Set your alarms!

How do you do Costco?

For me, the wholesaler is often the place I go for a leisurely and investigative shopping trip. I wander the aisles looking for treasures, get a few thousand steps in, and if I’m feeling indulgent, grab a hot dog or a soft serve cone on my way out for a snack. I love to see what is new and can always make a discovery that makes me smile or inspires me to share the find with the Internet and beyond.

What I don’t like: playing obstacle course with other shoppers who might be in the same dreamy mood. And I definitely don’t want to be there when the world is stocking up for a big holiday weekend, or when it takes longer to check out than it took to shop.

Which has led to a study of and practice in Smart Costco Timing (SCT). After hours and hours of dogged research (and yes, a few soft serve cones), I share my findings with all of you.

Credit: Steve Proehl/Getty Images

Steve Proehl/Getty Images

The best time to shop at Costco

Before we begin, a note: My personal Costco is in the middle of Chicago, and therefore the advice here is relevant to an urban shopping experience. If your local Costco is a suburban, exurban, or rural location, your experience might vary.

Ready for my deep findings?

The perfect time to shop Costco is between Tuesday and Thursday, arriving between 3 and 4pm.

Let’s look at why, utilizing process of elimination:

MONDAY: No good. For one, parents traditionally use this day to catch up after the weekend and restock for the week. Further, Monday mornings are often preferred shopping days for groups of seniors, and by midday you’ll be competing with people sneaking in on their lunch hour or literally coming in to eat lunch. Any arrival time after 5pm puts you with the after-work, stop-on-my-way-home crowds—admittedly this is not quite as striking during the pandemic when many folks are working from home, but many are not, and they are stressed enough as it is. Let’s leave the aisles for them, folks.

FRIDAY: Fridays are all about folks loading in for the weekends. Nope.

SATURDAY/SUNDAY: Weekends are madness, full-stop. Avoid when at all possible.

Which leaves the middle of the week, and the afternoon—if your obligations allow—as the ultimate sweet spot. Parking is plentiful, aisles are clear, lines are manageable. Things have been restocked after the weekends, and often there have been Monday deliveries that have arrived and been shelved.

So, if you too love a calm and relaxing Costco shopping adventure? Midweek and midafternoon are going to be just what the doctor ordered. You might even see me there—cone's on me!