Before you plan your departure time, consider where you are, where you're going and the places you'll pass through on the way.

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You've checked your vehicle to make sure it's in good working order. You've packed your bags. You've got a variety of snacks and drinks at arm's reach. You've even picked out the music that will act as the soundtrack to your adventure on the road. But when do you leave?

Is there a perfect time to leave for a road trip? It turns out that there's no single time perfect for every person in every situation. The time that's best for your trip will depend upon several factors. Let's get a quick rundown.

Where do you live? If you live in a major city or large town, you'll want to schedule your trip to avoid getting caught in rush-hour traffic. This might necessitate a very early departure. It might be tough to rouse yourself in the wee hours of the morning, but you won't have to worry about spending the first few hours of your trip in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

What's the weather going to be like? Don't just check the forecast for your hometown. You'll need to get a look at what the weather will be like all along your route. You might find that an earlier or later departure will let you skirt a nasty storm front or other weather obstacle.

Where are you going and how long is the estimated travel time? If you arrive at your destination early, will you be able to check in to your hotel? You may want to aim for a later departure time if you would otherwise arrive before you can settle in. Or you can plan to visit a nearby site and spend some time there before moving on to your hotel. If your destination is a city -- or part of your trip will take you through a city -- you'll want to try and avoid arriving there during rush hour.

Who are you traveling with? If you have small children with you, you may want to consider beginning your trip late at night. That way, the children can sleep through most -- or maybe even all -- of the time on the road. This is a good way to prevent temper tantrums, but it's not the best for sightseeing as you drive.

What's the purpose of the trip? Is the destination the goal, or do you want to spend time along the way enjoying the journey? If you want to get a good look at the surrounding countryside as you make your way to your destination, you'll want to schedule your departure so that you do most of the driving during the daytime.

The answers to some of these questions will require research on your part. And one tip to keep in mind is to try to build in some flexibility with your plans. You might discover adventures along the way that you never thought of back at home, and keeping plans loose will help you avoid frustrations when you encounter obstacles along the way.

To learn more about road trips, take a look at the links on the next page.