Q Our daughter is going to the US southwest for three months, flying either to Phoenix or Los Angeles, exploring Arizona, Monument Valley, driving some of Route 66 and then travelling via Death Valley to the San Francisco Bay area. Is it cheaper to fly to New York from the UK then get an internal flight to the west coast or fly direct? And what is the best time of year? She is looking at October 2019 to January 2020, or possibly March to May 2020.

Karen S

A The winter option has the advantage of cheap rates for accommodation. And crowds in the region will have dwindled. Certainly, Death Valley is at its best in the depths of winter, when the temperature is at a minimum. But elsewhere in the region there can be wintry weather, particularly in the high-altitude areas of Arizona. And snow could rule out much exploration of Yosemite National Park – a most worthwhile addition to Death Valley en route to San Francisco. Also, some tourist facilities will be closed.

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March to May looks more optimistic to me, and the longer days will give all the more time to enjoy the spectacular landscapes. Next, to flights. On a trip like this, the obvious solution is an open-jaw ticket, out to A and back from B. It saves the time and expense of backtracking. As a possible outbound arrival point, I would add to Phoenix and Los Angeles the option of Las Vegas; it gives excellent access to northern Arizona.

British Airways, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic all offer outbound flights to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and back from San Francisco (BA also has flights to Phoenix). It is certainly not worth buying separate flights from New York. Looking ahead to October-January, fares on British Airways out to Las Vegas and back from San Francisco start at around £600, and for March-May they are surprisingly even lower at £500. These fares do not include hold luggage, but since BA has a generous 46kg allowance for cabin baggage, that should not be a problem.

Every day our travel correspondent Simon Calder tackles a reader’s question. Just email yours to s@hols.tv or tweet @simoncalder

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