visit. According to data from tour operator Intrepid, search interest in Italy spiked 44 percent following the EU’s announcement. Despite initially announcing the country would reopen for vaccinated Americans in May, the date has been pushed back to June. Italian destinations usually reliant on tourism, and small islands like Capri and Procida have ramped up their vaccination campaigns to ensure that all locals are vaccinated before tourists arrive.

Off the beaten path: No exciting new direct flights from Italy have been announced, so most American travelers will still be arriving via Rome or Milan, which could lead to some congestion in these cities and ever-popular destinations like Cinque Terre, Tuscany, and Venice. You can use this opportunity to avoid the crowds by traveling further out of your way to Sardinia, the island region that hovers above Sicily. Here, you’ll find turquoise waters and a unique culture with many historic cities worth exploring.

Article Sources
TripSavvy uses only high-quality, trusted sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. NBC News. "E.U. Coronavirus Safe List: This Is Why The U.S. Was Nowhere Near Making The Cut." July 2, 2020

  2. CNN. "The Countries Set to be Hardest Hit By Covid-19's Impact on Tourism." August 3, 2020

  3. World Economic Forum. "This Croatian City is Struggling with Overtourism. Is Game of Thrones to Blame?" November 27, 2019

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