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Waiting in lines

...or queues for our British friends.

So, what is your personal limit for waiting in line? For me maybe an hour or so. I recall waiting in line for some ride at Disney World in freaking August, drenched in sweat and miserable, wondering, "Why"?

Yes, I realize the Louvre is of more import than Space Mountain, but c'mon, everything has its limits.

So what are you willing to endure as far as queues and sardine packed crowds for, say, Versailles or some other massively popular Paris attraction? Any funny stories, or otherwise?

Always good chatting up y'all.

Big Mike from West "by God" Virginia. Almost Heaven.

Posted by
2766 posts

It depends. Usually I won’t wait in a line for more than 20 minutes. Usually less. I look for ways to avoid the line and have always been successful. Paris museum pass in Paris, going somewhere at opening or late hours, buying a skip-the-line tour, buying my ticket at a nearby sight that is less crowded and provides access, and so on. Almost everywhere has options, and my time is worth the extra cost that some options like paying tour guides have.
Often a long line indicates the sight itself will be highly crowded and less enjoyable.

I would wait a long time only for a very high priority sight with no other option to see it. I have never had this happen.

Posted by
8064 posts

You have to judge how fast the line is moving. But it depends mostly on whether the sight is a "must-see" (yes I know its a very overused term), for example for me, the Mona Lisa, and this may be the only chance you see it. Something less important (top of the Arc de Triomphe, e.g.), perhaps not more than 30 minutes. I do note that it seems many people don't take that waiting-in-line time into account when planning their hyper-organized daily activity plan.

Posted by
276 posts

Take me home country roads....

From the Northeast where impatience and get there now, do it now is the norm, I avoid lines at all costs. I get places early to be the first in and leave when it gets busy. I tell you one line story that makes me realize my wait issue is a somewhat pathological diagnosis. While in NC, mind you I was on vacation, I was waiting in a Walmart line and I was about forth in line. The people in front and behind me were calmly talking, looking through magazines all while the cashier and customer were chatting about how great the weather was and what their plans were for the day. From the conversation I learned they were strangers, aghast, who talks to strangers! The merchandise was scanned and bagged and they were still chatting. I'm there... Am I the only one annoyed!? Answer... Yes. So I grab a box of tic tacs, pop one in my mouth, pick out a magazine and with a few deep breaths learned to relax. It takes me a day or two to pull away from the fast paced life I live and learn to enjoy every moment. I'm envious of that lifestyle.

Posted by
1273 posts

It depends what's at the end of the queue. Generally, I use the "rule of six" (either six people ahead or the line moving fast enough that the wait will be six minutes), but there are a few sights where a "rule of 12" is justified since they are so worth seeing. Sometimes you have no choice, of course, such as Iberia check-in, Italian post offices and US immigration and just have to wait whilst thinking very dark thoughts about their utter incompetence.

Posted by
5192 posts

I always research ahead of time, strategies for minimizing wait time. I'll buy passes that allow me to cut lines. I won't travel at the very peak of the season. I also will get up early to get in line prior to opening. In Amsterdam, I prepurchased Anne Frank tickets but didn't want to buy Van Gogh ahead on the same day since I didn't know how long Anne Frank would take. So when we got to the Van Gogh museum there were huge lines. I needed to see this museum! I noted they had an option for purchasing tickets on line. I didn't have a data plan for my phone, but I left my husband in line and wandered around looking for a wifi signal. Turned out that if I stood right next to the museum, I could get wifi. I then purchased tickets within five minutes of the current time! When I pulled my husband out of the line, I mentioned to some of the others. Most just continued to stand in the line. They have more patience than I do. When I can't avoid a line I evaluate how much I want to see something and how fast the line is moving. I heard a high school girl say that when she was on her Washington DC trip they had free time at the Smithsonian History Museum. She spent her entire time waiting in line to see the first lady gowns and never got in before her time was up. YIKES!

Posted by
2 posts

I think the thing to do is strategize/plan ahead to avoid the lines wherever possible. Rick Steves has good suggestions in his guidebooks for most of the attractions with the worst lines. Sometimes you can buy the tickets in advance and miss much of the wait, or take a guided tour, like for the Roman Forum. A long time ago I went to the Vatican Museums and got there 20 minutes before it opened. By waiting 20 minutes in the cool morning air, I avoided waiting an hour or more in the hot afternoon sun! Then I ran directly to the Sistine Chapel and basically had it to myself for 15 or 20 minutes.

Posted by
2868 posts

Mira (by the way love that name) we're getting the museum pass (or musee for you cultured folks) and will look at going to some places later in the day. I'm not much of a crack of dawn first in line sorta fella.

