There is one thing in particular Travel Weekly cover star Kelly Norris wanted to see on her trip to California.

She was desperate to see the Hollywood Sign, a cultural icon and one of the landmarks most commonly associated with Los Angeles.

So it was with some relief during the trip that she got the chance to see the 45 foot tall sign, overlooking the Hollywood district of LA.

“One of the main things I wanted to see on the trip was the sign and when we had lunch at the Shangri La hotel in Santa Monica you could see it from the rooftop terrace,” recalls a delighted Kelly.

Her mission accomplished, Kelly went on to enjoy everything California had to offer.

“It was the trip of a lifetime. I had never been to California and it was on my list of places to go to,” admits Kelly, who enjoyed a lot of travel as a child as her mum worked as a travel agent for Lunn Poly, then Thomson – where Kelly also started her career – and then went on to work for British Airways.

Kelly won a place as a Travel Weekly Coverstar after losing three stone in weight in just 12 weeks, an achievement which added to her excitement of taking part in the trip.”Losing weight really boosted my confidence and then winning this and having a makeover was great,” she says.

From the moment Kelly stepped on board and was upgraded to upper class on the ?Virgin Atlantic flight to her moment of fame during her photoshoot on Huntingdon Beach, she relished every minute.

“When I found out I had an upper class ticket, it was just out of this world. It made the flight of 11 hours seem like just four or five hours; having so much space and comfort made a huge difference,” she says.

Huntingdon Beach was one of Kelly’s favourite places on the trip, not just because she had her covershoot there.

“The views from where we stayed at the Hilton were amazing. It’s so laid-back and really popular, with lots of campervans, surfers, people playing volleyball, paddle-boarding and surfing. We had a bonfire on the beach – I didn’t even know you could do that there!”

Kelly even climbed on to the lifeguard’s stand to have her photo taken – in a fur coat. “It was like being famous!”

Kelly’s tips

  • If clients are considering a trip to the US, mention California as it has something to offer all ages and customer types, whether as an add-on, part of a multi-centre or as the main destination of a trip
  • The good weather makes it a great year-round destination to recommend – the locals think it’s cold if it’s 22C!
  • It’s easy to get around California. If clients don’t want to hire a car, there are frequent buses and trains and most hotels have information on public transport. Travelling between places such as Palm Springs, Santa Monica and Huntingdon Beach are all quite straightforward by bus and train.
  • California is a great shopping destination so if one person wants to go shopping and the other person prefers surfing, both are on offer.
  • Some interesting facts to tell clients: Santa Monica Pier has the world’s first and only solar-powered Ferris Wheel and was also a location for the filming of the movie Forrest Gump.