skip lines with tour guidesCredit: Garrett AlbrightI’m always looking for a way to skip the lines, without cutting of course. When I’m on vacation the last thing I want to do is wait in line. The best way that I’ve found to skip lines to big attractions while travelling is signing up for a guided tour.

When I went on vacation to Paris with my parents and my sister we decided to take a day trip to see the Palace of Versailles. When we got to Versailles there was an enormous line that stretched across the entire cobbled courtyard in front of the palace, which is not surprising since we were there at the height of tourist season. On a whim we went up to check and see if there was any way to get in faster, and that’s when we saw that we could sign up for a guided tour. We signed up for a tour and then just sat and relaxed for the next ten minutes until the tour started, no lines, no standing around. After that it was straight inside right by everyone waiting grumpily in line, and on to see the interior of Versailles.

Again, more recently, my wife and I went to Italy. Unfortunately we didn’t do enough research before to know that the wait to get inside the Vatican can sometimes be a couple of hours long. We had a train to catch the next day, but we really wanted to make sure we saw the Vatican while we were in Rome. So the night before we got on TripAdvisor, found a newer tour agency and booked our tour online. The next morning we meet up with our tour group which could have been as big as twenty people and found it was only four and the guide, it was a really great deal. We zipped right past every line there was, got to go through a couple of side doors only tour groups could go through, all with an informative running commentary from our fantastic guide.

Yes, guided tours are more expensive than simply paying for a ticket to get inside, but aside from having someone much more knowledgeable than yourself guiding you, you also get to skip the lines. This can seriously save you two or three hours depending on the attraction. I don’t know about you, but I know that I want to enjoy myself when I’m traveling, and that usually doesn’t involve spending a lot of time in lines.

Usually, after the tour is over you can stay inside the attraction since you’re already inside. You can then wander around at your own pace to see things you may have missed on the tour, or go back and see things you want to see again. After our tour of the Vatican we spent a lot of time wandering around St. Peter's Basilica soaking in the beautiful architecture at our own pace.

The next time you are facing a long wait before you can get inside a tourist attraction, consider signing up for a guided tour. They do cost more money, but they also get you on your way to enjoying what you came to see in the first place, and not staring at the back of some guys head for two hours in a line.

Let me know if you’ve got any other great tips for skipping lines in the comments below.