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Avoid The Crowd When You Travel, And Still See The Sites

James Melzer
Crowds wait to enter the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy

Summertime means the height of tourist season for many destinations in the northern hemisphere. That can mean big crowds at museums and other popular sites.

But KPLU travel expert Matthew Brumley says there are ways to avoid the crowds.

Off-Season Travel

The dead of winter is a great time to see Europe, but anytime between October through March should work, Brumley said. The weather isn’t as nice, of course, but if you’re planning mostly indoor activities, what’s the difference?

“Instead of standing elbow-to-elbow in the Botticelli Room at the Uffizi Gallery, you can do as the brochures portray and walk through the museums almost by yourself,” he said. “After, have a great bottle of wine and linger in a restaurant for hours.”

You’ll also get to interact with locals more – they’re not avoiding the city center, and they’re not annoyed that their town is swarming with people.

On-Season Travel

But you don’t have to bundle up for a winter vacation to have a less congested travel experience.

Pick cities from “the B-list.”

“I was just in Belgium, and Bruges was bustling with tour buses, and crowds, everywhere you turned,” Brumley said. “And yet, the city of Ghent, just 45 minutes away, there was no one there.”

Instead of going to Cortona in Italy, the town made famous by the book and film “Under the Tuscan Sun,” try Spello – 20 minutes away, equally as beautiful, and much less crowded.

Also, try staying just a little out of town.

A bed and breakfast or a vacation rental in the country offers a much different – and perhaps much calmer – experience than a hotel in the middle of a major city. Many are just a bus or train ride away from the city center, too, which means you can get the best of both worlds.


Going Places is KPLU's weekly exploration of travel topics, from nearby getaways to far-flung destinations. Matthew Brumley is the co-founder of Earthbound Expeditions on Bainbridge Island, which arranges small-group travel for clients including KPLU. Share your thoughts on this piece, or give us tips for future segments, in the comments below.

Ed Ronco is a former KNKX producer and reporter and hosted All Things Considered for seven years.