When is the best time to leave for a business trip?

a green alarm clock with bellsHow do you know what is the best time to leave for a business trip? When you travel is determined in part by factors outside of your control–schedules, availability, etc–but you do have some choices to make. 

Note: Before you make any decisions, be sure to consult your corporate travel policy. You may be restricted to a certain airline or class of service, and you don’t want to go outside your guidelines!

Here are some reasons to choose one over the other.

Early morning.

  • You have commitments the night prior or you want to minimize the time you’re gone.
  • You have some flexibility about when your workday starts, or there are flights that get you in with plenty of time to spare.
  • Even when tired you are able to work at an acceptable standard.
  • Your budget is too tight for an extra night of hotel costs.

The night before.

  • Your workday starts too early for a morning flight.
  • You want to ensure you’re well-rested prior to your meetings.

There are benefits and drawbacks to leaving at any time.

  • Early in the morning. A 5am flight will often get to your destination in time to have almost a full day at the office, plus you get to stay at home one more night. The obvious downside is that getting up at 3am sucks, and lack of sleep may lead you to operate at a sub-optimal level.
  • Early afternoon. Leaving around 2pm allows you to have a half day to work but arrive at your destination early enough to get a good night’s sleep. At the same time you are away from home a night earlier than may be necessary. And maybe it’s just the places I fly to, but it seems like there are almost no direct flights leaving early afternoon so it takes longer than it may have to.
  • After work. The pros: A full day of work before your flight, a full day of work at your destination. The cons: You’re often on the last flight of the day, and any delays could cause you to arrive very late.

Before I had kids I preferred to leave early in the morning, but now that I have kids I find that I can’t function when I do that. These days I leave the night before my appointments, as late in the workday as possible, aiming to arrive between 8-10pm which gives me enough time for a good night’s sleep.

As with many travel-related decisions, anything that’s not dictated by your job is dictated by personal preference. Consider all the options, and make the decision that is best for your personality and working style.

Readers, when do you like to leave for your business trips?


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  1. I prefer the Noon-2pm slot or the early morning slot (but usually after 7am – I simply cannot function when I take the 5am flight). Also depends on where I’m going and what’s available on American Airlines (for example, I am on a project in Boise at the moment so my options are QUITE limited!).

    I simply hate leaving later in the day, for many reasons. First and foremost, I usually always have to connect and end up arriving at 9 or 10pm. Most of my flights are sub 2 hours and usually involve express carriers so there is hardly ever a meal offered on the flight, and hardly any time in the connecting airport to grab anything of substance or quality. Also, airports are much more crowded, there is a higher probability of delays (especially weather-related delays in Summer), and my upgrade chances are usually better the earlier I fly.

    I place a lot of emphasis on arriving in time for dinner and having a civilized evening in the city that I’m visiting and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

    With the prevalence of inflight wifi, I find that I can continue to be productive while I am travelling – meetings can usually be easily rescheduled and/or facilitated remotely.

    All of that being said, I am a childless, mid-level Manager in my early 30’s who works for a consulting company that makes remote work quite easy, so for the time being I can be quite flexible with my business travel. 🙂

  2. I usually end up leaving the day before (typically on a Sunday) when I need to be on-site Monday mid morning. And if I schedule a flight during a big game, even better chances on getting an upgrade because most people are not at the airport watching the game. That gives me plenty of time to get into the city and settle in for dinner and get a decent’s nights rest.

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