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Traveling is an adventure, and you probably want to make the most of every minute—especially if you’re on a faraway, once-in-a-lifetime getaway. Unfortunately, long lines that suck an hour (or more) out of your day tend to be part of the experience. Thankfully, there are some tried-and-true methods for beating the crowds at even the most popular tourist attractions.
Check for skip-the-line tickets
The extra fee tacked onto queue-jump tickets is invaluable when you consider how much more time you’ll get to spend gazing at exhibits instead of staring at the back of someone’s head in line. Buy an express pass from official vendors of sites like the Roman Colosseum or Tokyo’s Sky Tree, or hunt down third-party fast-track options. If you’re more worried about mobs of people than that initial wait in line, learn how to beat the crowds at 15 popular tourist attractions.
Snag your ticket ahead of time
At some attractions, skipping the line doesn’t cost you any extra money—just a little bit of extra planning. The Eiffel Tower, for instance, doesn’t have an official skip-the-line option, but buying passes up to 60 days ahead of time means you’ll blow straight past the ticketing line and get a jump ahead at security.
At the Vatican, you can reserve your tickets two months in advance, too; the Acropolis in Athens gives you the flexibility to arrive any time of day, even if you pick a specific hour. If you’re the type who likes to plan out itineraries ahead of time, options like these are no-brainers. Before you book, though, make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into—you might want to skip the 50 most overrated tourist attractions in the world.
Sign up for a small group tour
If you didn’t plan ahead, you can still find a way around the long lines by signing up with a local tour provider that has access. In Europe, for example, City Wonders has exclusive partnerships with major attractions all over the continent, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Colosseum, the Vatican, and the Sistine Chapel. Signing up with the group gives you options that can include no-wait entry, skip-the-line privileges, early admission, and access to areas closed off to the general public.
Buy a city-wide pass
For those who want to squeeze in as much as possible rather than focusing on one must-see attraction, a pass that covers the whole city could be a good option. For instance, the London Pass lets you skip the line at big-name spots like St. Paul’s Cathedral and the London Zoo. For stateside visits, you’ll want to look into CityPASS; it has options for 13 cities around the country, plus Toronto. Not every attraction includes expedited entry, but you can avoid the main line at some attractions, such as Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary and the Skydeck Chicago.
Get a group together
Traveling in packs can be a blessing, and not just because of the great company. Plenty of museums and attractions would rather know about and plan around large groups, speeding them through their visits—starting with the line. At the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., for instance, groups of 20 or more can get quicker entry starting May 2019. Better yet, beat the crowds altogether by passing on the well-known spots and visiting the most underrated travel destinations in the world.