How to Avoid Crowds in Boston around the Holidays, According to Google

Heed the search engine's advice this Thanksgiving and beyond.

Photo by Stan Grossfeld/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Between concerns about inflation and supply chain disruptions, not to mention the lingering possibilities of viral infection, the 2021 holiday season may be stressful enough already. Hoping to keep your anxiety to a minimum by dodging traffic jams, packed parking lots, and long lines? Google has studied your peers’ online behavior and is once again offering some tips this season.

For example, according to its analysis of search data, the best time to visit a Boston-area bakery to pick up some fresh bread or cookies is Thursday at 1 p.m., which is when you’re least likely to run into a line. But if you opt to drop by at 10 a.m. on Saturday—the busiest time for bakeries—you may have to wait.

Bars during the holidays tend to be especially busy on Saturday at 11 p.m., according to Google’s data, while they’re especially empty that same day at 4 p.m.

For holiday shopping, the busiest time for outlets and other stores is 1 p.m. on Saturday, while the least busy time is 3 p.m. on Friday.

For smaller crowds while shopping for groceries, meanwhile, head to the supermarket on Friday at 7 p.m., and avoid it on Sunday at noon.

Hair and nail salons will be busiest on Saturday at 10 a.m., and least busy on Thursday at 2 p.m.

Looking to avoid lines at the post office? Surprisingly, the data says you shouldn’t try to mail anything in person at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, which is the busiest time of the week around Boston.

And here is a pro, data-driven tip from Google about grabbing a bite to eat in between shopping trips: While Saturday at 7 p.m. is the busiest time of week for Boston restaurants, 3 p.m. on Saturday is when restaurants are slowest.

Typically, Google releases data on the best times to hit the road for Thanksgiving if you’re leaving the city, but it opted against providing that data this year. A representative says that’s because its analysis is usually based on traffic patterns from the prior year, and last year’s data was screwy because—well, you know why.

AAA, however, has picked up the slack. A new report from the roadside assistance giant predicts that travel will be much more congested than it was last year, and that the worst times to travel for Thanksgiving are 12-8 p.m. on Wednesday, 12-3 p.m. on Thursday, 1-4 p.m. on Friday, 2-7 p.m. on Saturday, and 1-7 p.m. on Sunday.

The worst route in the Boston area, it says, will be Route I-93 North, and you should avoid it all costs from 1-3 p.m. on Wednesday, when traffic will be 240 percent higher than usual.

So stay safe out there, and when it comes to beating traffic and dodging crowds, let the data be your guide.

Image via Google