"National Lampoon's Vacation," a 1983 film starring Chevy Chase, chronicles Clark Griswald's failed attempt to provide the perfect family vacation.
Judging by the $61 million the movie has grossed since its release and it's cult-like following, millions of families can relate.
Let's face it. Most couples spend more time planning for their vacation than for their retirement, with about the same results: Their money's sucked up by unseen fees; their time is spent minding wayward children; they have far less fun than anticipated; they get bored really fast and long to go back to work where things are more calm and predictable.
Talk to a financial advisor to avoid retirement traps. Keep reading to avoid tourist traps.
Here are five popular destinations that don't live up to the hype, staring with an overcrowded hole ...
No. 5: The Grand Canyon
After driving all day to see the Grand Canyon, you hop out of your minivan and run to the South Rim Trail, where along with 22,314 other spectators, you see a giant, colorful hole.
Breathtaking, isn't it?
Meanwhile, your 5-year-old son wheels his baby sister to a precipice as onlookers, too busy scolding you for being a horrible parent, do nothing.
You avoid disaster through the deft use of violent screams and spend the rest of the day worried that one of your children will plummet to his death.
After about an hour of panicking and overreacting, you chain your kids to a metal rail, stare for five minutes, snap a few pictures, and leave.
If you want to enjoy the Grand Canyon, don't bring little kids. It is, however, a better family spot than our next tourist trap ...
No. 4: Las Vegas family attractions
Before "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" happened, the local chamber of commerce portrayed Sin City as a family vacation destination. Don't believe it.
There's the Aquarium at the Silverton where you can watch the mermaid music show and explain to your kids why the two mermaids rub against each other and pretend to be kissing.
If you take the kids to Vegas in the summer, you can enjoy family heat stroke at a Las Vegas 51's minor league baseball game; there's always Gameworks where you can spend hundreds of dollars on video games . . . that are free at home; and of course, Vegas wouldn't be Vegas without watching lions sleep and lick themselves at the MGM Grand Lion Habitat.
Review: Come to Vegas; leave the kids.
And whatever you do, don't drive down I-15 to visit our next destination ...
No. 3: Hollywood Walk of Fame
Leave it to Hollywood to glamorize and sensationalize something with little substance.
The Hollywood Walk of Fame is a street with people's names carved in it. That's it.
It's like when Steve and Judy carved their initials into the not-yet-dry cement when the city put a sidewalk on your street, the only difference being Steve and Judy stayed together for two months whereas nobody remembered the Hollywood "star" the following week.
For every Gene Autry and Michael Jackson there's 10 Spring Byingtons and Chad Everetts.
"But it's free," you say. "How can it be a tourist trap?" It's free only if you don't get mugged. In addition, you'll be bored after about 49 seconds and immediately look for something else to do, which will cost money, although the L. Ron Hubbard museum on Hollywood makes for a good time and is free.
Unfortunately, the next tourist trap isn't ...
No. 2: The Empire State Building
The Empire State Building opens at 8 a.m. If you get in line right away and want to ride the elevator to the 102nd floor observatory, you may get in before dinner.
If you're lucky.
By the way, it costs $15 to ride the elevator, in addition to the $20 you'll pay to get in the building. That's $35 to look out a window.
It may be something everybody should do once in their life, but be prepared for an expensive bout of torture, especially with kids in tow, if you do go.
If you really want to go to the top but don't want to pony up the cash, try the following: (1) Join the military-free admission for soldiers in uniform; (2) disguise yourself as a toddler age 5 and under ride free; (3) scale the building, although the accompanying fine and prison time may prove to be a greater financial setback than the $35 you were trying to avoid.
Speaking of things to avoid in New York, start with the final destination on our list ...
No. 1: Times Square
If you're looking for an authentic New York experience, then go to Coney Island, check out a Yankees game, take a ferry to Ellis Island, or jog in Central Park (with mace).If you can't get enough of corporations, fast food restaurants, sensory overload, or mobs of tourists, go to Times Square.
Sure, New York has cleaned up its act from what Times Square was in the past, but it still remains a tourist trap.