Get ahead of the crowd! Learn how to steer clear of the tourist throng when traveling the world.
The aim of going on holiday is to find relaxation and enjoyment in your new surroundings, but when your destination is overwhelmed by noisy, aggravating masses of tourists, you might wonder why you ever left home. Don’t let the frustration of dealing with pushy travellers ruin your trip. Here are 13 tips for bypassing crowds while on vacation.
1. Book Tickets In Advance
Purchase tickets online before you leave home, and skip the crowds and endless lines at your destination. For fans of NYC, you can pre-book passes to the Top of the Rock observation deck, NBC studio tours, the Empire State Building, the 9-11 memorial and the MOMA all from the comfort of home. Smart travellers can also avoid the queue when visiting abroad – the London Eye, Britain’s Houses of Parliament, Italy’s Vatican Museums, and Paris‘ Louvre all help you keep your cool with online ticket sales. Buy early and avoid the stress of excessive wait times.
2. Arrive Early Or Late
If you forgot to purchase tickets beforehand, do the next best thing and show up early. Crowds tend to be thinner first thing in the morning when an attraction throws open its doors for the day. This plan of attack is especially useful for tourist sites that are over-run with people by mid-day. Some seasoned travellers prefer to do the opposite and show up late in the day, or around dinnertime. Both strategies can help you escape the crowd crush.
3. Travel Off-Season
London in the summer, NYC at Thanksgiving, Florida during March Break – jetting off to your holiday destination when everyone else is going means guaranteed swarms of tourists, long waits and frayed tempers. Adjusting your trip even by a few weeks can halve the number of sightseers in your midst. Check with a travel agent for advice on off-peak travel to your destination of choice. Who knows, he or she might be able to save you some cash, too.
4. Talk To People
It’s the job of the concierge in your hotel or the clerk in the tourist office to know their city’s attractions inside and out. Have a friendly chat with these experts to get their take on the best time to visit popular sites. Be sure to ask when they would personally go themselves. It’s also extremely helpful to talk to locals, cab drivers and even fellow travelers. Often they’ll know the secrets of touring in demand places when they’re not teaming with people.
5. Sign Up For Special Tours
If you want to sail by the tourist mob, it’s smart to purchase a cultural tour from a specialized company. Often these organizations get after-hours or behind-the-scenes access to famous places. You’ll get a guided tour and beat the rush. The only downside? These tours can be costly, but if large crowds routinely ruin your experience, splashing a little extra cash will save your sanity and your ribs from the over zealous pushing and shoving that crowds can create.
6. Visit During The Week
Weekends are always busier at popular tourist sites because kids and parents are free from school and work commitments. For shorter lines, fewer people, and better opportunities to interact and enjoy the attraction, stop by during the week. In many cases, you’ll have the place all to yourself. To take this tip one step further, and guarantee a further reduction in crowds at your museum, gallery or tourism hot spot, head there after 2pm when visiting school groups will have returned to class. School trips during the week often hit attractions in the morning, but tend to depart in the early afternoon.
7. Choose Sites Off The Beaten Path
The Eiffel Tower, the Coliseum – popular sites like these gems attract tourists in droves. To slip away from the herd, choose places that people tend to ignore. Many of Paris’ hidden side streets feature beautiful architecture, parks and cafés, while Rome is brimming with stunning fountains, piazzas and ruins that are tucked away from the typical tourist path. You’ll avoid crowds, and experience the country’s culture like a local, not a tourist.
8. Avoid School Holidays
Skip travel during March Break or holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas when families flood popular attractions. Crowds will greet you at every turn.
9. Skip The Photo Ops
Many attractions feature staged photo ops at their entrance. Purchase a photo of your family posed in front of a backdrop of sea life at Boston’s New England Aquarium, or sitting atop steel building girders at NYC’s Top of the Rock. As fun as these photo souvenirs may be, they tend to cause a roadblock at the attraction’s entrance. Duck past the camera, leave the crowds behind, and immerse yourself in what you really came to see.
10. Adjust Your Meal Times
Popular restaurants will always have a long wait at usual dinner times. And if you encounter theatre fans in New York, London or Toronto, the queue for a meal can stretch past an hour. Eat a bit early or a little later and you’ll beat both the crowds and your hunger.
11. Sleep Away From Happening Areas
If you stay in Times Square, near Rome’s Spanish Steps, or along the Las Vegas strip, you’re already in the thick of it crowd-wise. To escape the ever-present hordes, choose accommodation in less touristy neighbourhoods. If you’re not familiar with your destination, rely on websites such as Trip Advisor. Travellers post their own reviews of hotels, so you can, in most cases, get an honest opinion of your potential home away from home.
12. Find Out When Cruises Dock
Your little corner of paradise in Greece, Portugal or Italy can become overrun in an instant when a cruise ship comes into port. Many of these boats carry the population of a small town, so just imagine how much fun it will be to wade through the throngs of people when you’re seeking a quiet respite. You can find out when a boat-load of cruisers are due to land by asking your hotel’s concierge, or the staff in local shops. With this information at hand, you can plan your escape in the opposite direction.
13. Watch the Weather Forecasts
Spooked travellers often cancel their plans when there are news reports of a storm on the approach. While some of these travel advisories are the real deal, sometimes they’re not as bad as they sound. By keeping an eye on news and weather broadcasts, brave souls can often pick up last minute deals for such places due to the number of people who hastily cancelled.