What are the Best Times to Travel for Business?
tl;dr: New data about the times and days corporate travelers prefer to hit the road
Traveling for business isn’t always fun, but for millions of Americans, it’s just part of the job. The good news is that today’s corporate travelers have more control over their travel logistics than ever. They have more control over which airlines they fly, which hotels (or Airbnbs) they stay at and, perhaps most importantly, what time of day and day of week they travel.
Do business travelers prefer to fly at the beginning or the end of the week? Early morning, afternoon or red eye? What about weekend travel? We wanted to get some actual data on the topic, so we surveyed more than 1,000 frequent business travelers to get the low down on the timing preferences behind corporate travel (assuming the schedule for the visit itself is flexible).
Let’s dive in!
Time of day
It sometimes feels like traveling for business forces employees into a tough decision: disrupt their work (by traveling during the workday) or eat into their personal time (by traveling before or after work). Sometimes the reason for the travel itself dictates the timing, but often traveling employees are able to pick the travel time of their choice.
So what time of day do they choose?
The answer was resoundingly clear: 78% of business travelers prefer early morning travel to late night travel (including red eyes). Whether this preference reflects a desire to minimize the likelihood of a missed meeting or to fend off disrupted sleep, it is clear that frequent business travelers are much more morning people than night owls.
Day of week
What time to fly is only half of the equation — what about the days frequent travelers prefer to fly? The answer here is nearly as stark.
Tuesday is the most preferred business travel day, and the pattern is clear: frequent travelers much prefer to fly out in the first half of the week. Seventy-eight percent of respondents listed their preference as Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday.
Unsurprisingly, Friday is the least popular day for corporate travel, significantly lower than even the weekend. In fact, travelers are 4x more likely to avoid Friday travel than Sunday travel.
Bonus stat: When we analyzed the responses by department, the trend held….with one exception. Every department (Sales, Marketing, Operations, Engineering / Product, Customer Service) except for Finance opted for Tuesday travel. Guess those Finance folks just want to dive right in!
Time to spare
Once we got definitive answers about time of day and day of week, we wanted to get to the bottom of another timing-related question: How early are frequent travelers getting to the airport?
The results make it clear that these frequent travelers feel it’s better to be safe than sorry: a whopping 87% give themselves at least 2 hours at the airport before a domestic flight. They’ve clearly never heard the expression that if you’ve never missed a flight, you’re getting to the airport too early.
The end of the day
Summed up, what did we learn about the timing preferences of frequent business travelers? Essentially, it all boils down to “the earlier the better.” The vast majority of our respondents opt to travel at the beginning of the week (Tuesday at the latest), take off early in the morning, and get to the airport with plenty of time to spare!