Never flown overseas; help me find options!
March 21, 2012 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Is an overseas honeymoon possible?

My future husband has his heart set on us having a honeymoon overseas. We're just in the beginning stages of wedding/honeymoon planning but I think the expense will be impossible... but there are so many things I don't know. So I'm hoping the hive can give me a few tips so I can plan (or not!) accordingly.

We would be flying from North Dakota (so there will be a couple of connecting flights which I'm sure adds to the price) and we're hoping for somewhere in Europe. His top-top pick is Venice, but we are both open to other places because we've never been anywhere in Europe. Ireland would also be at the top of the list. The actual wedding and honeymoon won't be until summer 2013, but when I went to check example flight/hotel packages from sites like Expedia and Priceline for an example week date range, say mid-July of 2012, I'm getting an appoximate price of $5000. Granted that includes a few days' hotel, but I will say that this price is probably-definitely out of our reach.

So I have several questions! And they all revolve around getting the cost down from the sky and maybe giving me a glimmer of hope.

1) Should we just forget about trying for summertime altogether? I know that is the prime tourist season so would be more expensive. Should we set our sights more on April-May or September-October?
2) Is it better to book in advance? How far? Or how close to departure time is the best time to book for prices?
3) Are sites like Expedia a good idea? Will they really give a good deal? Keeping in mind we know NOTHING of the area, so finding or deciding on individual flights and cute out-of-the-way bargain hotels might be way over our heads. Given that, what about travel agents? I have heard that booking yourself is usually better (i.e., cheaper), but I can't help wondering if an agent might be privvy to information or better deals?
4) Recommendations. Yes, I know the dream of Venice in summer is probably one of the most expensive ideas. So please feel free to suggest alternatives! We're aiming for someplace with original scenery, fun things to see, and good food. We don't need tourist-y gloss, but we want someplace "nice" that feels like a treat.

I am going to use this worn-out phrase because I really mean it: Mefites, please hope me.
posted by Eicats to Travel & Transportation (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What amount might you budget for?

I read somewhere about freighters taking passengers. That might or might not be good for you.
posted by maurreen at 1:27 PM on March 21, 2012

I read somewhere about freighters taking passengers.

Cheaper to fly.

Cheaper still to fly in the fall. April and May risk rain (April in Paris scans nicely, but they have showers same as America does.)

Do Venice in the fall. September is still relatively warm and the worst of the tourist thing is over.

Bruges is the Venice of the north, along with Amsterdam (though perhaps a little out of the way and small for a long stay). Medieval, but modernized.

Kayak for flights. You can sign up for emails for bargain flights.

Plenty of travel sites out there. If you're staying a week in one place, you mights consider renting a small apartment rather than a hotel. Prices can be comparable or cheaper and you can cook your own meals.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:36 PM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

5000 for a week stay just in flight and hotels is waaay too much. You can definitely do better.

3.) Hotels in Ireland (we went to Dublin among other cities in Europe last summer) were not more than 100 Euros for a 3-star hotel on one of the last-minute hotel sites. We booked all of our hotels the day before, WHILE we were in Europe in August, and we still never broke 120 Euros per night in London, Paris, Munich, all centrally-located, decent hotels with Wifi connections.

All you need is an itinerary (we didn't even have that!) and some vague idea of where the centre of the city is, and I can't imagine that you won't be able to bargain-hunt for a cheap hotel, even in Venice, for a cheaper price than the packages offered on places like Expedia.

And we booked our flights a week before, I believe it was around 2400 for both of us on a direct flight to London. I know it can be done for cheaper, although from where you are, it would obviously cost more than from NYC.

Anyway, to sum up, it's not a big deal and yes, you can get a much better price if you do it yourself.
posted by devymetal at 1:36 PM on March 21, 2012

You ought to locate the nearest Irish-American association and tell them what you want. Where else are you going to find a cluster of people living near you who want to travel to Ireland?

So start with Bismarck and work your way out to the next nearest large cities (Winnipeg, Minneapolis, etc.).
posted by pracowity at 1:39 PM on March 21, 2012

Going from the US to Italy is typically much more expensive than the UK, but I still think you may be able to find something do-able, especially how much time you still have.

Depending on when you travel and where you are traveling from, it may be cheaper to fly to Rome and find another way to get to Venice (and more fun too, depending on your sense of adventure)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2012

Run some test dates and destinations through a package vacation website - always seems to have cheap packages. Note that the cheapest hotels they offer are usually undesirable in some way, like in a rough neighborhood or far from interesting sights or city centers, but you can upgrade to better accommodation at an additional price. But they're cheap enough that you might get that glimmer of hope from browsing.

Also look into short term apartment rentals. You can often find little studios perfect for honeymooners that are well situated for tourists and nicer than hostels at better prices than hotels. airbnb and vrbo are two of the biggies in this category. Get on there and browse apartments in cities you are interested in.

Venice is interesting for a few days, but I wouldn't spend my whole European Honeymoon there. If you're only going one place, pick a major city where there's tons to do - Dublin would be much better than Venice for staying a week or more.
posted by CheeseLouise at 1:40 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

We'd need a bit of a budget to work with...

Flights alone are probably going to set you back a fair amount- about 900 bucks per person- especially since you need to get to a departure city first. I worked backwards, looking at Kayak explore for fall 2012- you can get a flight round trip to venice from NYC for about $730. If you add the flight to get there from ND, that's easily another $200.

