The Best Time of Day to Travel by Plane, Train, or Bus, According to Experts

It all depends on your mode of transportation.

Airplane at a B5 gate at sunrise

The Palmer/Getty Images

If you're looking to book any form of transportation, you might be questioning the best time of day to travel. The answer can be nuanced, depending on your specific situation. For instance, are you looking to avoid delays, or do you prefer to save money? And are you traveling by plane, train, or bus? To help you figure out the best time of day to travel, we spoke to the experts to break it all down.

The Best Time of Day to Travel by Plane

In general, morning flights are preferable to afternoon or evening options because there are usually fewer issues earlier in the day. Morning flights are less likely to be subject to delays and cancellations for several reasons. For starters, there's usually no backlog of delays ahead of a morning flight. If you take a later flight, however, any delay to your inbound aircraft — or the inbound flight before that — could delay your flight in a snowball effect that gets worse as the day goes on.

Then, there's the consideration of weather in the morning. "Weather-wise, there's not as much instability because the temperature is cooler. Thus, if there's any precipitation, it won't be severe," former pilot Dr. Dan Bubb, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, tells Travel + Leisure. And that also helps you avoid delays. Plus, if you take a morning flight, that leaves you the whole day for backup options if things were to go awry.

And finally, airfare tends to be less expensive at unpopular hours. According to online travel agency, flight departures prior to 9 a.m. are cheaper than afternoon or evening trips.

The Best Time of Day to Travel by Train

The Bangkok (Mass) Transit System train drives on the rail at the platform in midday, Bangkok, Thailand.

Getty Images

Trains are frequently used for commuting, so it's no surprise that rush hour applies here almost as much as it does to cars. Mornings and evenings tend to be both busier and more expensive, so afternoons are your best bet.

"The best time to travel by train is in the afternoon, between 12 p.m. and 5 p.m.," Staffo Dobrev, director of communications at the travel search engine Wanderu, tells T+L. "Within that period, train fares can be up to 33 percent cheaper than the rest of the day." Not only is an afternoon train ticket less expensive, it's also easier to fit into your schedule. Dobrev explains, "​​On average, there tends to be more trains departing in the afternoon, providing travelers with more options and flexibility."

The Best Time of Day to Travel by Bus

There are two primary factors to consider when traveling by bus: rush hour traffic and ticket prices. If you're intent on arriving at your destination on time, avoid rush hour traffic as best you can, especially if you're departing from or arriving at a major metropolitan area.

But for ticket prices, the best deals can be found in the mornings. According to Dobrev's research, travelers can save as much as 15 percent on bus tickets for departures between the hours of 6 a.m. and 12 p.m. "That's also the period that offers the highest diversity when it comes to bus travel options," he says. "Traveling in the morning would also help avoid a fully booked bus, as the vast majority of bus travelers tend to hit the road in the afternoon."

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles