A Peak Life is Lived Off-Peak

campsiteOne of the key Principles of Mustachianism is that any and all lineups, queues, and other sardine-like collections of humans must be viewed with the squinty eyes of skepticism.

Paradoxically enough, I have found that if so many people simultaneously decide to do something that they are forced to stand or drive in a queue to do it, there’s a good chance it is something that is not worth doing.

How can I dismiss the desires of the millions of line-waiting humans as just wasteful folly? It is because in our natural state, we are supposed to be a diverse and individualistic species. At any given moment, you might choose to be walking in the woods while I’m at home cooking some dinner. Later, we might get together with some of our other friends for a party on my back patio, but we would not expect everyone else in town to suddenly mob into the yard as we did that. If we turned around and saw a lineup of people stretching around the block, we’d know something fishy was afoot.

So the sort of mass behavior that causes lineups tends to occur only in special situations:

  • When there is some central authority planning or advertising it
  • When herd mentality has taken over, turning People into Sheeple

Marketing causes crowds of people to want each new Apple phone on its release day, so those suckers end up in the silly all-night lineups you hear about every year. Black Friday sales are a similar phenomenon.  The 9-5 workday, (combined with poor choices of home and work locations) causes hordes of people to want to drive cars just before nine and just after five every weekday. And thus, these people end up in lines as well.

Herd mentality also makes certain people love certain bands and sports teams, for no better reason than the fact that they are already popular with other people. And thus they line up to get tickets and parking spaces at the crowded stadiums.

Knowing all this, it should not surprise you to learn that as a general policy, Mr. Money Mustache Does Not Do Lineups.

If I’m planning a car trip through a big city, I’ll plan around the rush hour traffic jams, no matter what. Back where I grew up, some of the biggest traffic jams on Earth would form on a daily basis across the megacity of Toronto. To traverse that expanse, you need to plow through over 60 miles of the sixteen-lane-wide highway 401, a road so busy that the daily traffic jam lasts about 18 hours. The only sane conditions are found between 10:00PM and 4:00AM – and so that is when I make my stealthy crossing.

In Colorado, the ski resorts have become so popular that a spectacular lineup forms around each lift chair. A 500-person mob of people waiting and shuffling instead of skiing and snowboarding, is your reward for trying to visit one of these places on the weekend. On top of that, the traffic jam that forms on Interstate 70 on weekend afternoons can turn a one-hour descent back down from the mountains into a six-hour ordeal. But if you stop by on a Tuesday, both conditions are cured.

As a lifelong music-lover, I love to go out and see live music as well.  But this doesn’t mean staying up all night to buy tickets for a sold-out arena to hear the world’s biggest pop stars repeat their radio hits. The best music experience for me is seeing insanely talented young musicians play the music they just invented,  in a small venue, where you can shake their hands, say thanks, and buy a T-shirt and an old-school CD from them directly after the show.

And during my recent stay in downtown Las Vegas, I found people queuing up for everything, with no apparent benefit to themselves. There are lines to get drinks at the bars. Lines to check into the hotels. Lines of cars everywhere. Lines waiting for the elevators that extend almost to the doorway to the empty staircases.

It’s all a bunch of nonsense. As explained in last summer’s post about reaching the top 5%, most people spend most of their time doing what everyone else does, without giving it much thought. And thus, it is usually very profitable to avoid doing what everyone else is doing.

On the trip, we did a little experiment: Mrs. MM and I wanted to get away for a few minutes. So we decided to go down to the hotel lobby and get some fancy coffees at the Starbucks, which we would sit peacefully together to enjoy. Already I can see your eyebrows raising, but try to stay calm and remember this is just an experiment.

When we got to the coffee stand, I was dismayed to see that everyone else had had the same idea. There was a line of at least 10 people snaking out from the cash register, including two formidably proportioned gentlemen sitting on electric scooters and towing life support equipment. My first instinct was to chuckle out a few new curses towards the overcrowded venue and keep walking. But we persisted.

After sufficient waiting, we finally earned the privilege of forking over $8.11 for two grande lattes. This is roughly the same amount I normally pay for two pounds of organic fair-trade espresso beans at Costco, which makes over 100 cups of fancy coffee at the MMM Homebrew Cafe, but again, we wanted to see what everyone else likes to do. The cafe tables were all full and people were awkwardly leaning on the noisy slot machines or enduring the Beyonce-blaring lobby nearby in order to drink their coffee.

At last, we decided to end the experiment, satisfied that the behavior of the masses was not for us. We found a quiet-looking staircase and walked up three flights to an abandoned conference center area. There was nothing to buy up here, and no automatic conveyances to carry your body here, and thus it was completely empty. We sat down on a comfortable little couch and drank our incredibly pricey coffees with no sounds beyond those of our own conversing voices. It was blissful.

Other parts of the vacation reinforced this pattern: In Moab, Utah, we usually stay in one of the little campgrounds in the canyon along the Colorado river. This year, I was surprised to find them all full, and we had to give up our first two nights of camping and stay at a hotel instead.

The hotel manager informed me that we picked one of the peak times to be in Moab – an event called “Jeep Week”. In this tragic comedy of an event, people from all over the country tow their ridiculous motorized La-Z-Boys with knobby tires from the comfort of their enormous 20,000 pound motorized RV homes. Once in Moab, they detach the smaller recliners and sit in them, pressing pedals and burning gas to bump around on the red rocks for a while. All apparently oblivious to the Muscle over Motor principle, which explains that greater fun could be had by simply riding a 25-pound mountain bike on the same trail.

To get back to the point, by unwittingly arriving at this peak time, the MMM family ruined its own fun and missed out on two nights of camping, because the campgrounds were full.

Although we tried our best to obey the Off-Peak principle, we also made another major stumble: touring the Hoover Dam. To understand the error, check out this quote directly from the visitor’s brochure:

“Although several modern dams are higher, wider, and produce more electricity, the Hoover Dam remains the most popular for visitors, hosting millions of visitors every year”.

