While the best time to trick or treat is usually on Halloween itself, it is important to recognize neighborhood and community guidelines. Heading out during the best trick or treat times can also maximize the candy haul for your little superhero or princess. After all, that's what the holiday is about for many kids and kids at heart.
Here's the strategy parenting and health experts developed for the best trick-or-treat times:
The day of the week: When Halloween falls in the middle of the week, parents should be mindful to wrap festivities up at a reasonable time. Also be prepared for a sluggish start the next morning, as candy consumption before bedtime may lead to a restless night for little ones. You'll need to plan a little differently when Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday, when you can potentially stay out a little later but might want to head home before you're coping with drunk drivers from costume parties.
Another tricky situation is when Halloween falls on a Sunday. The biggest issues are whether trick-or-treating will clash with the church crowd. If your city doesn't determine whether trick-or-treating will occur on Saturday instead, you'll need to survey the neighbors to see what their plans are. Most debates online settle on sticking with Oct. 31 for trick-or-treating regardless of the day of the week, but your area might be different.
What your town says: Be aware that many towns and municipalities now set aside specific times for trick-or-treating. You can usually find them on your city or community's web page or in a community posting group like NextDoor.com. If you're just looking for a general idea, most areas allow (or encourage) trick-or-treating between 4 and 9 p.m.
Dark or no dark? You'll definitely want to anticipate when it will get dark when you're planning what time to trick or treat. According to the How to Adult blog, the sun will most likely set between 6:30 and 7 p.m. on Halloween, depending on your location, and it will get dark by 7:30 p.m.
If you have young children, you may want to go to a few houses while it's still light if they're afraid of the dark (or you're afraid of the after-dark vibe in your target area.) If you do opt to be out trick-or-treating after dark, SafeKids.org recommended making each child more visible by having them carry something that lights up, whether glow bracelet, flashlight or flashing attire. Light-up shoes were another good idea.
Plan your route: Safety experts recommend that adults do a bit of prep on the trick-or-treating route before deciding on the best trick or treat times. Check the route during daylight hours for broken sidewalks or places where you can't safely walk and also figure out how long it will take you to complete your circuit. That way, you can allow more time by starting earlier or cut a few houses from your plans if you want to be home early or before dark. Also look over the route if your tween will be out with a group of friends and make sure the kids carry a cellphone for emergencies.
The recommended time: The ideal times for most families to trick or treat is 6:30 to 8 p.m., according to How to Adult. This is the time period when people are usually home from work and ready to participate in festivities. A 6:30 p.m. trick or treat start time also gives kids plenty of time to eat dinner and put on their costumes.
For extended periods: If you plan to trick or treat for more than an hour or so, prepare yourself and the kids. Choose shoes that fit well and have been worn before, pick costumes that won't drag on the ground and are bathroom-friendly and plan to stop at a friend's house for water and bathroom breaks, How to Adult recommends.
To get the most candy: Hey, Halloween only comes once a year. Your kids can be forgiven if they want to trick or treat during times that yield the most, or the best, candy at the end of the night. To time trick-or-treating for the maximum haul, start with the areas that are going to have the most or best candy first. Experts told Readers Digest that the longer you stay out on Halloween night, the worse the quality of candy gets, but you might end up with more in quantity, because people are anticipating you might be one of their last groups. If you have older kids who are ready to tote and walk without complaining, consider taking a last lap in a dense-population neighborhood or spot well-known for welcoming trick-or-treaters. If you think it's going to be tough to carry that much candy the rest of the way, consider a quick detour to drop off the first batch of treats after you've covered the main drags.
When to wrap it up: On a school night Halloween, the best time to wrap up the trick-or-treating is between 8:30 and 9 p.m. as families and others start their rituals for the next day, according to Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert and blogger at Hitched. You may keeping going for an hour or so later if Halloween falls on a Friday or Saturday. For those handing out treats, when you're all out of candy or ready to call it a night, make sure to turn off your outdoor lights and take in any fresh pumpkins or jack-o'-lanterns to avoid after-hours tricksters, added Gottsman.