Now's the time to start thinking about a travel "bargain". At the start of autumn in just a few weeks, airlines and tour operators roll out extraordinary discounts for international travel in November through February. Provided only that you're willing to go on a short, one-week vacation to a non-tropical location in that chilly time, you will enjoy the best prices of the year.
Ireland and China lead the list. The one-week winter packages sold by Irish and Chinese tour operators and airlines are so very cheap---they start at $799 per person, including round-trip airfare---as to seem almost unbelievable.
To Ireland: for $799 for each of two persons traveling together from November through February (though obviously not at Christmas time), AerLingusVacationStore.Com will fly you round-trip to Dublin from New York's JFKAirport and put you up for four nights at the Dublin City Center Hotel. Though I can't imagine anyone crossing the Atlantic for such a short stay, I cite this package as an example of how low these off-season prices can go.
A more attractive bargain offered by the same tour company is their $899 three-city package, which again includes round-trip airfare to Dublin, with all fees and taxes. Once in the Emerald isle, you also receive two nights (the first night and the last night) at a Dublin-area hotel, two nights at a hotel in Cork, two nights at a hotel in Galway, and--to top it off--a rental car (manual transmission) with unlimited mileage for the entire week. That, to me, is an awesome bargain. But for only $100 more per person--namely $999--you can buy an alternate six-night package including round-trip air to Dublin, one night on arrival in a four-star hotel in Dublin, a voucher booklet entitling you to five nights at your choice among hundreds of friendly b-and-bs in Ireland, full Irish breakfast daily, and a manual-transmission car with unlimited mileage for six nights. You can leave on ten nights in November, 6 nights in December, 19 nights in January, and 16 nights in February.
China's bargain wonder, combining Beijing and Shanghai into a one-week stay) leaves from San Francisco (but for only $100 more from New York City), and is priced at $999 per person (an astonishing figure when you consider that the package includes air from San Francisco to Beijing, then from Beijing to Shanghai, and finally from Shanghai back to San Francisco). You spend three nights in Beijing at a fine hotel with full American breakfast daily, then four nights in Shanghai with the same breakfast privileges, and go on tours of the outstanding highlights of both cities. The tour operator, with whom you deal direct: ChinaSpree.com.
So there it is. If you have never been to these world-famous locations in either Ireland or China, or want to return once again, here's your chance. All you need is a modicum of money and layers to keep you warm. In fact, just thinking about the bargain you're enjoying may keep you even warmer.