Translation: “We have no idea why so many people are lining up to tour this old thing, but shit, we’ll keep taking the money if you keep giving it to us”.  

The pamphlet went on to explain that the popularity is continually reinforced by major movies that feature action at the Hoover Dam as part of their plots (Superman 1 being my favorite).

Sure enough, we took the tour, and it was over an hour of lineups and crowding just to see a turbine room briefly and hear a guide squawk out a few memorized facts. There was even a lineup to get into the parking garage.

Meanwhile, a much better experience can be had with no waiting: park in one of the free pullouts on the Arizona side of the dam. Hike down the hill and walk over the entire length of the dam to explore the stunning scene with your own eyes. Then hike back up and climb another 200 feet, to the astounding new Colorado River Bridge (built between 2005 and 2010), where you are so high that the dam looks like a little toy in the canyon far below you.

You can use this general principle to end up with a better life in all areas. If you find any part of your life subject to overcrowding, consider whether there is another way it can be handled. Crowded roads are eliminated by biking, replanning, or even moving. Crowds at Disneyland and National Parks are avoided by visiting areas where there is no RV parking or gift shops. Crowding at venues is eliminated by being a producer of entertainment, food, sports, or music, rather than just a consumer of it. Lineups at shopping malls are easily avoided by not going to shopping malls.

The off-peak life works perfectly for working people, since it frees up some of your limited time and money. And it takes on a new dimension once you gain the flexibility to escape the 9-5 work schedule. Suddenly you can do everything when everyone else is at work, from renting vacation homes down to visiting the grocery store. This saves you even more, and frees your mind from some of the overhead of dealing with constant crowding.

So from now on, if you ever find yourself amid a crowd of running sheep, just turn around and run the other way.

It can take a bit of dodging at first, but it’s worth it for the much better view.

  • Jesse April 7, 2013, 2:33 pm

    Great post. A few weekends ago, my girlfriend and I went camping. Of course they had the regular concrete slab spots, but we opted for the ‘primitive camping’ route (i.e. no water or electrical hookups). When we got to the campground we were a little put out that it seemed so packed (apparently it was spring break for someone), but the primitive site was pretty secluded with only a handful of other tents in the whole area. That whole “visiting areas where there is no RV parking or gift shops,” is the right idea.

  • Dr.Vibrissae April 7, 2013, 2:38 pm

    I hope you enjoyedyour trip overall and suspect you are exaggerating your actual aggravation for the benefit of us readers.

    You’re absolutely right about off peak being an awesome time for vacations though. When I was younger my family (including grandparents, aunts uncles and cousins) went to the beach every year, renting and sharing a large house for a week, which was awesome. But we always went in the summer because of school, so beaches, roads and any non-house amenities were always crowded. Now we’re older and go with my parents, siblings and their spouses in October. The weather is still nice, the water is still swimmable (mostly) but the accommodations are cheaper and there are many fewer people in the way everywhere else.

    • Holly April 7, 2013, 4:26 pm

      We rented an ocean front condo with my parents for the week of May 4th-11th. Since it’s off peak, it was only $1100 for the week for a 3 bedroom/3 bathroom oceanfront condo. My parents paid half so our part was $550. We are driving our Prius down which will cost about $125 in gas and we will go to the grocery store and make our meals at the condo. It’s not “cheap” per se but I couldn’ve even stay at the Holiday Inn in my hometown for $550 per week ($78 per night). The condo has two pools, hot tubs, and of course the beach and ocean so we don’t have to pay for any entertainment! Can you tell I’m excited to go??? Anyway, you’re right that it is a fairly inexpensive way to vacation!

    • Jacob April 7, 2013, 5:02 pm

      This reminds me of the one time I took to the beaches for spring break. Young and naive, I had no idea what sort of madness was in store.

      I had trouble finding the beach under the beer cans. What a shame.

    • Molly April 8, 2013, 8:07 am

      We are strictly off peakers as well. Now that i our 2 children are at college we can afford to go away during the ‘Shoulder’ seasons. much quieter but still the benifits of lovely weather. I also think that the people who work in these resorts have more time for you as it is a bit quieter, stress levels drop – more pleasant for everyone. :)

  • Johnny Moneyseed April 7, 2013, 2:48 pm

    We pride ourselves on not giving in to the herd mentality that has seemingly overtaken this nation (and presumably the rest of the world?). We tend to schedule our long X-country drives in a fashion that we’d be driving through the major cities during their “off-peak” hours. That’s pretty much the only way to drive through NYC without your head exploding from the worst drivers/traffic on the planet. If you’ve never driven over the George Washington bridge you’re lucky. GW himself would probably be offended that the worst mile of over-water road in America is named after him.

    I’m surprised you didn’t pack a coffee pot for your trip. That’s a key travel item, as is a hot plate.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 7, 2013, 7:02 pm

      Of course I had my camping french press for coffee! That is usually the hotel coffeemaker of choice (along with a ‘stash of good ground coffee beans and the multi-purpose hotplate or the hotel microwave for heating water).

      The Starbucks experiment was just so I could make a fool out of myself.. first Starbucks purchase in some unknown number of years.

  • Simple Economist April 7, 2013, 2:57 pm

    What I took most from this post was reinforcement that not having to work can make other aspects of your life much more efficient. I actually don’t mind crowds and have done plenty of the major attractions but the inefficiencies still nag at me. I think any sort of rush hour traffic is the most painful. We’ve done lots of trips where we had a limited time frame and that limited flexibility made it more difficult to avoid lines.

    I think this idea is one of the primary motivator for me as a future early retiree. I actually enjoying traveling a lot and the idea of slow traveling (or even doing projects/small work ala Hawaii) is even more attractive. I could spend the same amount of money in southeast asia rushing through the tourist traps in two weeks as I would spending two months at a slower more efficiently managed schedule and still visit the same places.

