Package tours are simply a way to buy the airfare, accommodations, and other elements of your trip (such as car rentals, airport transfers, and even activities) at the same time and often at discounted prices.
One good source for package deals of all kinds is the airlines themselves. Most major airlines offer air/land packages, with surprisingly cheap hotel deals. Several big online travel agencies—such as Expedia (www.expedia.com), Travelocity (www.travelocity.com), Orbitz (www.orbitz.com), and Lastminute (www.lastminute.com)—also do a brisk business in packages.
Fully escorted tours mean a travel company takes care of absolutely everything, including airfare, hotels, meals, tours, admission costs, and local transportation. Although we hope that Frommers.com can help you plan your trip independently and safely, many travelers still prefer the convenience and peace of mind that a fully escorted tour offers. They are particularly good for inexperienced travelers or people with limited mobility. They can also be a great way to make new friends. On the downside, you’ll have little opportunity for serendipitous interactions with locals. The tours can be jam-packed with activities, leaving little room for individual sightseeing, whim, or adventure. Plus they often focus on heavily trafficked sites, so you often miss out on many lesser-known gems.
Discover Ireland (www.discoverireland.com) can give advice on escorted tours and publishes up-to-the-minute deals on the front page of its website. C.I.E. Tours (www.cietours.com; 01/703-1888) offers fully escorted tours, self-guided tours, and individual chauffeur-driven tours. Hidden Ireland Tours (www.hiddenirelandtours.com; 087/221-4002 or 125/1478-7519 outside Ireland) specializes in off-the-beaten-path tours of Kerry, Galway, and Donegal. Authentic Ireland (www.authenticireland.com; 01/293-3088 or 188/8443-5259 outside Ireland) organizes escorted, self-guided, and private tours, as well as themed tours such as castle and golfing vacations. Those wanting to combine their trip with learning opportunities might be interested in the International Summer School program at the National University of Ireland, Galway (University Rd., Galway, Co. Galway; www.nuigalway.ie/international-summer-school), which includes courses on Irish language and history. Contact the course administrator at 091/495-442 for more information.
Special Interest Tours
Golf -- A host of U.S. companies offer package golf tours. Among them is Premier Golf (www.premiergolf.com; 866/260-4409).
Cycling -- All-inclusive bicycle trips in Ireland can be booked from the United States with either Backroads (www.backroads.com; 800/462-2848) or VBT (www.vbt.com; 800/245-3868), both well-regarded companies. Tour packages include bikes, gear, luggage transportation via a support van, good food, and rooms in local inns and hotels of character—everything bundled into one price. In Ireland, Irish Cycling Safaris, Belfield Bike Shop, Belfield House, University College Dublin (www.cyclingsafaris.com; 01/260-0749) offers cycling trips to practically every part of Ireland, including B&B stays and some meals.
Hiking -- For a full walking holiday package to County Kerry or County Clare and Connemara, the U.S.–based Backroads (www.backroads.com; 800/462-2848) is one highly recommended operator. For guided walks in the southwest of Ireland, contact Ireland Walk Hike Bike (www.irelandwalkhikebike.com; 066/718-6181).
Horseback Riding -- Hidden Trails (www.hiddentrails.com; 888/987-2457 from the U.S. or Canada) offers 7-day guided riding tours in several regions in Ireland, including the Wicklow Mountains, West Cork, and Connemara. Tours are graded easy, moderate, or challenging, and include lodging and meals (breakfast, picnic lunch, and dinner).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.