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Dec. 8, 2021 — With millions of Americans vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, many are anxious to take part in more normal holiday gatherings for the first time in nearly 2 years. But with COVID-19 still a concern, especially amid the new Omicron variant, staying safe is key. And a new trends tool from Google Maps aims to do just that, offering information to make the holiday safer and more efficient by pinpointing the busiest times to travel, grocery shop, head to the salon, and buy presents for loved ones.

According to a Morning Consult poll of 2,200 American adults, 44% of those surveyed said they plan to travel for the holidays this year, up from 35% in 2020. And 63% of respondents said they plan to travel in December, an increase from 59% in 2020.

Here are the best and worst times to partake in holiday preparation this year, according to Google Maps:

Travel

Google Maps suggests those planning to travel in December avoid airports around noon on Saturdays. It calls 9 p.m. Saturday the least busy flying time.

Grocery stores

If you’re planning a big meal with family and friends, grocery shopping could get messy at 1 p.m. Sunday, while the quietest time is around 8 p.m. Thursday.

Salons

Another high-traffic spot  is the salon. According to Google Maps, searches for nail salons surpass gym searches by more than 3 times in December. But to avoid waiting around — and possible COVID-19 transmission — the holiday trends tool says to skip that trip around 11 a.m. on Saturdays and instead go at 7 p.m. on Monday or Tuesday.

Shopping centers

People will be heading to shopping centers for gift-buying in December. Last year, Google Maps searches for stores like Kay Jewelers, Bath & Body Works, and Barnes & Noble increased 100% in December from the previous month. The busiest time is 1 p.m. Saturday, and the least busy is 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Post offices

Post office searches increased by 150% in December last year. Google Maps found 3 p.m. Tuesday was the peak time for post office traffic, while 2 p.m. Saturday was the least chaotic.

Food and drink

For those looking to avoid the kitchen during the holidays, Google Maps noted some takeout food trends:

  • Chinese food tops the list of popular food choices for Christmas Day, with orders increasing 25% from a typical Saturday.
  • In New York and Los Angeles, pizza is the most sought-after takeout item on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.
  • Portland, OR, residents search for burgers on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve. Burgers are also popular in Minneapolis on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
  • Seattle, WA, residents gravitate toward Thai food on Thanksgiving Day.

Check out the Google Maps blog for more tips and tricks on how to stay safe while shopping and running errands this holiday season.

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