Vacation Destinations That Aren’t Worth the Cost

January 31, 2019 by Steven M. Peters

Avid travelers want to see and experience everything a destination has to offer. Many tourists often start with the most popular attractions if they are in a city for the first time.

Never been to Paris? Your first trip is likely to include the Eiffel Tower. Going to London? You probably won’t skip Buckingham Palace. Flying to New York City? You may stop at Times Square before you even get to your hotel.

But not every popular or even iconic attraction is worth the time or money. Though personal opinions, taste, and preferences regarding vacation destinations and activities change from person to person, huge crowds are a buzzkill for almost everyone.

Too many people mean long lines and a lot of waiting, which can add hours to a simple sightseeing trip. The result is an overwhelming feeling of “we should have gone to this other place instead.”

Crowds, which usually lead to a commercialization of a place, taking away its authenticity, are not the only reason to stay away from some sites. Cost, unrealistic expectations, and lack of entertainment are other reasons to avoid some destinations.

To identify 15 popular but overrated tourist destinations, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed dozens of tourist guides and visitors reviews. The following list is a selection of what we found.

Click here to read about vacation destinations that aren’t worth the cost.

Source: Sörn / Wikimedia Commons

1. Hollywood

Do you really think celebrities walk around Hollywood Boulevard? Unless it’s a Walk of Fame Star ceremony, they usually don’t. So forget about seeing celebrities. What you will find, however, are plenty of tourists and big crowds. Movie Star Home Tours — which can cost about $40 for adults and $25 for kids under 11; even infants have to pay $10 — are just a ride in a big bus around town and not a chance to spot a movie star jogging. Stars don’t even live in the neighborhood. With hotels in Hollywood costing about $200 a night, a trip to Hollywood seems more like a money trap than anything else.

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2. Disneyland — all locations

Prices vary from expensive (about $100 for one day with no perks) to overly expensive (about $350 for a 5-day Park Hopper pass with FASTPASS), depending on whether you buy multi-day tickets, want early admission, going on weekends or holidays, and/or want to save your place in line. Considering that you have to buy a ticket for yourself as well as your child, and that you will probably want to eat at the Disney-themed restaurants and sleep at Disney hotels (another $500 per night) — otherwise the experience won’t be complete, right? — a trip to Disneyland where days are often spent waiting and bumping into crowds doesn’t sound like fun times.

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3. Red Light District in Amsterdam, Netherlands

When most tourists think of Amsterdam, legal marijuana and prostitution come to mind. While a legalized brothel industry was supposed to provide sex workers with safety and the same rights as all workers as well as end human trafficking, that didn’t happen. More than 1,300 girls between 12 and 17 reportedly fall victims every year, and the total number of human trafficking victims is likely much higher, at over 6,200, according to a study by the National Rapporteur, a nonprofit reporting on human trafficking and sexual violence.

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4. Stonehenge, England

Though members of English Heritage, which cares for over 400 sites in England, can get in to see Stonehenge for free, most people will have to pay entrance fees. Advance booking prices vary from $23 for one person to $60 for a family. Walkup prices are even higher. But you’re not going to get the view of the prehistoric monument you see on ads as most visitors remain far from the stones. There are special tours early in the morning or in the evening that will take you past the ropes to the inner circle of the stones. But they are offered only a few months out of the year and tickets, which cost about $180, are often sold months in advance.

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5. Cancun, Mexico

There has been an increase in gang violence in the resort town. After an increase in homicide cases in Cancun, the Mexican government recently opened a military based near the city. Safety concerns aside, Cancun isn’t as cheap as you may think because of extra expenses, especially for fun activities, that add up. Scuba diving packages are about $300; dolphin or whale watching tours are around $100; even the cheapest all-inclusive resorts cost about $250 per night. Add a round-trip ticket for more than $350, and a trip to Florida is looking more likely.

Source: Mstyslav Chernov / Wikimedia Commons

6. Pisa, Italy

Most people who go to Pisa, a city in the beautiful region of Tuscany in Italy that is worth a trip, have one goal in mind — seeing the iconic Leaning Tower of Pisa … and “attempting” to fix it. The thing is — the tower is much smaller than it looks in photos. Also, a day trip from nearby cities, like Florence, just to end up taking the same picture as everyone else, is going to cost around $90. Tuscany is known for its idyllic landscapes, art, food, wine, and hilltop towns — so go explore those instead.

