En español | Thousands of tourists will flock to northern France next year to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, on June 6, 1944, when more than 150,000 U.S., British and Canadian soldiers stormed Normandy's beaches — an epic invasion that led to Germany’s defeat in World War II. If you want to be there on that big day but have not yet made plans, do so as soon as possible.
"Many tours have sold out, and others are filling fast,” says Greg Geronemus, co-CEO of SmarTours, which offers tours to France that include visits to Normandy’s beaches. He says trips timed to the anniversary are generating strong interest from American travelers.
Stephen Ambrose Tours, the company started by the late historian Stephen Ambrose, is hosting 15 special historian-led D-Day trips for up to 35 people (details below), all scheduled to be in Normandy on June 6. Some people reserved their spots as long ago as 2016.
This is a big milestone anniversary that's set to generate grander-than-usual D-Day-related celebrations, memorial ceremonies and other events in the region. On June 5, for example, you can catch a spectacular reenactment featuring some 250 volunteers who will parachute into Normandy from World War II-era planes after a trip across the English Channel. Officials have yet to release a detailed schedule about the formal June 6 events, but they're likely to include a wreath-laying ceremony at a significant site such as the memorial to the 29th American Infantry Division on the shores of Omaha Beach, as well as the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, who was there for the 70th anniversary, among other world leaders.
The commemorations will be especially poignant this year because it's one of the last that will include WWII veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that of the 16 million Americans who served in the war, only 558,000 were alive in 2017 — and with most in their 90s, that number is shrinking exponentially.
Some companies offering D-Day-themed tours to mark the anniversary still have availability in September. Options to consider:
The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is sponsoring two cruises to Normandy to honor the anniversary. While one has sold out, in mid-September there were some spots left on a trip on the Seabourn Ovation ship, beginning in Amsterdam and following the path of Germany’s conquest of Western Europe. The luxurious 10-day trip features several nights in Normandy, including June 6. From $15,399. It also has two weeklong D-Day-focused trips (the museum's most popular tour) in May and two more in September. From $4,495.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation is running several group tours to commemorate the invasion, including one accompanied by Dwight David Eisenhower II, the grandson of Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, our future president who led the D-Day invasion. From $6,895.
Among Stephen Ambrose Historical Tours' D-Day-themed trips is “Operation Overlord,” a nine-day tour with a full day in Normandy for the June 6 ceremony. And some spots remain on the company's two-week luxury excursion, “D-Day to the Rhine,” which starts in London and follows the U.S. military progress through France, Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg to the Rhine River in Frankfurt, Germany. From $6,950.
Tours International, based in Britain, has limited space available on five- and eight-day group tours from Paris or London that include anniversary ceremonies. Trips are led by battlefield guides, including several former British military officers. From $2,250.
Avalon Waterways offers a 16-day “Grand France 75th Anniversary of D-Day WWII Remembrance Cruise” that leaves May 27 from Arles, visits Normandy for a few days before the anniversary and finishes up in Paris. Along with visits to historic American military sites, optional excursions include visits to British and Canadian cemeteries and landing beaches. From $6,738. Avalon also offers shorter D-Day-themed cruises.
The New York Times Journeys program is offering three group tours from London to Normandy and then on to Paris, with a military historian guide. The first trip leaves on June 11, a few days after the anniversary, with the others being offered later in the summer. You’ll miss the fanfare, but you'll also avoid the heaviest crowds. From $7,995.