Your summer vacation should be a chance to escape the stresses of everyday life. But how much can you relax, really, if you're in an area that's unhealthy, unsafe or uncomfortably hot or humid? No place is perfect, of course, or entirely immune to crime, pollution and bad weather. But statistically speaking, there's a higher risk that you'll encounter one or more of those summer vacation spoilers in one of these nine destinations:
1. Detroit Saddled with some serious problems, Detroit tops our list of vacation destinations to avoid this summer. The last thing you want to worry about on your vacation is your safety, but it would be hard not to in Motor City. According to the FBI, Detroit had 418 murders in 2006 (the most recent year for which data was available), the highest number of any American city. It also ranks second highest for violent crimes and fourth highest for robberies. Another strike against Detroit? Of all American cities Detroit has the fewest sunny days.
2. Memphis, Tenn. For many, vacations are an excuse to dress up and shop 'til you drop. The only problem is that makes you a choice target for thieves. There is plenty you can do to lower your risk of being robbed, like dressing down, locking up valuables, and keeping your purse or backpack zipped and in your sight. But if you want to lower your chances even further, you may want to avoid Memphis. According to the FBI, it's the city with the highest robbery rate in the country, with more than 8,000 burglaries for every 100,000 people.
3, 4, 5. Long Beach, Riverside and Los Angeles, Calif. The American Lung Association recently released a report ranking the cities with the most pollution-ridden air. Most relevant for your summer vacation planning purposes are the cities with the most ozone pollution, which are Los Angeles, Long Beach and Riverside, Calif. Ozone pollution, or smog, is a gas most often formed when sunlight reacts with vapors emitted by motor vehicles, factories, power plants and other sources that burn fuel, says Janice E. Nolen, assistant vice president of national policy and advocacy for the American Lung Association. The effects of exposure to this sort of tropospheric ozone range from unpleasant to potentially deadly. "Ozone irritates the respiratory tract and causes health problems like asthma attacks, coughing, wheezing, chest pain and even premature death," Nolen says. Sound like a vacation? Not so much.
6, 7. Phoenix, Houston It's summertime, so of course you want to be warm and bask in the bright sunshine. But you don't want it to be so hot that it's unbearable to be outside. According to City-data.com, the two most uncomfortable, sticky-hot cities in the summertime are Phoenix and Houston. The average high temperature for Phoenix ranges from 102 to 105 degrees in the summer, according to the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau; in Houston temperatures hover in the 90s, though the humidity is higher. For those two cities plan a winter getaway, when the temperatures are much more mild.
8. Florida For most, vacations aren't just time away from work, they're time away from working in the kitchen as well. But while it's great to indulge in a meal that someone else has prepared, it may also be risky if the restaurant isn't keeping up with state health codes. According to Healthinspections.com, which tracks restaurant health inspections and violations, the most dangerous state for dining out is Florida, which leads the nation in illnesses caused by restaurant food. In 2006 the Sunshine State saw 74 outbreaks of food poisoning traced to restaurants, leaving more than 300 sick and 36 requiring hospitalization. Restaurants ranging from fast food to fine dining have long records of serious health code violations, according to the site. Florida's also a better spring than summer destination weatherwise, as the humidity and heat can climb to uncomfortable highs in the summer months.
9. Lexington, Ky. If you're one of the 50 million Americans who suffer from allergies, you may want to avoid the so-called horse capital of the world. While no place is entirely void of allergens—except, perhaps, Antarctica, which probably isn't on your wish list for vacation destinations—Lexington was recently named the most challenging place to live with allergies, in a recent report by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA). The group found that the city ranked high for pollen concentration, allergy medication use, allergy prescriptions and over-the-counter purchases of allergy medicine, and board-certified allergists. To avoid allergy flare-ups Mike Tringale, director of external affairs for AAFA, recommends care when choosing activities. Instead of going to the ballpark, choose an indoor activity like a museum visit. Another surprising tip? Don't go out before noon. Trees pollinate in the morning, Tringale says. So go ahead, sleep in. After all, it is your vacation.