  • spoonman April 7, 2013, 3:10 pm

    After quiting the rat race in a few years, I very much look forward to proceeding through life down the off-peak path. I will take my time.

    Today we had a pleasant experience at Costco because we got there early in the morning before a lot of people show up. I think Costco is great, but I absolutely hate the crowds and the stupid queues that build up around the free food/drink sample stations, which induce traffic jams.

    • Use it up, wear it out... April 8, 2013, 9:21 am

      We do the same thing – we belong to the Park Slope Food Coop, and I typically do the week’s grocery shop at 6:30 AM when there are no lines – my 5 year old son is up then anyway, so why not do something together?

      • Mike April 8, 2013, 10:25 am

        There is a Costco down the road, if we are talking about the Park Slope in Brooklyn.

  • Marcia April 7, 2013, 3:19 pm

    I used to really enjoy the “off peak” principle. Pre-kid days. I have found it to be more of a challenge now that we are on the “school schedule”. Meaning, the days we can take off are: Spring Break, Summer, Thanksgiving, Christmas. Translated: when everyone else is off.

    There’s a sales pitch for homeschooling for sure.

    We enjoy camping, almost annually, with our neighbors at Joshua Tree National Park. It is difficult to get a site on Friday nights. For 2 of our 3 years, we managed it by leaving right after school ended and arriving around 7 pm. There weren’t many sites left though. The middle year, it was Easter weekend. We lost out and ended at a private campground (very windy, we ended up sleeping in the cars). So while that weekend was better weather-wise (not too hot, not too cold), it was hard to get a spot.

    We’ve been to a couple of amusement parks in the last few years also. Legoland at Thanksgiving – yeah, dumb idea . I mean, it’s 3 hours away from home and I knew four other families going. Knott’s Berry Farm on spring break? Also very bad, even though school breaks are staggered.

    However Yosemite National Park on Spring Break? Not busy because it’s further from home and most of the nearby Bay Area breaks are a different week.

    I prefer relaxing far-away vacations (like camping, or national parks) to amusement parks for vacations, so I think we’ll have to get back to that. Vacationing with an infant is something that I find to be stressful in the first place.

    • Executioner April 7, 2013, 3:26 pm

      My wife was formerly a classroom teacher, which meant the only time we had to travel together was during the school breaks, when everyone else was traveling. Since she changed jobs, we’ve really enjoyed traveling during the off-peak times. We went to Olympic National Park a few years back in mid-September — we pretty much had the place to ourselves. We also have gotten into the habit of visiting out-of state family for the holidays during the quiet weeks between Thanksgiving and Xmas — airfare is much cheaper, and a lot less hectic.

      • Deano April 7, 2013, 7:06 pm

        My wife and I are both teachers. Travelling is a challenge, but you can go places that are off peak. March Break is a good time for Europe and Summer is a good time for Australia (go to the warm parts in late August, Cairns etc).

        Camping though…September is the best in NA…no bugs, quiet…I miss it!

    • Lisa April 12, 2013, 7:24 am

      This is why we are seriously considering homeschooling our son. He’s 2 so we have some time before making a decision.

      Freedom from other people’s schedules is a huge lure of FIRE for me…work schedules, school schedules, vacation windows, etc. I think homeschooling through elementary school would be awesome.

  • Tony O. April 7, 2013, 3:22 pm

    Cool, we have the same exact tent!

  • Yeo Kian Hwee April 7, 2013, 3:33 pm

    I tried to avoid crowd by sleep earlier and wake up really earlier like 9 in the night and 4 plus in morning. The air is better when I am exercising in the park, I think partly because the clearing up was happening throughout the night.

    There is no morning traffic for me because by the time I leave for work, the traffic is not formed yet. I means who start their day as early as 5 plus?

    I designed my past time around this idea too, I spent time in library located in remote location or difficult location. My favorite past time is reading a book in a sunny park when everyone else spending their money and time in the cool shopping mall.

  • Retirement Investing Today April 7, 2013, 3:39 pm

    I live in one of the busiest cities in the world – London, UK.

    The life I live now having opted out of consumerism and living frugally means my requirement to queue is almost non-existent even in such a big city.

    I find I now only have to queue for two things:
    – the Tube. My first choice is to walk or use a Boris Bike but to get across town, in the middle of the night, alive there is nothing more cost efficient than the Tube.
    – Grocery shopping. No matter the time or place there is always at least one person in front of me in the checkout queue.

    • Jen April 7, 2013, 8:41 pm

      Our family also lives in quite a busy place on Earth – Singapore. Hated going to shopping malls on Saturdays – no space to park and then have to line up for everything inside. Solved it in two ways – 1) sold the car, 2) stopped going to malls.
      Other queue up eliminations – moved closed to work (no lining up to board the subway), started ordering groceries online (as much as possible), stopped eating out. Hurrah!

      • Visitor April 11, 2013, 11:10 pm

        What site do you use to buy groceries online in Singapore?

    • Grant April 7, 2013, 9:59 pm

      I lived in London for a year and it never ceased to amaze me that the locals would catch the tube to something you could walk in about the same time!

      for longer journeys, my rule was (if possible) only do one leg by public transport – if a line change or mode of transport change was required, I’d rather walk the extra bit.

  • Shawn April 7, 2013, 3:55 pm

    I too am a school teacher and I am actually changing my occupation starting next fall. I am looking foreword to not having a 9-5 job so I can have the freedom to travel with my wife in these “off-peak” times with my wife. This is actually one of the major reasons I am making a career change. This post got me even more excited than I already was about traveling the right way!

  • spoonman April 7, 2013, 4:00 pm

    After quiting the rat race in a few years, I very much look forward to proceeding through life down the off-peak path. I will take my time.

