The best and worst times to drive and shop during Thanksgiving week

Google Maps and Google News take the stress and guesswork out of your holiday planning

More than 55 million Americans are planning to trek 50 miles or further for Thanksgiving this year, according to AAA.

Thanksgiving Day is a time for eating and spending time with family and friends. The days before and after are for shopping, driving, shopping some more and then driving some more.

To take a bit of the stress out of your holiday prep, Google Maps and Google News Initiative have determined the best and worst times to travel, shop for your holiday meal, go out on Black Friday and more.

To figure out the best times to drive, Google considered the holiday period to start the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and end the Sunday after, excluding noon to 11pm on Thanksgiving Day. Google analyzed the volume of cars on the road at a given time, as determined by the speed and location of Android phones that had location services enabled. All traffic information is anonymous and taken in aggregate for 25 U.S. cities.

Atlantans who plan to drive to their holiday destination will have lots of company on the road. According to Google, the best time to leave the city is 3 a.m. Thanksgiving Day. The worst time, its research shows, is 3 p.m. the day before. The best time to drive home is 3 a.m. Friday, with the worst time being 3 p.m. Sunday.

According to data compiled by AAA and INRIX, Atlantans can expect their Wednesday afternoon travels to take 3.5 times longer than usual.

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» Thanksgiving traffic: Here's when (and when not) to travel in Atlanta

Not everyone will be traveling, but nearly everyone will be making a Thanksgiving meal or entertaining guests. You’ll need to go shopping for supplies to make that happen.

According to Google, the worst time to go to the bakery is around noon the day before Thanksgiving, when crowds will be the largest. A few hours later, those shoppers will hit the grocery or liquor stores, so avoid those places between 5 and 6 p.m. The best times to buy your food appear to be early morning and at closing time.

» 3 pies that might surprise your holiday guests

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For those who want only to relax and maybe catch a movie, the best time to do that is Thanksgiving Day, with the biggest crowds hitting the theaters around 6 p.m. Friday, presumably when they finish their Black Friday shopping.

» Macy's Pink Pig continues Atlanta holiday tradition

According to Google that shopping might start very early, but it peaks midday, between noon and 1 p.m. And although most will hit the big box stores for Black Friday deals, Google states the top three searches for shopping in Atlanta are GameStopBarnes & Noble, and Sam Ash Music Stores.

Google's mapping-Thanksgiving page can be customized, so you can check trends for the city you'll be visiting, too.

If you're staying in Atlanta, you can find all kinds of holiday happenings in our 2019 Winter Guide.