Clients who are concerned about saving pennies and stretching their
travel dollars will have plenty of opportunities to do both when
visiting the Emerald Isle this year, thanks in large measure to
currency exchange rates that favor the U.S. dollar.
Tour operators report that for the coming season prices will, at
best, be lower than 1998 levels and, at worst, increase anywhere
from 1% to 5%.
"Ireland is the most unbelievable bargain out there. You can go
to Ireland cheaper than you can go from the Northeastern part of
the U.S. to Florida and the Caribbean," says Michele Conway,
president of Conway Hammond Tours, an operator based in Albany,
N.Y., that is entering its fourth year of doing business to
Conway notes that this year her firm's independent tours start
at $33 per person daily, including car, accommodations, tax,
service charge and full Irish breakfast. Call (800) 684-5413.
At Aer Lingus Vacations, the lead-in nightly price on its
pre-booked hotel program is $35 per person, double, including
accommodations at a three-star hotel, full Irish breakfast, service
charge and tax.
Getting to Ireland need not be expensive either. Conway cites a
promotional fare of $318 roundtrip on Aer Lingus from New York
that's available through March. "Even during the [high] season, if
you're careful and watch the sales you can get air fares for under
Here's what a sampling of operators have in store, price-wise,
for the year ahead.Aer Lingus Vacations, Melville, N.Y. Has dropped hotel prices
an average of 15%, in some cases much more. Call (888)
IRISHAIR.Brendan Tours, Van Nuys, Calif. Many prices remain the same as
in '98; increases, where applicable, are "almost negligible." Call
(800) 421-8446.Brian Moore International Tours, Boston. Self-drive prices will
remain at 1998 levels; escorted tours have increased by
approximately $10 for a $900 package. Call (800) 982-2299.CIE Tours International, Cedar Knolls, N.J. Price reductions of
an average 2% to 3%. Call (800) 243-8687.ETM Travel Group, Westport, Conn. Prices will remain fairly
steady compared to 1998 with maximum increases of 3% to 5%. Call
(800) 992-7700.Lismore Tours, New York. Prices are either reduced below 1998
levels or remain the same. Call (800) 547-6673.Terry Flynn Tours, Lake Elmo, Minn. Increases of about 4% to
5%. Call (800) 678-7848.
Clients interested in traveling during the shoulder and low
seasons, from October to April, will find the best prices, as much
as 20% to 30% off peak season prices, sometimes more. For example,
for clients traveling in March CIE Tours
International offers its Irish Heritage Tour for $795 per
person, land. That's a savings of 22% off its peak season price of
Celtic International Tours in Albany, N.Y., offers a five-night
air-inclusive coach tour that's priced as low as $818 per person in
early February; the off-season price peaks at $1,068 on April
departures but drops back to $998 in October and $878 in late
November. Call (800) 833-4373.
The drawbacks to traveling in these months are few if any. In a
press release last fall announcing an off-season travel promotion,
Catherine Gale, marketing and promotion manager for the Irish
Tourist Board in New York, was quoted saying, "Veteran travelers to
Ireland know that an Irish vacation from October to April is the
best-kept secret around. Crowds are gone, prices are dramatically
lower and the weather is temperate."
What's the weather like in the off-season? Temperatures in the
spring and fall average in the 50s, and drop to the 30s and 40s in
the winter. Year-round, the weather is apt to be quite changeable
but rarely as harsh as northern U.S. winters.
WEST COAST BARGAINS
The Irish Tourist Board's off-season promotion, dubbed Priceless
Ireland, features savings of 30% to 50% on tours to the west coast
of Ireland. Offered in conjunction with Aer Lingus and several
Irish marketing and development organizations, the program features
nine air-inclusive vacations that are available until April.
Among them is a Go-As-You-Please plan by Celtic International
Tours, that starts at $439 per person, including three nights'
accommodations in a choice of country homes or farmhouses, rental
car with unlimited mileage and Irish breakfast daily.
Isle Inn Tours has put together a six-night self-drive vacation
as part of the promotion that's priced from $599 per person,
including accommodations with full Irish breakfast in a selection
of bed and breakfast properties and rental car with unlimited
mileage. Prices on Isle Inn's plan, called the Irish Experience,
are available through March 8. Call (800) 237-9376.
Both prices include roundtrip air travel from New York, Newark
or Boston to Shannon as well as hotel service charges and local
taxes. Clients who travel on a Priceless Ireland tour also receive
a gift of a Royal Tara Trinket Tray when they make purchases at the
Shannon Airport Duty Free Shop.
The Priceless Ireland promotion also features escorted coach
tours by Brian Moore International, CIE Tours International, Celtic
International and Isle Inn Tours; a three-night Romantic Castles
Vacation by CIE Tours, and a six-night chauffeur-driven plan by
Brian Moore International Tours.
A three-night Golfing Getaway by Brendan Tours starts at $828,
including air, rental car, three nights in superior first class
hotels or deluxe castle, Irish breakfast daily, and three rounds of
golf at Lahinch, Adare and Dromoland golf clubs. Prices on
Brendan's Golfing Getaway are effective through March 31.