One of the most appealing aspects of an American holiday is the fact that there are so many options on when to travel. Do you base it around school holidays? Seasons? The exchange rate?
The question on when to actually make the voyage to the US is pretty complex and there are so many things to consider. And it really does depend on what you want to do while you're there.
Let's go through the seasons to make that decision a little easier. Oh, and remember - Australia is in the Southern Hemisphere, the US in the Northern...so when it's summer in Oz, it's winter in America!
Summer for Americans is essentially June to August. Unlike Aussies, Americans don't go by the 1st of the month rule for seasonal changes, they prefer to opt for the more accurate lunar cycle. But for argument's sake, let's just say that summer is June to August (ie. when it's winter in Australia).
For many, this 3 month period is the most ideal time to visit because it provides far greater opportunities. When it's summer, you can go to the beach, you can go to the cities, you can go to the desert, you can go to the mountains. You can even go to the colder states and still see snow and glaciers.
The advantages of visiting during the summer months include:
- Hot weather (obviously!). If lying on a beach or hitting the surf is your kind of holiday, then this is by far the best time to visit!
- Accessibility to beaches (ie. the water is warmer). With hot weather comes warmer waters. Admit it, there's nothing worse than icy cold beaches! And not only that, but unlike during winter, where high surf tends to close a lot of beaches, most beaches are fairly safe during summer.
- Facilities that are closed during winter are open (ie. some excursions in Alaska are closed during the winter months)
- You get to escape the Australian winter - always a bonus!
- Baseball season is in full swing. Baseball truly is America's favorite pastime and a trip to the US is not complete without a day at a ball game!
However, there are some disadvantages:
- North American summer school vacation time. This means there are A lot more families/kids on holidays too, which means beaches become overcrowded, destination hot spots (like Disneyland) become unbearable and hotels jack up the prices
- In many of the southern states, it can be too hot. Cities and towns in Arizona, Texas, Florida, California and New Mexico will record temperatures well into the 40 degrees Celsius range (110+ degrees Fahrenheit) during the summer
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- Hot weather brings a wet season and the start of hurricane season. Florida, the Carolinas and states on the Gulf of Mexico can be lashed with devastating storms in the middle of the year
Of course there are probably a million more pros and cons about summer travel, but I've given you a starting point.
Let's throw it out there immediately - Autumn/Fall (basically September to November) is one of the most ideal times to visit for one very obvious reason - school is back! American schools and Universities head back to the classroom come late August/September, which means hotel rates drop and destinations become less crowded.
If that's not enough to sell you on an Autumn visit, keep reading:
- Average temperatures suit everyone. It's not too hot and it's not too cold. The summer heat has died off and the winter snows are still a couple of months away.
- Start of holiday season - Halloween and Thanksgiving! If you've never experienced a Halloween or Thanksgiving (and let's be honest, they're not Australian holidays, so why would you?) then it's something to marvel at!
- Start of football season. Next to baseball, American Football is the nation's other great love. And even if you can't get to a game, if the local team is playing on a Sunday afternoon or Monday night, be assured that every pub, bar, restaurant, drive in and diner will be showing the game!
But of course, there are a couple of reasons to avoid this time of year:
- Hurricane season. Yes the temperatures may have dropped and the snow hasn't arrived, but hurricanes sure have. Of course this really only applies to states on the Gulf of Mexico and up the Eastern seaboard, but planning that dream vacation to New Orleans, Miami or South Carolina may have to be re-thought if you were thinking of traveling during the Autumn/Fall months.
One of the major reasons a lot of Australians head to North America during winter is due to the kids. Your kids I mean! American winter = Australian summer = school holidays. If you've still got kids in school that means they've got a good 6 weeks off between Christmas and the end of January, so this allows for a longer holiday and not having to take them out of school.
But what are the other advantages?
- Snow, snow, snow! If you're like me and never went to an Australian ski field, then you've never seen anything like it, literally! And it's not just the northern (ie. colder) states that get snow, although snow in Michigan is a little different than snow in Alabama! At one point in 2010, each of the 50 states had snow somewhere on the ground - even Hawaii! While snow equals colder climates and having to pack more clothes, winter in the US is a beautiful sight.
- Christmas. Haven't you ever dreamed of a white Christmas? Ice skating in New York's Central Park?
- New Year's Eve. How many people can say they've been in Times Square to see the ball drop on NYE? And remember, the US is one of the last countries in the world to experience NYE, so why not try Hawaii and watch all the other countries celebrate before you do!
- Some cities/towns are specifically designed to maximize tourists during the winter months. Dog sledding in Alaska, skiing in Colorado. You can generally only do these during winter, so if that's your thing, avoid the summer months!
Now the downsides...
- It's cold. Obvious, huh? But be warned - an American winter is nothing like an Australian winter. While colder Aussie towns and cities can experience winter days just below freezing, some American locations endure weeks, if not months, of temperatures well below freezing. Add on blizzards and treacherous conditions and maybe winter isn't the best time for your ultimate American getaway.
- While some amusements and sites might be open/better suited for winter, some face closure during the winter.Some cruises in Alaska close down, many amusement parks in the northern states can't operate safely. And as pretty as Disney World might be covered in snow, do you really want to ride Splash Mountain when the water is that cold?
- Surf. Big surf! The colder months bring some incredible surf to California and Hawaii for instance, with waves on the Aloha state's North Shore surpassing the 40 foot mark. Definitely something for the bucket list.
Our fourth and final month and one of the prettiest in North America. The snow has melted, the grass is looking greener and the temperatures are rising once again. So what does March to June have to offer?
- Just like during the Autumn/Fall months, it's technically a 'quieter' period in the States, so hotels and transport is cheaper and American kids are still in school
- The weather is just about perfect. Of course many of the northern states are still a little chilly, but generally it's not too hot and it's not too cold. The rainy season hasn't commenced and the snow is all but gone.
- Hiking. We've covered beaches and skiing, so why not hiking and other outdoor adventures? Climbing into the mountains is amazing this time of year!
- Spring break. Ahh yes, we've all seen it on TV. The week in March where high school and college kids head to the beach (stereotypically) for 7 days of mayhem! It's like schoolies - just worse! I highly recommend researching your destination prior to booking to ensure it's not a Spring Break mecca!
- Aussies. While the Americans might still be in school, research shows this is one of the prime seasons for Australian tourists, particularly during the Easter school holidays. So if you're idea of a non-Australian holiday is not coming across any other Aussies, then avoid the springtime.
There you have it. Some of the reasons why to avoid summer, why winter is best, why spring is ultimate and why autumn/fall is to be resisted (and everything in between!)