With St. Patrick's Day and spring approaching, it's a great time to visit the Emerald Isle, as Ireland in late winter and early spring is generally a little warmer than most of North America at this time and certainly no colder -- especially for those of us in the northeast and Midwest this past week. We've looked over copious amount of deals to Ireland -- there never seem to be a shortage of them -- and found ones that offer a variety of experiences at different price points and time commitments.
Through a special advertised on Travelocity's website (tel. 800/TRAVELOCITY; www.travelocity.com), you can fly to Ireland from various spots in the United States on Aer Lingus starting from $168 one-way from New York or Boston to either Dublin or Shannon, for travel through February 28. Prices for March 1-April 30 departures start from $218 one-way for those same routes. Departures from Chicago start at $198 for February travel and $239 for March-April travel, and Los Angeles starts at $241 for February and $266 for March-April travel. The prices do not include taxes and fees, and they are nonrefundable. Travel must be complete by April 30. No advance purchase is required, either, but you'll have to move fast because the booking deadline is February 15.
To confuse matters slightly, if you go to the Aer Lingus website (tel. 800/IRISH-AIR; www.aerlingus.com), you can choose from a slightly different price range (bypassing the Travelocity $5 booking fee) and the special features rates that extend through May travel as well, starting from $199 one-way, for example, from New York to either Shannon or Dublin. The same departure gates in the U.S. -- Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles -- are also included here. Fares can only be booked on the Aer Lingus website; if you call and do it over the phone the airline assesses a $16 fee. The same booking deadline of February 15 applies.
The airline is also offering ten per cent off escorted packages, which includes the four-night quick getaway Sights and Cities Tour, with two nights apiece in Dublin and Galway, starting from $729, priced from New York-JFK and Boston departures. The price includes airfare and four nights' accommodations, Irish breakfast each morning, sightseeing, private motor coach and Irish tour guide. Trips are offered February 15 and 17 and March 1, 6; these dates are priced at $889. The ten per cent discount is applied when you book and the deadline is also February 15.
CIE Tours International (tel. 800/243-8687; www.cietours.com) has a special "Go As You Please Ireland" that's about as laissez-faire as you can get. It's a self-drive, land-only vacation starting from $49 per day or $294 for one week. The trip includes car rental, and vouchers for bed and breakfast stays across the country -- CIE provides you with a directory. You will also receive a standard Irish breakfast daily, guaranteed a room with private bath and shower, and can opt for a standard or automatic transmission vehicle. You can also upgrade to castle stays or hotel stays if desired.
Dooley Vacations (tel. 877/331-9301; www.dooleyvacations.com) is offering an air-inclusive, four-night package from $599 per person that the company is calling "Upscale Ireland," which is a bit misleading because there are modest things like bed and breakfast stays and car rentals involved . The price is great, but it does come with some sacrifice: The rate reflects select departures February through April, with blackout dates February 14-21, March 15-20 (yep, right through St. Patty's Day), and April 6-14. You must book by February 16. The trip includes roundtrip airfare to either Dublin or Shannon from New York, Boston or Chicago (other cities are additional), one night at Shannon Hotel (for Dublin hotel and arrivals add $30); two nights at a bed and breakfast and the final night, plus dinner, at the five-star Glenlo Abbey Hotel (hence, the upscale?), Irish breakfast daily, weekly economy car rental with GPS (although it's pretty hard to get lost in Ireland), and admission to the Waterford Crystal Factory. The price reflects travel February 7-March 31. You can add things like an automatic (instead of manual) car for $50 per person or extra nights. For April travel, New York and Boston departures start at $619 per person; Chicago, $639; and Los Angeles, $799. In the fine print, it says that all packages are subject to availability of the lowest fare on Aer Lingus and frequent flier miles do not apply. Airfare taxes, fees etc. of $95-$125 are not included.
Sceptre Tours (tel. 800/221-0924; www.sceptretours.com) offers air-inclusive tours to Ireland and the British Isles as well as independent tours. Air-inclusive rates for the self-drive "Emerald B&B Package" is an eight-day trip with roundtrip airfare and standard economy car rental, with one night either at the Clare Inn (if you arrive in Shannon) or Jury's Croke Park (if you arrive in Dublin). For the subsequent five nights you can choose from more than 450 bed and breakfasts scattered throughout the country. This type of vacation gives you the most flexibility if you like to do things at your own pace, and Ireland is certainly the kind of place where it's easy to embrace such an approach. Air-inclusive rates for this start at $699 per person based on double occupancy for travel in February; departures in March start at $849 per person from New York and $842 per person from Chicago. If you like the idea of a self-drive tour Sceptre also has a Southern Route and a Northern Route to choose from both of which hit the major spots.
If you want to be there for St. Patty's day, "Glimpse of Ireland," a seven-night escorted package, departs March 10 (if you opt to include air in the price rates start at $1,599 per person based on double occupancy), with a land-only price from $1,250. Included are seven daily Irish breakfasts, seven nights' accommodations in Ireland (Dublin, Waterford, Killarney, Shannon, Connemara and Mayo), sightseeing destinations such as Ring of Kerry, Old Midleton Distillery, Galway Cathedral and Trinity College Library. Transfers to and from your hotel are also included. This package is also available through June, but the rate gets higher (and so will the airfare) as the weather gets warmer.
Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has a more active, yet independent, approach for those who enjoy biking or walking on their vacations. All four of the trips -- separate biking and walking trips to both Dingle Peninsula and Kerry -- involve traveling through the scenic west of Ireland and are self-guided. Go-Today's Biking Ireland: the Dingle Peninsula and Biking Ireland: the Kerry Way, both start from $1,069 for seven nights and include stays at bed and breakfasts with full Irish breakfast in the morning, luggage transfers between locations, bicycle rentals, routes, maps and local contact for support and emergencies. The walking trips start at $999 and include the same accommodations and meals, luggage transfers, detailed notes and maps and transfers to and from Kerry and Shannon airports, depending on schedule. For all four trips, you must book by March 8, but you do not have to travel until December 31.
Talk with fellow Frommer's readers on our Ireland Message Boards today.