When visiting the ruins at Ephesus, I overheard an older male Brit complain the place was a “tourist trap.”

According to my online dictionary, “tourist trap” is “a place that attracts many tourists and where goods and services are more expensive than normal.” But does that necessarily make them places to avoid?

There’s a reason lots of places have become “tourist traps,” not the least of which is because they’re special. That’s not to say every “tourist trap” lives up to the hype, but there are generally reasons certain destinations are frequented.

So does the fact a place is popular mean you should avoid it? I can’t imagine never visiting Amsterdam, even though it is so overrun with tourists at certain times of year it is (to me) nearly intolerable.

A way I make popular places more enjoyable is visiting in the off- or shoulder seasons. If that isn’t possible or preferable (school schedules interfere; good weather is a must), here are my other strategies for making an all-the-rage location a better experience:

-Don’t stay at nearby hotels. (I grabbed a ridiculously cheap airfare to Venice several summers ago. Husband and I stayed off the island and trained in, the ride a nice respite from the crowds.)

-Pass on the onsite restaurants and souvenir stands.

-Choose the less-obvious attractions. (In Paris, skip the Louvre in July and go to one of the many smaller museums instead.)

-Realize some things are just worth it. Husband’s and my gondola ride in Venice was pricey but also one of the best twenty minutes ever.

-Remind yourself while it may be the height of the season and you’re staying in a pricier-than-normal hotel with tons of other tourists around, YOU’RE STILL IN LONDON (or Sydney or Bangkok or [insert name of wonderful place].) Be open to the extraordinary experience that will become the memory you keep long after memories of the lines to get into XX attraction have faded.

So how about you? What “tourist traps” have you enjoyed? What strategies did you employ to enjoy them to the max?