Image of traffic jam on a wet road during the day time

When is the Best Time to Leave for a Long Road Trip

By: Craig

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The best time to leave for a long road trip is generally first thing in the morning. A morning start time typically allows you to beat rush hour traffic. And you’ll be fresh off a good night’s sleep, so your energy will be at its best for the long drive.

But starting your road trip bright and early is not a hard and fast rule. There are many factors to consider when determining the best time to leave for your long road trip.

The majority of our road trips start in the evening after work. This allows us to work a full day and then get a few hours of driving in before dark. But, there are times when we have started earlier in the day of other circumstances.

In this post, we’ll share the factors we consider when planning our road trip start time. These tips will help you determine the best and the safest time for you to start your road trip adventure.

Best Time of Day to Start a Long Drive

Most people will say that the morning is your best time to start a road trip. But depending on where you live and where you are going, this may not always be the case. Here are some things to consider when figuring out your start time.

When to Leave to Avoid Traffic

When to leave to avoid traffic depends on where you are staring from and where you are going. If you aren’t starting from or traveling through a big city with traffic issues, you may not have to worry about traffic when determining your road trip start time.

If you know where you are going, use Google Maps or Waze to help with your route planning. These apps will tell you not only which route is fastest, but you can also adjust your start times to determine if you may run into traffic.

Daytime vs. Nighttime Driving

In terms of safety, this is probably one of the most significant factors to consider when choosing your road trip start times.

Ideally, when planning your road trip, you’ll want to plan on doing most, if not all, of your driving during daylight.

Driving long distances is hard work and takes a lot of mental and physical stamina. And driving at night takes even more mental awareness and strength.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatal car accidents are 3x more likely to happen at night than during the day.

Yes, roads are generally less traveled at night, and it may be tempting to knock a few miles off your trip during the night. But for your safety, it’s best to stick to daylight hours.

If you do need to clock in a few miles in the dark, try to do them first thing in the morning before the sun rises. That way you’ll be less likely to be tired and exhausted from a full day of driving.

Safest Time of Day to Start a Road Trip

According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration analyzed by AVVO, the safest time to be on the road is in the morning hours.

Traffic fatalities are at their highest starting mid-afternoon and stay elevated through the evening hours.

Most likely, drivers are at their best physically in the morning, and as the day goes on, both fatigue and impaired driving (drunk driving) increase.

Related Post: How Long Can You Drive in One Day

Best Day of the Week to Start a Road Trip

In terms of safety, Tuesday is statistically the safest day of the week to drive and is a great day to start your road trip.

According to data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tuesday has the fewest traffic fatalities. The data also shows that Friday evening, Saturday, and Sunday are the deadliest days of the week to be on the road.

Tuesdays are also great days for checking out roadside attractions as they won’t be as busy as weekends.

Weather Conditions for Driving

Weather is another factor to consider when choosing the best time of day for your road trip.

If you are driving during the winter months, snow or ice can significantly affect how safe it is to start your trip. If there is any chance of hazardous road conditions, postpone your road trip until weather conditions improve.  

To figure out if the weather could impact the safety of your trip, you can use a road trip weather app.

Screen shot of Weather on the Way app
Weather of the Way Screen shot of trip

Road trip weather apps allow you to see the predicted weather along your entire route. With the information they provide, you can either delay your road trip start time or take a different route to avoid the predicted inclement weather.

To learn more about these apps, check out this post on our favorite road trip weather app.

Take Holidays into Consideration

Holidays can also affect road conditions, so consider them when planning your start time.

The start or end of a holiday weekend will result in more traffic on the road. If your goal is to avoid traffic, leaving for your road trip close to a holiday is not your best choice.

To avoid holiday traffic, plan to either leave before or after the holiday is over and everyone is back at work.

The Best Road Trip Start Time in the One that Works for You (and is safe)

In the end, the best time of day to leave for a road trip is the time that works for you but also takes safety into consideration.

Generally, this time will be sometime in the morning when you feel your best. And nighttime driving should be avoided as much as possible.

Being a safe driver on the road is the most significant factor to consider when choosing your road trip start time.

For more tips on long-distance driving, check out our post on our tips for long-distance driving.