Lyft’s Data-Driven Guide to Stress-Free Holiday Travel

Sarah Conlisk - Nov 9, 2023
Illustration by María Jesús Contreras

The holidays are almost upon us, and we all know what that means: giblets, ugly sweaters, and a healthy serving of holiday stress. Maybe you dread navigating a crowded airport, or fending off fellow bargain-hunters, or simply keeping your out-of-town guests entertained. Whatever the case, there’s something to set anyone on edge.

We can’t erase your seasonal stress, but we can help. We’ve dug into Lyft’s data to uncover tips for handling the holidays like a pro. That way you can minimize the stress and focus on what matters most: being together.

When to go to the Airport 

Sartre once wrote that “Hell is other people” — a harsh concept, but one that anyone flying around Thanksgiving can surely appreciate. How to have the most heavenly experience possible? If you can’t fly on Turkey Day itself, shoot for the Saturday or Sunday before Thanksgiving — a quieter day for airport dropoffs than Friday or Monday. And whatever you do, don’t fly on Wednesday — especially at 6am, the busiest dropoff time for the entire season.

The calendar heatmap represents the number of drop-offs at airports before Thanksgiving 2022.

For more Thanksgiving (and Christmas!) travel tips, check out: The best — and worst — times to go to the airport.”

(And if you’re flying into one of these five airports, you’re in luck.) 

When to go Shopping 

Looking to beat the crowds on Black Friday? Bad news: So is everyone else. But you can be sure some other chump doesn’t nab the last flat screen by checking when most Lyft riders arrive, and getting there just ahead of them. (It could be early — 25% of Black Friday Best Buy shoppers arrive by 5:45am.) If you’re a procrastinator, at least make sure to get your shopping done before the afternoon of Christmas Eve; 2-5pm are the most popular shopping hours for the entire month.

The plot shows the density of drop-off times for popular stores on Black Friday 2022. The time that a store has already received 25% of its drop-offs is shown in black.

Get more shopping intel in our Holiday Shopping Survival Guide

Where to Take your Guests   

Traveling can be stressful, but hosting can be, too. After all, you’re expected to have all the inside, local intel to show your visitors a great time. Why not skip the research and instead pick one of the six hotspots that draw thousands of Lyft rides in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas? Here’s where to go — and when these spots are likely to be busiest. 

The figure shows daily ride activity for top holiday destinations in 2022.
  1. Snowport Winter Village (Boston, MA) — Lyft riders’ #1 winter destination is this holiday market with more than 120 vendors, a custom cocktail bar, and a mistletoe arch.

  2. Dyker Heights Christmas Lights (Brooklyn, NY) — The Brooklyn neighborhood takes holiday decoration very seriously, adorning houses with life-size reindeer and reindeer-size-wreaths. Some even play Christmas carols. It’s a great spot to check out on Christmas Day when other activities are closed.

  3. Christkindlmarket (Greater Chicago Area) — Modeled after a German holiday market, Christkindlmarket is full of activities to keep the whole family warm (including plenty of hot Glühwein). Just make sure to book ahead to get a “Stammtisch” — a personal wooden beer table that seats eight. 

  4. Rolf’s German Restaurant (Manhattan, NY) — This Union Square stalwart updates its vintage decor with wreaths, icicles, and over 200,000 lights. 

  5. Christmas Village (Philadelphia, PA) — Pair the traditional bratwurst and waffles with a spin on the Christmas Village carousel. 

  6. Union Square (San Francisco, CA) — Glide across the holiday ice rink, right across from The Great Tree. Psst — if you go on December 7 this year, you’ll get to witness the 14th annual Drag Queens on Ice.

Need more inspiration? Check out our 9 Urban Experiences Worth Braving the Cold For.