The Real Deal: Round-trip airfare, six nights' accommodations in bed-and-breakfasts, a seven-day car rental with unlimited mileage and insurance, from $880 per person—plus taxes of $115.
When: Depart Nov. 1-Dec. 12, 2008.
Gateways New York City; add $19 for D.C., $92 for San Francisco, $126 for Miami, and $282 for Seattle; additional cities available.
The fine print: Price includes hotel taxes, breakfast daily, car insurance, and unlimited mileage. Does not include air taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges—which total approximately $115 per person. Based on double occupancy; single supplement is $209. Read these guidelines before you book any Real Deal.
Book by: No deadline; based on availability.
Contact: EuropeASAP, 415/750-5449, europeasap.com.
Why it's a deal: A recent Kayak search found a $545 flight between New York City and Dublin in mid-November (US Airways). For $335 more, this package secures you an economy rental car (with insurance and unlimited mileage) and six nights in a choice of 1,100 bed-and-breakfasts (by voucher). One reason for the package's low price is that you'll be traveling in the off-season. It's likely to be a little dreary, but damp, green Ireland has a certain charm—and choosing the off-season is a way to make Europe more affordable.
Trip details: The Explore Ireland with B&Bs package allows you to create a self-drive itinerary across the island. After you book, EuropeASAP will send you the accommodation vouchers, a B&B directory, and a road map, so you can get to the nitty-gritty of planning your trip. You can arrange your B&B accommodations ahead of time (via phone or e-mail), or really see where the spirit moves you and book spontaneously from the road.
Choose from the 1,100 B&Bs, approved by the Official Irish Tourism Board. One possibility is The Dormer in County Clare, in the western part of Ireland. It's near Bunratty Castle, the Cliffs of Moher, and Aillwee Caves.
When you arrive in Dublin, most likely on Aer Lingus or Delta, you'll pick up your manual economy-class rental car. Upgrade to an automatic for about $30. You'll spend the first and final nights of the trip at the Dublin B&B of your choice; EuropeASAP can book your reservations in advance for no extra charge. From Dublin, you can hit the road at your own pace.
Note that this is a common type of package for Ireland and a great way to soak up the local flavor. Ireland and B&Bs are made for each other; the Irish are gregarious hosts, and many have been renting out rooms for decades. While hotels are rare in rural areas, there's always a B&B no matter how far you stray from the beaten path.
Winter in Ireland is rainy and foggy, which makes the countryside especially lush, and temperatures are mild. Expect an average of 41 degrees and note that December is the wettest month.