How to travel to the most popular USA destinations
If you're planning a trip to the US, you'll need to know which are the top US destinations and how to get there.
Direct flights are available from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane to Los Angeles or Honolulu (Hawaii). You can also fly directly from Sydney to San Francisco or Dallas. There are no direct flights from Australia to New York.
The main airlines that fly directly between Australia and the USA are Virgin Australia, Qantas, Air New Zealand, United, Delta, Hawaiian Airlines, American Airlines and Jetstar.
You can compare fares on airline booking sites such as expedia.com.au, skyscanner.com.au, kayak.com.au or with a travel agent. See our tips on booking flights.
Flight time: 14+ hours to Los Angeles.
Climate: Los Angeles enjoys a temperate climate year-round with a dry but intense heat in summer.
Direct flights: Direct flights to Los Angeles are available from Brisbane, Melbourne or Sydney.
Public transport trip-planner: metro.net/
Top attractions: The Venice Boardwalk, Santa Monica Pier, The Hollywood Sign and the Hollywood Walk of Fame, TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Malibu, Disneyland and Universal Studios.
What you need to know about Los Angeles International Airport
- LAX has nine passenger terminals connected by a U-shaped, two-level roadway. Curbside baggage check-in is available on the upper Departures level. Baggage claim and buses and taxis are on the lower Arrivals level.
- Taxis can be found curbside on the lower/Arrival level islands in front of each terminal under the yellow sign indicating Taxis. Passengers are given a ticket, which lists typical fares to major destinations. There's a US$4 airport surcharge.
- Approximately 40 rental car companies operate out of LAX. Many companies offer a courtesy shuttle to and from the parking area.
- LAX FlyAway buses depart regularly from outside each terminal travelling to Van Nuys (San Fernando Valley), Union Station (Patsaouras Transit Plaza, Downtown), Westwood (West Los Angeles/UCLA), Hollywood (1627 North Vine Street) and Long Beach (107 E First St). Reservations aren't necessary.
- Courtesy shuttle buses run between the terminals and transport passengers to and from Parking Lot C and Aviation/LAX Metro Station.
- A train service runs from Aviation/LAX Station through the southern suburbs to Redondo Beach. To get to downtown LA, take the Norwalk train and change to the Blue Line at Willowbrook Station.
- Bus services including Culver City Bus Lines, the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus and Torrance Transit run from the Metro Bus Center to a range of destinations.
- Airport website: lawa.org
Direct flights: There are no direct flights from Australia to New York.
Flight time: 20+ hours
Climate: If you're hoping for a white Christmas, New York sometimes delivers. Extreme winter weather has been known to disrupt travel. The city is prone to heat waves and humidity during summer.
Top attractions: Central Park, some of the world's best museums (Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Guggenheim), the Empire State Building, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, Broadway and Times Square, theatre, dining and the High Line.
Public transport trip-planner: mta.info
What you need to know about John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)
- JFK has six passenger terminals.
- There is a taxi rank outside each terminal. Check the airport's guide to typical fares, including a flat rate for fares to Manhattan (currently $US52 plus tolls, a 50c MTA state surcharge, a 30c improvement surcharge, and US$4.50 rush hour surcharge from 4–8 pm weekdays, excluding legal holidays).
- Private cars, vans and limos can be booked ahead. The airport website has a list of providers.
- There are 10 car hire companies operating out of JFK. Service counters or courtesy phones can be found in the arrivals area.
- AirTrain JFK is a free 24-hour service connecting the airport's terminals with its car parks, hotel shuttle areas and car hire facilities. For a cost, it also connects with regular buses, New York's subway system and the Long Island Rail Road (which takes you directly to Penn Station, Manhattan in 35 minutes). Check the airport website for advice on connections, or plan your journey using New York's MTA trip planner.
- Airport website: panynj.gov
Direct flights: You can fly directly to Hawaii from Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
Flight time: 10+ hours.
Climate: Hawaii enjoys year-round warm temperatures. Winter is Hawaii’s peak travel season (December to mid-April), but the islands are also busy during mid-summer (June to August). Shoulder seasons tend to offer the best value trips.
Public transport trip-planner for Honolulu: thebus.org
Top attractions: National parks, beaches for swimming, surfing, snorkelling and diving, volcanoes, Pearl Harbor.
Key airport: Daniel K. Inouye International Airport
What you need to know about Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL)
- HNL is 16km from Waikiki and 10km from Honolulu CBD.
- HNL has an International Terminal, an Inter-island Terminal and a Commuter Terminal.
- A free shuttle bus operates between gates and terminals from 6am to 10pm.
- Six rental car companies have counters on the ground level opposite Baggage Claim G in the International Terminal. Another five companies provide off-site rentals. See the airport website for details.
- There is a taxi rank outside the baggage claim area of each terminal. Fares are metered and include a baggage charge of 50c per bag. See the taxi dispatchers (yellow shirts with black lettering) for service.
- SpeediShuttle offers a door-to-door service directly to your hotel, office or home.
- City buses arrive and depart from the airport approximately every 30 minutes. See the airport website for bus numbers, destinations, prices and baggage rules (there is a size limit on luggage).
