I agree that it is perfectly safe to drive at night from San Diego to Phoenix. Of course, the earlier you can start this trip in the evening, the easier it will be to enjoy the desert landscape and the more pleasant it will be for you and your family. I also agree that traveling near the border is not an issue.
MY TRAVEL TIPS FOR YOU ARE:
- Travel only on the freeways. These have more traffic (and more highway patrolling) than non-freeway roadways at night. Non freeways are still safe but if you should have a flat tire, for example, or need assistance of some type late at night, it might take longer for help to arrive if you were on a less traveled (secondary) road.
- Make certain that your lodging facility in Phoenix knows your estimated arrival time is around midnight, and give yourself maybe an hour or so beyond that time. This helps them to know when to expect you because arriving at midnight is later than probably most travelers would arrive. There is nothing wrong with arriving late, but just let them know your plans. (I usually allow 6 hours from Los Angeles driving straight through - no stopping except for gas.)
- Do not let your vehicle's fuel tank go below the one-quarter mark. When in doubt, fill up your fuel tank. Going up grades might not seem noticeable traveling at high speeds on a freeway, but an uphill grade can suck up alot of fuel more quickly than you might expect.
- Have a paper map with you and thoroughly study your route in advance. Do not rely exclusively on GPS in remote areas, such as deserts (and mountains, for that matter).
- Do not rely on cell phone transmission. You might travel in areas of spotty cell reception. Remember, the desert is vast and sparsely populated between San Diego/Los Angeles and Phoenix.
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About your Sedona question: Is two hours in Sedona enough time? My short answer is NO! But drive through Sedona anyway! It is in a lovely scenic area. After you leave Sedona, the drive between Sedona and Flagstaff, AZ via the Oak Creek Canyon (non-freeway route) is very, very beautiful.
Have fun! You will enjoy this trip!
Edited: 3:45 am, February 15, 2013