Before the whole Greek fiasco, euro crisis, and the news that European banks were on the verge of collapse (which is not happening according to this), some EU commissioner had the audacity to declare the travel some kind of human right. Actually, the idea was to convince more foreigners to come to Europe and spend their hard-earned money on a continent where tourism is the 3rd largest business of towing and accounts for 12% of its jobs.
But of course the financial shit storms hit and this initiative is now probably buried deep inside Euro castles somewhere in Brussels or Strasbourg.
This is my first summer here with no off-continent travels, and I’ve seen first-hand the kind of exodus that happens on the road when July and August hit.
People schedule their vacations to coincide with their children’s schooling. The construction sector is closed for an entire month between July and August for vacation, and some government agencies also close for August. Half of the small/independent shops in my neighbourhood are closed, so if you want pizza or beef from the butcher, or dry-cleaning services, then tough luck.
There are several so-called Black Saturdays, where people literally pack up as much personal belongings and household apparatus as possible in their cars, endure hours of congested traffic, in order to drive to their neighbouring countries to camp.
Camping is huge. I haven’t tried it yet, but hearsay tells me camp grounds are generally more compact, well-serviced and in some cases, cheaper than across the pond.
Stay-cations are also almost unheard of here. Recession or not, the majority of people surveyed (at least in the Netherlands, although I can’t quite find the link) said they intend to go on vacation.
For most, that means packing up your house, drive 5 to 10 hours, and set up camp in a neighbouring country. I have seen everything from cars loaded up with camping and cooking wares, to more luxurious foldable tent set-ups hooked to the back of a car, to plastic picnic table strung on the top of a car, all to keep the vacation cost as low as possible, and to make those foreign destination feel as homely as possible.
With this kind of set-up in: price (low, camping), convenience (high, drive anywhere in a few hours), and availability (of holidays and destinations, also high), I can see why most Europeans exercise their rights to vacations.