The most wonderful time of the year can often be overshadowed by hellish airport experiences. Sure, you’re excited to bundle up in festively colored scarves and carefully tuck homemade pastries into your carry-on, but you didn’t think about how busy the airport would be. Or consider the terrible moods of your fellow travelers—hello people, it’s the holiday season, it’s OK to smile!
Don’t worry, dear reader, because this holiday season you can still get home to eat your Gram-Gram’s meals while also managing to avoid the airport hubbub. We’ve put together a list of the airports you should steer clear of, in the hopes that you’ll enjoy smooth sailing. Worst case scenario: You can always try to hitch a ride with the fat guy rocking a red suit! Ho-ho-ho!
1. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Sure, you might run into a Kardashian or two (which will be oh so Instagramable). However, it’s more likely you’ll get stuck behind 537 other impatient people trying to get through security. The combination of the holiday season and LAX is more emotionally draining than watching David Hasselhoff try to stay relevant.
Annual number of passengers: 66,667,619
Number of passengers in December: 5,769,893
Alternative airport: Long Beach Airport (LGB), 20 miles south of LAX
2. Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD)
The Windy City is known for its iconic deep dish pizza, but did you know that 26% of its flights get delayed? (Source: Travel + Leisure, November 2014) Even extra cheese can’t excuse those setbacks—wait, did you say mozzarella, parmesan, and Asiago?
Annual number of passengers: 67,087,921
Number of passengers in December: 5,419,597
Alternative airport: Quad City International Airport (MLI), 165 miles west of ORD
3. Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL)
What were you expecting? It is the busiest airport in the world after all. If you do end up at the ATL, find somewhere to order a sweet tea and try to channel some Southern hospitality, instead of dreaming about ways to strangle the guy next to you who won’t stop coughing.
Annual number of passengers: 94,431,224
Number of passengers in December: 7,856,295
Alternative airport: Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM), 148 miles west of ATL.
4. LaGuardia Airport (LGA)
New York: Concrete jungle where dreams and fluorescent lights are made of, there’s nothing you can’t do! Just kidding, there are plenty of things you can’t do at LGA, including getting home on time to see your cousin Marge. Even a bagel with lox won’t help quell your travel woes.
Annual number of passengers: 26,722,183
Number of passengers in December: 2,339,735
Alternative airport: Long Island MacArthur Airport (ISP), 46 miles east of LGA
5. Logan International Airport (BOS)
You definitely won’t have a wicked good time here in December, chucklehead. Sure, there will be lovable freckle-faced people running around talking about how great the Celtics are, but you can catch similar commentary on SportsCenter away from the masses.
Annual number of passengers: 30,218,631
Number of passengers in December: 2,345,162
Alternative airport: Norwood Memorial Airport (OWD), 27 miles southwest of BOS
6. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)
You’re planning on avoiding SEATAC, black trench coats and grunge music be damned! Well, you might pack your angst-supplies just in case…who knows when you need to wear a Nirvana shirt. It will totally go with your mom’s “White Christmas” theme.
Annual number of passengers: 34,776,666
Number of passengers in December: 2,904,005
Alternative airport: Bellingham International Airport (BLI), 108 miles north of SEA
7. Denver International Airport (DEN)
Sure, this city has legalized marijuana and allowed us to watch Peyton Manning wear orange each fall, but does that mean we’re obliged to travel there with four million strangers? We think not.
Annual number of passengers: 52,556,359
Number of passengers in December: 4,516,315
Alternative airport: Colorado Springs Airport (COS), 98 miles south of DEN
8. San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
It’s really busy during the holidays, yo—Google it! You might not be a mastermind responsible for a tech empire, but you can still demonstrate a little common sense. Avoid SFO and figure out a way to organize a carpool; Bay Area folk are all about hippie-dippie ways to save the planet.
Annual number of passengers: 45,011,764
Number of passengers in December: 3,819,276
Alternative airport: Oakland International Airport (OAK), 30 miles east of SFO
9. Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA)
Do you think Obama braves DCA? Pfft! He has a private jet for a reason, you know.
Annual number of passengers: 20,415,085
Number of passengers in December: 1,628,993
Alternative airport: Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport (PHF), 163 miles southeast of DCA
10. Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
You can take the girl out of Texas, but…wait, you can’t get out of Texas. Your flight’s delayed and you have to listen to people who put too much faith in barbecue sauce when they cook (there are other seasonings, y’all).
Annual number of passengers: 60,436,739
Number of passengers in December: 4,817,320
Alternative airport: Waco Regional Airport (ACT), 113 miles south of DFW
*The numbers of passengers cited are statistics from the 2013 travel year, sourced from the website of each airport.