Avoiding crowds when traveling isn’t easy. In what The Washington Post calls the age of overtourism, tourist destinations can get very busy. Especially in Europe, it is smart to think about what you want to do and to plan your vacation before you pack your bags. Here are our top 11 tips to avoid crowds when traveling.
1. Plan ahead
Our number one tip if you want to avoid crowds, is to plan ahead. Think about what you want to see and what you want to do. If you are planning to visit a tourist hotspot, prepare for crowds. Take into consideration that it will be busier on weekends and afternoons. This weekend effect, which will dive into a bit later, is also incorporated in our daily crowd predictions. Adjust your vacation plans accordingly. Do something relaxing away from the craziness when it’s busy at your prefered attraction.
2. Arrive early
People tend to take it easy when they are on vacation. That means they sleep in, often have a large breakfast or did not yet arrive at their destination. Cruise ships might arrive early but they can only let the passengers off the ship once the authorities have cleared it. If you look at Google Maps, which shows that time of the day attractions like the Eiffel Tower are busy, the mornings are alway less crowded. Mornings are always good! If you are early enough, you can even enjoy Golden Hour.
3. Avoid Crowds – Book tickets in advance
Waiting lines are on of the biggest annoyances while traveling. It is also an annoyance that can be easily avoided. Buy timed entrance tickets to your favorite tourist destination and you don’t waste time waiting for your opportunity to buy a ticket. Most major tourist attractions in Europe offer these kind of services. Many can be found here on our website through our affiliate partner.
4. Travel outside peak season
Peak season brings great weather to Europe. But with the great weather comes the large crowds. Peak season starts early July and lasts to the end of August. During peak season most European countries and large overseas countries like the US or China have school vacations. That means families have the opportunity to travel which they usually haven’t. Especially in Europe, where six weeks of vacation are not uncommon, it means it can get busy. The first Saturday’s of August are notoriously known as ‘black Saturday’ because of all the traffic jams in France, Germany and the Alp countries. Read more about peak season in Europe.
5. Avoid weekends
Peak season or not, weekends are busier than weekdays. That is once again because of the ability to travel. As people are off from work, they can travel. It’s as simple as that. That means you see more day trippers. Day trippers are usually domestic tourists as well as people on longer weekend trips. That makes sense, a three day trip that includes the weekend only requires one day off work. With most Europeans getting 20 to 25 vacation days per year, you can imagine that weekends are usually more crowded than weekdays.
6. Choose alternative destinations
Venice, Barcelona, Amsterdam and London have the better-known tourist attractions. They also have more tourists. Local governments, like the municipality of Amsterdam, have been promoting alternative destinations for the last years. The goal of such promotions is to spread tourism geographically. This way tourists get to see new places while the burden on the main destination will become less. Explore alternative tours and attractions here.
7. Sleep outside the city center
If you pick your hotel outside the city center or away from the main tourist attractions, you will automatically get into less crowded areas. An added benefit is that you will experience the destination in a more authentic way while the hotels usually carry a smaller price tag.
8. Avoid Crowds by staying longer
If you stay longer, you will see more of the destination. You will experience it in a much better way. You will most likely (try to) adapt to some local habits, food and the way of life in general. Another added benefit is that you have more time to visit the main attractions while you are able to also visit the lesser-known attractions. We would advise to visit the main attractions on weekdays and the others during the weekend.
9. Keep an eye on cruise ship arrivals
Especially in cities like Venice or Dubrovnik, cruise ship arrivals will have a massive impact on how crowded your destination will become. If you know when they arrive, you can check out alternatives attractions. That way you are not moving to large crowds on shore excursions. You can see cruise ship arrivals in our daily crowd prediction tool.
10. Avoid Crowds by avoiding sun
The weather forecast has a massive impact on how busy a destination will become. Although overseas tourists have no means to alter their plans if it’s raining, domestic tourists can. If the weather is good, tourists living nearby will hop in their cars or train and flock towards destinations in Italy, Croatia or anywhere else in mainland Europe.
11. Avoid tourist traps
If the tourist attraction is there because of the tourists and not the other way around, it’s best to avoid. Wax museums and city dungeons weren’t around ten years ago. Those attractions are there because of you – the tourist, not the other way around. It is best to avoid these often-overpriced attractions with long waiting lines. If you decide to go, we advise you to buy your skip the line ticket online and don’t waste time standing in line.