Sceptre Tours (tel. 800/221-0924; www.sceptre.com) knows how to put together an affordable trip to Ireland. This four-city Ireland package for fall and winter travel is a real steal, from $749 for airfare, six nights' hotel, a rental car, and breakfast daily. The trip is valid for departures beginning in November; Ireland is fairly temperate so you won't be freezing cold.
You'll fly into and out of Dublin, so that's where you pick up the rental car. Spend some time taking in the countryside of Kilkenny, a 1½-hour drive south of Dublin. The town has Smithwick's Brewery (pronounced Smith-icks; the w is silent), Kilkenny Castle, and St. Canice's Cathedral. Spend one night in Kilkenny at Newpark Hotel, a four-star property within walking distance of the city.
Your next stop is Killarney, home to scores of golf courses and Killarney National Park. You'll spend two nights at Scotts Hotel in downtown Killarney; the property dates back to the 1930s although you'd never know it because the décor is contemporary. You'll need the time, as you're at the gateway to the 110-mile long Ring of Kerry -- that's the common name for the Iveragh Peninsula. From there, head north to music-loving city of Galway, on the west coast and within easy distance of the Cliffs of Moher, the Burren, the Connemara Mountains, and more. You'll stay at Clayton Hotel in Galway, a comfortable spot just outside the city.
End your trip in Dublin, where you can see the Book of Kells, enjoy pub crawls, and more. Stay at the Croke Park Hotel, adjacent to the Croke Park sports stadium and within easy distance of the Dublin city center.
Why is this a deal? Well, just the airfare alone for a Monday departure in mid-November starts at $611 for a flight from New York-JFK to Dublin. And that's not even factoring the six nights' hotel (all in four-star properties close to the city centers), the rental car, or the breakfasts (which are more or less standard in Ireland).
Trip Type: Air-inclusive; independent
What the Quoted Price Gets You: Airfare from New York City to Dublin; six nights' hotel (one each in Dublin and in Kilkenny, two each in Killarney and in Galway); a weekly standard car rental; breakfast daily; a House of Waterford Crystal tour; and airline fuel surcharges
What Else You'll Have to Pay: Government taxes and fees of up to $180
Book By: As soon as possible to ensure availability
When: Sunday-Thursday departures Nov. 1-Dec. 14; Jan. 1-Feb. 29, 2012. Other dates are available for higher prices.
Other Details: Add $99 per person if you'd like to upgrade to an automatic car (with GPS) and visit the Cliffs of Moher. Want to stay another night? Add a seventh night at Croke Park Hotel in Dublin from $75 and extend your car rental for $75 per person.
Really don't want to let go of Ireland? You can add a 7th and 8th night (one at Croke Park Dublin; the other at Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny) from $99 total per person.
Other Gateways: Boston ($819), Chicago ($849), Orlando ($1,059)
Single Supplement: $100
All prices are per person and, if lodging is a component of the package, based upon two people traveling together (unless otherwise noted). The prices listed are general starting rates; see "What Else You'll Have to Pay" for details about associated taxes and fees. Base-prices, taxes, and fees can vary based on point of departure and time of travel. Blackout dates may apply. Trip add-ons like sightseeing tours and meal plans may also increase the price. Check with the tour operator for additional gateways. The single supplement is the extra cost that a solo traveler would pay to book the deal.