The Deal Detective is SmarterTravel's resident bargain hunter, Kate Hamman. She's always on the lookout for new travel deals and invites you, dear reader, to submit your own questions.
anderson2007 writes "I raised a granddaughter who is 17 and will be graduating in May (will turn 18 on October 25). I am 60 and would love to take her to Ireland, because my mother's grandmother was from there ... and mom always wanted to go. However, money is tight ... So, do you have good advice on how to go on little money? We could walk or ride bikes. June is the only month we could go. We live in Arkansas. Thank you!"
Ireland is a wonderful place to visit—even without the added bonus of an ancestry to explore—and I think it's an ideal place to go for a special occasion. Plus, there are so many different ways to see the country, you can tailor your trip around what best fits your needs. For instance, you can choose to stay in one particular destination or drive around the country visiting several different places at your own pace. Also, you can book everything individually or find a bundled package deal through a travel provider.
Since so many options can be a bit overwhelming, especially when you are working with a limited budget, it's important to compare, compare, compare. And after your research is complete, you'll hopefully be left with a vacation that fits the bill.
First, it's important to consider that June is peak season for Ireland, so prices are typically going to be higher than other times of year. Traveling even a few weeks earlier in May can cut costs significantly, but don't despair. It's possible to still find good deals, even in the summer.
Knowing how much an individually booked vacation (transportation and lodging) will cost can help gauge if a prepackaged deal is a good value.
Start by pricing airfare. I found round-trip flights from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Dublin for travel in June starting at $998 per person (with taxes and fees). Granted, this is a bit pricey, but Aer Lingus continually offers discounts to the Emerald Isle. It might also be cheaper to book each leg separately. For instance, I found round-trip flights from New York City to Dublin in June starting at $680 per person (with taxes and fees). If you could find a cheap flight from Little Rock to New York, then you might be able to save. I priced round-trip flights from Little Rock to New York City in June starting at $292 per person (with taxes and fees), meaning that a ticket from Little Rock to Dublin would cost $972 per person (with taxes and fees). In this case, you do save, but it might not be worth the $52 when you factor in the extra hassle of scheduling individual flights.
Major cities like Dublin offer a wide variety of accommodations, including everything from hostels to luxury hotels. Rooms in June range from $13 per night (without taxes and fees) to a very pretty penny, depending on where you'd like to stay. For comparison purposes, we'll budget $100 per night for lodging. However, before you book, it's wise to read other traveler's hotel reviews through our sister site, TripAdvisor.
If you're thinking about traversing the countryside, Town and Country B&B vouchers are a great way to learn about the culture at an affordable price. Plus, they allow you to travel with a bit of freedom since you can book your rooms as late as four days in advance. And let's not forget the full Irish breakfast that comes with your stay. I would budget about $75 per night for this type of accommodations.
Finally, you'll need a way to get around if you plan on leaving the big city. I priced a manual rental car from the Dublin Airport in June starting at $20 per day (with taxes and fees). An automatic car typically costs more, but can be worth it if you're not familiar with driving stick shift, especially left handed.
The total cost to book a one-week vacation staying within Dublin in June would cost about $2,696 for the two of you (with taxes and fees). A one-week vacation traveling outside of the city would cost about $2,609, including airfare, B&Bs, and car rental for two people.
Now that you have a base price for comparison, let's see what deals are available for your travel dates.
Expedia is offering up to 40 percent off air-and-hotel deals to Europe right now, including stays in Dublin. The deals start at $639 per person (with taxes and fees) in April, and include round-trip airfare from New York City (other departure cities are available at a higher cost) and four nights' accommodations. I priced a six-night package in June for $850, including round-trip airfare from New York City (add the extra $292 for a flight from Little Rock) and four-star accommodations in Dublin. The total cost of this trip from Little Rock comes to about $2,284 (with taxes and fees) for two people, or nearly $400 cheaper than booking items individually. You must book by February 28 for travel between April 1 and August 31.
If you want to explore the country by car, Sceptre Tours offers an Emerald Package starting at $419 per person (without taxes and fees). The deal includes round-trip airfare from New York City (add $292 for a flight from Little Rock), first night hotel lodging in Dublin, five nights' stay at B&Bs, and a weekly standard shift car rental. Upgrades to Town and Country B&Bs and an automatic car rental are available for an extra $99 per person. The total cost for this trip comes to about $1,422 with additional airfare from Little Rock (not including $99 upgrades) for two people (without taxes and fees), offering more than $1,000 in savings over booking individually.
The bundled deals win in savings this time, but this is not always the case, so I encourage you to always check all paths to a vacation before booking. In the meantime, I wish you and your granddaughter a memorable trip.
Readers, what do you think? Have you had experience with booking a package versus individual items? What do you think is better?
Get Help With Your Next Vacation
Let me help you plan your next trip, whatever your budget might be. Submit your request using the form below, and please remember that the more compelling and specific your question, the better the chance you'll be selected for an upcoming case.
Editor's Note: SmarterTravel is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network, an operating company of Expedia, Inc. Expedia, Inc. also owns Expedia.com
All prices, dates, and booking details listed here were valid at the time of publication. Some information may have changed since that time.