Ever wonder how long it takes to travel?
This is more than an answer to “Are we there yet?” It is a challenge that faces ever writer when their character leaves the comfort of home or work and must travel to another location.
If traveling by foot, how long does it take? By car? By bus? By train? What about by horse? The time spend traveling across the same difference changes with the mode of transportation.
The folks behind The Writer’s Handbook found a chart that answers some of these questions if you are considering traveling by horse, sea, foot, or pigeon. This is a great tool to add to your writer’s toolbox.
Another travel time chart to keep in your writer’s toolbox comes from Lapham’s Quarterly.
What about calculating for traffic congestion? It might take you 30 minutes to get to Portland, Oregon, in the middle of the day, and 3 hours to travel the same distance during rush hour. There is much to think about when you take your character traveling.
Here are a few more examples:
- A healthy person can walk 3-4 miles an hour on flat and even ground (36-48 miles a day possible)
- A healthy person can walk 1-2 miles an hour on rugged terrain, less if off-trail
- By horse on roads or trails with level or rolling terrain – 40 miles per day
- By horse through mountainous terrain on roads or trails – 20 miles per day
- By horse through hilly grasslands with no roads or trails – 25 miles per day
- By horse through rugged mountainous terrain with no roads or trails – 10 miles per day
- By horse during Roman Era on roads or trails with level or rolling terrain – 20 miles per day
- By horse during Roman Era on level or rolling terrain with no roads or trails – 15 miles per day
- A wagon can travel 15-25 miles a day depending upon size, horses, path, and load
- A league is 3 miles, the distance someone could travel in one hour.
Other tools to help you estimate travel times include:
- By Foot:
- By Horse or Wagon:
- By Car or Public Transportation:
- Google Maps (Directions using different travel methods and times of day)
- Driving Calculator – Travel Math
- Travel Time Calculator
- Drive Time Calculator to Calculate Driving Times and ETAs
- Travel Time Calculator – Get Travel Time to Location – DistancesTo
- Travel Time calculator – Travel Time between Cities – DistancesFrom
- Travel Time Reliability: Making It There On Time, All The Time – FHWA Office of Operations
- Traffic Congestion and Reliability: Linking Solutions to Problems – US Federal Highway Administration
- By Sea:
- SeaDistances – Distance Calculator
- Sea route & distance calculator – ports.com
- Transit Time, Distance calculator & Port to port distances – SeaRates
- How to Estimate Time of Arrival – BoatSafe.com
- Boatbookings Journey Planner – Charter Distance and Fuel Cost Calculator
- Sea Distance Calculator – Marine Vessel Traffic
- MarineTraffic Voyage planner – Distance calculator – Route finder – AIS Marine Traffic
- How to Calculate Travel Time & Distance by Boat
- By Air:
- By Space Ship:
- General Tips, Articles, and References on Travel Times:
- How far, how fast? – Medieval Worldbuilding Information
- Travel times in fantasy/pre-industrial society – by foot, horse, boat, etc – En World
- Mongol military tactics and organization (historical perspective on travel by armies and military) – Wikipedia
- 17th Century Travel Times? – PPG.net
- Travel in the middle ages – Guillaume de Machaut (c. 1300-1377)
- Earth’s Interior Structure – Seismic Travel Times in a Constant Velocity Sphere
- How fast can your hero travel? (Fantasy writing series) – Into Another World
This is just the tip of the travel time iceberg. What about travel by train? By skateboard? By bike? By helicopter? By skiing? By air balloon?
It’s your imagination traveling with your character. Add their travel type and estimates to your writer’s toolbox as a guide to help you estimate travel times.