People of a certain generation probably remember with fondness, or perhaps amusement, the pyschology of our parents when growing up in terms of the optimum time of day to leave for a long road trip in order to minimise delays and traffic. Being woken at 4am with a bag of sweets slung into one’s hand was the done thing in the 1970’s and 1980’s…but is it still (or was it ever?) the best time to leave for a journey?

Rush Hour

Unfortunately, in the UK, ‘rush hour’ is not just an hour anymore. Common sense would suggest avoiding these hours as much as you can in order to make your journey as quick and traffic-free as possible. The rush hour is a time when commuters and students are on their way to work/school and in the UK this is generally considered to be between 07:00-10:00 and 16:00-19:00. However, check if your journey is taking place during the school holidays, as this can make a big difference to your journey, as we all know, since when the schools are on holiday the roads can be a lot quieter during peak times as there are no drop off’s and pick up’s and bottle necking outside school playgrounds.


Roadworks often deliberately take place at night and on the weekends, which means that while it is often great to set off on your journey after 8pm, you can sometimes still get stuck in frustrating 50mph (or less) speed limits. If you head to the Government website under ‘traffic information’, you can search all of Highway England’s Road Project and see when works are scheduled to start and finish and how the work will affect journey times (amongst other information). Of course, emergency works and repairs won’t always be documented in this way.

Rule of Thumb

As a very general rule of thumb, the best times to travel on the motorway are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday after 8pm and before 6am. Weekends allow for a bit of a lie in – leave in the morning to avoid the noon traffic which can become statisically more dangerous, or head off after 6pm. Monday morning and Friday late afternoon are just traffic disasters so if you can avoid travelling at these times you may do yourself a favour. Just be careful that if you do drive late at night on quiet roads to take regular breaks to rest and check your tyre pressure, oil, and screen wash levels to prevent any breakdowns and problems on your journey. There is a tendency to drive further between rest stops when traffic is flowing well, so ideally time rest stops to be every couple of hours or so, regardless of how far, or how fast you have progressed.

But if you still want to leave at 4am, don’t forget the bag of sweets.