    Today we had a pleasant experience at Costco because we got there early in the morning before a lot of people show up. I think Costco is great, but I absolutely hate the crowds and the stupid queues that build up around the free food/drink sample stations, which induce traffic jams .

  • Mark ferguson April 7, 2013, 4:06 pm

    Right on! The masses have also learned to save for retirement by penny pinching and guessing how long they will live.
    Real estate or another cash flowing investment means you don’t have to guess how long you’ll live because you will always have income coming in without eating away at your principle.

  • BNL April 7, 2013, 4:07 pm

    I hadn’t thought about it the way you presented it here, but I completely agree that off-peak scheduling is a very satisfying experience. Since I’m off work right now, I spent some time on a weekday taking my kids to the zoo. It was awesome! Unlike the usual Sunday morning trip to our zoo (of which we have a year-long pass), the place was almost completely empty and easy to maneuver and enjoy.

    The same is true for many things, whether it’s a trip to Home Depot or a drive through Denver – by doing things when everyone else is at school or work, the experience is always more pleasant.

  • Holly April 7, 2013, 4:19 pm

    Someone got my kids a $50 Build-a-Bear gift card and I experienced exactly what you are talking about. First, we had to wait in line to pick which bear we wanted. Then we had to wait in line to add “qualities” to the bear. I still don’t know what that means.
    Then we waited in line to have the bear stuffed. Then we picked out outfits and waited in line again to pay.

    The result? I wasted an hour of my life to get my kids two stuffed bears that they don’t really like and definitely didn’t need.

    Next time I will sell a gift card like that on Plastic Jungle!

  • snacks April 7, 2013, 4:23 pm

    There is always more adventure off peak and off the beaten path. It’s also amazing how many people (not directed at you MMM) will travel across the country and go to the nearest Starbucks when there are local shops to experience. Last year in New Orleans, I sidestepped the “out of the door” SBux line in the hotel (paid for by my employer- and to add, there was SBux coffee in the rooms) to visit the local roasters/ coffee shops. There I found short to no lines, and locals willing to strike up conversation, provide free samples of the eats and drinks, and to give tips of hidden gem spots that most tourists walk right by as they head to the end of the next line. Note: my per diem covered my morning coffee…

  • Another Reader April 7, 2013, 4:56 pm

    Yep, nothing like strolling into Home Depot at 10 AM on a Tuesday morning. The contractors have come and gone, and usually you can find someone to help. Sprouts has double ad Wednesdays, and if you stay off the packed freeway getting there, you can get the best produce around 9 to 10 AM, before the SAHM’s get the kids into the car. The beaches in Santa Cruz County are a nice place for a weekday lunch, after the fog clears.

    Need to drive to LA or Phoenix? Getting to I-5 at 6 AM on a weekday means you have little competition, although you face the constant glare of the headlights of oncoming commuters. And don’t forget to go around Los Angeles via Bakersfield and Highway 58/395 if you are driving to Phoenix. That shaves 20-30 minutes off the trip by avoiding LA traffic.

    Yep, ER means you can almost pretend it’s the 70’s again and the population is half of what it really is, as long as you live “off peak.”

  • Jacob April 7, 2013, 4:58 pm

    The follower mentality is so puzzling. I think it’s the root of many problems. It seems that many people have lost all ability to think for themselves, shop for themselves, decide for themselves, even live for themselves. The most disturbing part is how some of those people actually enjoy being a blind sheep.

    • Joy April 9, 2013, 7:05 am

      The following mentality is normal. The scary part, who are you

      Just look at all the lives changed by following MMM’s ideas.

      What I like about following MMM’s ideas, they create space to
      grow in every area of your life. :) Too, the followers here use
      their voice to enhance the growth of others.

    • Mr. Frugal Toque April 9, 2013, 7:32 am

      Following is normally pretty smart behaviour.
      If a whole bunch of people are running out of a building, it’s probably on fire. It makes a lot of sense, and you’ll live longer, if you do things that other people are doing because *most* of the things that *most* people are doing make sense.
      (If you don’t believe me, try driving a car without obeying all the rules that the majority of people are obeying.)
      But this instinct can be hijacked, and the people who want your money spend a lot of their money learning how to hijack your brain.
      The urgency that’s wired into your brain for “Tiger’s-gonna-eat-you”? Let’s cross-wire that with a whole bunch of people clambering for an iThing.
      There we go! Now you have a life-or-death instinct to get an iThing. Your heart will race. The adrenalin will pump. Run! Fight! Run!
      This post is about learning to tell the difference between the vast majority of times when it makes sense to be a follower (traffic laws, pants over top of underwear, not drinking methanol) and the few times where life is way better by bucking the trend and not clambering for that which you do not need.

      • Semifrugal April 11, 2013, 6:48 am

        I can attest! As an experiment to see what my car’s optimal gas mileage might be, I drove no more than 55 mph for an entire tank of gas. The mileage question is unresolved – one major traffic snarl skewed the result – but driving at 55 left me no doubts that I was the most dangerous driver on the highway.

        • Mr. Money Mustache April 11, 2013, 4:36 pm

          Yeah, I can believe that. As much as I like fuel efficiency, I never drive less than the speed limit if it means I’ll end up blocking another person. Luckily most of my driving happens when there aren’t many other cars around.

  • rjack April 7, 2013, 5:03 pm

    Now that I’m retired, I avoid peak times and herds for just about everything. It’s awesome!

    Investors are another example of following the herd. Many investors jump into a stock after it has become popular and overpriced. You can avoid running with the herd with a solid asset allocation strategy.

    The only time I kind of use herding is if I’m in a foreign country and looking for a place to eat. I figure if I see a lot of locals (as opposed to tourists) at a restaurant, it might be OK.

  • NJ Joe April 7, 2013, 5:39 pm

    For me, this idea is split into 2 phases:
    1. The recognition and repulsive reaction to crowds, traffic, etc.
    2. Standing on the sidelines trying to find an alternative to outsmart the crowd. “there MUST be a better way than this”.

