Most folk on the street don't know what the Early Birds are. But to people who work in the travel trade or in marketing it's a well-known phenomenon.

Each year, at around about this time, airlines release a bunch of very competitive airfares targeted at next year's European summer. In an age when flying is crazy-cheap, things get even cheaper. The retailers respond by putting together packages - flights, accommodation, tours, etc - and travel writers like myself start pouring out stories about Europe.

All of it is aimed at you, dear reader. This is consistently the best time of year to buy tickets to Europe, so get inspired! Start planning your European break in our pages today.