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The best times for holiday travel and shopping, according to Maps data

Illustration of buildings and cars with holiday decor.

The holidays are upon us once again. While we love the crinkle of wrapping paper and the smell of freshly baked gingerbread, the holiday season’s long lines and endless traffic are enough to turn anyone into a Scrooge. To help you navigate this holiday season like a pro, we’ve pulled together Google Maps traffic predictions, popular times and activity trends to get you out the door and on your merry way with ease.

The best times for Thanksgiving travel

Whether you’re hitting the road early or heading out on Thanksgiving day, you can outsmart a potential slowdown by choosing the right time to leave. We took a look at last year’s Thanksgiving traffic patterns across more than 20 major U.S. cities to help you plan your trip and quit traffic cold turkey.

🚘 When to hit the road. The best time to get on the road before Thanksgiving is typically Monday at 8 p.m. local time. Try to avoid driving on Tuesday or Wednesday around 4 and 5 p.m., as that’s typically when Thanksgiving traffic hits its peak.

🦃 Turkey-day travels. Planning to make your turkey trot on Thanksgiving day? Try to hit the road before noon or after 5 p.m. Roads are typically more congested between 3-5 p.m., which could cause some ruffled feathers.

💳 Black Friday shopping. If you manage to emerge from your Thanksgiving food coma to shop ‘til you drop, there’s no sense in getting caught in traffic! On Black Friday, we typically see traffic pick up around noon and peak around 4 p.m. in most places across the U.S. You’ll see fewer cars on the road at 7 a.m., 10 a.m., and between 7-8 p.m.

👋 Home for the weekend. To make sure your journey home is all gravy after the festivities are over, try to avoid the roads at 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Typically the best times to leave are 6 a.m. or 8 p.m. local time.

The best times to travel, shop and run errands

Holiday crowds are snow joke. We looked at Popular Times information to determine the best and worst times to visit the places you need most during the holidays — so you can spend more time celebrating and less time waiting in line.

✈️ Airports. Turkeys aren’t the only ones trying to fly out of here! Airports in the U.S. are typically at their busiest on Saturdays at noon, so build in extra time if you’re traveling around then. Airports are at their least busy on Wednesdays around 8 p.m.

🥐 Bakeries. Looking for a sweet treat? You can expect to stand in line at the bakery on Saturday at 10 a.m., but you’ll have the best chance of avoiding the crowds if you visit on Monday at 3 p.m.

🥫 Grocery Stores. On a mission to get everything you need to be the hostess with the most-est? Grocery stores across the U.S. are typically busiest on Sunday at 1 p.m. and least busy on Tuesday at 9 a.m.

💌 Post Offices. We can’t all deliver our gifts in a sleigh, but you can slay your trip to the post office. Visit on Friday around noon to beat the crowds, and make sure you avoid the typical Tuesday 3 p.m. rush.

🛍️ Shopping Center. For when your presents is requested. Visit a local mall or shopping center around Monday at 3 p.m. and you’ll be in and out faster than you can say Kris Kringle, but visit on Saturday at 1 p.m. and yule surely be sorry.

The most popular holiday activities

From Christmas tree farms and holiday markets to ice skating rinks, we took a look at how popular holiday activities compare in each state. Dive in for some tree-mendous activity trends!

🍔 Order up! The most popular chain restaurants people navigate to on Thanksgiving are McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Dunkin’, according to Google Maps data. Tennessee is the only state that doesn’t favor one of these three, opting for Cracker Barrel (Old) Country Store instead!

Among the most popular holiday activities are Christmas tree farms and ice skating rinks, according to Google Maps direction requests. Let’s see how they compare:

⛸️ Ice, ice baby. Ice skating rinks took the lead in 33 states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia, Texas and Wyoming.

🎄 Rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Christmas tree farms were the more popular activity in 17 states. The tree-huggin’ states are: Alabama, Arkansas, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Whether you’re traveling far and wide or welcoming friends and family to your home, we know you’ve got your work cut out for you. Check out these Google Maps tips and tricks for navigating the holidays with ease.

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