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Change your travel dates by only one week and you might get an extra 45 minutes of daylight every day.

Change your travel dates by one month and you might avoid monsoons, or tornadoes, or other weather problems.

 
 
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When is the Best Time to Travel - Weather

Weather patterns follow clear cycles every year. Use your knowledge of the destination weather to benefit from the best weather.

Part 2 of a 2 part series - click for Parts  One  Two

 

 

If you are traveling to one place only, then weather issues are simple - but still important. And if you're traveling to several different places, consider tailoring the order of places you visit based on the changing weather situation at each location.

Here are a series of weather related factors to keep in mind.


Mid-summer is rarely the best time to travel

If you're searching out the 'best weather' then it would seem that midsummer is the best time to travel. But this is not always so. Consider these issues :

  • Remember that in the opposite hemisphere, seasons are reversed. Maybe it is actually mid-winter, not mid-summer where you're going.

  • Mid-summer is usually peak travel for both locals and foreigners. Better to avoid the crowds and higher prices of mid-summer if possible.

  • For tropical destinations (ie places generally between the Tropics of Capricorn and Cancer on the map) mid-summer is 'rainy season' potentially with monsoons and tropical storms aplenty.

  • Depending on your tolerance for heat, midsummer may be simply too hot for your comfort, especially if you're going somewhere that does not have good air-conditioning.

  • In some places, mid-winter is much nicer to visit than mid-summer (eg Australian Outback where in winter the temperatures are much more bearable and the weather still perfectly dry with clear sunny skies)

Considerations when Touring

Many people visit more than one place when on vacation. For example, maybe you're doing a grand tour of New Zealand, Australia and Fiji. Which country should you visit first and last? Should you start at the top of New Zealand and make your way south, or vice versa?

During the course of a two or three week vacation, there can be major differences in daylight (two or more hours between the start and end of your visit) and minor but still appreciable differences in weather. You should always consider the weather and daylight factors when planning the sequence of your traveling itinerary.

Getting the Most Use of Daylight

Daylight is a key part of enjoying your vacation. The more daylight you have, the more time you can enjoy seeing and doing things at your destination.

The amount of daylight changes very rapidly each day close to the equinoxes but almost not at all close to the solstices (see dates below).

If you are traveling close to an equinox, and to a destination that is closer to a pole than to the equator, then a change of travel dates by just one week might give you 45 minutes more daylight every day!

If you're just generally traveling in a east-west direction, it doesn't matter where you go or in what order. Daylight variations occur only on a north-south axis, not on an east-west axis.

If your plans take you on a north-south axis, then so as to have more or less constant daylight throughout your journey, drive in a generally southerly direction between the Summer Solstice and the Winter Solstice, and in a generally northern direction for the other half of year.

Sometimes, daylight will be more important to you in some of your travels than other parts. For example, maybe you're planning on traveling to Britain for two weeks. You will spend one week in London, and then one week driving around the countryside.

In such a case, you'd probably want to have more daylight while touring around the country, rather than while you're in London. Using the daylight table below, if you are traveling between 21 December and 21 June, you should spend the week in London first. If you are traveling between 21 June and 21 December, you should do your touring first.

Key Daylight Dates to Remember

There are four key dates to remember when planning for the most daylight. They are expressed here in northern hemisphere terms, and would be opposite for the southern hemisphere.

Date
(+/- a day or two)
Definition Travel Implication

21 Dec

Winter Solstice
The shortest day

From now until 21 Jun, days get longer.  Least change per day in daylight around the solstice.

21 Mar

Spring Equinox
Equal day and night

From now until 21 Sep, there is more daylight the further north you go in the world.  Most change per day in daylight around the equinox.

21 Jun

Summer Solstice
The longest day

From now until 21 Dec, days get shorter.  Least change per day in daylight around the solstice.

21 Sep

Fall Equinox
Equal day and night

From now until 21 Mar, there is more daylight the further south you go in the world.  Most change per day in daylight around the equinox.

 

Getting the Best Weather

Just like with daylight, maybe good weather is more critical to one part of your itinerary than another. Maybe your plan is to spend a week in Paris and then a week on the Riviera.

In such a case, you'd probably want to have the warmest weather for your time on the beach. Use the monthly temperature charts from the linked site below to see if you are visiting at a time of year when the temperature is increasing with each passing day, or decreasing. If increasing, go to the beach last. If decreasing, go to the beach first.

Of course, such calculations would be reversed if, eg, you were going to Zurich and to do some skiing, when you want to time your time on the slopes for the time with most snow falling.

The Temperature/Daylight Tradeoff

If you are traveling somewhere where it is too hot for you in midsummer, but you still want to get the most hours of daylight, you might be better advised to travel in spring rather than in fall. Temperatures on any day prior to the Summer Solstice are always lower than temperatures on days the same number of days after the summer solstice, whereas hours of daylight are the same.

If you're trying to get the most warm weather and daylight possible (a more common occurrence!), travel after rather than before the summer solstice.

Daylight Saving and Time Zones

Don't forget the impact of daylight saving. Most countries in the world now observe daylight saving, although with slightly different start and stop dates between countries.

Check with the website below for when there will be daylight saving at your destination and try and travel during that time of year.

If you are traveling extensively east or west, you'll likely be crossing several different time zones. For example, if you're doing a trans-Atlantic crossing on the QE2, you'll cover one time zone every day for five of the six days.

In such a case, travel by plane from west to east, and then by car or train or boat from east back to west. This will give you some luxurious 25 hour days, which are very much more in line with a slower vacation lifestyle than painful 23 hour days!

Bad Weather can be Good

To some of us, the concept of weather implies winter storms, or massive snow falls and inconvenience. But if you're traveling to Sydney or some other nearly tropical cities in midwinter, you'll find that they have less rain in midwinter than in mid-summer.

At the other extreme, the word ‘winter’ when spoken about Russia also conjures up images of the severest possible weather conditions, but it is my favorite time of year to travel there. Sure, there is snow falling most days, but the always freshly fallen (or falling) snow adds an enchantment to the cities that is frankly lacking in the stark light of mid-summer! And, because winters are so predictable (and so long) the cities have excellent snow-removal services – weather that would close down many American cities has almost no impact at all on traffic and ordinary activities.

Don't Forget the Weather at Home, Too!

One last thought about the weather. Try and plan your vacations so as to miss the worst of the bad weather back home, and try and also enjoy the best of your area's good weather, too.

Remember also that if you're returning home to weather that might have been snowy, then you should pack your chains into the trunk before driving to park the car at the airport at the start of your travels.

Internet Resources

Website for sunrise/sunset times anywhere in the world on any date

Website for average weather information by month

Website for weather forecasts

Website for daylight saving start/stop dates

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Originally published 26 Sep 2003, last update 02 Jul 2017

You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.

 
 
 
 

 


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