Pól Ó Conghaile: Why we feel the frustration and travel to the US anyway
Growing security measures and a punishing exchange rate haven't dimmed our US love affair, says Pól Ó Conghaile.
Two years ago, a euro would have bought you $1.37.
In recent months, it's been as little as $1.06. Throw in tips, ATM fees and the cost of transatlantic flights, and the reality is clear.
It's impossible to do the US on the cheap.
But here's the thing... we're doing it anyway. This summer, Dublin Airport will host some 290 direct flights a week between Ireland and the US, including new Aer Lingus routes to LA, Newark and Connecticut.
As well as city breaks, bookings are strong for twin-centre trips, fly/drives, rail holidays and escorted tours. Ireland play the All Blacks in Chicago on November 5 (therugbyweekend.com), and visitors are starting to look beyond the big hits to places like Brooklyn, Downtown LA and Kissimmee on their trips.
Irish travellers simply love the States.
Of course, getting into the US can be frustrating - the latest rule change obliges Irish passport-holders travelling on the Visa Waiver Programme to have an e-passport (see dublin.usembassy.gov for full details).
Despite the endless security tweaks and brash threats from Donald Trump, however, President Obama and Brand USA have improved the welcome experience in recent years.
US Customs and Border Protection has brushed up on its customer service, automated passport control kiosks are available at 30 airports, and trusted traveller programmes are a useful option for frequent travellers.
The aim is to welcome 100m visitors a year by 2021... hopefully, with a smile.
What's on your bucket list?
OUR READERS SHARE THEIR TIPS
North America is Ireland's favourite long-haul destination by a country mile, with some 417,000 trips last year according to CSO figures. We asked our readers for holiday suggestions on Facebook. Here are a few of our faves...
Corrina Stone: 'We drove Route 66 and it's honestly the best holiday we've ever had. If you do it right, with a bit of planning & preparation you really can do it on shoestring and experience everything along the way... We'd do it again in a heartbeat!'
Jana Lunden-Sadler: 'You can't visit the USA without a trip to New England in the autumn - the coast of Maine where the mountains meet the sea, fresh maple syrup from the tapped trees, trees with their electric foliage. Bliss!'
Joules Bennett: 'If you want to see something really different or unconventional you can't beat Texas! From the signs to the people, the country music and the deep-fried food, Texas is really special... I would say doing a ranch tour would be top of my list... Be a cowboy for the day!'
Deals of the week...
BLACK FRIDAY IN BOSTON
Fancy some shopping in the States? ITAA member Dawson Travel (dawsontravel.ie) has flights plus seven nights in a three-star hotel in Boston from €818pp, departing November 24. A similar deal to New York costs €784pp. For more, see itaa.ie/offers.
BIG APPLE IN BUSINESS
Fancy Christmas in New York? Trailfinders (trailfinders.ie) has a business class package including direct flights, four nights at the five-star Ritz Carlton in Battery Park and Top of the Rock Observation Deck tickets from €2,149pp, departing December 23. 5 Star Villa Holidays (5starvillaholidays.com) is now doing Manhattan apartments, too.
FAMILIES IN FLORIDA
Blackpool Travel (blackpooltravel.ie) has a 14-night family offer in Florida from €685pp, including flights, taxes, bags and a one-bed suite in the Ramada Plaza Resort. Meanwhile, Sunway (sunway.ie) has a twin-centre trip including five nights in each of Orlando and St Pete's Beach including flights and car hire from €929pp for a family of four sharing.
NB: All prices subject to availability.