Two weeks ago, I wrote about food in the fantasy novel. Today I want to discuss travel. If this is modern-day fantasy that takes place on Earth, then this discussion will probably not pertain to you. I am mainly thinking about those of us who have created a world where modern conveniences such as cars and planes don’t exist. Your hero or heroine is walking, riding a horse or riding in a wagon or carriage. Once again, you need to do your research and make the distance traveled in one day or even a month believable.
A healthy person can walk three to four miles in an hour on flat, even ground. So figuring your character is walking all day (say 12 hours), then he/she will cover about 36 to 48 miles in one day. Most websites I checked estimated travel on foot in one day to 30-40 miles. Of course, a well-trained army might be able to do more (or travel slower if they have to wait for the supply wagons).
The speed of travel also depends on the health of the walker and whether they are used to walking long distances. Keep in mind that a group walking will travel as fast as their slowest member. And if your crew is traveling over uneven ground (say in the mountains or a thick jungle) then the distance they cover in one day will be affected.
So instead of walking, you decide your hero and his friends will be riding horses. Now it is much harder to figure out how far in one day they will travel on horseback. Many factors such as type/age of the horse, how much weight they are carrying and the type of terrain will play into the distance traveled.
A horse walks at the speed of about three to four miles per hour, trots at about eight to ten, canter at ten to seventeen and gallops at speeds of thirty to forty miles an hour. But remember that horses do not canter or gallop all day long. Leave the gallop for quick chases from the encroaching hoards.
There are too many variables to give one “correct” answer, but you are probably looking at covering about 20 to 30 miles a day by horse. But horses that are bred and trained for this could possibly go 50 to 60 miles in a day. Remember horses need to rest and will have to be cooled and rubbed down at the end of the day.
If perhaps you are thinking more of a stagecoach that uses relays of fresh teams of horses, then you are probably looking at covering 100 to 150 miles in a 24-hour period. But a lot of this also depends upon the condition of the roads and how much weight the horses have to pull.
Just remember that whatever mode of transportation your hero relies on, it will take them much longer to travel places than it does today. You need to make the time it takes to travel realistic or risk jolting your reader out of the story with your unbelievably fast horses.
When researching travel speeds, I found this information from a group of published western writers particularly interesting.