Nick my man a line of only 12 at a Paris museum would be miracle from the Almighty lol.

Posted by
2868 posts

Highland they sound like my folks! Wave and say hi to everyone. No hurry no worry.

Jules your name reminds me of that Beatles song, "Hey Jude," inspired by a young, sad Julian Lennon when Paul went for a visit. "Jules" was a mouthful so Paul changed it to Jude. Anyway thank you entertaining story.

John i think W. Bush called it "strategery." Smart move re Vatican... A memory you will always cherish.

Posted by
12589 posts

My first (re) visit to Paris I didn't go in Notre Dame because the line was across the plaza. I didn't bother to watch and see how quickly it moved and that most people were getting inside in under 10 minutes. I found that out later and could have kicked myself. I did manage to swing back by there on that same visit and yes, it was under 10 minutes. The bad thing there is that the petition girls work the line so you have to be alert to their presence.

Versailles, I am not willing to stand in a huge line and try and see the packed rooms. I would go back to roam the gardens, the Trianons, the Hamlet. Of course, I've ~been~ to Versailles so for others it might be an important event.

For Paris, I do get the museum pass and do strategize on best times of day. I'm a morning person so that means getting to one of the big ones before they open. I know others like the evening opening times but by that time of day I am exhausted and just not able to give a museum visit my all. I did head for d'Orsay one time in the AM and the line(for museum passes) was huge...just went on to an alternate sight and went back the next day. It was really fortunate I diverted because the first day was a lovely day so I did some gardens and the next day it was pouring buckets so was perfect for a museum day!

I can sympathize about standing in line in the heat. My ability to tolerate that scenario lessens by the year!

Posted by
2868 posts

Pam sounds like you're saying be flexible. Good advice!

Country Roads by John Denver. Great song. It's played after every victory be the West Virginia University Mountaineers!

Posted by
463 posts

We once waited for what seemed like a day and a half to get into the catacombs. It was probably only (only, he says) about 3+ hours but we were with our grandchildren, who put this as #1 on their priority list. For all we knew it was the only time we would ever be in Paris with them, so we just waited.
Like the story about the line in the Walmart in NC, it wasn't all bad. If nobody gets injured it turns out to just be another story to tell. We couldn't help but hearing lots of stuff from the quartet of 20-somethings ahead of us in line and felt almost like their grandparents by the time we got in. Our two granddaughters wandered on and off the line and we have wonderful memories (and pictures) of them sitting on the grass, just being kids entertaining themselves. All of us have clear memories of the wait - as well as of the catacombs - and I think I even have clearer memories of the surrounding neighborhoods because the wait was such an ordeal.
I wouldn't volunteer to do it again, but it's a long way from the worst thing that's ever happened to me, even just in Paris.

Posted by
1806 posts

Overall, it really depends what is at the other end of that line. I'm not really an amusement park fan - last went to a Six Flags 3 years ago and only because I had a friend with free passes - all of the coaster lines were 1 hour long and I was only willing to make an exception for 1 "old school" wooden roller coaster that I was OK waiting for, neither of us were willing to wait even 15 mins for the others.

On my first visit to Paris, I showed up for the Eiffel Tower 30-40 minutes in advance of it opening, but a whole bunch of other people had done the same so I was unable to get a ticket all the way to the very top level by the time I made it up to the ticket counter. I made it to Level 2 and I was satisfied with that, and had zero desire to go back up again on any subsequent trips as I was content to see it in the distance (like for free from the rooftop terrace of one of the main department stores) or from the lawn or Trocadero if I wanted to be closer for the light show. Now I've hit an age where I don't even want to deal with the zoo that is Trocadero so I seek out restaurants or bars that have a full view of the Eiffel as I really don't care about going up in it, I just want to see it.

For other big sites, I guess I've just always been either lucky or am playing my cards right making sure I have something like a Museum Pass, an advance ticket or reservation booked online, or I'm showing up either prior to opening time or taking advantage of extended visiting hours on certain days. I also completely avoid a place if it's a "free admission" day because that will inevitably be when it's most crowded with the longest lines.

On my first visit, I had a Museum Pass but showed up for Versailles 40 minutes prior to opening. It gave me time to stand around drinking a cafe creme and eating a croissant for breakfast, I got to take photos of the exterior of the palace with hardly any one around to get in the picture, and I secured my spot that got me through the door in one of the very first groups to tour the palace. It worked out fine as by the time I was halfway through exploring the palace, the place was becoming a mob scene. I finished up my tour and was happy to escape to the grounds and visit the gardens closest to the palace, Trianon and Hamlet in relative peace.

