California flights and travel guide

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Reasons to fly to California

Best Time to Fly to California

When to fly to California depends on where in California you’re going. The state’s climate varies dramatically, so if you're looking for cheap trips to California, it's best to choose a city first and search flights during the off-season.

Peak Season:

The peak season for California vacations is the summer. Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Napa Valley greet summertime travelers with warm weather and dry days.

Off Season:

Winter is the low season for LA, Anaheim, San Francisco, and wine country. However, winter in San Francisco is when the ballet and opera seasons are in full swing. Wine country is also fun to visit in fall, when the wineries are in production, and spring, when the flowers are in bloom.

When you should take a flight to California

Know this before booking California flights: If America is the land of opportunity, California is the state of chance. California showed great prospect as far as back as the 1800s, when a settler struck gold at Sutter’s Mill and California quickly became the land of wealth. The effects of the California Gold Rush were monumental and today, the coastal state continues to welcome visitors booking airline tickets to California for a greater opportunity, or for just plain fun.

Fly to California for a chance to experience some of the West Coasts' most famous streets. The rich and luxurious charter their own California flights to Beverly Hills and shop the swank stores along Rodeo Drive. In Hollywood, see the Mann Chinese Theater and be on the lookout for celebrity A-listers.  Gold stars grace the sidewalks of Hollywood Boulevard, marking the achievements of Hollywood’s greatest artists. 

For the outdoor traveler going to California, open parks and hiking trails at Big Sur, Sequoia National Park and Yosemite National Park are a nature-lover’s dream come true. Wine connoisseurs fly to California's Sonoma and Napa Valley regions. Visitors would be remiss if they didn’t visit one of California’s beautiful beaches in Malibu or Santa Monica before boarding the California flight home.

People traveling to California are bound to be busy during their visit and the options for activities are endless. However, in the land of opportunity, what better state to take a chance in?

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California climate

Due to its topographical extremes California’s weather depends on where you are.Along the coast, the climate is mostly mild. Los Angeles is high desert, and the low humidity keeps the city comfortable year-round. About 28 miles south of LA, Anaheim can go up into the 80s (F) or 90s in the summer, with cool evenings. Anaheim winters are mild with little rain. San Francisco is foggy with cool winds. Summer temperatures occasionally go above 70; fall tends to have clear skies and temperatures in the 80s. Winter rarely goes below freezing. Sacramento’s summer days can reach 100 degrees, but then drop as much as 40 degrees at night. The rainy season runs from late fall into spring, and winters are cold and foggy.

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Getting around California

Driving is the best way to cover short distances in California, or if you enjoy long drives, for covering the entire state. If you’re booking flights to California and then planning on driving the state, make sure to carry a map as not all road signs indicate a direction, just town or city names. If you’re headed into the mountains, make sure to get antifreeze and tire chains.

Many freeways have carpool lanes called “diamond” lanes or high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the regulations regarding the use of these lanes as some of them are monitored even during non-rush hour and fines are over $270.

California has over 15 airports, and given the number of small and large commercial carriers, flights in California are fairly easy.

For a scenic trip along the coast, Amtrak’s Coast Starlight has double-decker Superliners, gourmet dining car, accommodations from first class to coach, and entertainment and games.

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California Travel Information

  • Los Angeles covers desert basin, mountain canyons, and coastal beaches. With its rich cultural diversity, LA offers countless attractions—catch a glimpse of the stars, hike the Hollywood sign, visit the La Brea Tar Pits, walk the boardwalk at Venice Beach, spend like a celebrity on Rodeo Drive, and enjoy free attractions like the Watts Towers or Getty Museum.
  • The Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Castro, Mission District, and Haight Ashbury just skim the surface of San Francisco’s diversity and charm. The city also cherishes its past, restoring and reusing its historic buildings. The surrounding areas—Marin County, Oakland, and Berkeley—are as popular as the city itself.
  • John Sutter’s trading post became the main supply point for gold miners, then western headquarters of the transcontinental railroad. Today Sacramento is growing, offering affordable homes to those seeking California weather. The capital city is known for its natural parkland and streets lined with fruit-bearing trees. Once the Gateway to Gold Country, Sacramento is now a gateway to the wine country.
  • Most of California’s wineries are in Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. Hundreds of wineries invite you to enjoy their tours, tastings, restaurants, and spas. Napa Valley has more wineries and a higher volume of tourism, with more commercial tours and attractions such as hot-air ballooning. Sonoma Valley is lower key, with family-run wineries, fewer tourists, and relaxed ambience. Book flights to California's wine region and join a tour of the wineries.
  • Anaheim is home to Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm. The Orange County coast offers miles of beaches, and the California Riviera is the stretch between Seal Beach and San Clemente. The area’s eccentric beach towns, Santa Ana Artists’ Village, Laguna Beach boardwalk, San Juan Capistrano Mission, and Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace attract tourists year-round.
  • Costa Mesa, located in the heart of Orange County in Southern California, is within close proximity to Disneyland, major beaches, museums, nightlife and recreation and is home to internationally-renowned South Coast Plaza, an award-winning performing arts district as well as the Orange County Fairgrounds.
  • Some ambitious travelers book vacations to California and then drive the coastline to the state's northern most cities. While the drive and landscape is beautiful, be sure to leave yourself plenty of time for the long drive north. It's advisable that you book outbound California flights from your destination point.

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California airports

California flights arrive and depart from nine international airports, and dozens of smaller commuter airports in various cities.

Major airports in California:
Fresno Yosemite International Airport (FYI)
John Wayne Airport (SNA)
Long Beach Airport (LGB)
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC)
Oakland International Airport (OAK)
Sacramento International Airport (SMF)
San Diego International Airport (SAN)
San Francisco International Airport (SFO)

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Melisse Hinkle
A New England native but explorer at heart, Melisse has lived in four U.S. cities, spent a summer in Hawaii, made her way through wine-producing regions in Australia and New Zealand, and traveled around Europe while studying abroad in London. She is the Content Manager for the U.S. and Canada at Cheapflights.
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    Approx flight times

    John F. Kennedy International to Bob Hope Airport:
    5 hr 58 mins
    La Guardia to Fresno Air Terminal:
    7 hr 58 mins
    John F. Kennedy International to Fresno Air Terminal:
    7 hr 34 mins
    La Guardia to Los Angeles International:
    5 hr 55 mins
    John F. Kennedy International to Los Angeles International:
    5 hr 57 mins
    Newark Liberty International to Los Angeles International:
    5 hr 54 mins
    John F. Kennedy International to Long Beach (Daugherty Field):
    5 hr 59 mins

    In-flight reading

    Assembling California

    John McPheeGeology for the layperson, including California’s Sierra Nevada, wine country, and San Andreas fault system. McPhee’s ability to convey scientific information enhances rather than detracts from nature.

    Eldorado: The California Gold Rush

    Dale L. WalkerChronicle of the discovery of gold, ensuing mass mania, gold seekers’ treks to California, and effect on the economy when farmers, workers, and soldiers abandoned their crops, trades, and posts

    The Missions of California

    Melba Levick and Stanley YoungNoted for its photography, this history of the missions tells how they were established by Spanish friars and built by the Indians, along with a tour through each mission.

    The Grapes of Wrath

    John SteinbeckNow in its centennial edition, the story of the Joads, Oklahoma farmers reduced to migrant work, and their strength and dignity in the face of poverty and oppression.