    What inevitably happens with me is giving up at phase 2, not being able to figure out an alternative, and begrudgingly following the herd, filled with regret and disappointment, while the ‘sheep’ are ignorantly enjoying themselves.

    • Brian April 9, 2013, 11:06 am

      I know what you mean. Do you know how hard it is to tell your parents that you, your wife, and your children will not be going on the surprise family trip to Disney World? I need to know how to convince my parents in their 60’s that they are never going to retire if they don’t change their ways. They still have a mortgage, car notes, and various other debt as well. I cannot realistically see them making drastic changes that involve selling the expensive cars and house. I was raised on convenience and following the herd but I have made a lot of progress. I just hope it’s not too late for them.

      • NJ Joe April 30, 2013, 5:23 am

        Or a friend’s wedding, including a bachelor party in another city requiring air travel, etc. I can avoid crowds and lines reasonably well myself, but there are always other people’s lifestyles that occasionally require participation. C’est la vie, I suppose.

  • CashRebel April 7, 2013, 5:48 pm

    My friends don’t unduerstand why I thought it was so stupid to wait fir 1.5 Hrs just to eat at a brunch place. Lots if places have brunch and zero are worth waiting that long. Ill point them here from now on!

  • EyeDoc April 7, 2013, 6:33 pm

    I agree with the off-peak mentality. My problem is that I’ve yet to reach FI, so my downtime is typically limited to the long lines. One thing I try to do is shop right before stores close to avoid the masses as much as I can

  • Linda April 7, 2013, 6:34 pm

    I was going to ask, what about shopping malls when it’s really…

    “Lineups at shopping malls are easily avoided by not going to shopping malls.”

    Oh… Right…

    Where there’s a line of people, guaranteed it’s a line of sheeple following the masses. People see a line, and expect they have to wait there, instead of maybe going around the corner to find the queue-free ATM/pay parking machine/store.

    Or, drive yourself to the big-ticket horse races for the weekend, and wait in insane traffic for hours, instead of *taking the free trains that have been provided*!! I unfortunately got caught in this traffic this weekend, while driving to do grocery shopping. I should have cycled to the nearest grocer instead… shame on me! Of course, not going to the horse races for entertainment of dubious quality, is probably an even better option… ;)

  • My Financial Independence Journey April 7, 2013, 7:03 pm

    I try to avoid visiting during peak times. But sometimes you can’t escape. I work Mon-Fri so weekends are the only time that I can get out and do things. If that coincides with a bunch of other people, so be it. Summer isn’t very long here and I’d rather not pass up a good weekend.

    And there are plenty of times that you should just expect to be in line – like visiting a theme park or major museum. I can dodge the crowds for a bit by arriving early, but eventually I’m going to have to be in line.

    • Jen April 7, 2013, 8:56 pm

      Speaking about theme parks or museums or some other attractions – it just amazes me how people sometimes DON”T MIND lining up.

      We recently went to a famous theme park. They have regular tickets and express tickets – which are 50% pricier, but allow you to use the express lane and not queue up with everyone. We paid extra for the express tickets and had a wonderful time – we visited all the rides (5-10 minutes wait max) and had time to walk around, relax, eat, while others were standing in line for 1 hour to have a 7-minute ride. Agree, the best way is not to go to theme parks at all, but if you go, make it count.

      Another example – once my husband and I went to a museum to see a special exhibit; What we did not know that that day was the free day for that exhibit. The queue was enormous – we were told by an usher that the waiting time is over 1 hour. So we came back the next day, paid $3 per entry and did not wait a minute. I am sure if you ask those people crowding there on the free day whether they would work for the wage of $3 an hour, they would thinks it was ridiculous. Yet they don’t mind wasting an hour of their time to line up.

    • Michelle April 9, 2013, 9:04 pm

      It’s possible to do theme parks off-peak as well. We live near Legoland and my son and I often faced zero lines on Wednesdays during non-tourist season – October, January, and May are best. There is cheaper entertainment for sure but considering our passes were heavily discounted (military) and that it included an aquarium and water park access as well, it was not a bad deal given the number of out of town guests we had who wanted to visit that year.

      Same with museums. We visited friends near DC for 3 weeks in Novermber and had unlimited access to great museums for the price of a bus pass. No crowds outside of the occasional school group. We even breezed in to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing tour which has insane lines in the summer.

      This is only possible for us because we homeschool. In fact we often school through the weekend to do off-peak “field trips” during the week.

      • Lisa April 12, 2013, 7:32 am

        Great stuff….going in my “want to homeschool” file.

  • Mrs Pop April 7, 2013, 7:06 pm

    Now I have an excuse for having a tad bit of agoraphobia! =)

    Seriously, though – the best road races (IMHO) are those where there aren’t thousands and thousands of participants. We all need room to breathe and find our own rhythm with the road, and that’s hard to find if there are 60,000 elbows competing for space with your own. I love to race, but can’t stand paying to feel like cattle lining up for slaughter.

    Even in smaller races with just a few thousand people it’s always nice when the half marathoners turn off and you’ve got the rest of the course wide open to enjoy.

    • Mr. Bonner April 7, 2013, 8:41 pm

      I absolutely agree that running races with crowds suck, but it’s a different level of craziness when you get to a water-start triathlon with a huge group of people. You’d be amazed how close people can get when they are vertical treading water. The second that horn goes off and everyone goes horizontal they take up way more surface area and all those flying arms and kicking legs usually end up on other people.

      • Mrs PoP April 8, 2013, 3:34 am

        That sounds like the 7th circle of hell for me. Guess triathalons are not in my future.

