June 20, 2014 at 1:11 PM ET
Forget overpriced boardwalk food or tacky souvenirs. Save your money and avoid these tourist traps with tips from Travelocity’s Courtney Scott.
1. Times Square in New York City
It is the center of entertainment universe, an intersection where culture, music, and commerce all converge. But Times Square can be overwhelming if you don't know the do's and don'ts.
Tourist trap: ticket pushers
Avoid buying tickets to Times Square attractions, comedy clubs and other performances from people who stop you on the street.
Get discount tickets from the TKTS Booth for same-day performances. Get the official TKTS App for a real-time listing of the shows being offered at a discount. Some of the best shows on Broadway right now: "Beautiful, the Carole King Story," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," "Aladdin," "Book of Mormon" and more.
Bonus: Keep your eye out for special events
Free Yoga in Times Square is actually happening this weekend. Mark your calendars for the next Times Square Kiss-In on Aug. 14, 2015, to recreate the famous World War II kiss between the nurse and U.S. sailor.
2. Venice Beach, California
The best things to do along the Venice Beach Boardwalk are inexpensive or free, such as people-watching on the boardwalk and at Muscle Beach and the Venice Beach Skate Park. Rent a bike (about $10/hour) and take advantage of the miles of bike path from Marina del Rey all the way up to Malibu.
Tourist trap: Overpriced food and tacky shopping on the boardwalk
The boardwalk is lined with overpriced grab-and-go food stalls, and the quality is not the greatest. The boardwalk vendors cater to tourists who are on the go but serve high-calorie foods, from corn dogs to deep-friend Oreos, at a price. There is no shortage of shops along the boardwalk, but many of them are tobacco shops, t-shirt shops and souvenir shops, all selling similar merchandise.
After you've gotten your fill of the more eccentric side of Venice Beach, head a few blocks up to Abbot Kinney Boulevard, where Venice locals go to shop, eat and hangout. You'll find Californians dining at artisanal restaurants that use ingredients from the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, delicious coffee, and shops selling the perfect gifts for your friends and family — everything from retro surf décor to innovative toys and gadgets to racks of chic fashion essentials for lazy days in California.
3. Las Vegas Strip
Las Vegas thrives on tourism and especially people coming to win big — and spend big. Everywhere you look there's someone trying to sell you something, from show tickets to souvenirs.
Tourist trap: Spending more than you wanted on performances and food
It's easy to eat well in Las Vegas, with numerous Michelin-rated restaurants. But eating well comes at a price, and the food courts and mega chains aren't cheap either.
There are many affordable dining options at The LINQ, Las Vegas' newest dining, shopping and entertainment district right on the strip. Dine on casual Italian, Asian and more at a collection of new eateries that won't break the bank. At the LINQ, you can also give your family a lasting Vegas memory with tickets to the High Roller, the world's largest observation wheel (550 feet tall) with the best views of Las Vegas, especially at sunset. Family pack tickets are about $20/person.
Bonus: Not all performance tickets are a splurge
Sure you'll likely spend over $100 a ticket for some of the Cirque du Soleil performances like "The Beatles LOVE" and "Michael Jackson ONE," but there are plenty of shows that are more affordable, including "Recycled Percussion" for $39.99 (as seen on "America's Got Talent") and "Jersey Boys" at the Paris Las Vegas for about $60 a ticket. At Circus Circus, the World's Largest Permanent Circus performs death-defying stunts for free every half-hour. Tip: Book show tickets as far in advance as possible for best deals.
4. Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 in San Francisco
You should definitely see the sea lions at Pier 39. Depending on the day, you can find hundreds of sea lions barking and basking in the sun.
Tourist trap: Finding good seafood among a sea of tourists
Fisherman's Wharf hails itself as the home of some of the freshest clam chowder and seafood in San Francisco. And while there are some great meals to be had along Fisherman's Wharf, it's difficult to wade through the sea of tourist to get a table and hard to know whether you're getting a good value. If you are going to eat at Fisherman's Wharf, you'll save money on your seafood if you opt for grab and go at the crab stands and seafood stalls, rather than a sit-down dinner at one of the restaurants on the pier.
Off The Grid is a self-proclaimed "roaming mobile food extravaganza" where local food trucks and vendors gather for delicious eats, drinks and music. Lobsta Truck is known for its lobster roll and Sam's ChowderMobile for your seafood fix. The event is free to enter and is a local favorite. Closest Off The Grid location to Fisherman's Wharf is on Vallejo and front Streets.
Tourist trap: Tchotchkes at the entrance of Fisherman's Wharf
Just opposite the famous crab sign that marks the start of Fisherman's Wharf are numerous stalls selling trinkets, T-shirts and tchotchkes.
The Exploratorium at Pier 15 is a museum of art, science and human perception lets you explore your inner child as you play throughout this 21st century learning laboratory. The gift shop is also the best place to get a truly unique San Francisco souvenir. The stores carry unusual objects, games, and books for kids and adults that focus on science, art, and technology.