Europe like a local
For those who love solitude, contemplation, and escape, avoiding the crowds is
an essential part of enjoying our travels. Of course, there's some irony in being a
traveler who complains about all the other tourists cluttering up the landscape
because, of course, we're all contributing to the crowd!
Small winery Vignerons de Montfrin, Tiffany visited while sailing the Rhone River.
The best-known places are always going to draw lots of people, and usually with good
reason. So how can we see the sights without feeling like we're stuck in a herd of
camera-toting sheep? When off-season travel isn't possible but seeing sights is still on top of your list. We take great pride in carefully scheduling an excellent travel
plan...designed to minimize crowds and time in line and maximize your enjoyment.
Here are our top ten tips for avoiding the worst of the vacation crowds:
1. Hire a local guide
Our very first suggestion is to hire a private guide if your budget allows it. A
guide knows when the busiest places will have lulls in the crowds and exactly
where to go to soak in a city's ambiance without being joined by thousands of
others with the same idea. We have several well-vetted private guides all over
Europe that we frequently use for clients. You will get so much more out of
sights when you see them with a local guide who can make history come
to life. Your tour guide DOES know it all!
2. Skip the line!
Did you know you could do this? A significant benefit of using a travel agent who
specializes in Europe is that we often can help
you skip right past a 2-hour long line-up and whisk you inside the attraction
you'd rather not wait to see. Some of the most critical spots with "skip the
line" privileges are the Louvre and Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Vatican and
Colosseum in Rome and the Accademia (to meet Michelangelo's amazing
David) in Florence.
3. Take advantage of jet lag
What does that mean? Imagine you managed to stay up until 8 pm after an
overnight trans-Atlantic flight. Now it's 5 am the next day, and you're wide
awake. Get out of bed and go for a wander through near-empty streets as the
city quietly stirs. Enjoy a coffee alongside locals on their way to work. Early
morning can be a magical time to explore the streets of Europe.
4. Travel off-peak
Have you ever been to Paris in August? The locals have fled the city for their
summer vacation, leaving the tourists to take it by storm. A lot of stores, cafes, and restaurants are closed. Consider traveling in your destination's shoulder
season (May and September-October) – and avoid school holidays like the
plague! If you are worried about taking your children out of school, get over it!
A family trip to Europe will contribute so much more to their future than a
"Perfect Attendance" award in 6th grade.
5. Do your research and plan museum visits accordingly
Many museums have "free" days once a month; these are always going to be
busy days, and best to avoid. Some major attractions (e.g., London's Tate
Modern) stay open late one or two nights a week; visiting the gallery during
these extended hours tend to offer a quieter experience.
6. Investigate "alternative" destinations
Everyone talks about the big-ticket destinations – Rome, Paris, London, Prague
– but there's much magic to be found in "impact Europe's" smaller cities. For instance,
if you're looking to experience Dutch culture, Leiden or Haarlem are beautiful
and less crowded alternatives to Amsterdam. (We can suggest some great
options to the hustle-bustle where you will get the proper "feel" of the
country you are visiting).
7. Benefit from local insight
Talk to the locals to learn about what's popular with people who live in the city,
rather than what's popular with people who visit it. An excellent way to incorporate
this wisdom into your trip-planning is to use an experienced Travel
Professional who specializes in Europe. Some of the suppliers we use to
construct your vacation live in the destination you are visiting and give us some great "insider" tips.
8. Choose attractions off the beaten path
Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to visit it; you won't get a failing
grade for skipping the supposed "must-sees." You can visit London without
going to Buckingham Palace; You can experience Italy without snapping a
photo of yourself holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There's way more to a
city than its icons, so let the icons draw the crowds while you ferret out more
unique ways to spend your time.
9. Stay in locally-owned smaller hotels that are centrally located
Choosing a smaller hotel in a more residential neighborhood with easy access
to the places you want to visit is an excellent way to escape the crowds at the end of
the day. Hotels outside the tourist locations are super helpful in
suggesting some little-known jewels for restaurants and sightseeing.
10. Be aware of cruise ship dockings
If you're staying in a port-city, find out when the cruise ships dock – then
hightail it out of there! And if you're one of the people debarking from the ship,
see Tip #1...then hightail it out of there with your private guide! Today's
mega-ships can dump 3000 people off in Monaco simultaneously, and all are
heading for the same sights.
Plan carefully-we can help you know when and where to go! You wouldn't always consider some of these listed, but they can you're your trip. That's why we're here, to help you plan a vacation that considers all the angles. Contact us when you're ready to start planning.