  • plam April 7, 2013, 7:51 pm

    Yes! Also true if you like to take vacations in otherwise-popular touristic spots (say in Europe): fall or winter are much better times than, say, August. Because maybe sometimes you would like to see that historic castle…

    • mareofnight May 3, 2014, 12:58 am

      Asking the local people or doing some online research about what other historic castles are nearby can also be fruitful. My mother and I had plans to see Neuschwanstein when we were in Germany together, but midway through the trip, I got really curious about castle defenses and such. We asked around at a museum about where we could see a fortress rather than a palace, and a volunteer told us about castle Meersburg. We had to take two trains, a bus and a ferry to get there (it wasn’t all that far, just not well connected to the train lines), but it wasn’t crowded, and we got to see some defensive architecture, and decoration from several different eras.

      Neuschwanstein still would have been worth it if we’d been interested in that location or era in particular, though. So I see your point.

  • Just call me Al April 7, 2013, 8:12 pm

    MMM…and…Vegas? I think, for the first time, I finally get the proper usage and meaning of —“Ironic”

  • Mr. Frugal Toque April 7, 2013, 8:19 pm

    Excellent! A post that tells me how to live my life better!
    More to the point …
    It has always made me nervous whenever I see myself getting involved in any clambering. A mob of people shouting for something, crawling over each other, stepping on old ladies – any of that sort of behaviour – and I have to wonder what’s going on.
    Is there food at stake? Am I in danger of starving if don’t claw and gouge my way to the front?
    No? Then I’ll get out of the line.
    This post has codified a general guideline that I hadn’t noticed myself having.
    Huzzah for that.
    Now I can watch out for it more consciously.

  • Frugal Vegan Mom April 7, 2013, 8:28 pm

    “People into Sheeple” hahaaa that is classic.

    Wanted to let you know about this band The Ryan Montbleau Band we absolutely love. I’m not usually much for live music because of the cost and crowds and trouble understanding the lyrics live… but this band is excellent and they tour at smaller venues where you can talk to them after the show… check them out if they come to CO!

  • Matt April 7, 2013, 8:43 pm

    Love the 401 reference – the DVP is so bad now that even weekends translate to traffic.I completely agree going off peak is a great way to get in the sights, I saw the grand canyon on a tuesday in the middle of december when everyone was in Vegas for National Rodeo Finals. It was awesome and I got to see it when there was snow on parts of it.

  • Mr. Bonner April 7, 2013, 8:53 pm

    Sounds like you had an interesting trip. Not sure if you’ve checked it out before, but a pretty rad place to camp and visit from what I’ve heard is Havasupai Indian Reservation. As the crow flies it’s probably only 70-80 miles from Vegas, but the typical route would take you closer to 200 miles. It’s a long way for a side trip, but if you look around online it looks amazing and not very crowded.

    We had reservations to camp there for a few days before visiting the Grand Canyon a couple years ago (off peak times in early May) and had to cancel due to some last minute change of plans. In a few years when our boys are older we’ll definitely take a road trip back over that way to check it out!

    • ShavenLlama April 8, 2013, 10:34 am

      Even Supai is getting to be too crowded. I do like that they charge extra for people who don’t make reservations before heading down into the canyon, but on that same token you sometimes need to have your vacation planned over a year out if you are working around a school schedule and can only go at spring break or summertime.

      But yes, it is one of the most amazing places on the planet! I highly recommend it.

  • Tim April 7, 2013, 8:57 pm

    I can related to this post, a lot. I seem to have a natural aversion to such places as Disney World and the local shopping mall. I’ve tried explaining my feelings of regret I get after wasting time participating in such activities as waiting in line, expecting a quality outcome, but the eventual outcome never meets my expectations. Likewise, I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of saving money and time while having a great time, even non-mainstream activities.

    I was planning upcoming travel to a destination, but the market (expensive airline tickets, relative to the adjacent weekends) was telling me it’s going to be crowded. I am opting for the alternative of delaying a month or two, and I am sure I will have a good time.

  • Debbie M April 7, 2013, 9:23 pm

    There are often ways to avoid some crowds even when you have standard work hours. We go to restaurants when they first open and see the first movie showing of the day (when we decide to partake in those things). Grocery shopping on a Sunday isn’t so bad if you do it early in the day (preferably before noon).

    Recently met co-workers for a picnic at a big park–remembered I don’t like parks in the nice weather. Stressful.

    Part of me wants to pull away and make my own world better. I prefer watching movies at home (better sound, we can pause to use the restroom, and we can turn on subtitles if the sound has a big dynamic range (sometimes too soft to hear) or we are having trouble with the accents. I usually like heating up my own leftovers better than going to a restaurant. And I could make my yard relaxing like a park.

  • Mikhail April 7, 2013, 9:30 pm

    Great article. Fully agree with the herd mentality. I never understood why people subject themselves to waiting in lines for hours to get the newest cellphone, etc. I usually apply the dollar value of time to see if something is worth waiting for. For example if your time is worth $30/hour and you’re waiting for 2 hours, it better worth at least $60 plus some extra cushion for frustration caused by waiting in line.

    PS. I often have to get from Niagara to Ottawa through Toronto. I also used to try to time it between 10pm and 4am until I realized all the construction goes on at night in the summer. My conclusion is there is no good time to get through Toronto, sometimes you just get lucky.

  • Rich M. April 7, 2013, 10:02 pm

    I’m totally with this post MMM. I always hate spending money to be in crowds and see cheesy things most of the time. Amusement parks like Disney are the epitome of this.

    I specifically laughed hard at the Hoover dam experience because I happened to stop by on a road trip in 2008 to Gen Canyon Dam just to see it. It was quiet and I happened to time it right to get on a free tour of the dam. There were 7 people on the tour. It was awesome.

    So when I was in the Vegas area in 2011, the wife and I went to Hoover Dam. I thought it was going to be the same kind of experience. Nope!.

    Holy smoke. Pay to park? Tours were not only a fee but very expensive and lots of people.

    I refused and just walked around after the sting of paying for parking when I could have parked a bit farther and got a little extra hike out of it.

