5 Tips for surviving and thriving in a crowd

Posted By Allison on May 23, 2012


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Mount Rushmore in peak season

Have you ever visited a fun place or event that was so crowded it wasn’t fun? In theory, our family prefers to avoid the crowds and travel in the off-season but I’ve noticed lately that isn’t what we actually do.

In recent years, my husband’s work and my children’s school schedules dictate that we travel at the same time everyone else does: Spring Break, summer vacation and weekends. Here are some tips for making traveling with the herd more fun.

Disneyland in June

Think like a crowd

Don’t be surprised. Expect crowds any time you are visiting:

  • A special event, like a fair, festival or concert
  • A family-friendly destination during a school holiday or weekend
  • Anywhere with great weather during a school holiday or weekend
  • Anything free that you usually pay for, like a popular museum

Expect the crowd to be larger than you think it will be. If you expect a huge crowd and plan for it, your day will be better. You might be pleasantly surprised if it’s not as crowded as you planned.

Make a Plan

Learn everything you can about the destination or event before you leave to avoid unpleasant surprises. Find the answers to the following questions:

  • Do we know exactly where we are going and best routes to get there? Consider that streets are sometimes blocked for special events.
  • Where will we park and how much are we willing to spend on parking?
  • Are shuttles or public transportation a good alternative?
  • For young children, will strollers be helpful or will they slow us down in heavy crowds? What are our other options?
  • How early should we be there to ensure a good experience?

ARRIVE EARLY!

I can’t stress that enough. Even on the busiest days, most people don’t show up until an hour or two after an attraction opens. If you are there at the rope drop, you will be able to enjoy the best parts first and then move on to other things when the lines grow long.

I’ve noticed that lots of people like to leave before an event ends to beat the crowds out of the parking lot. When I’ve paid to enjoy a concert, athletic event, etc., I’m going to experience ALL of it. If that means that I have to wait afterward to get out of the venue or parking lot, so be it. Those who miss the end just make it easier for the rest of us. Thanks!

Paul McCartney Concert – notice how early we are?

Change your attitude

Instead of becoming grumpy or angry when you get stuck in a crowd, lighten up and make the best of it. When I’m grumpy, my children seem to throw more tantrums and fight with each other, which makes me more grumpy… and into the downward spiral we go. Decide that you’re okay and that you are going to have a good day and it might become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Be flexible

Adjust your routine or itinerary as needed. You’ll avoid crowds at mealtimes if you eat early or late. June might be the best time for your family to visit Southern California, but can you visit Disneyland mid-week and save a less popular attraction for the weekend?

Always have a back-up plan. Sometimes we learn new things after we arrive at our destination and change plans as we go.

Sometimes the crowds are just too much and it’s time to cut your losses. Is there a less-crowded attraction nearby that might be a fun alternative? Is it practical to return to your hotel pool for a few hours and then return later?

Festival of Trees at Christmas

Have fun

Most theme parks, festivals and museums bring out their best stuff and lengthen their hours on crowded days. Get the map and schedule of events, preferably in advance, and plan your day around your favorites. Arrive early for shows and parades. You, and especially your kids, will enjoy them more if you have a good seat.

Heavy crowds may keep you from seeing and doing everything, but they can’t keep you from having a good day. The important thing is to make good memories, even if they are the kind you’ll laugh about later.

What are your best strategies for surviving crowds?

12 Comments

  1. I don’t mind crowds as long as it is not hot outside and I am not hungry. I can do almost anything cheerfully if I am full and cool 🙂

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  2. I’m with you on the arrive early and stay late! Luckily, my kids’ current school has a holiday schedule that’s different from every other school. We’ve been able to do some traveling or even just hitting the local sights without a crowd. The one big way that my husband and I differ is that he actively dislikes crowds whereas I tend to get a positive energy vibe off of them. If we happen upon a festival, I want to dive right in. He’d rather go back to the hotel.

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    • That is lucky! I prefer to avoid the crowd any day, but I’d rather be where the fun is than sit at home.

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  3. We also try to travel in the off-season especially the theme parks and National Parks. It has been wonderful to have trails to ourselves and not be stuck in road traffic. Sometimes, they’re just unavoidable and we do end up staying late. I totally agree with you about flexibility and back up plans. Our rule with theme park lines close to home is if it’s longer than 15 minutes, we’ll come back another day. Hubby dislikes crowds and lines too.

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    • It sounds like you’ve got it figured out for your family. Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Ugh I dislike crowds horribly! You are right though, if I am crabby then my son and my husband gets crabbier, so I have to make sure that I stay calm and happy, even if I am inwardly seething because otherwise things just go from bad to worse. Just experienced it first hand recently here while traveling through LA traffic while on our trip to California. I agree with getting there early, it does make a difference. Thanks for the tips :).

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    • I think everyone feels that way about SoCal traffic. My husband and his siblings still laugh about learning a few new swear words from their dad on their family vacation to Disneyland years ago. I’m wondering, was the trip worth putting up with the traffic and crowds in that area, or have you decided that you would rather travel to less crowded places from now on? I don’t think there is one right answer to that question. I know my answer, but it’s different for everyone.

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  5. It looks like we were both thinking about the same things this week. Great minds think alike! Great tips for making the most of crowded days.

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  6. Love your tip to expect huge crowds so you can be surprised when it’s not as bad as you built it up to be.

    We homeschool so we do have the flexibility of traveling during off seasons. My husband also has definite low times at work- which happen to fall in the winter when less people are traveling (depending on where you’re headed). This has really spoiled us to the point that we are often disappointed when we run into crowds. I’m beginning to think our definition of crowded is a bit warped.

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