Last year I set out on a journey to Europe, in the dead of winter. I had a one-way ticket to Berlin and a conviction to backpack for as long as I could on the continent. Having grown up in the American South, it was a real test of my abilities to travel during this time of year. And, I would do it all over again!

I want to share five things I learned and why I think winter is the best time to travel to Europe.

1. Cheap flights equal increased flexibility. I pondered over all of the places within my reach while sitting in the computer center at my Barcelona hostel one day in early January and decided to go to Istanbul within 48 hours. My airline ticket was only $100 roundtrip. I saved over $100 on my airline tickets by simply traveling in the winter.

2. Cheap hostels and hotel prices mean more money to actually enjoy the city. In the months of December and January, we stayed in hostels for as little as 8 euros a night. Compare that to summer rates and we easily saved 30 euros daily.

3. Fewer tourists. You will have far fewer tourists to deal with, even though you are a tourist yourself.. this is nice. You get to experience Europe as the locals do.

4. You'll be there for Christmas festivities. You will be able to enjoy the Christmas markets if you visit in the winter.  Germany alone has over 2,000 markets to choose from.

5. Traditional winter foods. I still reminisce about the many times I enjoyed a mug full of gluhwein, German mulled wine, during my trip last year. Many traditional European dishes, like hot mince pie, borscht, Polish stews, roasted chestnuts, and German Lebkuchen or as we know it gingerbread are only served in the winter.