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Fancy Philly in three hours – or Tunisia in an afternoon?

PHILADELPHIA: it's a shame that Philadelphia (pictured) hasn't received the same attention as Boston or New York. It's got all this historic sights of the former – and it's a hell of a lot less expensive than the Big Apple.

The great thing about Philly is the train service from the airport (unusual enough in the car-dominated States). The journey into the heart of the city (the downtown stop's beside the grandiose City Hall) is a mere 25 minutes.

If you're changing planes (chances are you are at this hub), five hours (but do, do check) should be enough to get you into town for a whistlestop peek.

Take a right from the station, and you're into the heart of the downtown shopping and eating district in a very walkable city. Food is cheap - from a filling Philly cheesesteak to a posh main course for only around $15, and the usual names like Gap and American Eagle are in this area. Jump a cab and check out Independence Hall, where the US Constiution was shaped, or run up the Rocky Balboa steps at the Philadelphia Museum, and get your picture taken in front of his statue. Find out more on www.visitphilly.com

TUNISIA: Despite recent tragic turmoil, the north African country is welcoming and should be a player on the Irish market in 2014. Cruise ships dock in the north at La Goulette, ideally placed to take in a city (Tunis), an historic site (Carthage) and a scenic town (Sidi Bou Said).

Sidi Bou Said, touted as a jewel of the Mediterranean, has some stunning views of the sea, and it's quaint in its own way with little stalls and cafes. It's always packed when the ships are in town, but skip the official excursion and jump a cab. The port is lined with drivers vying for business, and you should be able to knock them down to a fiver one way (French is a help). Once there there's one main street, so don't worry about missing anything. En route is Carthage, the 3,000-year-old city with ruins from Phoenician and Roman times. Tunis is about a half-hour taxi ride from the port, but there is a train link, and the local Medina is worth visiting for shoppers. www.cometotunisia.ie

LOS ANGELES: A sprawling collection of towns and cities adds up to one big conurbation. If you've got a long layover at LA International Airport, there's a handy bus service to beautiful Santa Monica (about 45 minutes away). It's one of the few walkable places in the region, and it boasts a Baywatch-style beach. The Santa Monica Place is a great one-stop mall, while the historic pier has been the sitting for numerous Hollywood movies. www.discoverlosangeles.com