Been to the Louvre on many trips, so last visit I went on a day they were open late, found zero people in line and was able to get in immediately. The most crowded part of the museum at that time was the wing where Mona Lisa is kept. But I'd seen it already, so I just headed for Napoleon's Apartments which was almost empty at that time of day. By the time I was wrapping up my evening visit (about 20 minutes before they announced the museum was closing soon), I decided to wander back over towards the Mona Lisa wing and it paid off because instead of having to jockey for position like I did on my first visit just to catch a glimpse of it, I was able to walk straight across the room and stand directly in front of it for several minutes without tons of people taking photos.

Catacombs I think I just must have got lucky even though I visited during peak tourist season. I always see people talking about the many hours it took them to get into the Catacombs and there's no way I ever would have waited more than 30-40 mins. I showed up right after lunch and the wait was minimal, line moved fairly quick, and although it was a little crowded inside the first part once once I was underground, by the time I started walking through the tunnel, there were large parts where I was completely on my own to the point it was even a little creepy.

On first visit, the ticket line for Musee d'Orsay was crazy long, but I used my MuseumPass and went into a separate entrance with no line. Never found any issues with long security lines except for 1x at Conciergerie where it took about 25 mins. Everywhere else it has been very fast.

Posted by
2868 posts

Yeah definitely getting museum pass. I've read that going an hour or two before closing is a good bet. Alas we aren't in Paris for the evening late hours.

Posted by
473 posts

I will say the Italian post office comment was my favorite. I have knowledge first hand from last summer. My limit in line is about 20 minutes or so depending on how bad I want to see something.

Posted by
7209 posts

And good luck with standing in any line in France where you'll have person after person joining that line in front of you. Queueing is not quite the same as it is in the States.

Posted by
15446 posts

What I've learned is to ask people in the line how long they've been waiting and how fast the line is moving. I did that at the Notre Dame tower (before you could book places) and was told it looked like an hour's wait so I skipped it and still haven't been to the top. Same thing last year at the Vatican Museums, where people told me they'd been in line for an hour and had hardly moved - they were roughly in the middle of a line that didn't look very long - not even to the corner. Skipped that one too, since I'd been twice before. I can manage a 15-20 minute wait, then I try to chat with the people around me to pass the time; always interesting, sometimes enlightening (usually tips for other sights). The most unusual story was on my first trip to Italy, a couple years after I'd retired from a job in the Bay Area and returned to Israel. I booked a ticket for an early hour at the Academia (Florence). When I arrived I found a long line, all with reservations. There was a note posted on the door that there were "staff meetings" for 2 hours (which is when I learned the origin of the Israeli term "Italian strike"). The couple behind me were Americans and we got to talking. It was obvious we weren't going to get in for a couple hours so they offered to show me the Duomo and surroundings before we returned to the line. After the museum we went to lunch together and I discovered that not only were they from the Bay Area, but they knew some of the people I had worked with and filled me in on the latest gossip, much of which surprised my ex-coworkers when I saw them some months later.

Posted by
2868 posts

Yeah it can drive me nuts seeing people join the line in front of me. I get going to the bathroom or getting a drink and snack, but sometimes it gets ridiculous. Of course there's nothing you can do about it.

Length of time also depends on how badly you want to see a given site, the weather, and fatigue.

Posted by
401 posts

I once waited at the local préfecture to renew my wife's carte de séjour from 3AM until around 11 AM (most of it outside during winter) until the doors opened at 9 and the line started to move.

Thankfully, they take appointments now.

Posted by
3883 posts

Lines are a necessary evil at the airport whether it's immigration or security. Otherwise, we want to keep the wait as short as possible assuming we have any control. We arrive at museums/palaces early morning just before they open for example to limit the time waiting on line. Physically, I suffer with back problems which make waiting on line something I need to minimize, if I can, as much as possible.

Posted by
467 posts

Some times you have to ask if it isn't better to wait.

It was in a bank in Florence in 1991. It was summer, hot and humid. It was close to lunch time and the bank was closing. At the front of the line was an Italian couple who were buying traveler's checks and they had to sign all of them. All of a sudden an American couple came in. They saw all of us (4 maybe 5 people) in line just quietly waiting, so the guy walks up to the front of the counter, saw the people signing the checks and made some comment about how it was ridiculous that he had to wait for them to finish. So they turned around and marched out mumbling.

Maybe they were late for an appointment or reservation, but I sat there thinking they were pretty hasty in leaving.

The bank was air condition, the street hot and muggy.

The only other place to change money was at the Exchange bureaus, which gave horrible rates.

And all the stores were closed.

I doubt there was an urgent need for cash.

I just laughed to myself and enjoyed the coolness for a bit longer.