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Google Maps beefs up tools for holiday shoppers and travelers

New information includes more details about what's inside airports and malls, as well as when areas will be at their busiest.

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Angela Lang/CNET

Google on Tuesday unveiled new enhancements to Google Maps to help people navigate malls, airports and transit stations as shoppers and travelers gear up for the holidays.

Google Maps' Directory tab in action.

Google

The tech giant is expanding its Directory feature to help people better find their way around large buildings, allowing them to quickly see what shops are inside or the location of airport lounges, car rental kiosk or parking lots, among others. The enhancements, which are rolling out to both Android and iOS apps, will also include relevant information such as hours of operation and ratings.

Another Google Maps feature rolling out to people in time for the holidays is called Area Busyness. By combining live trends, the feature identifies when a specific neighborhood or area is at its busiest or nearly there. Depending on your goals, the feature can show help you avoid congested areas or locate the liveliest spots while traveling.

Google Maps is also looking to make grocery shopping these holidays easier by tracking the status of orders placed with retailers, including sharing your expected time of arrival and notifying retailers when you've arrived to pick up your order. Google said the feature is now available in more than 2,000 store locations in more than 30 states across the US.

"People who use pickup with Google Maps typically wait less than five minutes for their groceries, meaning you can grab exactly what you need and get right back to your day," Google said in a statement.

Holiday travel and shopping often means finding some place to eat when you're not in your own neighborhood. To help people find dining options that don't bust their budget, Google is adding price ranges for restaurants based on its users' contributions. It's also beefing up restaurant reviews, adding information about whether outdoor seating is available, delivery options and curbside pickup.

The announcements come as Google tries to push its Maps app beyond just getting people from one point to another. In the last few years, the company has launched social features including restaurant recommendations, as well as tools to connect people with local businesses like plumbers or yoga instructors. As Google introduces new features, they feed the company's massive data machine, which the company uses to bolster its lucrative personalized advertising business.