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10 Cities That Will Make Your Holiday Travels Miserable

An analysis of the 42 most populated cities in the United States sheds light on where travelers will suffer this holiday season.

The holiday travel season begins this month. And it’s expected to break records. 

According to the 2023 Deloitte Holiday Travel Survey, 48% of Americans surveyed are planning to travel between Thanksgiving and mid-January. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is also gearing for a surge at airports. From November 17-28, it is expecting to screen 30 million passengers, the highest ever. Airlines are also echoing the same—29.9 million passengers are forecast to fly in the same period, 9% more than last year.

Pack your patience because busy travel seasons mean delays at checkpoints, more traffic on roads, and crowds at tourist attractions. Forbes Advisor has ranked the 42 most populated cities and determined the worst contenders for travelers this season in terms of air travel, driving experience, and city experience. After analyzing 14 metrics across three categories, the team concluded that Memphis, with a score of 100/100, is the worst city for holiday travel, while Minneapolis is the best. 

Worst Cities for Holiday Travel

According to the Forbes analysis, Memphis has the highest crime rate of 80.5 crimes per 1,000 residents. It also experiences a high number of weather-related car accidents from November-January, and overall, it’s a dangerous city for drivers.

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Los Angeles, which is the second worst city on this list with a 78/100 score, offers the poorest driving experience with the highest number of weather-related car accidents from November-January, exorbitant gas prices, and heavy traffic congestions. “Those who visit Los Angeles for the holidays can expect to pay the second highest price for a four-night hotel stay ($1,141.33), among the cities we evaluated,” the report says.

Florida features prominently on this list. Three of its cities are ranked among the worst 15: Jacksonville (3), Miami (7), and Tampa 15). While two cities in Texas also did poorly: San Antonio (10) and Dallas (14).

Minneapolis offers a wonderful Christmas experience and leads the way with its good driving, air travel, and city experiences.

New York Has the Worst Air Travel Experience

The airports in New York City made it tank on this list. JFK and LaGuardia combined have the second-highest percentage of delays, cancellations, or diversion during the holiday season between 2018 and 2022. The situation is unlikely to be improve much this year. 

This summer, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) warned of air traffic controller shortages and airlines had to cut their flights to manage accordingly. The impact was felt in New York City, where the staffing is 54% of what it’s supposed to be. The FAA has now extended cuts of minimum flight requirements for airlines at New York airports through October 2024 due to lack of staff.

The lack of sufficient ATC has led to delays and nationwide there has been an increase in near-miss collisions.

Related: 12 Festive Ways to Enjoy the Holidays in New York City

The 10 Worst Cities According to the Study

The worst cities to visit over the holiday season, according to the Forbes study are:

1. Memphis, Tennessee
2. Los Angeles, California
3. Jacksonville, Florida
4. New York City
5. Tucson, Arizona
6. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
7. Miami, Florida
8. Indianapolis, Indiana
9. Colorado Springs, Colorado
10. San Antonio, Texas