- Airport website: airports.hawaii.gov/hnl/
Direct flights: You can fly directly from Sydney to San Francisco.
Flight time: 13.5 hours.
When to go: San Francisco has a microclimate, which means that in summer months such as June and July the city can be shrouded in fog and gets quite cool. Autumn and spring tend to be milder.
Public transport trip-planner: sfmta.com
Top attractions: The Golden Gate Bridge and Golden Gate Park, Fisherman's Wharf, Alcatraz, Union Square, nightlife and shopping.
Key airport: San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
What you need to know about San Francisco International Airport (SFO)
- SFO is 22km from central San Francisco.
- The airport has four passenger terminals: the International Terminal, Terminal 1, 2 and 3.
- You can travel between the terminals by walking or using the free 24-hour, wheelchair-accessible AirTrain.
- Car rental is available from nine car rental companies from SFO's rental car centre, accessible directly from the airport terminal via the AirTrain Blue Line. Another seven companies operate outside the airport.
- Taxis are available in taxi on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim level in all terminals.Fares are metered and include a US$2 airport surcharge.
- Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) operates services from the airport to the city centre, northern San Mateo County and the East Bay. The airport station is in the international terminal on the Departures/Ticketing level.
- The SamTrans public bus service (samtrans.com) runs 24 hours, connecting the airport with San Mateo County and parts of San Francisco. Buses stop in Terminal 2 and 3 on the Arrivals/Baggage Claim level and at the International Terminal on Level 1.
- Airport website: flysfo.com
Direct flights: There are no direct flights between Australia and Las Vegas.
Flight time: 16+ hours
Climate: Las Vegas has dry, very hot summers and cooler winters.
Public transport trip-planner: rtcsnv.com
Top attractions: Las Vegas is a resort city in the Nevada desert that’s known for its gambling, shopping, entertainment and nightlife. You’ll find casinos on the Strip and Downtown.
Key airport: McCarran International Airport (LAS) is the main airport servicing Las Vegas.
What you need to know about McCarran International Airport (LAS)
- LAS is around 6km from the Las Vegas Strip.
- LAS has two passenger terminals – Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.
- You can get between the terminals using a courtesy Inter-Terminal shuttle.
- You can rent a car from one of the 12 rental car companies at the airport's rental car centre, located 4.8km from the airport. The centre is open 24 hours and accessible with the McCarran Rent-A-Car Center shuttle.
- Taxis are available at Terminal 1 near baggage claim, outside exits 1 to 4. At Terminal 3, taxis are available outside Level 0. Fares are metered with a US$2 surcharge from the airport. Note that not all taxis accept credit card payments, so check ahead if you intend to pay with plastic.
- Airport shuttles are available, with prices starting at US$10 to get to the Strip or Downtown.
- The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) provides a bus service to and from the airport. See the RTC website for information on routes and timetables.
- Airport website: mccarran.com
Direct flights: There are no direct flights between Australia and Florida.
Flight time: 19.5 hours+
Climate: Summer is peak season in Florida, and you'll find the state hot and humid. Otherwise, it tends to be temperate year-round.
Top attractions: Miami (South Beach, Miami Beach, Little Havana, Art Deco district), Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, including the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, the Florida Keys.
Public transport trip-planners: Miami Dade and Orlando.
What you need to know about Miami International Airport (MIA)
- Miami International Airport is around 20.5km from the Miami Beach city centre.
- The airport has three passenger terminals, the North Terminal, Central Terminal and South Terminal.
- You can travel between terminals by using moving walkways, located on Level 3 of each terminal. It will take around 15 minutes to travel between the Norther Terminal and the South Terminal.
- You can rent a car from one of the 15 car rental companies at the airport's rental car centre, which is connected to the airport via the MIA Mover electric-powered train. The MIA Mover train station is located on Level 3.
- Taxis are available on Level 1, the Arrival level, outside the baggage claim. Taxis charge a flat rate of US$35 to South Beach and US$27 to Downtown.
- SuperShuttle provides shuttle transportation from the airport on Level 1, the arrival level of the airport, near the baggage claim.
- Hotel shuttle pick up and drop-off areas are located on Level 2, the departure level of the airport.
- The airport is connected to Miami's Metrorail and Metrobus system via the MIA Mover, which takes you to Central Station. From there, you can travel to a host of locations using the city's public transport network, including the Miami Beach Airport Express bus, which takes you to Miami Beach every half hour from 6am to 11:40pm. More information is available on the airport website.
- Airport website: miami-airport.com
What you need to know about Orlando International Airport (MCO)
- Orlando International Airport is around 20.5km from central Orlando and 30km from Walt Disney World.
- The airport has two passenger terminals, Terminal A and Terminal B, which are located at opposite sides of the same building.
- You can travel between terminals by foot on Level 3 (departures).
- You can rent a car from one of the 11 car rental companies at the airport.
- Taxis are available from Terminal A and B on Level 1. Fares are metered.
- Airport shuttles servicing a wide range of destinations depart from both Terminal A and B from Level 1. For a list, see the airport website.
- Buses to Downtown Orlando, International Drive and the Florida Mall and SeaWorld depart from Terminal A, Level 1. For more information on bus routes and hours of operation, see the airport website.
- Airport website: orlandoairports.net