Somehow I had found out about Harbour Island, an isolated spot in the Bahamas that sounded like an ideal place to get away from it all. It required an overnight flight from Los Angeles to Miami, then a connection to Nassau, followed by a flight to Eleuthera, and then a ferry boat to Harbour Island, but it was going to be worth it.
What I didn’t know was that the crew of a TV show called “Eye on L.A.” would be staying in the same hotel I had booked, and that they would be pointing their cameras at us.
Eventually they had enough footage of me in a bathing suit, I guess; after a few days they left. We wound up having a nice time on Harbour Island’s beautiful Pink Sand Beach.
The point is, though, that no matter where one travels, other travelers will be there, too. On any given weekend, you can expect to encounter scores of other climbers as you attempt to scale Mount Everest. And if you’re headed for the Louvre or St. Mark’s Square in Venice, you don’t really think you’re going to have the place to yourself, do you?
Sometimes being in a crowd is part of the fun — bowl games or Bourbon Street come to mind — but most times, it’s preferable to have some elbow room. Here are things I’ve tried over the years to avoid, or at least reduce, the crush of tourists…
Arrive early — or late. Find out the hours of attractions. If the doors open at 8 a.m. and you’re standing there with a ticket in hand, you’ll probably be at least an hour ahead of the throngs, who are still finishing breakfast.
Many museums are open late on certain nights: The Metropolitan in New York doesn’t close until 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, for instance. We have been able to admire artwork without being jostled because at that hour, the midday visitors are now jamming into restaurants for dinner.
Avoid the High Season. Obviously, if you’re planning a ski trip, you want to go when there’s snow on the ground. The week between Christmas and New Year’s is a possibility, but you’ll be sharing the mountain with many other people who had the same thought. If you have the flexibility to schedule your trip in mid-to-late February, lift lines will be shorter and there will still be plenty of snow.
Crowds at some tourist destinations vary on a daily basis. While in Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula, we were considering a day trip to Cozumel, an island off the coast. It occurred to me to go online and check out the cruise ship schedule. Some days as many as six ships — and their thousands of passengers — were in port, but on Sunday there were zero. That proved to be a great time to go, since even the trinket vendors seemed to be taking the day off.
Get a guide. We have tried this a few times and gotten mixed results. The principal advantage is that a licensed guide is able to lead you past the long lines of people waiting to buy tickets at, say, Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. The principal disadvantage is that guides tend to assume that you hired them to talk for several hours without taking a breath.
Those are some of my strategies, and you may have your own ways of opening some space around you at tourist attractions. Hey… you aren’t the guy who faked that sneezing fit in the Smithsonian, are you?