If you’re like us, being herded like cattle through crowds while traveling can almost completely ruin the experience of a destination. Trust us, we’ve been there – we were at Krka National Park in Croatia in August this year! But people who watch our travel films frequently message us with the question: how come there were not so many people when you visited Machu Picchu/La Mina Falls/the Hawaii National Volcanoes Park? No, we don’t just photograph pockets of spaces with no tourists, while in reality being surrounded by them. We take several deliberate steps to avoid the crowds as much as possible when planning our getaways. Because let’s face it – it’s not called a “getaway” for nothing!
We’d like to add here that we’re not against tourists and travelers journeying through the world. We strongly encourage travel (that’s why we run this website!) but do understand that some (like us) like to escape the crowds when they travel. This is for you!
We also like to encourage off-season travel to build more sustainable tourism worldwide; we can leave large environmental footprints when we flood destinations like Cinque Terre or Machu Picchu without restriction, within a small time frame.
Avoid visiting conventionally popular destinations in June, July, August, December, or January
Seriously. Thinking of visiting Italy, Greece, Croatia, or any of the Mediterranean destinations – or the popular South-East Asian islands in the summer? Hawaii in the summer? Not only do you run the risk of heat exhaustion, but you most likely won’t get to fully enjoy and experience your destination due to long lines, expensive accommodations, and basically… crowds… everywhere! Rome in February versus July is a completely different experience. We were in Croatia this August and the country is stunning. The number of people at Diocletian’s Palace in Split, was also stunning – but for different reasons. These places are tourist hubs for a reason: because they are beautiful. But we strongly recommend you save up on your vacation days and take a trip in the spring/fall to fully experience what these hot-spots have to offer.
Avoid school holidays
June through August, and January through February, tend to be school holidays for many places around the world. This adds more humans to travel destinations. If you’re really looking to avoid the crowds, you’re much better off traveling in the spring or fall.
Try a winter destination in the summer!
You’d be amazed at how beautiful a popular winter destination like Finland can be in the summer. The Finnish Lakeland for example is glorious in the summer. And we have no words to describe Iceland in the summer. Or maybe we do!
Try an off-beat destination
Italy, France, Hawaii, and Indonesia are on almost everyone’s travel bucket list. But how about Estonia, Latvia, Germany, or even Kyrgyzstan? The internet now provides ample opportunities to find paths to explore these lesser known destinations (heck, that’s what we’re trying to do!) I’ve visited Italy every year for the past 5 years, and was slightly sad that I wasn’t going this year. Lo and behold, the little cobble-stoned streets of Tallinn, Estonia, with its beautiful café’s, great restaurants, and romantic castle-top lookouts. Very reminiscent of one of my favorite holiday destinations, sans the price-tag!
Put in time to research less touristy areas of your destination
Sometimes you can’t help where you have to go. Maybe you don’t have the resources to travel often and you can only take time off during the traditional summer months. Do you have to miss out on Italy just because of the crowds? No, but you can avoid the crowds by researching the less touristy gems of any country – yes, even Italy, Greece, Croatia, and France have them! We chose to visit the less known islands of Greek islands of Aegina, Syros and Kefalonia in the summer. We had the beautiful Biokovo Mountains in the Makarska all to ourselves in August. We rented kayaks in Korcula to find hidden islands to ourselves. We chose to visit Bol over Hvar in the summer, and had an incredible (quiet!) time. We rented quadbikes in Santorini to visit Imerovigli and more discreet, out of the way towns and villages on the island. We chose to hike Montaña versus Huayna Picchu when we visited Machu Picchu. We stayed in the Westfjords in Iceland, which receives less than 10% of tourism on the island. Wherever you go, there will be some way you can escape the crowds while still catching the main sights.
Top tip: We usually rent different types of transport to get us away from the crowds. Think quadbikes, kayaks, cars, scooters etc.
