The US is a large country and the climate varies by region and time of year. It experiences four seasons, but some areas of the country see a more marked change between seasons than others. The Pacific Northwest has cool summers and mild winters, while just to the south, the West Coast is sunny and pleasant all year long. The Midwest sees a bigger change between seasons, with strong summers and winters and frequent tornadoes and thunderstorms. The East Coast fluctuates and many people head down to Florida to get the warmest winters on that side of the country. Travelling in the off-season can save you a lot of money.
When to fly to USA
There is not really a bad time to visit the US, but New York is nicest in the spring and autumn. May and June have the most comfortable hot weather. For visiting Los Angeles, August and September are the hottest months.
San Francisco is an all-year-round type of place with warm temperatures. Las Vegas is best experienced during spring and autumn. Orlando is a family favourite. Its best months are July and August coincide with school holidays (and higher-priced Orlando flights), although temperatures can climb to 37 degrees Celsius.
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Getting around USA
The car is king in America, but there are dozens of low-cost airlines including Southwest, the granddaddy of all the no-frillers, JetBlue, AirTran and Spirit Airlines to name just a few.
Rent a car and take to the open road, Route 66, and all that. The major car rental outfits all have a presence at most US airports including Budget, Dollar, Hertz, Thrifty, AAA Rent-A-Car and Payless. Your arrival airport will generally have this information.
By bus: GotoBus.com sells line run bus tickets and tours throughout the States. Travellers can search by destination and compare all the options for a given route from one screen. The site sells tickets for more than 100 bus companies ranging from low-fare to luxury.
USA insider information
- New York is a Mecca for shoppers. To make the most of your time there, book a tour of one of the shopping districts. Shop Gotham runs two-hour walking tours from about $25 (about £14), which have been described as like having a knowledgeable (and shopaholic) friend to tell you the latest retail gossip and coolest places to shop.
- There's no need to feel lost in Los Angeles. Purple People Greeters answer questions, provide directions, make referrals or even call the police if things go awry. They're easy to spot. The Greeters travel in pairs, wear purple teeshirts with “District Safety” or “Downtown Guide”, and can be visited at their Service Center at 801 S Hill St.
- Feed your inner vulture some culture. The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents hundreds of recitals and concerts by students, faculty and guest artists each year. Most of the performances are free.
- Orlando - there's not a giant mouse in sight in Harry P. Leu Gardens, 50 acres of lush vegetation in the middle of the city. There is also a restored farmhouse which harks back to a time when space travel was barely imaginable and citrus, not theme parks, was king. The gardens are open every day, from 9am to 5pm. Adults pay $5, school children pay $1, and Monday mornings are free (excluding tour groups).
- Las Vegas - eat well and save money by starting the day with an all-you-can-eat buffet. The Spice Market Buffet at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, a “killer whale in a sea of buffets”.
- Whatever you do, don't forget to tip. Between 15 and 20 per cent is acceptable. Angry waiters have been known to follow customers onto the street to ask why they did not leave more money.
- If you're searching for accommodation in the US, a popular site for user reviews is Trivago. Take a look at their pages on hotels in New York, hotels in Los Angeles or hotels in Orlando.