    I do have to say the highlights of the Hoover dam are the architecture and the new bypass that gives amazing views of the dam.–All free.

  • Jayadeep Purushothaman April 7, 2013, 10:36 pm

    Fantamastic ! I thought I was the only guy with off-peak syndrome and my wife thinks I am very strange. But my daughter’s school has the habit of scheduling meetings at peak-hours and they seem to like seeing long queues for school supplies. May be time to unschool her :)

  • CL April 7, 2013, 11:08 pm

    It’s interesting that MMM is writing about this concept on the same day as my nephew said the same thing to me. We went on a fun mini golf excursion to give his parents a well deserved respite. We gleefully played cutthroat poker, consumed chicken wings, and spent a wonderful time whacking balls into small ponds. The happiness of the day was only marred by how crowded the golf course was; it was clear ahead of us, but we had a large group on our tail. People wanted to enjoy the warm weather. Enjoyment was somewhat diminished because though the adults behind us were cordial, their toddlers were impatient. I normally try to do things off peak; thanks, MMM, for reminding us that we can save time and money by being a little contrarian.

    • Brad April 9, 2013, 12:08 pm

      You can offer to let a faster group play through so everyone can enjoy the course at their own pace.

  • mike April 8, 2013, 5:21 am

    You’re right of course, if you have the option to avoid the things that other people do, or at least do them at other times, you should take it. Having foolishly tried to visit a local shopping mall (The Trafford Centre, Manchester, UK) at Christmas and spent 35 minutes trapped in the queue looking for somewhere to park, I decided it would probably be even worse if I ever actually got out of the car and into the shops, what with people walking slowly, stopping randomly in the way and generally taking up space, so spent another 20 trying to get out again.

    As for queueing for the latest whatever, don’t any of these people walk past the same store a few days later and see the exact same item for less money, once the “new” premium has worn off, and berate themselves?

    Oh, and I’ve never been in a Starbucks (although I like the smell) but what kind of absurd pricing scheme results in paying $8.11 for two coffees? $8 maybe (leaving aside the fact that it’s $8) but $8.11?

    • anonymouse April 8, 2013, 11:20 am

      You sound like you’re from the UK, so you probably don’t know that in the US, unlike just about everywhere else, the tax is not included in the price. So the coffee would be something like $3.80, plus 7.6% local tax, to give $8.11 total. And of course they still use 1 cent coins here, ones that are bigger than the 10 cent coins and waste huge amounts of both time and space. Oh, and the tax rate varies by state, by county, and sometime even by which city you’re in, so while that same coffee might be $3.80 in every starbucks, in some places having $4 in your pocket will be enough to buy that coffee and in others it won’t.

      • mike April 9, 2013, 5:03 am

        Yes, I am from the UK, though I vaguely recall having to mentally add sales tax from my long-ago visit to the US. I was really pondering on the thought of two coffees (or whatever) ending up at an odd number, though now I consider it further of course, MMM didn’t actually say they were identical and I guess if the tax is calculated on the bill total, not per item then totalled, it might still work out as an odd number.

        As you were, everyone.

  • Sara April 8, 2013, 5:55 am

    I like this post. For some reason, when I have to wait in a huge line up, I am one of the the last people in this line. I don’t know why it always happens. The huge line up is infront of me, yet barely anyone is behind me. It is so frustrating. I am so close to getting the timing right on line ups, but not quite….

  • Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce April 8, 2013, 6:38 am

    I always get the willies when I find myself in a crowd of people doing the same thing. Sitting in rush hour traffic was one of the most depressing things I ever did. You are so spot on with this! We slowly start thinking this is normal MO…

    As for the music post, I am so happy to hear that you are a fan of music! We don’t write about it enough. But man…not to open a can of worms here…but internet radio is the beginning of the end of musicians getting their fair share of the pie (especially classical and jazz)…sigh…

  • Bella April 8, 2013, 6:49 am

    I can’t get past The MMMs in Moab for Jeep Week. that is FAR FAR more ironic than Vegas.

    • Mr. Money Mustache April 8, 2013, 6:18 pm

      If only I had even known that such an Antimustachian event existed. Oh well, live and learn.

      • Anne April 9, 2013, 9:45 am

        Yes, “live and learn”. And trust me that will never end.

        Well, it’s certainly admirable to try and live a life that doesn’t require you to wait and wait some more for life’s necessities, there is also something to be said for just going with the zen of it.

        Since we’re retired I often let someone behind me go ahead at the grocery store. If I hear them stressing out over getting somewhere late I just say “Hey, we’re retired and have the time to wait, please go first.” They are stunned and grateful.

        Also, I make conversation with people around me at crowded events. I get some of the best stories that way.

  • Darrow @ CanIRetireYet? April 8, 2013, 7:05 am

    There must be something about frugality and financial independence that doesn’t mix with crowds. I instinctively avoid them too.

    Ah Jeep Week in Moab! One of our more memorable outdoor adventures was reaching the pass at the top of Pritchett canyon near sunset after a full day on mountain bikes to find jeeps — as far as the eye could see — stuck in the narrow gorge. They were hemmed in by mechanical breakdowns at either end. We cruised down the canyon on our bikes past a hundred or more jeep parties (generally only equipped for the chilly night with ice chests and suntan lotion), and were back in town in an hour.

    • Patrick April 8, 2013, 7:33 am

      Spent a week beating around those canyons on my way down to New Mexico from Montana years ago to go find Mexican Spotted Owls. Outstanding country. Slept on a picnic table outside Moab until I was prodded awake by a trooper or similarly intimidating officer.

      Talk about frugal! Actually, I was blissfully quite broke and I bummed a ride with a stranger and lived in the New Mexico wilderness without a car for almost 5 months. That’s when I learned how to make dollar pancakes on the head of an axe! LOL.