Travel off-season. Preferably in the spring or fall of your travel destination
If you do have some wriggle-room on when you can travel and have your heart set on seeing Machu Picchu/Rome/the Louvre, travel off-season as much as possible. You don’t have to be plagued by bad weather when you travel off-season. There’s always a sweet spot as you move from the spring to the summer, or from the summer to fall, when the seas are warm and the crowds are still sparse. Research the off-season times/spring/fall of your destination for fewer crowds and cheaper travel costs on top! (Coming from Sri Lanka, it’s insane to see the hike in prices for the “super-peak” seasons of June through August and December through January for hotels!)
Wake up early
Yeah, I know, we’re not big morning people either. But it’s SO worth the wake-call when you have places like Machu Picchu and Mauna Kea almost to yourself! Not to mention that a spectacular sunrise can actually make your entire trip worth it! Waking up early to avoid the crowds will work in almost every (dare we say every?) destination around the world.
Book accommodation away from resort areas/happening spots
With the rise of Airbnb and Booking.com, it’s easier than ever to find apartments, bungalows, and holiday homes away from the typical resort areas. Unless you are specifically looking for an all-inclusive experience, we recommend you avoid the resort areas if you’re looking to truly getaway. You can still enjoy the culture, restaurant scene, and attractions a location has to offer by staying with Airbnb or Booking.com: stay in Hilo and not Kona on the Big Island, stay on the outskirts of Amalfi and not Amalfi town or Positano, and so on.
Google “top places to stay in [your travel destination].” Don’t stay there
If you’re really trying to avoid the crowds, you shouldn’t stay at the top resorts a location has to offer. That would be for a different experience entirely. You can find beautiful, comfortable, even luxurious accommodations without the crowds easily enough. Start with Airbnb and Booking.com!
Adjust your meal times
Restaurants can get really crowded if you have to travel during peak tourist season. Opt to have dinner early (especially if you’re planning on waking up early! ;)) if you’re trying to avoid lines and long waits for your food.
Avoid mass-organized tours
Now this is just a personal choice, but pertinent if you’re trying to avoid the crowds: don’t travel with one! It’s now easier than ever to plan your vacation online (the Internet also has some good aspects to it!). Use Airbnb and Booking.com to find accommodation, read up on your destinations beforehand, visit a local tourist office for more information once you get there, and you’ll be good to go, sans a crowd of people with you!
Get local recommendations
This can be hard to find, but when you do, it can be really worth it. It’s worth talking to locals: if you’re shy, try asking your waiter, waitress, bartender, or hotel receptionist/host to recommend any out of the way, local spots for you to visit. That’s how we ended up at Laupāhoehoe Point, Hilo, on the Big Island.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can even get local recommendations in print, like Andrew Doughty’s “Oahu Revealed.” Here, we don’t mean guides written for large companies by locals. We mean guides written by locals for a certain destination only.
Take the recommendations of Lonely Planet/Frommer’s etc., with a grain of salt
Speaking of the large-scale publishing of country guides: I have a love-hate relationship with Lonely Planet. On the one hand, it’s helpful to have the book when I’m planning travel to a completely unknown destination. On the other, I’ve found that they almost always exclusively send me to the conventionally tourist-developed areas in terms of recommendations. I understand this occurs for a number of reasons, so it’s best to put in the time to research destinations online and use Lonely Planet (if you must) to sparsely to map out the “must-see” destinations. If it’s on Lonely Planet, chances are, others have seen it and you won’t be alone (especially if you’re traveling during peak times). I’ve come to see travel blogs and online forums as a good way to plan your vacation, especially since they usually include pictures and videos so I can see for myself. This is not just because we run a travel website, honestly – we just prioritize traveling without the crowds as much as possible and need to find the most strategic ways to do it!
Do you have any tips to avoid the crowds while traveling? Leave us a comment below!
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As always, be a conscious traveler: Take nothing, and leave nothing behind. Be conscious, be welcome! Read more about conscious travel here.