17 Secrets to Avoiding Crowds on a Road Trip

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A sunset over Monument Valley with wide open roads.

Whether you want to social distance or you just don’t like big groups of people, avoiding crowds on a road trip can significantly improve your experience. If you plan a road trip, you don’t have to fight crowds the entire time. We want to share some secrets to help you have an incredible road trip. Let’s take a look.

Crowded Attractions Can Ruin a Road Trip

Overcrowded attractions can easily ruin your experience. The noise and commotion can become overwhelming and feel a bit suffocating. Often, tourists don’t think about others and walk in front of you and use loud voices. Even if the rude behaviors aren’t intentional, they can still put you in a foul mood.

You can still enjoy many attractions with a crowd, but it’s hard to beat an amazing sight without any distractions. Taking in a landscape or enjoying a hike through a National Park is much easier with fewer people.

17 Secrets to Avoiding Crowds on a Road Trip

While it’s not always possible to skip crowds altogether, here are some things you can do to avoid busy locations. Let’s get started!

1. Travel During the Off-Season

Much like the weather, tourist attractions and destinations have seasons. If you hope to enjoy a location without crowds, you’ll likely be disappointed if you travel during its busiest times. 

Peak season will vary based on location and the type of activity. Winter in Florida is the peak season for many retired adults, but summer and holiday breaks from school are the busiest seasons for families.

Plan your trip before or after this time to still enjoy the weather and avoid large crowds.

Disneyland princess castle is pretty empty on an off-season day.

2. Travel During the Work Week

A majority of people will likely have school or work during the week. Because they’re less likely to be out enjoying an attraction or activity, this means fewer crowds for you to battle. 

You may find that the epic trail crowded with loud hikers over the weekend is silent during the week.

Consider planning your drive days for the weekend and entertainment days during the week. This can provide the fewest crowds at the activities that matter most to you.

Most people like their beauty sleep and don’t like getting up early. Awaking by dawn is a beautiful time to go hiking, watch the sunrise, or go sightseeing without people getting in your way. You may find a few people who follow suit, but early morning hours work great to beat crowds. And you’ll save even more time in your day for more activities. 

Additionally, many people plan to spend the day at popular locations. They’ll likely bring snacks and lunch, so they don’t have to leave to find something to eat. However, this means that at dinner time, their stomachs and picnic baskets are both empty.

Guests will likely leave seeking to fill their bellies, and you can enjoy the popular location with fewer people. This can mean enjoying some of the best sunsets with the fewest number of people.

A beautiful sunrise on the coast with an empty highway.

For some places, it’s pretty easy to predict the most popular times. However, some locations and attractions may be a bit harder to figure out. Luckily, technology makes it much easier for us.

When you research locations and attractions to visit, you likely use the popular search engine Google to find information. Google harnesses data from users who have opted in for giving them access to their location history. 

They use this data to create a relatively accurate prediction of the busiest times to visit locations and attractions. You can use this information to plan your day around peak times.

5. Head Off the Beaten Path

Trails form as a result of person after person traveling the same route. While we don’t condone blazing your own trail in the wilderness, you can go against the grain by visiting less-known locations. Traveling off the beaten path helps you discover new and exciting attractions.

For example, Calaveras Big Trees State Park in California often gets overlooked by Redwood National Park. They both offer opportunities to experience some of the largest trees in the world, but Redwood National Park has more than double the attendance of Calaveras. If you want to avoid the crowds, a state park may still offer an impressive experience.

6. Hit the Trails

Hiking is a popular activity that can allow you to get some fresh air and experience nature. Whether at a state park or a national park, the most popular trails are typically shorter and easier hikes. If you want to hike in relative solitude and silence, it may require some effort.

The crowds tend to thin out on the more difficult or longer trails. Not everyone is physically capable of completing these hikes, and if you come prepared, this can be a great way to avoid crowds.

A mountain trail with wildflowers along the side.

7. Avoid Traveling on Major Holidays or Holiday Weekends

Traveling over major holidays or holiday weekends can be a nightmare. Not only are the attractions busy, but so are the roads, fuel stations, and restaurants. 

It’s the perfect storm for those looking to avoid crowds. If crowds bother you, it’s best to avoid traveling altogether during these periods.

8. Stay in One Place Longer

If you go on an extended road trip, staying in one place longer allows you to discover the ebb and flow of an area. You also won’t need to experience it all in a short amount of time so that you won’t feel rushed during your stay. 