      Oh man… good times — laughing and hiking all the way. I loved that I was supporting my family by chasing owls through the woods.

      • Snow White April 8, 2013, 4:50 pm

        I’ll bite. How did you support your family by chasing owls? We’re you taking folks on tours to see these admittedly hard to locate owls?

  • Ishmael April 8, 2013, 7:56 am

    I follow this advice myself. Anything that treats me like a cow and not a person is something I avoid. If a company won’t deal with me via email, and makes me wait on hold to talk to someone whose grasp of english is not where I need it to be, I don’t deal with. If I go to buy something, and the lineup is long, I set it down and leave. When travelling, I avoid the touristy crap (where possible… sometimes something is cool enough to wade through it to see).

    Crowds generally suck the fun out of everything for me.

    Interestingly though, in one of my early jobs in a fast food outlet in a mall, my manager used to ask that during slow periods, we wait on the first customer slowly. Apparently people are attracted to crowds, and that person standing at the counter would attract others, just like lemmings. It was amazing to watch!

  • Geek April 8, 2013, 8:29 am

    This does much to help explain my nagging discomfort with skiing (a known pricey activity) and windsurfing (yet another). If you can only ski weekends and windsurf around the 4th of July, neither is fun anymore.

    Not only are the roads full of other weekend warriors, but its hard t more tivate yourself to eat a homemade snack after all of the ‘hard work’ of waiting in traffic an extra hour before rushing to the lift lines. Or there’s no sails and boards left to rent.

  • AEBinNC April 8, 2013, 8:36 am

    There are times when it’s smart to go against the crowd, such as the examples you gave. Are there examples or times you recommend using the crowd?

    For example, when I shop on Amazon.com, I typically find the type of product I want, I sort by average review and then compare the top 4-5 choices and pick one. I look for products that have a couple hundred reviews and above 4 stars. My argument for following the crowd here is that I want something that has been around for a while and has been well tested.

    The same thing for the forums here. If three mustacians recommend something in the forums, it’s likely a really great Idea and I consider it closely.

    There are some recent books about the wisdom of crowds. I haven’t made the time to read them yet but they sound interesting. I heard a book review of one of these books on NPR a while back.


    • plam April 8, 2013, 8:47 am

      Hmm, maybe the question here is whether other people doing something make your experience with it worse? So if the crowd is on Amazon, then maybe that’s not bad, but if the crowd is in front of you in a line, then that’s terrible.

      • Debbie M April 8, 2013, 6:26 pm

        I like having a popular car–parts are easy to find and online advice is easy to find, too. Plus mechanics are familiar with it.

        And if you have an electronic toy, the more popular ones have more aps/games.

        And I sure like it when my favorite colors are in style (I think hunter green is in style about once every twenty years–so sad).

        It’s good to be a popular size (yea for size seven women’s shoes!), but it’s also good to be a size that most people grow out of at thrift stores and garage sales (yea for being scrawny like a teenager!).

    • Gerard July 18, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Another time I tend to trust the wisdom of the crowd is when seeking street/cheap food somewhere unfamiliar to me. I now know that a food vendor at a festival with no lineups probably sucks. But generally, avoiding peaks and lineups has done me a lot of good.

  • David April 8, 2013, 8:45 am

    Just visited the Hover Dam last week and just parked in one of the farther away lots and walked around the site. The bringe thingy has an amazing view.

  • Freeyourchains April 8, 2013, 9:10 am

    Like Tokyo’s $20 one way subway trip to the other side of Tokyo, subway walking, standing while riding, waiting in line queues, walking, riding, waiting on the biggest and busiest subway system in the world; which takes about 3 hours.

    Or, Biking 27 miles and really seeing Tokyo + Free + recommended gps device though everyone knows a bit of english.

    Note: If you are 6′ tall and standing on a subway train, the windows do not go that high because of average Japanese heights around 5’5, and you will see nothing of Tokyo.

  • Laurenji April 8, 2013, 9:13 am

    I’m sad to hear your experience of Jeep Week at Moab. I went there with my mother and brothers one year for spring break, and it just so happened to be Jeep Week. It was amazing! Since everyone was off “driving their ridiculous motorized La-Z-Boys with knobby tires,” we got to hike through all of the Arches and several other gorgeous trails with almost no people around. It felt very private and nice, since we could hike at our own pace, not have to worry about random groups of out of shape people attempting to hike, didn’t have to wait around for our “turn” to take pictures of beautiful scenery, and just generally had a great time frolicking about the mostly-abandoned Arches National Park.

    Also, Las Vegas off-peak is lots of fun. My husband and I went there for our honeymoon. It was May at the time, so everything was empty and the hotels were cheap. Double bonus, since my husband and I don’t gamble, we got to enjoy all the entertainment and food that’s discounted to lure people into the casinos, without paying for it later by losing all our money to a slot machine.

  • Mr. 1500 April 8, 2013, 9:17 am

    This reminds of one of my favorite Buffett quotes:

    “We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”

    My version:

    “If you follow the herd, you’re going to step in shit.”

    • Carolina on My Mind April 8, 2013, 9:11 pm

      For a split second I thought you meant Jimmy Buffett. :)

  • Luke April 8, 2013, 9:39 am

    We stayed in one of the campgrounds in Moab along the Colorado during our 4,700 mile SW Motorcycle Journey last summer. We were lucky enough to have heard about the natural spring along the hwy for water-cuz we needed it: http://swcycletrip.lucasdigman.com/2012/08/04/turkeys-in-utah/

  • Kacie April 8, 2013, 9:45 am

    Agreed. Waiting in line? Ain’t nobody got time for dat!

    We try to go to area attractions and restaurants and such during off-peak hours. My kids are preschool-age, but I try to keep track of the public school breaks.

    We’ve been known to go to new restaurants mid-week at like 3:30-4 in the afternoon so we can get a table quickly. Nothing wrong with an early dinner!


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