(NEW YORK) — Travelers know that fall is one of the best times to visit Europe: It’s cheaper than summer, less crowded than summer and still-great weather for sightseeing.
But some experts say this fall in particular is ripe for deals in Europe. It may in fact be the best time for Americans to visit Europe in years.
Hotel prices across the continent are down — in some places, close to 40 percent compared to last fall. Pierre-Etienne Chartier, vice president of the Hotwire Group, said this fall’s hotel rates are the lowest in years.
According to Hotwire booking data, 20 of Europe’s most popular destinations have had a drop in hotel rates compared to last year, three-quarters of those in the double-digits. Cities like Prague, Geneva and Budapest are up to 37 percent less expensive this year than last.
Popular European cities like Berlin, Paris, Barcelona and Rome are seeing their lowest hotel prices on Hotwire in more than five years. Average room rates in Prague, Budapest, Glasgow, Seville, Lisbon, Dublin, Valencia and Athens are all under $100 per night.
Chartier said the drop in prices could be, at least in part, attributed to the summer games. It wasn’t just London that created more hotel rooms. Nearby European cities, anticipating an influx of travelers pre- and post-Olympics did the same — to the tune of 11,000 rooms. Those travelers didn’t materialize and now the hotels are hoping to fill rooms through discounting.
Another reason for the price slashing is the European debt crisis. Locals, said Chartier, are being “more frugal with their money and discretionary spending.” With fewer Europeans traveling domestically, more hotel rooms are sitting empty, prompting hoteliers to discount room rates on travel booking sites.
For the past few years, Americans, Chartier said, have been in recovery mode and were starting to increase their spending. “Now,” he said, “that trend is reversing.”
But for Americans who do want to travel to Europe, “It’s been a while since the opportunities were this good,” Chartier said.
Airfare too, is showing signs of softness. Hotwire said airfare to Europe is about level with last year, though a few destinations are cheaper. Berlin, Dublin, Helsinki and Valencia are all cheaper to fly to this fall than last.
Travelocity air booking data showed that overall, airfare from the U.S. to Western Europe is virtually unchanged from last fall. Travelers can expect to pay about $1,060 round-trip, including taxes. Airfare is about 20 percent less now than it was during the summer months.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Susie East, CNN
Jethro Mullen Ivana Kottasova and Patrick Gillespie, CNN