Who doesn’t love traveling? Most of us spend months planning the perfect vacation – and, of course, one of the greatest sources of inspiration for future travels are the gorgeous photos we see published by travel agencies or displayed on the perfectly manicured Instagram accounts of various travel influencers.
Finding inspiration for your travel is important, but you also need to be realistic and understand that most destinations won’t completely reflect the promotional images you generally see online. Those photos are usually taken by professional photographers (or, at least, very experienced social media influencers) who pick the best angles and the best moments of the day to get the shot. It’s not to say that the popular tourist destinations are not gorgeous and absolutely worth visiting – but a bit of expectation management will help avoid being underwhelmed while on holiday.
The phenomenon even has a name: the Paris syndrome, which is a sense of disappointment that some tourists visiting Paris experience because they feel that the city is not how they imagined or how they saw it in pictures and movies.
The more popular a destination is, the more you see it reflected in the media, and the higher the chances you’ll have unrealistic expectations about it. In order to combat this common phenomenon and help you start your holiday on the right foot, check out our list of some of the most popular tourist destinations worldwide and what to expect from each:
1. The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is truly a wonder of engineering and what humans are capable of building. Since the wall is great indeed, with a total length of over 13,000 miles, you can access it in multiple locations. Most international tourists choose to visit the wall areas close to the capital city of Beijing. These areas are also well-restored, so it makes sense to visit here. However, don’t expect to stroll down romantic fortifications, enjoying the scenery with no one in sight. The wall, as you can imagine, is a very popular destination, and chances are you’ll share the privilege of seeing it with many, many other people.
2. Tour Eiffel, Paris
Speaking of Paris and the Paris syndrome, the Eiffel Tower is the city’s iconic landmark that everyone wants to see – and take a great photo with. However, there are not only droves of tourists around the Eiffel Tower but also a huge number of souvenirs and knick knack sellers trying to tempt you with everything from balloons to T-shirts and replicas of the tower. Still, it’s totally worth visiting. Just be advised that it might take a while to obtain that perfect Tour Eiffel pic (without other 10 to 20 people in the frame).
3. Venice, Italy
One of the world’s most unique cities, Venice is also an incredibly popular destination for tourists from all over the world. Over five million people visit Venice every year, a city known for its canals, narrow alleys, and many bridges. As a result, Venice tends to be pretty crowded, particularly around its most famous landmarks, such as St. Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace and Rialto Bridge.
4. Santorini, Greece
Santorini is a very Instagrammable place, a small Mediterranean island with traditional towns and villages featuring whitewashed houses, bright blue roofs, and cobblestone streets lined with colorful flowerpots. Of course, ideally, you would be walking along those streets at sunset, absorbing all its beauty and enjoying it in tranquility. In fact, crowds of people are massing on the streets of its popular Oia and Fira towns virtually every evening, waiting to take the perfect pic of said sunset.
5. The Taj Mahal
Located in the Indian city of Agra, the white marble Taj Mahal has a rather romantic backstory – the beautiful building was commissioned by emperor Shah Jahan I to house the tomb of his wife. The tomb is the centerpiece of a large complex that includes formal gardens, a mosque, and other buildings. It’s one of the world’s most famous and most visited places – so don’t expect unobstructed views.
Enjoying gelato in Rome, on its famous Spanish Steps – now that’s a scenario that many tourists planning to visit Rome play in their heads. It’s no wonder, then, that said steps are pretty crowded, and it will take a while until you find a spot to enjoy your ice cream.
Moving on to domestic destinations, Yellowstone is one place where people generally expect peace and quiet. And you can absolutely get that, as Yellowstone is huge – all you need to do is get off the beaten path. However, the most famous national attractions in the park, such as the Old Faithful geyser, might be a bit more populated than you envisioned.
8. Central Park in New York City
We all expect NYC to be crowded, so there are no unrealistic assumptions there. It’s part of the experience, in fact. Times Square would not be Time Square without all the animation. However, you might not realize that even Central Park is teeming with people all day, every day, so don’t expect solitary walks in its alleys
9. Niagara Falls
When planning to visit Niagara Falls, you probably think about all those panoramic views of the waterfall you so often admired in images and videos. However, you should know that visiting Niagara Falls also involves being splashed alongside dozens of other people.
10. The Grand Canyon
Sun rising on the Grand Canyon is truly a natural spectacle – and you should experience it if you have the chance. Of course, you’ll have to share the moment with many, many other tourists, but it will be an unforgettable view, nonetheless.
Here’s how to avoid crowds while traveling
Adjusting your expectations while traveling is a very good way of ensuring you’ll have a nice vacation. However, if you want the picture-perfect holiday, there are ways of ensuring you get as close to that as possible. Here are some ideas on how to avoid crowds while traveling:
1. Take your time
Recent societal developments, such as the adoption of remote working policies for a good portion of the workforce, allow us to travel differently and more extensively. You could, for example, take the digital nomad route and work from abroad for several months or even longer. This way, you’ll be able to visit popular attractions off season, or during those times of day when they are less likely to be crowded.
Relocating abroad for a few months, or longer, can be an adjustment, but it allows you to leisurely visit multiple locations while paying for the long-distance flight only once. If you consider taking the plunge, you need to first organize things at home. Talk to your employer to ensure that you can indeed work from abroad, find accommodations at your new destination, and don’t forget to put your car and other belongings in self storage (this way, you won’t have to pay rent while you’re away).
Check out self storage availability and costs in some of the country’s major cities:
2. RVing is an option
Speaking of working remotely, you can combine that with a long, cross-country, RV trip, that allows you to visit popular tourist attractions at your leisure. RVing is becoming increasingly popular, and you’ll easily find campsites along the way and other services catering to RV travelers.
3. Combine popular attractions with lesser-known ones
Do a bit of research before traveling and identify interesting, albeit not quite as famous, tourist attractions located close to the main ones you plan on visiting. This allows you to check out all the “must-see” places while saving time for quieter, off the beaten path locations that will offer just as much joy.
4. Check out crowd calendars
Many popular attractions publish crowd calendars online, or the estimated number of visitors based on previous seasons. If that’s not available, you can also tap into Google’s “popular times” feature (and, obviously, avoid those times).
5. Take into account local events, holidays, or festivals, before booking your tickets
Holidays, festivals, and other local events can make a city, or a particular attraction, a lot more crowded than usual or, on the contrary, inaccessible. If you were a foreign tourist in the US, you wouldn’t want to come during Thanksgiving, right? Traveling is madness, and almost everything is closed – definitely not a good time to be a tourist. Do proper research before traveling anywhere to avoid such an unpleasant scenario from happening to you.