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Traveltip – How to Avoid Crowds

Written by Carl Hedinger

Traveling with crowds is the opposite of most people’s idea of a fun day out. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been elbowed or been stepped on when visiting a famous place. The bad news is that the crowds are only going to increase as more people continue to visit the world’s hotspots. Thankfully there are ways around them, and you’ll be happy to know how easy it is to enjoy your favorite places in relative peace and quiet. Read this guide and you’ll know how to avoid crowds when traveling.

Travel during the Weekend

I know that this one is hard to avoid and that holiday time is tight to begin with but you’ll thank yourself for starting that trip on a weekday. You know that weekends are when EVERYONE is traveling and if you want a day on the road without the chaos, bank enough time for an extra day off on a Monday or Friday. If traveling far way, plan your trip to start on a Monday or Tuesday and you’ll notice things are moving more quickly and quietly than those weekend flights or drives. One bonus for traveling during the week (particularly Tuesday and Wednesday) is that tickets are generally cheaper then.

Start Early!

My wife’s photos and our sanity have always benefited from getting an early start. Of course you’re probably saying that everyone will start doing that if they follow my advice but please! Statistics might say that people prefer getting up early to sleeping in when on vacation but honestly, they’re likely staying in their hotel or having a long breakfast. I’ve walked through empty temples in Kyoto and stood alone in front of Korea’s wonderful Buddha Statue in Seoraksan National Park so trust me. Of course some places are always going to be crowded and probably more so around dawn. Key examples for this are Borobudur in Indonesia and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Check Tour Schedules, Holiday Calendars

One thing you’ll notice when traveling is the companies that are everywhere trying to organize tours for tomorrow, maybe even later today. Usually you’ll see whiteboards up and posted displaying how many tours are going out and the number of people who’ve booked. Check them and you’ll get valuable insight into peak tour times around the area. Another important thing to consider is the holiday schedule in the place you are visiting. We took a trip to Hiroshima during Japan’s Golden Week, which meant days of packed museums and unavoidable lines. As long as your travel doesn’t coincide with a country’s major holiday, you’re less likely to battle crowds.

Talk to Locals or Local Expats

Guidebooks and blogs are wonderful resources that I honestly would be lost without, but there’s more to learn from actual people who are staying in your hotel or who you might meet in a local restaurant or bar. People are generally eager to share their experiences and if you just listen closely, you might find out about lesser-known spots like this wonderful waterfall we once visited in Korea. I would never have known about it without talking to people about waterfalls in the hopes that there was one within driving distance from our town. Other times you’ll hear about holidays and celebrations that might be bringing crowds to your area. Talk to people when traveling and you’ll get a better scoop on where and when to go.

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Avoid High Season

There are some pros and cons to traveling during the so-called “off season” but let me tell you about our trip to El Nido in the Philippines a few years back. Since the trip fell just outside of the dry season, we worried about rain every single day. Honestly, this vacation turned out to be one of the best we’ve had yet, full of wonderful boat tours and trips to a nearly secluded Nacpan Beach that appears at the top of this post. Did it rain during our time there? Sure it did but for barely 10% of the trip. Was it crowded? Hardly, and the trip there taught me something very valuable. You can avoid crowds during the shoulder weeks or months that fall just outside of peak. Sometimes you can even get away with an awesome trip when visiting during the rainy season.

If You Can’t Beat ‘Em…

You know how that saying goes, right? Traveling with crowds can really push one’s nerves to the brink but at other times, it’s not the worst thing that could happen. One of my favorite memories comes from New Year’s in Tokyo and the atmosphere that surrounded us at Sensoji Temple. We waited in line for what seemed an eternity before they let us go to the altar, pray, and throw our money for good luck. Sometimes people add to the occasion and I can think of lots of other busy trips that left me with a big smile, albeit a tired and overwhelmed one! If you’re not into jam-packed moments that make you think back to teenage mosh pits, follow these tips and you’ll have a less crowded journey. Thanks for reading and I hope your next vacation is quieter than the last one.

Walk The Opposite Way (Submitted by Linda Bibb from Aswesawit.com)

If you arrive at opening time, we’ve found that walking in the opposite direction works as well. Because people are right-handed they tend to go to the right when they enter a museum or attraction. So go the other way.

For example, when we were at Epcot, most folks stopped at Spaceship Earth and the other nearby attractions. We skipped those and went to straight to the World Showcase around the lake. While the others who did that mostly went around the lake to the right, we veered left and had virtually no crowds for quite a while.

So what stood out to you as the best way to avoid crowds when traveling? Got a suggestion that I didn’t think about? I’d love to read about it and if it’s a good one, will gladly add to the list with your name alongside it.

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About the author

Carl Hedinger

I’m a writer and recovering American expat who shares my family’s travels through life. Follow our adventures here and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

9 Comments

  • Great tips! We travel with kids (=peak times), but we choose less busy destinations whenever we can, like e.g. Namibia (hardly any people around). We avoid crowds whenever possible and use most of these tricks as well (also walking in the opposite direction- does wonders at theme parks!).
    Also, kids get up early so we always start our day well before most other people do. We picnic for lunch – gives us time to explore when everyone else is eating. We have early dinners and go visit busy places at dinner – beautiful light for photography and few people. We went back to Mont St Michel (France) at 9pm last time we visited and had the whole place practically to ourselves in this otherwise crowded place…

  • Great tips, Duke! I’d like to add one more: If you arrive at opening time, we’ve found that walking in the opposite direction works as well. Because people are right-handed they tend to go to the right when they enter a museum or attraction. So go the other way.

    For example, when we were at Epcot, most folks stopped at Spaceship Earth and the other nearby attractions. We skipped those and went to straight to the World Showcase around the lake. While the others who did that mostly went around the lake to the right, we veered left and had virtually no crowds for quite a while.

  • Time of year makes all the different. I lucked out when my cruise ship docked in Mykonos for the day. It was right before mid-June when the tourist season really takes off and on a Wednesday. My boat was the only one there that day. It was nice to be able to wander around without being elbow-to-elbow with other tourists. I can’t say the same for Santorini when I was there on a weekend with 50 other tour buses… not fun.

    • Wow, did you write about those experiences on cruise ships? I’d love to read about them. I bet the water and scenery was lovely, Jeri.

      I’ve noticed a drop in Hotel prices as we just crossed over the line that starts the shoulder season. It could also be that we’re in a quieter part of Bali (Sanur).

      For prices and crowds, time of year is certainly a big deal. Elbows seem to come with the latter. I developed good elbow form as we made our way through Korean festivals. I guess you don’t need to worry about that so much in the U.S., huh?

      Thanks for commenting. Do you have any trips planned in the near future?

  • Nice tips Duke. I guess the mantra is “when would you normally go? Okay, so would everybody else so go at a different time” 🙂

    If I am really keen on somewhere then I too like to get there early and get a feel for a place before it becomes crowded. All day attractions in general can have their busiest times between 10:30-3:30. If you can’t make the morning but can do things quickly a late afternoon visit can also have you catch the highlights as a place is cleared out.

    We are going away the week after next. It will be late September and outside the school holidays. We typically take an annual break then since we know it will be quieter and just how we like it.

    • You’re certainly right about the mantra, Guy:)

      I agree with you about the late afternoon though in Korea, it was hard to judge because people seem to pour in from 11 – closing. I bet people in the U.S. or elsewhere might have a different mentality.

      Where are you headed for your vacation? Hope you write about it, as I’d love to have a look. Thanks for commenting, Guy, and safe travels!