Use This Online Google Tool to Avoid Thanksgiving Traffic Jams

iStock/Marcin Kilarski
iStock/Marcin Kilarski

If you don't spend most of Thanksgiving Day cooking, you'll likely spend it driving. More than 54 million Americans will be traveling at least 50 miles away from their homes some time this week, according to AAA. This year, Google has teamed up with Polygraph to develop some tools to make the journey a little easier for the majority of holiday travelers getting to their destinations by car, Fast Company reports.

Using speed and location data from anonymous Android users, Google Maps and Google News Lab have determined the best times to hit the road on the way to and from Thanksgiving dinner. To anticipate traffic jams in your region, look at the Avoiding Traffic section and select one of the 25 cities from the drop-down menu. If you're from Los Angeles, you'll hit the most congestion on Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. on your way out of town, and on Friday at 4:00 p.m when you're driving home. Motorists from Pittsburgh should wait to leave until 5:00 a.m. the morning of Thanksgiving and 4:00 a.m. the morning after to skirt traffic. The tool also includes visualizations of how traffic levels in your city fluctuate throughout Thanksgiving and the surrounding days.

Google's "Mapping Thanksgiving" project features other tools that you can use to plan your holiday. One visualization shows when crowds at popular spots will peak (avoid the bakery at noon on Wednesday and the movie theater Black Friday night). You can also see what people are searching for in your state during Thanksgiving to get some inspiration for what to do after dinner (brewery, electronics store, and coffee shop are some common searches).

Still feeling stressed about driving during one of the busiest travel days of the year? Check out our tips for a stress-free trip.

[h/t Fast Company]

The Worst Airlines and Airports for Holiday Flight Delays

Tzido/iStock via Getty Images
Tzido/iStock via Getty Images

Before you can drink eggnog and exchange presents with your family during the holidays, you need to figure out how you'll get to them. Travel can be one of the most stressful aspects of what's already a frantic time of year. And even if you plan your trip perfectly, there's no way to guarantee your flight won't be delayed.

Beyond getting to the airport on time and keeping track of your flight status, there are steps you can take to help your flight run smoothly, like choosing the right airline and airport. As Lifehacker reports, the artificial Christmas tree site Treetopia recently compiled a list of average holiday season delay times for airports and airlines in the U.S.

The data comes from flight data collected by the government this time last year. In the airline category, Southwest is the worst offender, with 64 percent of all flights experiencing some type of delay during the Christmas season. Delays lasted an average of 19 minutes and only .88 percent of flights were canceled. Southwest is followed by Frontier, which delayed 50 percent of all flights for an average time of 22 minutes.

At the other end of the list is Delta, with the lowest percentage of delayed flights at 33 percent. The airline's average delay time for the 2018 holiday season was 13 minutes. It's followed closely by United Airlines, which also had 33 percent of flights delayed and had an average delay time of 17 minutes.

If you believe airports are more often to blame for delays than airlines, Treetopia broke down the numbers for them as well. Chicago Midway International seems to be the worst airport to fly from during the holidays, with 77 percent of all flights experiencing delays for an average of 25 minutes and 0.62 percent getting canceled altogether. Dayton International is the best place to travel from: Only 23 percent of flights out of the airport were delayed with an average time of 10 minutes.

Unfortunately, every airline and airport deals with the occasional delay. Here's what you should do if your flight gets canceled or delayed during your holiday travels.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Why You Should Never Charge Your Phone in Public USB Ports Without a USB Data Blocker

Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images
Creative-Family/iStock via Getty Images

The USB charging ports that have popped up at airports, coffee shops, and even outdoor stations around cities in recent years are definitely a lifesaver when your smartphone is down to its last bit of juice. A dead phone is annoying at best and downright dangerous at worst, so it’s totally understandable why you’d jump at the chance to revive it at your earliest opportunity.

However, those public ports might not be as benevolent as they seem. According to Afar, hackers can load malware onto those stations—or on the cables left plugged into the stations—which can then deliver passwords and other data right from your device to the hacker’s. If you have used a public port recently, don’t panic; TechCrunch reports that these cases are fairly rare. Having said that, it’s definitely better not to risk it, especially considering what a nightmare it would be to have your identity stolen.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office explains that the easiest way to prevent becoming a victim of this type of scam, often referred to as juice-jacking, is simply to abstain from using public USB charging ports. Instead, invest in a portable charger, or plug your own charger into an actual AC power outlet.

But unoccupied power outlets are notoriously hard to come by in public places, and portable chargers themselves can also run out of battery life. Luckily, there’s a small, inexpensive device called a data blocker that will enable you to use public USB charging ports without worrying about juice-jacking. It looks a little like a flash drive with an extra slot, but it lacks the two wires usually found in USB chargers that can download and upload data. That way, your device will charge without transferring any information.

You can get two of them for $11 from Amazon here.

[h/t Afar]

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