USA //

Getting there

Anyone travelling to the US from abroad should start by deciding which area to explore first; the country is so vast that it makes a huge difference which airport you fly into. Once you’ve chosen whether to hit the swamps of Florida, the frozen tundra of Alaska, the summer heat of the South or the splendor of the Rockies and Southwest, you can then buy a flight to the nearest hub city.

In general, ticket prices are highest from July to September, and around Easter and Christmas. Fares drop during the shoulder seasons – April to June, and October – and even more so in low season, from November to March (excluding Easter, Christmas and New Year). Prices depend more on when Americans want to head overseas than on the demand from foreign visitors. Flying on weekends usually costs significantly more; prices quoted below assume midweek travel.

Flights from the UK and Ireland

More than twenty US cities are accessible by nonstop flights from the UK. At these gateway cities, you can connect with onward domestic flights. Direct services (which may land once or twice on the way, but are called direct if they keep the same flight number throughout their journey) fly from Britain to nearly every other major US city.

Nonstop flights to Los Angeles from London take eleven or twelve hours; the London to Miami flight takes eight hours; and flying time to New York is seven or so hours. Following winds ensure that return flights take an hour or two less. One-stop direct flights to destinations beyond the East Coast add time to the journey, but can work out cheaper than nonstop flights. They can even save you time, because customs and immigration are cleared on first touchdown into the US rather than the final destination, which may be a busy international gateway.

Four airlines run nonstop scheduled services to the US from Ireland. Flights depart from both Dublin and Shannon airports, and the journey times are very similar to those from London.

As for fares, Britain remains one of the best places in Europe to obtain flight bargains, though prices vary widely. In low or shoulder season, you should be able to find a return flight to East Coast destinations such as New York for around £300, or to California for around £400, while high-season rates can easily double. These days the fares available on the airlines’ own websites are often just as good as those you’ll find on more general travel websites.

With an open-jaw ticket, you can fly into one city and out of another, though if you’re renting a car remember that there’s usually a high drop-off fee for returning a rental car in a different state than where you picked it up (see Car rental agencies). An air pass can be a good idea if you want to see a lot of the country. These are available only to non-US residents, and must be bought before reaching the US.

Flights from Australia and New Zealand

For passengers travelling from Australasia to the US, the most expensive time to fly has traditionally been during the northern summer (mid-May to end Aug) and over the Christmas period (Dec to mid-Jan), with shoulder seasons covering March to mid-May and September, and the rest of the year counting as low season. Fares no longer vary as much across the year as they used to, however.

Instead, fares on the regular Air New Zealand, Qantas and United flights from the eastern states to Los Angeles, the main US gateway airport for flights from Australia, tend to start at around Aus$1000 in low season, including tax, or more like Aus$1250 in summer. Flying from Western Australia can add around Aus$700, while throughout the year, flying all the way through to New York tends to cost another Aus$250–300 extra.

Similarly, from New Zealand, the cost of flying from Auckland or Christchurch to LA or San Francisco ranges from roughly NZ$1750–2250 across the year, or more like NZ$2500–2800 to New York.

Various add-on fares and air passes valid in the continental US are available with your main ticket, allowing you to fly to destinations across the States. These must be bought before you go.

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