If you have ever been to a major tourist attraction – whether in a big city or at a rural site, it does not really make a difference – then you will know that standing on your feet, in the sun, waiting in a long line can be an absolute killjoy. It can zap the life right out of you when all you want to do is take a nap after a long, well-deserved foot massage. And, if that sounds melodramatic, then perhaps you have never been in this situation before, because it seems to be a universal experience.
The good news is that there are definitely tricks of the trade to avoid these scenarios to begin with, if you know what you are doing of course. Let’s take a quick look at some ways to avoid the long lines. Be warned, in some cases, there is simply no getting around the fact that there will be lines, but you can still lessen the load in pretty much every case.
Know the seasons, and go when the tide is low
Just like how the tide rises and falls like a sine curve with the day and night cycle, so too does the current of tourists at different times of the year. Typically, family trips peak in the summer, when schools get off. In Europe, August is usually the time when the breadwinners of the family take their allotted time off to tour other parts of Europe and the world. Holiday seasons such as Halloween and Easter time are obviously other periods when things get busy.
Thus, to avoid the busiest times, go when others are not. This applies to days of the week, as well. Weekends will be busier at the British Museum than say, on a Tuesday morning. Going later in the day to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa will probably mean fewer people as well.
Plan in Advance
If you make reservations at certain sites, your benefit of foresight will allow you to skip some freakishly long lines that can seem downright endless. Some notorious cases in Europe of snake-like lines include Rome’s Vatican Museum, Florence’s famous galleries (the Accademiaand the Uffizi), the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, and the Eiffel Tower in Paris. These are just to name a few, of course, but bypassing these lines is as simple as doing a bit of homework and getting advance reservations. Make sure to smile at the poor souls in line as you bypass, because they just might be grumpy to see you getting through so easily. And saving time and energy this way means you will be good to go, fully taking advantage of those Rome Opera Tickets you managed to nab.
Look for Shortcuts
No, this does not mean cutting a line, or doing anything illegal. However, there usually are unorthodox ways around things and strategies that reward you for not just following the herd. Side doors, guided tours, a different ticket vendor with shorter lines, or special combo passes that will let you bypass waits. The Louvre, for example, has a secondary, underground entrance, while Venice’s St. Mark’s Basilica has a bag check pass (as long as you have something to check) that lets you skip to the front of the line.
The top attractions in Europe are notorious for long lines and extended waits so be sure to know the best time to visit, plan in advance and look for shortcuts and you’ll be on your way to getting more time for enjoyment and less time standing around.