After you’ve spent thousands of dollars on your vacation and have diligently waited for it to arrive, the last thing you want to do more of is wait.
Unfortunately, if you are headed to some popular destinations, like major theme parks, national monuments or other landmarks, more waiting is probably on your vacation itinerary. And that’s after you wait to board your flight, get your luggage and find a cab to the hotel.
If you’re like many people, waiting is one of your least favorite things to do, but the good news is that you don’t have to waste time staring at the back of the person’s head in front of you. With advanced planning and some clever know-how, you can cut down — or even eliminate — the amount of time you spend waiting in line, and increase the amount of time you spend having fun and enjoying your getaway.
Join Loyalty Programs
Travel loyalty programs are well worth the few moments it takes to sign up. Not only do you earn points or miles, many airlines offer preferential treatment to their program members — even if you purchase cheap tickets to your destination. You may receive perks like priority seat selection, free or reduced baggage fees, or free drinks and snacks. Fly often enough, and the airline may even allow you to board early as part of their elite group. And it’s not just airlines that offer loyalty rewards. Join hotel and rental car programs, and your preferences will be noted and everything will be waiting for you when you arrive. This saves time at check-in, especially if there is a dedicated check-in area for rewards members.
Use Virtual-Queuing Systems
Walt Disney World rocked the theme park universe in 2013 when it announced its new MyMagic Plus system. Using RFID (radio-frequency identification) technology in wristbands, guests can store their room key, park tickets, dining plan credits and more on the bands, allowing for a seamless experience. The bands also include the ability to schedule rides and other experiences, such as parade or show viewings, before you leave home. When you book your trip, simply choose the rides you want and when you want to ride. When you arrive, you’ll be ushered to the front of the line.
Even if you don’t want to schedule from home, Disney’s Fastpass — and other similar programs at other popular theme parks — allow you to grab a ticket to ride at a later time. Simply grab a FastPass, go do something else and return at the allotted time to ride with little to no wait time.
Use Child-Swap Programs
When you’re traveling with kids, even a short wait can feel like an eternity. And if you have to wait in a long line twice so both parents can ride a “big” ride … well, that’s even worse. That’s why most theme parks have a child-swap program. Everyone waits in line once, and one adult rides alone. When he or she returns, he takes care of the child while the other adult rides without waiting again. Everyone gets a chance to ride, and you don’t spend hours waiting in line.
Upgrade Your Experience
Sometimes, if you want to avoid waiting, you have to pay for the privilege. Many major travel providers offer upgraded experiences that include early access and other perks for a fee. For example, one major cruise line offers an express check-in and early boarding for an extra $50 per cabin — a fee that could save you up to two hours of waiting time. Some luxury hotels also offer services to guests that can save time and hassles; for example, as a guest at one high-end Beverly Hills hotel, you could have access to an airport concierge that will help you get through first-class security lines and access private check-in lounges.
Join a Tour Group
You may balk at joining a group to tour a city or major landmarks, but for the best views without waiting in line, it could be your best option. Most tour providers make advance arrangements with sites, giving their groups priority access (or even guaranteed access during busy times). If you have your heart set on exploring a certain site, such as the Eiffel Tower or the Roman Coliseum, a guided tour may be your best bet for avoiding long lines.
Lines are almost inevitable when you travel, but if you plan ahead — and you’re willing to part with a little cash — you can avoid them.
Dillon Michaelson blogs about travel tips and ideas for several major travel sites.