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Google’s latest Maps features help you avoid the holiday shopping crowds

Keep track of crowds and grocery pickups

The “Busy area” label appears when you might encounter crowds.
Screenshot by Thomas Ricker / The Verge

Google is adding a handful of new features to Google Maps in time for the holiday season, which collectively should make getting around a slightly less fraught experience. The new features were announced in a blog post today.

A new “Area Busyness” feature provides information on how popular neighborhoods are rather than just specific destinations, while the app’s “Directory” tab is rolling out globally to give more info on the stores and amenities inside locations like malls and airports. Google Maps is also expanding its grocery pickup tracking feature to cover more stores across the US, and is attempting to make its restaurant reviews more detailed.

The Directory tab gives information about stores and amenities inside large complexes like airports.
Image: Google

Area Busyness is an expansion of the information Google Maps already provides about the crowdedness of public transit and the popularity of specific stores and locations throughout the week. Now, rather than just offering details on specific places, Google Maps will be able to give information on how busy a general neighborhood is. Google hopes that the feature will be able to both let users avoid crowds, or hunt them down if they’re in the mood for a party atmosphere. Google says that Area Busyness will be rolling out globally on Android and iOS “in time for this holiday season.”

Meanwhile, the Directory tab will be available for any airports, malls, and transit stations around the world where Google has data available. It shows which amenities (such as airport lounges and parking lots) and stores are available inside places that are often shown as just a single location in Google Maps. Then, the app can provide granular information like opening hours and customer ratings. The Directory tab will also be available globally on iOS and Android.

The service’s restaurant reviews are also getting more detailed, with additional information on price ranges. It’s also simplifying the process of adding information on facilities like outdoor seating and delivery options.

Google Maps is also expanding its grocery pickup feature, which lets users track their order status and then share with the store when they expect to arrive for collection without ever leaving the app. The feature was first launched earlier this year, and has since expanded to cover over 2,000 stores across 30 US states including Kroger Family stores like Kroger, Fry’s, Ralphs and Marianos, Google says.