As we get closer to the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, the roads are filling with cars.  Traffic doubles, and even triples in some cities during the summer months, and the locals in those cities are left to deal with longer commutes, an increased number of accidents, and a higher police presence.  When we’re the ones in the car, speeding off for a fun-filled beach weekend or towing a boat to the lake, the traffic is a nuisance; something holding us back from getting where we want to go, but consider it from a different perspective.  If the traffic is holding you up, keeping you from getting your toes in the sand, think about the people that are heading to work.

To the people that live in a vacation community, life doesn’t often get any better.  They can hit the beach after a hard day’s work, the can enjoy that coveted beach breeze all year round, and it often feels like they’re on vacation all year round.  Then tourist season hits.  The population explodes, the grocery store gets packed, and there are lost travelers slamming every local off-season hotspot, even the hidden gems.  While you’re looking to enjoy your vacation, the locals are struggling with trying to get to work on time.

Sure, as a tourist, you’re thinking that the locals need you to support their economy, and that’s absolutely true.  Many of them are fully willing to admit the necessity of the tourist season, but it doesn’t change the fact that the gas prices are skyrocketing, food just got a little bit more expensive, and the drive from A to B take twenty minutes longer.  It’s easy to forget that people have to live where we’re vacationing, and we need to take them into consideration when we’re driving in our favorite getaway spots.

  • Get to Know the Area – Of course you’re on vacation, and nothing is familiar to you. However, with GPS, maps, locals’ direction skills, and visual recognition, it should be relatively easy to get to know the area.  Use a GPS to find the restaurant you’re looking for, or as a local for the best directions, don’t just try to guess it.  Google the nearest gas station, grocery store, and trinket shop and hammer out the best route to each before heading out.  Your wandering ways can cause irritating traffic and unnecessary accidents.  If the people behind you are having to stop short because you’re turning without a signal, you’re becoming more of a burden than an asset.
  • Follow the Road Rules – When we’re overtaken by wanderlust, it’s difficult to consider anything but the fact that we’re about to dip our toes in the ocean so we tend to drive like we’re at home. However, when we’re on the way or already cruising the streets of a foreign city, we need to relearn the rules of the road.  As tourists, the best way to keep the locals happy is to drive like you belong there.  Signal your intentions, follow the speed limits, and pay attention.  Tourist season usually means an increased police presence, and guess who they’re targeting?  Hint: it’s not the tourists.
  • Don’t Sight See During Rush Hour – Yes, part of vacation is checking out the sights, but if you’re doing it during prime going-to-work hours, it’s a bad idea and you’re being a very uncool tourist. Sight-see while the locals are working, because your stop and stare tactics are bungling up their morning commute, or keeping them from seeing their kids after work.  Sure, the locals expect some of this behavior, and many of them add time into their commute, but make their struggle minimal.  There’s enough to time to do it all.

It may not seem like you should have to cater to the very sensitive local population when your tourist dollars fund their economy, but don’t be that guy.  Most regions in the U.S. have some sort of tourist activity, and we’ve all had to put up with weird traffic patterns at one time or another.  Imagine living in a vacation destination year round.  Sure, it’s idyllic and peaceful, but it’s also flooded with strangers for a quarter of the year that are interrupting the current way of life.  The key to being a good tourist is making as few waves as possible, and not spoiling the local landscape.  Whether they need us or not, we need to admit that we need them too.  Let’s make things a little easier, and not drive like jerks while we’re on vacation.