All Ireland: Money-saving tips

Terry Flynn, owner of Terry Flynn Tours based in Waterford, Ireland, with offices in Lake Elmo, Minn., is wary of budget programs that cut corners. In his experience, he says, U.S. travelers who skimp on programming or accommodations often tell him after returning home that if they had known certain "extras" or experiences were available they would have preferred to have paid the money and had them included.

Still, there are ways travelers can save money in Ireland. Following are a few tips.

  • Mix and match. Agents can have clients experience castle lodgings or luxury country house accommodations without blowing their budgets by booking a program that allows them to mix and match accommodations.
  • Shop bed and breakfast programs carefully. Some operators offer extras such as discounts on attractions.
  • Suggest a self-catering facility. Especially popular with families and small groups, self-catering vacations offer considerable savings on accommodations and dining and greater opportunities to mix with local people.
  • Advise clients to eat wisely. Restaurants that have a "tourist menu" sign in the window generally offer three-course dinners at reduced rates.
  • Save on taxes. To obtain a refund of the VAT or value-added tax, clients should ask for a Europe Tax-Free Shopping form with each purchase. The forms can be redeemed at the airport before leaving the country or stamped by customs and mailed in once home.
  • Use credit cards for purchases. You can count on getting a good currency exchange rate. However, be aware that the currency conversion may occur several days after purchase which can effect the exchange rate. (Agents may want to remind clients that the Discover card is not widely accepted in Ireland.)
  • Avoid CDW charges. Clients booking self-drive programs with a gold or platinum credit card may find that their credit card company will cover collision damage waiver insurance, providing a savings of as much as $16 daily.

    To price their products as low as possible, operators often feature bed and breakfast accommodations that do not include private, or en suite, bathrooms. John Murray, president of ETM Travel Group in Westport, Conn., urges agents to make sure that private bathrooms are included in the price they are quoted.

    ETM Travel Group has responded to that demand by including en suite accommodations in even the lowest-end properties in its bed and breakfast program.

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