Whether the slower times are during the week or at night, staying longer gives you more opportunities to enjoy all the area offers. 

9. Use Less-Than-Perfect Weather to Your Advantage

Everyone wants to visit during the perfect weather conditions, which often means crowds. By visiting during less-than-perfect weather, you can get almost the same experience, but with fewer people. You can still enjoy many things no matter the weather.

Whether you visit a theme park or hike a trail, the crowds tend to thin out as the weather conditions worsen. The rain has a way of expelling those that aren’t as committed to the experience. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, this could be the best time to avoid crowds.

Pro Tip: When disaster does strike, be prepared with a robust emergency kit.

A rainy day gray day on a wet highway with trees turning fall colors along the sides.

10. Avoid Waiting in Lines by Buying Skip-The-Line Tickets

Many theme parks and other experiences that require waiting in line will often offer to up-sell you passes that allow you to skip the wait. 

Very few people like waiting in long lines, especially if they try to avoid crowds. While these passes can cost more, you may consider it to get the most enjoyment out of your experience.

11. Do Your Own Research

When you hire a travel guide to show you around, they’ll often take you to the popular places that everyone wants to see. If you do your own research, you can find some hidden gems that many others walk by.

This can also help you to create a trip customized for you. If you or one of your traveling companions is passionate about something, you can tailor your trip to ensure everyone sees something they like. 

12. Book a Private Tour

Many popular attractions offer experiences that include private tours. This can be a unique experience where you learn more about the place than you would have otherwise and avoid crowds. These tours may even allow behind-the-scenes access and avoid having to mingle with large groups.

13. Camp on BLM Land

With the massive surge in RVing in recent years, campgrounds fill up fast. It’s easy to understand that many new RV owners want campsites to enjoy their RV. However, this can cause frustration for those RVers who prefer more space than a campground can offer.

Camping on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other public lands can allow you to find campsites with lots of open space. However, boondocking on public land requires more preparation and having specific tools and equipment. 

Not every RVer has these items, and it makes camping in these locations more challenging. However, if you enjoy camping with lots of room to spread out, you can find some great land managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

A single tent is camped on the side of a lake on BLM land.

14. Book an Airbnb

Large tourist spots often host sites for massive conferences. If you stay in a hotel with a large meeting or many tourists, you might get a bit overwhelmed. But just because you don’t like crowds doesn’t mean you can’t still visit tourist spots.

Booking an Airbnb can provide you a home-like atmosphere to return to after a day of exploring a tourist-filled city. You can have many of the comforts of home and still enjoy all it has to offer.

15. Road Trip in an RV

Road tripping with your RV means you don’t have to worry about where you’ll sleep that night. RVs also have many features like kitchens and other appliances that mean you don’t have to go to a crowded restaurant just because you’re on the road. RVs can provide a comfortable way to explore and avoid crowds while on a trip.

A solo RV travels across an empty windy forest road.

16. Talk to the Locals

Some of the most popular places may not necessarily be the best. Local people can often look past the glitz, glamour, and bright lights that many tourist traps use to lure in people. 

Locals know the area the best. They can provide you with a tremendous amount of information, recommendations and help you make the most of your time in the area.

If the opportunity presents itself, ask a local for their input to help shape your time in their town or city. You might find a great restaurant or experience that travel blogs or Facebook groups haven’t discovered yet.

17. Find Your Own Photo Op

Many cities and crowded tourist locations have popular photo spots that everyone wants to visit. However, there’s more than one place in Hollywood to take your picture with the famous Hollywood sign in the background.

You don’t have to visit the same place as everyone else to take that classic picture. You may find a park or sidewalk that offers a similar view or a unique angle that others overlook with a little research.

Sunset yellow rays flow over mountain tops and make an empty highway glow golden.

Avoiding the Crowds While Traveling Is Possible with Extra Planning

With a little bit of effort, you can still have an incredible time on a road trip and still avoid crowds. Crowds can cause a frustrating and disappointing experience, especially if you were looking forward to it. Doing your research and having a solid plan can ensure you and those you travel with have the best trip possible.

No matter how much time you plan to spend, make sure you go on every road trip with some flexibility. Be willing to adjust as it unfolds and manage your expectations appropriately. Don’t let one bad experience ruin the rest of your experience. Allow yourself to feel the emotions of the moment, but don’t fixate on the bad.

Road trips can be exciting adventures that allow you to make some incredible memories. We hope these secrets help you have a great experience on your next trip. What are some of your favorite tips for avoiding crowds while on a road trip?

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