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7. Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas is the most overrated city in the world, at least according to a 2015 Yahoo Travel survey. As the consummate adult playground, a trip to Vegas may be appropriate for a 21st birthday or a bachelor/ette party, but not much else. A city in which casinos (read spending money for nothing or with little chance of return) are the primary attraction can easily leave you close to bankrupt; hence, it can’t be that great. While flight tickets to Vegas aren’t too expensive (a round-trip ticket from New York City is about $200), expenses will add up. Aside from gambling and knocking down cocktails, you will likely go to see a lot of shows. Tickets to Van Morrison and Mariah Carey start at $120, and various Cirque du Soleil shows cost around $100.

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8. Hong Kong SAR, China

Hong Kong isn’t a huge territory (about a third of the size of Rhode Island). It has just over 7.3 million residents, but it sees 10 times as many visitors. More than 65 million tourists visited the region in 2018, a new record. There was an increase in arrivals of tourists from the mainland, day-trippers, and overnight visitors. There is much to see in Hong Kong, but walking there isn’t a pleasant experience. While public transport is cheap, the same can’t be said of hotels. A 5-star hotel starts at around $230 a night. The city was recently ranked the most expensive in the Cost of Living Survey by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm.

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9. Atlantis Paradise, Bahamas

This is a gigantic money-making resort so don’t expect an authentic Caribbean experience. Aside from that, many guests have found it disappointing and overpriced with rude staff and faulty spa charges. Rates start at $200 per night, in addition to the nightly fee, but that price only gives you access to the gym, waterpark, and movie theater. Any other activities, such as fishing charters, tours, special classes, and golf, are extra. That, in addition to a round-trip ticket costing over $400 per person from New York City, sounds like an overrated trip.

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10. Venice, Italy

Do you want to spend a lot of money only to be somewhere you’re not wanted? The “City of Water” has adapted aggressive strategies to limit the number of tourists because it’s overcrowded almost all of the time. Its 50,000 residents deal with about 30 million visitors a year. During peak times, tourists and locals can be separated, with visitors being redirected to popular places while some areas are only open to locals. Big cruise ships are no longer allowed to steam past the popular St Mark’s Square.

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11. Niagara Falls, U.S. side

Niagara Falls is one of the most famous and beautiful waterfalls in the world. But what will you do in town? Not much. Eat at a lot of fast food joints and buy a lot of souvenirs from gift shops. And spend about $300 per night at a hotel. In addition, knowing that the flow of water is controlled, in order to produce hydro power, further reduces the appeal of a trip there.

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12. Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

You already know what you’re going to see. You’ve seen the monument from up close on TV, books, and photos online many times. Scaling the monument is not allowed, and there are no tours that will take you to the top. (Regular tours will take you to the bottom of the memorial and they start at around $100). You go, stop, stare for a few minutes, and leave. There are no accommodations, and nothing else to do nearby. (The nearest gas station is 14 miles away.) The fact that you’re going there probably means you also already know all about it. So explore the surrounding Black Hills National Forest; it may be a more gratifying experience.

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13. French Quarter in New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter is a 24/7 party hotspot. This means it’s noisy (not great if you aim to sleep on your visit there), overcrowded, and overpriced. The historic neighborhood may feel like a tourist trap, especially if you go there for nightime entertainment and around Mardi Gras. For a less expensive overnight stay, consider the Central Business District, which is not far from the French Quarter. This is where business travelers stay.

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14. Santorini, Greece

Greece has gone through its share of turmoil over the last decade, but none of its problems have to do with tourism. The country and especially its islands are considered some of the most beautiful places to visit, and tourism is booming. The number of visitors rose to a record 32 million in 2018. But more people bring more problems, and Santorini, the most visited Greek island, is feeling it. You go for the sunsets and seascapes, but end up dealing with traffic jams and huge crowds. You will find fewer people, but as many beautiful sights, on Syros, Sikinos, and Lemnos.

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15. Renaissance Island, Aruba

The pink flamingos on Renaissance Island, which is private, have become a major attraction. However, some tourists say the birds’ wings have been clipped so they can’t leave (and thus continue to be a draw for tourists). The only way to get to the island is if you buy a day pass, which costs about $125, but a daily trip is not guaranteed. You can get it only if the island is under 80% capacity.