Get in, get your pumpkin puree, and get out this Thanksgiving.

By Lauren Phillips
November 17, 2020

Most years, Thanksgiving is full of family bonding opportunities, including that stressful pre-feast trip to the grocery store. This year looks a little different—Thanksgiving during coronavirus is almost nothing like a traditional Thanksgiving, particularly with CDC guidelines for Thanksgiving recommending against the large family or group gatherings we’re all used to. Still, if you’re planning to celebrate at all, even in a small way, one tradition will stay the same: the quest for the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

Of course you know when Thanksgiving is—November 26 in 2020—but figuring out when to go to the grocery store for your Thanksgiving shopping has a less definitive answer. Usually you may want to avoid grocery store crowds to maintain your holiday cheer, but this year, avoiding crowds at the grocery store also means limiting your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus. Fortunately, data from Google Maps can help.

According to Google Maps data, Saturdays between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. are usually the busiest times to visit the grocery store. The best time to go grocery shopping for Thanksgiving may be Monday at 8 a.m., when stores are typically least busy.

Monday may seem too far in advance to pick up your groceries for Thursday, but if it helps you avoid crowds, it may be worth it. Tuesday and Wednesday are sure to be popular Thanksgiving grocery shopping days, and many stores may be closed on Thanksgiving this year, so don’t plan on going morning-of without confirming your store will be open first.

For a sense of how crowded your go-to store is, you can also check "busyness" information on Google Maps—and even see real-time info on how crowded it is. If your grocery store, restaurant, or any other location seems crowded, you can change your plans. But if you’re planning on visiting a restaurant the week of Thanksgiving, your best bet is to make a reservation, and to make it now. According to Google data, restaurant reservations are up 203 percent now compared to late last year.

Whether you’re planning a Thanksgiving for two or you’ll be exchanging Thanksgiving wishes over Zoom this year, the key to avoiding crowds and having the best possible Turkey Day is to plan ahead. Make your grocery list, pick an off time to go grocery shopping, and make an efficient trip. If you’re ordering food from a local restaurant or dining out for your feast, see if you can put in your order or make a reservation now: The last thing anyone wants on Thanksgiving is a sudden change of plans because of over-crowding.