Travellers to the US should have a full passport valid for at least six months after the intended date of return, although the US has an agreement with most countries, including the UK, automatically to extend the validity of a passport for six months past its expiration date. A British passport therefore needs to be valid only for the duration of your stay. Passport information (for the UK) is available on the website gov.uk.
Before you travel you should complete an online pre-registration form on the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) website. (Note that not all citizens qualify for ESTA; search online for the ‘ESTA eligibility checker’ to see if you do.) The US Customs and Border Patrol recommends that you do this at least 72 hours before departure. Applying for and securing an ESTA is a separate process to providing your airline with advance passenger information (details of your passport, country of residence, address of your first night’s accommodation in the US, etc). For more information visit the official ESTA website (see above). Beware of fraudulent unauthorised websites which charge you for information about ESTAs and for submitting ESTA applications to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on your behalf.
Getting there and away
Competition has reduced the cost of flights, particularly over the North Atlantic, but fares vary tremendously according to date and season. Low season generally runs from November to March, excluding Christmas. Midweek flights tend to be cheaper and it usually pays to fly into a gateway airport such as Boston, Los Angeles or New York (John F Kennedy and Newark), though places such as Cincinnati, served by Delta and Charlotte, served by British Airways are worth considering. The main airlines flying from Europe include American, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Air India, El Al and Kuwait Airlines may be cheaper to book through agents such as Trailfinders in the UK.