5 Ways You Can Help Battle Overtourism on Your Next Trip

sandy beach with colorful umbrellas

Written by Katherine Alex Beaven on

Katherine Alex Beaven is a U.S.-based writer with an uncanny knack for spotting stray cats. Road trips, train journeys, and eating local food are her favorite ways to explore both new and old destinations. Follow her adventures on Instagram @kalexbeaven.

sandy beach with colorful umbrellas

These overtourism solutions will help you address a looming problem facing many of the world’s most popular and over-touristed destinations. Find out how to fight overtourism when you travel—and learn why it just might lead to your most memorable travel experiences yet.

We’ve got good news and bad news. The good news is that more and more people across the globe are in a position to get out there and see the world through travel.

The bad news is that nearly half of us are all flocking to the same ol’ cities and sites.

The result? These beloved places are now victims of overtourism. For example, Venice is sinking under the weight of millions as visitors outweigh the number of locals on a daily basis. The Louvre Museum in Paris—which received a world record-breaking 10.2 million visitors in 2018—now limits its daily number of entries and can no longer guarantee entrance to guests without reserved tickets. Over in Rome, the Spanish Steps—built in the early 18th century—have had to be rebuilt twice in just 25 years thanks to intense wear and tear from tourists.

Our most popular cities, museums, and sites are being visited at such an overwhelming rate it’s causing overcrowding (it might be a good time to invest in that nifty neck wallet, just saying), unsustainable wear and tear, and problems for locals.

Luckily, we’ve got more good news: We have the power to help slow down the effects of overtourism by being better travelers and adopting more responsible travel style—and we don’t mean just stocking up on sustainable travel bags (though that’s a great start for the environment—the water repellent coating on Eagle Creek Migrate Duffels is developed by harvesting windshield plastics from landfills in Asia). Here are five overtoursim solutions so you can help battle it on your next trip.

Travel During Low Season

Every journey begins with a few steps. If you’re not quite ready to ditch your bucket list dreams of hitting the most popular tourist destinations and sites, that’s okay. Take baby steps and avoid contributing to the crushing tourist numbers during high season months and visit your destination in the off season. This helps to lessen the burden of overtourism by spreading the visitor love throughout the year. As a bonus, several destinations are hidden gems in low season. For example, summer may be Iceland’s peak season, but fall and winter offer the best opportunities for spotting the Northern Lights. On the whole, off season travel can also score you some great deals on flights, hotels, and tours—plus, it’s less crowded!

Seek Out Alternative Sites and Activities in Popular Cities

We completely understand the air of mystery and intrigue behind wanting to visit the iconic works of art, historic buildings, and storied landscapes we’ve grown up with our whole lives—but what do you do when the very act of visiting these things is causing their demise? You explore alternatives and open yourself up to discover something (or someplace) new in the process.

Worried about missing out? Think about it like this: When push comes to shove (which can be a real possibility in some of the more crowded spots), you’ve already seen the Mona Lisa hundreds of times—in your history books, on T-shirts, on billboards, on TV shows and movies; she’s everywhere. That day spent shoulder-to-shoulder fighting for a good angle of her could likely be more rewarding if you spend it elsewhere. Using your travel as a way to discover new things not only empowers your own experience, but it also helps alleviate the traffic at our most-visited places.

Be Adventurous and Bypass the Major Cities

Want to make a bigger impact? Pack your bags, step off the very well-trodden path, and check out a different place entirely. Places like New York City, London, Beijing, and Amsterdam are all bucket list destinations, but they’re also huge cities that don’t really represent their countries as a whole.

To get to the heart of a destination, bypass the big cities (or at least shorten your stay) in favor or getting in some local flavor. This can be as simple as spending your time in a city or town that is usually only visited as a day trip. Sharing is caring and spreading large numbers of tourists across a whole country is much more manageable and sustainable for these popular destinations.

Help Put Struggling Destinations on the Map

If you’re feeling truly adventurous, why not help two birds with one branch by focusing your travel plans on a lesser-known destination. While the most popular tourist destinations may be struggling with visitor volume, much smaller or under-the-radar spots are begging tourists for attention. Choosing to reroute your vacation will not only help take the stress off of oversaturated destinations, it also helps give much-needed attention and money to destinations that are just straight up struggling.

We’re not saying you need to go full-on backpack explorer—and you should never travel anywhere you don’t feel safe—but sometimes it feels good to flirt with something or somewhere new. The buzz for a place has to start somewhere, so why not be an early supporter of the next exciting travel destination?

Contribute to the Hyper-Local Economy

Overtourism not only affects your tourist experience, but it can also sink its teeth into the livelihood of the locals. There are so many tourists inundating popular destinations that, as a traveler, it’s easy to forget people actually call these bucket list destinations home. Overtourism can cause rent hikes, displacement, and soaring costs of living for locals. A destination without locals is just a theme park.

So how can you help?

Be smart about how and where you spend your money. Whether you are traveling to a big city or small town, make an effort to find and support locally-owned businesses. Seek out local tour operators, hotels with local roots, buy from street vendors, and support artisans. Give a hard pass to any businesses that only seem motivated by money and do not give back to the community.

Taking the road less traveled may seem daunting or like a disappointing idea at first, but those who create their own adventures know it is a far more rewarding and memorable way to travel. At the very least, by following any of these overtourism solutions, you’ll avoid heavy crowds, long lines, and higher prices. At best? You’ll create a travel experience that goes beyond the hashtags, help to slow the wear and tear of the things we value most in this world, and shed light on new favorites.

Pack your bags now and hit the road more responsibly.

Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):

Spring into Sustainability: Our 7 Favorite Eco-Friendly Travel Buys

5 European Vacations for the Crowd-Phobic

What to Pack for Europe: The Five Step System