Going door-to-door dressed in costume is one of the most iconic Halloween traditions, but it can also be a stressful time for parents. How do you know what time to take the kids trick-or-treating, and what are the unspoken rules you need to follow? We've rounded up all our best trick-or-treating advice, so all you have to worry about is getting them into costume (these are our favorite easy DIY costumes!) and making trick-or-treat bags for each child.
When Does Trick-or-Treating Start?
Typically, cities and towns set their own hours for trick-or-treating, but it's usually between 6-9 p.m. local time on Halloween night. However, many areas have adopted the tradition of trick-or-treating on a separate night (like the Saturday before Halloween) for safety reasons.
To find out the hours of trick-or-treating in your area, check your local newspaper or news station.
What Time Should You Go Trick-or-Treating?
Typically there's a large window of time (3-4 hours) during which going door-to-door is appropriate—so once you find out what the hours are in your area, you may still be wondering when the best time to go is.
We recommend taking small children as early as possible. If you're able to trick-or-treat during daylight hours, they may be less scared of all the commotion going on. And that way, you can still get them home and to bed on time. And for kids who are too little (or too afraid) to go trick-or-treating, there are plenty of fun ways to celebrate at home instead.
If your kids are older, consider letting families with babies and small children have the first hour, then heading out after that. Not only will this keep the neighborhood sidewalks from getting too crowded (we're still practicing social distancing as much as possible!), but you can answer the door and pass out candy until it's time to leave.
Of course, it's totally okay to take the whole family at the early time if multiple adults want to go with the kids so you don't have to switch on and off.
Trick or Treat Etiquette
No matter what time you decide to go, there are a few rules of trick-or-treating you should know before you head out.
Only Go to Houses with Lights On
The main rule of trick-or-treating is that you should only approach houses that have the porch light on. Homes with no lights on typically signals a family who is out trick-or-treating themselves, or doesn't want to participate. If you see a dark house, simply walk on by.
Don't Crowd the Doorway
Typically it's courteous to let one group go up to the door at a time; the next group should wait at the bottom of the porch step or back a few steps. But especially while we're still following safety precautions (like social distancing when possible and wearing masks if you're not fully vaccinated), we're treating this as a rule rather than a courtesy this year.
Especially since the pandemic isn't over, there may not be as many people handing out candy this year—and that's totally okay! Make sure to thank each person handing out candy, and be sure to just take one piece (rather than a whole handful) from the candy bowl so there's enough for all the little monsters in your neighborhood.