Tech Guide

This Google Maps trick can save you tons of time

Key Points
  • Google Maps has a feature called "Popular times" that shows how long you can expect to wait at places like restaurants and stores.
  • By knowing how busy somewhere is, and how long of a wait you can expect, you can save time by planning to go on another day or at a different time.
  • CNBC's Todd Haselton shows you how to use this time-saving Google Maps feature.
Customers wait in line to place their food order at the Five Guys Famous Burgers and Fries restaurant in Washington, DC.
Paul . Richards | AFP | Getty Images

There's a feature in Google Maps that can save you a ton of time if you use it properly. It tells you how busy a place like a restaurant or store typically is, and if there's usually a wait time, before you even go.

For instance, my wife and I went out to a sushi dinner last weekend. The restaurant didn't take reservations, but I knew before I went that I should expect to wait about 30 minutes because Google Maps told me so.

It turned out to be dead-on.

Here's how to use it.

First, open Google Maps on your phone and search for somewhere, like a restaurant or a store, and then tap on it.

CNBC | Todd Haselton

Scroll down past the phone number, website, description and all that added information.

CNBC | Todd Haselton

Stop right here, where it says "Popular Times."

Check out the wait times by tapping on this graph.
CNBC | Todd Haselton

Now take a look at the graph. You can tap different times to see how busy a certain place is at certain times. If you tap the name of the day, there's a drop down menu that lets you switch to see how popular a place is on different times of the week, too.

It will tell you, in real time, how busy a place currently is. For restaurants, it typically says you can expect to wait 15 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour, or more if it's busy. For places like the DMV, it doesn't always give you an exact wait time, but it says things like "it's as busy as it gets," so you know to bring a book along. There's even an indication for how long people typically spend inside those places. The DMV says 45 minutes to 2 hours, for example:

CNBC | Todd Haselton

You can use this for all sorts of things, like to see how crowded an Apple Store might be before you try to walk-in for help or, like me, to see what sort of wait there is at a restaurant that doesn't take reservations. If you pull up Google Maps and see it's busy, just go at a time when it typically isn't. Or, if you see a restaurant typically has a longer wait around the time you want to eat, now you'll know to go somewhere else.

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