May 31, 2021

Getting the Most Out of a Tourist Attraction

By Joyce Venezia Suss

If your idea of vacation fun includes spontaneity and last-minute adventures, this column is not for you. These suggestions are designed for travelers who want to visit their must-see places with no surprises or hassles. Planning ahead is the golden rule.

Make a wish list of what you want to see, then prepare to narrow your choices. New places can be sensory overload, and exhausting for children and sometimes even seasoned travelers. If an attraction is large, pick your highlights, whether in a museum, national park or amusement park like Six Flags Great Adventure. If it’s more than just a day trip, create a daily schedule, and leave some time at the beginning or end of each day to relax.

Research the attraction. Read online reviews and recommendations on travel review sites such as Trip Advisor, Expedia or Yelp. 

Consider weekday or evening visits. Weekends are typically the most crowded times for popular attractions. Some places offer special evening hours. Mondays and Tuesdays are often the least-crowded days.

Don’t waste time on ticket lines. Buy tickets in advance online, then print out or save a QR scannable code to your cell phone. Another advantage: You may get discounts, or save money on multi-day passes. If you live near a large city, it may be worthwhile to get an annual membership, so you can visit as often as you like.

Verify opening hours right before you go. Some attractions may not be open seven days a week, or may be closed for a private event. Many museums are routinely closed one day a week. Check the website or, even better, call and speak to a customer service representative.

Look up the exact address, get precise directions and parking information, and estimate your travel time, whether by car or public transit. Don’t start the day on a bad note by getting lost or ending up at the wrong entrance gate. Google Maps has a feature where you can enter the time you plan to leave, which gives a more accurate estimate of arrival time based on past averages and current road conditions. If the attraction has an exact start time, be sure to arrive early.

At museums, consider guided tours or audio guides. This can be especially helpful in large museums with many themed halls. Instead of just gazing at exhibits, you will be enlightened and fascinated. And if you have questions, a docent will be happy to answer them or maybe provide a demonstration.

At amusement parks, start with rides at the back of the park, not the main entrance. Or walk counter-clockwise, which often moves faster. Consider getting an express pass that allows you to skip long lines.

A backpack provides hands-free storage for water bottles, snacks, sunscreen, disposable wipes and more. It’s also a great place to keep smart phones most of the time, so you can actually enjoy the experience. Take them out occasionally for a must-have photo, but resist the urge to check your text messages and email.