When I think about Thanksgiving, I think about sitting around that table with friends, family and the bird. But, the reality is that many of us end up spending more time in the car than we do at the table — or even on the couch — over the holiday.
So here’s a hot tip: If you’re headed out of Austin next Wednesday for Thanksgiving, get out of town before 1 p.m. or finish out the work day and leave after 5 p.m. Because if you push off between 2 pm. and 4 p.m., you’ll be driving in the worst possible traffic of Thanksgiving week. And 3 p.m. is the absolute worst. That’s according to Google’s analysis of data flowing from Android phones during the holiday week last year.
Some good news for those of you who are staying in town or leaving on Thanksgiving Day — the traffic really isn’t all that bad.
“Thanksgiving Day traffic was a breeze and in Austin, it had the least traffic in the entire week,” Google said in a post with the holiday traffic data. “For the traffic gurus looking to beat even the lightest traffic days, stay off the road between noon and 2 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.”
If you want to avoid traffic on your return trip, it’s a little wiser to wait until Sunday. Saturday’s traffic is 13% worse — in fact, it’s the worst traffic day of the holiday week in Austin, except Wednesday. As for Black Friday? Apparently, there aren’t as many shoppers driving around as we might think — the roads are less saturated than the days on either side of it.
Overall, Google looked at 21 U.S. cities, and Austin ranked #9 for worst traffic during Thanksgiving weekend. So, there’s something to not give thanks for, if you’re feeling pessimistic. On the other hand, we’re not Los Angeles, Washington D.C. or San Francisco, which topped the list for worst traffic during the holiday week last year.
Austin’s Holiday Searching Trends
Austin’s love of beer, wine and booze is pretty well documented. Our liquor tax receipts top any other Texas city. And its downtown has more bars per person than any city in the nation. So, perhaps it’s not a huge surprise that on Thanksgiving Day only movie theaters and shopping had more Google Maps searches than bars.
And while many people are making a final trip for gravy and cranberry sauce the day before Thanksgiving, people in Austin are also apparently thinking about heading out an aquarium, which struck me as odd since the Austin Aquarium on 183 doesn’t seem to win many accolades. The hottest search terms, of course, were bakeries and grocery stores.
On Black Friday, Austin’s search trends showed that almost all of the top 10 terms have to do with shopping, which Google said is different than most other cities, which had a wider range of searches.
Nationwide, “buffet restaurants” were the top search on Google Maps. But different cities had different top hits.
“In Houston, “doughnut shops” were trending on Thanksgiving,” Google said in its holiday traffic post. “It was “bars” in Chicago— maybe people needed a break from their families. And Miami residents were interested in looking their holiday best—”beauty salons” were among the trending searches by the South Beach crowd.”