Steves

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - TRAVEL -

Fo­rum in peace, kick up sand on lonely Adri­atic beaches, and stroll by Big Ben in Lon­don as you won­der “Where are the tourists?”

RE­SEARCH SHORT­CUTS

Use an up-to-date guide­book. Even at the most packed sights, there’s of­ten a strat­egy that can break you out of the herd, whether it’s a side en­trance with a shorter wait, a guided tour that in­cludes jump­ing the ticket line, a bet­ter place in town to pick up your ticket, or a pass with line-skip­ping priv­i­leges. Some­times get­ting in more eas­ily is just a mat­ter of pick­ing the right door. Grand as the Lou­vre’s main en­trance is, that glass pyra­mid stops look­ing im­pres­sive as you wait — and wait — to get through se­cu­rity. You can’t by­pass se­cu­rity checks, but you’ll en­counter shorter lines if you use the less-crowded un­der­ground en­trance.

Self-ser­vice ticket ma­chines can pro­vide a faster way in. On my last trip to St. Peters­burg, Rus­sia, I bought my ticket to the Her­mitage at a kiosk and walked right past a ticket line bulging with cruise-ship trav­el­ers — and within min­utes was en­joy­ing the czars’ grand art col­lec­tion. Many mu­se­ums now also of­fer con­ve­nient mo­bile tick­et­ing, sav­ing time and pa­per.

BUY AD­VANCE TICK­ETS OR PASSES

Many pop­u­lar sights, like the Anne Frank House in Am­s­ter­dam, sell ad­vance tick­ets on­line that guar­an­tee ad­mis­sion at a cer­tain time (of­ten with a small book­ing fee that’s well worth it). Given how pre­cious your va­ca­tion time is, it makes sense to get reser­va­tions for any must-see sight that of­fers them — it’s worth giv­ing up some spon­tane­ity.

Many cities of­fer a city­wide sight­see­ing pass. These of­ten can save you se­ri­ous time as well as money. For ex­am­ple, Paris’ Mu­seum Pass cov­ers many top sights and al­lows you to skip ticket-buy­ing lines. Combo-tick­ets can save time, too. Buy the ticket at the less-pop­u­lar sight and avoid the ticket-buy­ing line at the pop­u­lar sight. You can wait in line at Madrid’s Prado Mu­seum — or buy a combo-ticket at the less-traf­ficked Reina Sofia Mu­seum.

AVOID THE BEATEN PATH

Visit less-well-known des­ti­na­tions. The beaches of Greece’s Pelo­pon­nesian Penin­sula en­joy the same weather and wa­ter as the highly pro­moted isles of San­torini and Ios, but are won­der­fully de­serted. If you’re trav­el­ing by car, take ad­van­tage of your mo­bil­ity by leav­ing the well-worn tourist routes. The Eu­rope away from the train tracks is less ex­pen­sive and feels more peace­ful and re­laxed.

No mat­ter how well-con­ceived your plans, it’s in­evitable that at some point you’ll find your­self packed shoul­der-to-shoul­der with other visi­tors, but equipped with these crowd-beat­ing strate­gies, you can elude the worst of the hec­tic tourist rou­tine and make the most of all Eu­rope has to of­fer.

Rick Steves’ Eu­rope/DO­MINIC ARI­ZONA BONUC­CELLI

Paris’ Lou­vre Mu­seum is fa­mously crammed with tourists and school groups, but by us­ing its less-crowded un­der­ground en­trance in­stead of the one in the cen­tral court­yard, you can by­pass a lot of that.

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