Find out the best times to shop, drive, and more this Turkey Day.

By Real Simple
November 13, 2019
Credit: Jung Getty / Getty Images

With Thanksgiving just around the corner—Thursday, November 28, 2019, if you're still wondering when Thanksgiving is—you're likely prepping for a lot of travel. Whether you're traveling across the country to spend the holiday with friends and family or you're traveling down the street to pick up feasting essentials from the grocery store, your celebration is bound to include some time out and about, and time outside your home means some crowds.

Thanksgiving, especially, comes with lots of crowds. The days surrounding Thanksgiving are some of the busiest travel days of the year for airports and highways (and trains and buses, too, most likely), but they're also crowded days for grocery stores, bakeries, and the other spots that sell everything you need for your Thanksgiving feast.

Unless you hold some passion for long lines and empty store shelves, you likely want to do everything you can to avoid the crowds on and around Thanksgiving Day—and Google is here to help. Using data from Google Maps and Google News Initiative, Google has put together Mapping Thanksgiving, a holiday-specific site designed to help you dodge the crowds this Thanksgiving. (Just think of how much time you'll have to watch more Thanksgiving episodes.)

According to Google's data (aggregated and anonymized data from the Popular Times feature), bakeries will be most crowded on Wednesday (the day before Thanksgiving) around noon as everyone stocks up on pies, bread rolls, and more for the next day's feast. Stop by Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. to beat the crowds, and store your baked goods in an airtight container to keep them fresh until Thanksgiving dinner. Grocery stores will be packed Wednesday at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m., as will liquor stores, as shoppers stock up on food and cocktail ingredients. Plan to visit both Tuesday night during the quiet evening hours, around 9:00 and 10:00 p.m.

After Thanksgiving, movie theaters will be crowded Friday evening, around 6:00 p.m., as people unwind from family time with a screening. For Black Friday, shopping centers will be most crowded at 1:00 p.m., after the initial doorbuster rush but before the deals vanish. Getting up early gets you doorbusters and a better shopping experience here: The least crowded time to shop on Black Friday is 7:00 a.m.

With those peak visiting times in mind, you might be able to avoid the big rush, grabbing everything you need and getting out of the store before things get really crazy. But Google's tips don't end there: Its data also analyzes the best times to hit the road to drive to a family member or friend's house for the feast. Google has broken down the data by city, so you can plan your Thanksgiving Day accordingly, but it's also made some general recommendations.

Nationally, the day before Thanksgiving between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. is the worst time to hit the road. By 6:00 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, traffic is clear, though, so you might save time on your drive by waking early the morning of and heading out then. After Thanksgiving, Friday and Sunday afternoons get crowded as people return home; leave early in the morning to skip the traffic.

To see city-specific traffic predictions for your area, check out Google's Mapping Thanksgiving site, and remember: Planning ahead pays off, almost always. Don't leave any part of Thanksgiving until the last minute, not even your memorization of Thanksgiving quotes.


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