10 Ways to Avoid Crowds on Vacation

One of the most memorable things about traveling and a highlight of all my trips is making connections with people, but one of the things I like to avoid while traveling are crowds of people.  Sometimes crowds are unavoidable and worth braving for the opportunity to experience things like the Sistine Chapel or a concert by your favorite band but overall, your vacation time is too short and valuable to waste time wading through crowds and standing in line.  Here are some ways I have been able to avoid crowds while traveling that may help you as well.

#1.  Make Reservations in Advance.

Before you leave on vacation, find the official websites for those must-see things and must-do activities in your travel plans and make a reservation or buy tickets or passes to avoid long ticket lines because your vacation time is too valuable to spend queuing.

#2.  Travel during non-peak travel times.

When booking tickets for transportation and making travel plans, to avoid crowds, you may want to factor in peak times for travel.  There’s a whole science around days and times when flights are cheaper and less crowded.  Also flying during non-peak travel times, means shorter lines for security screening and less chance for a full or overfull flight.

#3.  Apply for TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, or Global Entry.

If you’re really serious about avoiding crowds, you may want to look into applying for TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, or Global Entry to allow you to pay to skip the line and go to the front with a reservation at security checkpoints.  Here’s the link to a great article from AFAR explaining the benefits and costs associated with each program.

#4.  TSA reservation.

If you’re looking for a free option for avoiding crowds at the airport, maybe making a reservation to skip the line and head through security screening when you arrive without the wait, you may want to check out the free option available at certain airports.  You can find the list of participating airports here and each airport has different guidelines for using the reservation program but it’s worth looking into if you’re departing from the following cities.

SEA – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (Seattle, WA)

EWR – Newark Liberty International Airport (Newark, NJ)

JFK – John F. Kennedy International Airport (Queens, NY)

LAX – Los Angeles International Airport (Los Angeles, CA)

MCO – Orlando International Airport (Orlando, FL)

PHX – Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (Phoenix, AZ)

YYC – Calgary International Airport (Calgary, AB, Canada)

#5. Priority boarding.

Traveling with your small children has its perks, one of them being priority boarding for your flight.  I, personally, take full advantage of this perk to avoid crowds while we collapse strollers to leave at the gate, take out snacks, games, and books to entertain the kids during the flight, wipe down all the food trays, and hide the airline magazines and menus from the seat back pockets from the kids before they get their hands on them.  I, very much, appreciate priority boarding when traveling with my kids but also understand wanting to be last to board the plane as well.  If you can fit your carryon bags under the seat in front of you and don’t need to claim limited overhead luggage space, boarding last also becomes a way to avoid being crowded on the plane for as long as possible.

#6.  Arrive early.

I know it’s easier said than done when traveling with little ones but arriving early to the airport and other reservations will ultimately make travel much easier and less stressful.  I’ve learned from my family travels to always plan for the unplanned by at least attempting to be early.

#7.  Airport lounges.

If you have some extra space in the budget and time to kill between flights, it may be worth investigating whether your airline and airport have a lounge with a day pass you can buy for your layover.  It may be worth the expense to get away from the traveling masses to give you family space to spread out and usually offer food and beverage options.  If you’re active duty or retired U.S. military, USO lounges are available at airport locations in the United States and internationally.

#8.  Go small.

Another way to avoid crowds on vacation is to stay in a smaller, quiet location.  When seeing a large city, it may be cheaper and more enjoyable to stay on the fringes of a large city and use public transport or rental vehicle to daytrip to the big city.  It’s a great way to save some money and avoid the big city crowds depending on the type of trip experience you are planning.

#9.  Happy Hour.

Another way my husband and I like to save money and time while avoiding the crowds on vacation or even while just treating ourselves in our every-day life is go to a restaurant to eat before the dinner crowd and after the lunch crowd is gone.  Usually our food is freshly made with a shorter wait time and sometimes we can take advantage of discounted happy hour rates on our food and beverages.  Early dinners out also mean we can still get the kids to bed on time or early so it’s a win-win for us!

#10.  Rush hour.

It’s easy to forget while you’re vacationing that other people still have to get to work on time and are still doing the 9 to 5.  I love getting an early start when on vacation to try to pack in as much as possible into my valuable, much anticipated vacation but plan around the work schedule of wherever I am visiting.  For example, you may not want to take the Underground during the work rush in London.  Instead, maybe have a leisurely breakfast and head into the city after most people have arrived at work or have gone home in the evening.  With a little prior planning, you can spend more time connecting with your family and making memories or spend your time wading through crowds and standing in line.