How Google's New Feature Will Help You Determine How Crowded Places Are At Certain Times

We've all turned to Google for helping find the best happy hour deal, or to check when our favorite store closes. But now, the search engine is introducing its most useful feature yet: As of December, Google's Map and Search feature includes a "live preview" section that offers real-time updates of how crowded a specific place is. That's right: you can now see just how packed your favorite restaurant is before even getting there.

So, how exactly does it work? All you have to do is Google the name of the locale you're looking for, like "Trader Joe's" or "Philz Coffee." A window will then pop up on the side of the site with the name of the business, its address and business hours, and several reviews of the place. And that's not all — as seen in the picture below, the site now also features a bar graph detailing how crowded that particular place is in real time.

This is obviously an incredibly useful tool for a number of reasons. If you're planning to go to happy hour after work, you can now get a feel for what the crowds are like at the nearby bars. The feature is especially helpful at this time of year, when holiday shopping is in full swing and the hordes at retailers are bigger than ever. Instead of spending your whole lunch break in a mile-long line for food, you can now check the live preview and adjust your plans accordingly.

The new feature doesn't just help you avoid big crowds, it also helps you plan around them. In addition to the real-time updates, the feature also includes a location summary tool that lets you know the average amount of time that consumers typically stay at a certain spot. So if your favorite restaurant is super packed at 6 p.m. and people tend to only hang out there for about an hour, you can take the time to run an errand before checking back in at 7 p.m.

So before you hit the mall for some Christmas shopping over the next few weeks, check out Google's new live-preview. Not only could it help save you some serious time, but avoiding the hassle of crowded parking lots and super long lines will also make for a much less stressful holiday experience.