Pól Ó Conghaile: Why we keep travelling to the US, despite the exchange rate
It's July 4, and despite a punishing exchange rate (going to press, the euro was buying a miserable $1.11), our passion for US holidays seems stronger than ever.
From the towering skyscrapers of New York to the theme parks of Orlando, from the wonders of Vegas to wide open spaces like Yosemite, the US continues to captivate Irish visitors. With Aer Lingus's latest NYC flight landing into JFK at 11am, it's even possible - technically, at least - to do the States as a day-trip.
Connectivity is booming. This summer, some 47 transatlantic flights will operate daily from Dublin Airport. They include new routes to Washington DC, Chicago and LA. If IAG's takeover of Aer Lingus goes ahead, four more North American routes could be in the pipeline. The traffic works both ways, too. Ireland now accounts for 10pc of all North American visits to Europe, according to Tourism Ireland - one reason 2015 is shaping up to be a record year for Irish tourism.
Given the current exchange, outlet malls are no longer the draw they once were. But travel is still relatively good value, and you can control costs up front by booking a package or escorted tour with the likes of American Holidays (americanholidays.ie), clickandgo.com, Sunway (sunway.ie) or Travel Department (traveldepartment.ie), bundling activities such as wine, rail or fall foliage tours that can be expensive and time-consuming to arrange and pay for yourself. Happy July 4 indeed!
Flying west for winter? You can still catch Aer Lingus's Autumn/Winter Seat Sale (aerlingus.com). Flights start from €209pp each way for travel to North America from October 1 to February 29, as long as you book before midnight on Monday, July 6. It's worth forward-planning to ease the exchange rate pain, too. Buying a New York City Pass (citypass.com), for instance, saves on entrance fees to several attractions. And don't even think of paying at the gate for Disneyworld or Universal Studios. You'll get far better rates online.
Your euro may not go as far as it once did on the ground, but travel and packages to the US still remain relatively good value - if you book in advance. Tour America (touramerica.ie) has a New York Christmas Break from just €599pp, for example, based on four people sharing, direct flights from Shannon and three nights at the four-star Roosevelt Hotel. Meanwhile, Sunway (sunway.ie) has eight-night Massachusetts in Fall trips departing this October, with accommodation, direct flights and car hire all included from €1,699pp.