My biggest tip for travelers is to plan ahead. Trust me, you’ll be happy you did when you are passing hundreds of tourists waiting in line at the hottest attraction because you bought your ticket ahead of time.
First off, think about where you want to visit and see if a Museum Pass or CityPass would be worth the cost. For example, a Paris Museum Pass gets you into over 60 popular attractions including the Louvre, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe and Palace of Versailles. You can buy a 2, 4, or 6 day pass and most of the time the card pays for itself in just a couple of visits. Most importantly, these passes typically let you skip straight to the front of the line. Most major cities sell such passes and with the click of a button much of your trip is already taken care of!
When planning my Parisian vacation, I wrote a list all the museums that I knew I wanted to visit and looked up general admission prices. It turned out that visiting 3 museums equaled the amount of a two-day pass. It was an easy decision to buy the pass because I had the option to visit many other attractions if time permitted.
Before you make the purchase be sure that your desired attractions are included and read the fine print for certain restrictions. I was glad to know ahead of time that my pass did not include the Eiffel Tower.
This brings me to my next point: If you don’t want to bother with a pass or a particular attraction isn’t included not all hope is lost, most places still allow you to buy tickets in advance. I bought my tickets to the Eiffel Tower several weeks before my visit. Doing so allowed me to walk straight onto the elevator while hundreds of people were waiting in line to buy their ticket.
While in Amsterdam I didn’t bother with a museum pass because there were only two places I knew that I wanted to visit for sure; the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. For both attractions, I bought my tickets online in advance and walked straight to the front of the line. I saved several hours that were better spent exploring the city.
Helpful Hint: Be sure to print your tickets before you leave AND download a copy onto your phone or tablet for backup.
Not all places offer advance ticket sales. In these cases you just have to bite the bullet and wait in line. I really wanted to visit the Catacombs in Paris but tickets are not available ahead of time. That meant waiting in line for over an hour to buy my ticket. It wasn’t fun but was tolerable as it was the only time during my travels that I had to do so.
If you’re not a planner and would rather fly by the seat of your pants, that’s fine, just remember that a couple of minutes to buy your ticket in advance can save you countless hours and help you better maximize your vacation.
Each time I’d see a line of people standing in the cold I’d want to scream, “Buy your tickets before you come!”. It doesn’t take much effort and wouldn’t you rather spend that time sipping latte’s and taking silly pictures in front of big, red telephone booths?