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Want to avoid crowds? These are the best times to shop and eat out

See the safest times to hit up your local grocery store or coffee shop right now.
Google Maps identified Mondays at 8am as the least busy time to shop while Saturdays between 12-3pm are the busiest times. JOHANNES EISELE / AFP via Getty Images
/ Source: TODAY

Google Maps has been shining a spotlight on small businesses during the pandemic, and now a new report shows the best times to do your holiday shopping and dining out if you want to avoid the crowds. As people across the country get ready for a smaller, much different version of the holidays, a new analysis of Google Maps data shows the least busy (and the busiest) times to do everything from eat out at restaurants, grocery shop and even hit up your local coffee shop. Google Maps looked at data from March to October 2020 to identify the top trends. It's super helpful to consider these trends before heading out, especially if you're looking to mitigate your COVID-19 risk by social distancing from others.

If you're looking forward to meeting up with a friend for outdoor dining or other safer ways to enjoy a meal, Google says the least busy time is Tuesdays at 3pm. Meanwhile, you'll see the heaviest crowds in restaurants at 6pm on Fridays when many people finish work for the week and are ready to dig into some apps.

Planning a big grocery run for Turkey Day or just stocking up for the week? Google Maps identified Mondays at 8am as the least busy time to shop while Saturdays between 12-3pm are the busiest times. So while most people leave the shopping for the weekend, if you can, plan ahead to do your store run while the stores are less crowded and after any special shopping hours designated for seniors or at-risk customers.

A strong cup of joe will definitely help you power through the holidays. If you're planning to pick up a shot of espresso or a seasonal specialty drink, pop into your local shop on Tuesdays at 4pm for some socially distanced service. Placing your order on Saturdays at 10am will get you that needed caffeine fix, but realize it's also the busiest time to get coffee according to Google Maps.

Be sure to keep in mind that the data shows trends and can't predict what the exact scene will be when you venture out to shop. Also, many stores that would have stayed open in previous years will be closed for Thanksgiving in order to keep shoppers safe and give employees a much-needed break.

As we still deal with some shortages and increased demand for certain items during coronavirus, remember that the best strategies are to plan ahead by making restaurant reservations and shopping ahead of the holidays and by being flexible with expectations and ingredients at the grocery store. A smile, even if it's behind your mask, will go a long way toward making the season brighter for everyone.