Those following this column all summer are certainly sick of me going on and on about how crazy expensive flights between the United States and Europe were, but today is the first day of autumn and things are changing for the better in a big way. Only a few weeks ago it seemed that any flight over the Atlantic was at least $900, but prices have come down dramatically.
Better still, a destination that is perfect for this time of year is now one of the cheapest of all. Those who’ve carefully read the title of this post already know we are talking about Ireland, which has very pleasant weather through early November, but it also has low hotel rates and much smaller crowds.
First off we’ll discuss the two main points of entry from across the Atlantic. Most people immediately assume they’ll fly into Dublin, which is the capital and by far the biggest city, but Ireland also has a huge international airport in a town called Shannon in the center of the island. We’ll discuss which is better for you below, but for now it’s good to know that prices of flights into Dublin and into Shannon are basically the same from the United States.
At the moment you can fly from JFK or Newark in the New York area for $550 round-trip, and again, this is into either major Irish airport. From Boston it’s $610, from Miami it’s $630, and from Washington DC it’s only $650.
If you aren’t on the east coast the fares are even more tempting because they are normally far higher than this. Chicago is $670 round-trip while San Francisco is $700, a fantastic bargain. Los Angeles and Phoenix both come in at $710 round-trip to Ireland, so it’s a great deal when flights were well over $1,100 a month or two ago.
How to visit Ireland
Compared to countries in Continental Europe, Ireland is a different thing altogether. Everyone has heard of Dublin, but honestly it disappoints many people, partly for being a bit plain and partly for being incredibly expensive. Prices for hotels have come down recently, but it’s still by far the most expensive part of Ireland.
So the real key to visiting the Emerald Isle is to either rent a car if you are in a group of people, or get a train or bus pass if you are only one or two and on a lower budget. A car is still a better idea if you can afford it because the small Irish towns where the trains don’t go are the most memorable places for most people.
The countryside is gorgeous and by this time of year the roads are less jammed so you can just cruise around in a small car stopping off at castles and in country pubs until you find a bed and breakfast for the night.
Many people only stay in Dublin for a day or two, so if you are thinking about that you might as well fly into Shannon where you’ll save money and hassle getting into the nicer parts of Ireland. If you want to spend at least 3 days in Dublin it’s probably better to fly into that airport and then only rent a car once you are done there.