If you’re picturing postcard views when you dream of travel, you’re in for a rough ride. The fact is the same beautiful and interesting places that captivate you, also captivate millions of other people around the world. Great minds do think alike, after all. But travelers expecting pristine landscapes and intimate experiences at major tourist attractions tend to come away underwhelmed, or even disgruntled, when confronted with thousands of other camera-toting tourists, vendors hawking cheap wares, and pickpockets taking advantage of the crowds. If you want to travel, you’ll likely need to make your peace with tourist crowds, but those who need the best of both worlds can make a few concessions to satisfy their travel bug while avoiding the worst of the crowds.
Stay off the beaten path
The best known attractions are naturally going to be the best attended. The Eiffel Tower, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Taj Mahal will always draw millions upon millions of visitors a year, and you shouldn’t arrive expecting to be the only person there. When you’re looking for a more intimate experience, you should be prepared to dig deeper into a city or country and find its hidden treasures. Paris may be large and crowded, but you can also learn a lot about French culture in the smaller towns of the Loire Valley or Languedoc-Roussillon. Likewise, the beautiful palaces of Jaipur are just a few miles away from Agra’s Taj Mahal, but see only a quarter of the visitors. Just because you didn’t grow up hearing about a destination, doesn’t mean it isn’t worth your time or money.
Steer clear of peak season
Every tourist destination on the planet sees three major seasons: peak or high season, off-peak or low season, and the shoulder seasons that fall in between the two extremes. Peak seasons tend to see the best weather, the most visitors, and the highest prices, so it follows that travelers looking for thinner crowds should avoid these most popular months. Every destination’s seasons have the potential to differ from one another, so do plenty of research before your trip about local weather and holidays so you can effectively avoid peak season. In Europe, for example, the summer months are the most travel-heavy, so you may want to aim for a spring or fall visit instead.
Get up early
Wherever you go at whatever time of year, the early bird always catches the worm. You can sleep back home, so make the most of your vacation by getting up early. If you’re a photographer, you’ll catch some of your best shots in the hour or two around sunrise, when the sun is low on the horizon. Even if no attractions are open yet, strolling the tranquil streets of a city just gearing up for the day is a special experience that will make you feel closer to your destination than the average tourist. Plus, you’ll be first in line when shops and museums do open for business.