Deciding where to go in Arizona is an adventure in itself. There are as many choices as there are interests and passions. Golfing, hiking, climbing, and horseback riding are all popular. Artists, hippies, and new-agers head for Bisbee, Jerome, and Sedona. If history is your passion, tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, Walpi (the oldest Hopi village on First Mesa), and the Four Corners region. For shoppers, buying a Navajo rug in Tuba City may be at the top of your Arizona wish-list list. And nearly everyone who comes off a flight to Arizona wants to see the wondrous sites of the painted desert and the Grand Canyon.
Wherever you go in Arizona, you’ll experience its diverse culture and history. One-third of the state belongs to Native Americans who have lived here for hundreds of years. Spanish explorers came through the area, followed by settlers. Once air-conditioning became popular, even more people settled in the desert regions.
From desolate landscapes to sophisticated shops and galleries, whether you’re here to see the sights, relax, experience history, or rejuvenate your spirit, step off your Arizona flight and get ready for a truly memorable stay.
Arizona’s desert and mountain climates make it a year-round destination. The desert can reach temperatures over 100 degrees in summer, but may drop to the 60s in winter. In the northern mountains, summers can be quite pleasant, but the winters may be icy and snowy. Check before you plan your flights to Arizona as some places may surprise you. Sedona hits the high 90s in summer, but gets cool enough in the winter to see snow. During the summer, the desert has thunderstorms that come up very quickly and cause flash floods. In winter, desert temperatures can drop to below freezing at night.
Winter is the peak season in central and southern Arizona, and summer is the peak season in northern Arizona and the mountains. Spring and fall are great times to visit. The mountains are cool and the desert is warm, and in spring the desert’s flowers are in bloom.
Summer is the off season in the desert and southern Arizona. Conversely, winter is the off season in northern Arizona. Check for cheap flights to Arizona in early fall – some desert resorts still offer summer rates so you can really buy a bargain vacation!
Depending on where you’re headed to in Arizona, the best time to book a flight will vary. Because October to May is the peak travel time for the desert areas of Phoenix and Tuscon, booking a flight in late September or early June is a good idea if you’re planning on a budget. Flights tend to be cheaper, and you’ll get basically the same experience. To the north, the Grand Canyon is busy all year round so do your homework to get the best flight deals. Search Cheapflights well in advance of your visit to get reasonable fares for your travel dates.
Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport and Tucson International are the two largest airports in Arizona, welcoming millions each year. The length of your flight will depend on its origin, with flights from Orlando to Phoenix taking approximately six hours. You’ll be in the air for a little over four hours if you fly to Phoenix from Detroit, and air time from Los Angeles to Tucson is about 1.5 hours. Expect a flight from New York City to Tucson to run about six hours with a possible layover.
Both Phoenix Sky Harbor and Tucson International airports serve multiple domestic carriers on a daily basis, including Delta, American, Alaska, United and Virgin America. International airlines include Air Canada and WestJet with the only Transatlantic service being on British Airways from London’s Heathrow airport to Phoenix Sky Harbor.
Check the weather in Arizona before packing your suitcase to give you an idea on what you’ll want to bring. The summer months in the desert areas of Phoenix and Tucson can be blistering, with temps hitting above 100 degrees F, so you’ll want to bring light, breathable cottons to help beat the heat and plenty of sunscreen. Winter temps in that area are typically mild, meaning you can get by with a layered look and a light jacket or sweater. The further north you head into the Grand Canyon area, the more likely you’ll see more seasonal averages—bring along heavier sweaters and jackets for winter visits, and pack a summer wardrobe for travel in the months of May through September.
Driving is probably the best bet for traveling round Arizona. Tucson and Phoenix have public transportation for commuters, which also goes to some of the attractions, but driving in these cities is generally reasonable. Free parking is available outside of downtown Phoenix, although finding a parking space can take some time in Old Scottsdale and the more popular malls. In Tucson, parking spaces are relatively easy to find and the fees are low. Look for car rental rates and discounts when you book your Arizona flights. Many car rental agencies offer markdowns on daily rental rates during the off-season when tourism is low.
Depending on your destinations in Arizona, you may want to drive just to take in the scenery. However, Arizona is the sixth-largest state, so if you are short for time, you may want to take flights around Arizona. There are regional airports in Mesa, Payson, Prescott, Sedona, Chandler, and Scottsdale, and regional commercial carriers to fly you across the state quickly.
While Arizona’s biggest tourist draw is admittedly the Grand Canyon, the state is filled with opportunities for fun and relaxation no matter where your travel tastes lie. The Canyon itself offers a multitude of day and overnight hiking opportunities from the South Rim to the North Rim and areas in between. Stop at Mather Point on the South Rim for some of the most breathtaking sunset views.
Visitors to Phoenix are never at a loss for things to do, from museum visits to sporting events. Spend the day strolling the paths of the Desert Botanical Garden, and get an education on the types of flora that thrive in the dry, water-starved environment, or head indoors with the kids to the Phoenix Children’s Museum and explore multiple hands-on experiences that are crafted for the whole family to enjoy.
If your travel plans take you to Tucson, head to the Pima Air & Space Museum and take a trip back through aviation history. The museum offers shuttle service to nearby Davis-Mohthan Air Force Base and the infamous Boneyard, the largest storage area for out-of-service military aircraft. The site is home to planes ranging from WWII to the present. Get your shopping on with a day spent at La Encantada, an outdoor shopping area that features a collection of high-end shops and restaurants to pique your interest.
Most airlines that offer service into Arizona’s major airports also offer return flights or service to the next destination on your itinerary. JetBlue, United, American and Alaska Airlines are among these airlines. Search Cheapflights for affordable fares that match your travel plans, including these:
Plan enough time to get to the airport and through security with at least 30 minutes before boarding. Most airlines suggest arriving at the terminal two hours before domestic departures to ensure you have enough time. Both Tucson International and Phoenix Sky Harbor airports have onsite rental car returns to make the process simpler, and both airports are serviced by public transportation, taxis and airport shuttles. Take the Metro light rail in Phoenix to the 44th Street and Washington stop to get to the airport. A free shuttle from that stop makes multiple stops at Sky Harbor’s terminals.
Looking for more information on Arizona’s major airports before you book your trip? Check out Cheapflights Arizona Airport Guides for tips on traveling, getting through the airports and how to get around town.
Popular Destinations in Arizona
(prices quotes are from London)