You can probably do europe for 2 for about $1,500 per person for a week- but it would be a fairly low budget affair once you are on the ground.
posted by larthegreat at 1:41 PM on March 21, 2012

Summer will be expensive. It might not be as expensive as it appears to you right now; you can book starting about 11 months in advance, and the prices might be cheaper at that time than they are now for four months from now. I've read that six weeks before travel is the ideal time to book, pricewise, but that's obviously generalizing.

I would think booking hotel and flight separately would be cheaper. Since you don't have your hearts completely set on anyplace, you are free to capitalize on your flexibility: Compile a list (as you're starting to do here) and then, 11 months before you'd like to go, start checking out prices. You could give yourself a few months to look for a flight considerably cheaper than what appears to be the baseline, then pounce on it. Then consult some of the many hotel sites. My M.O. is to scout out the hotels with the best reviews on tripadvisor, which has a search engine right on it that utilizes most of the best hotel sites; one of those sites always seems to have a much better deal than the others. I'd also check

You could also book in reverse: Keep your eye out for a great deal on sniqueaway (a hotel site), then find the flight. But flight first should get you the best deal, since there are more choices in hotels than in flights.

My wife and I travel almost exclusively in late September. There are a few reasons for that, but savings is chief among them.

I don't know what you mean by original scenery; none of the European capitals figures to look like North Dakota. London is a great first visit to Europe, with lots to do. Prague is pretty amazing. You won't have seen much like Istanbul. Barcelona's great. You also might consider visiting multiple cities bunched close together, like Amsterdam/Brussels/Brugge, but if I read you right, you're only going for a few days, so maybe not.

As far as Venice: I can't tell you what prices will be like in July 2013, but for a data point, I can tell you a trip there this September, with two nights' hotel, cost us just about $2,000 even. Venice is one of the more expensive cities for hotels; I'd say we got a good deal on flights, at $1,400.
posted by troywestfield at 1:45 PM on March 21, 2012

Could you drive to, say, Minneapolis and fly from there? That might cut down on the flight expenses.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:47 PM on March 21, 2012

If Ireland's at the top of the list, you're in luck in terms of weather -- the temperature usually stays fairly moderate all year round, so going at a time other than summer is still fine. Ireland sits right in the middle of a big current that sweeps warm air and water up from the Caribbean, and that keeps things warmer than you'd think. The last time I went, it was January, and still warmer than New York. October through April is the "off season" for Ireland, and you can get great deals traveling then.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:52 PM on March 21, 2012

Data point: I booked flights this past Sunday (so, four days ago) to Italy for a two-week honeymoon in July 2012 (flying economy), and I think I'm paying about $3500 all in for two tickets. (Don't forget taxes, which were $500 per ticket!). We're actually splitting between Rome and Sardinia, and the RT to Sardinia costs another $500 or so total.

So $4000 in airfare, not including any hotels, admission, or a single crumb of food.

Ouch. I don't tend to travel to Europe in the summer for precisely that reason. I'm sure this will be a $7,000 trip by the time we're done.


Travel off season. You will save a lot of money.

If you're set on traveling in July, you would probably be able to get a great deal on Buenos Aires, which is a beautiful city; July is Argentina's winter.

Alternatively, have you thought about Iceland? Getting to and from Iceland is pretty cheap, and the flight is short (from the East Coast). Your hotel will be subsidized by the Icelandic government. The catch is that everything in Iceland is very expensive--but if you bring snack bars/powerbars you can make your food budget go a long way. And Iceland is gorgeous.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:56 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Did you sort by Price once you got your results on Expedia? I searched for Fargo->Venice from July 17th to the 24th and found several options for under $3500 for two adults. Expedia shows you the "most popular" options first and those are usually the middle range prices.

When to book? I've booked up to 3 months ahead and down to 3 days ahead for Europe and got decent deals both times. I would try to avoid Italy in July and August. If you have to go then, opt for Ireland.

Where to book? I search many different places (Kayak, hotwire,, expedia, etc) for several weeks before buying. Be flexible with your dates and learn what is and is not a good deal. Don't assume a package is the best deal, although they can be.
posted by soelo at 1:56 PM on March 21, 2012

May is a nice time of year in Ireland. My husband and I had only an hour or so of rain during a beautiful two-week trip there one May. We also went somewhere nearby for a few days after the wedding to decompress, and then went on our honeymoon several months later. It was great because we were refreshed when we went on our trip. And it was still incredibly romantic even though six months had passed because we made it be.

Are you willing to do a honeymoon registry? We did honeyfund and paid for our spectacular honeymoon that way. I've been thrilled every time I've had the opportunity to give a friend a honeymoon registry wedding gift.
posted by semacd at 1:57 PM on March 21, 2012

Consider Groupon getaways? I haven't used them, but I've seen some great deals.
posted by Night_owl at 1:58 PM on March 21, 2012

Given a choice, you actually don't want to go to Venice in summer; it's hot and humid!

You are dealing with multiple legs no matter how you do this but just as a point of comparison, we recently booked the reverse trip. To fly Cork > London for two people, two bags round trip on Aer Lingus was €305.96 ($403.56) which happened to be an awful price. To fly London > New York was £329.56 ($522.25) for two people, two bags round trip on BA. You would then need to add on the cost of getting to NYC to and from North Dakota but it just shouldn't be crazy money. This is for off peak, April/May travel, with flights mid-week.

In Ireland you can rent a whacking great big cottage in this April/May or September off season for €400 ($575) for a week at the rack rate, and you can undoubtedly bargain that down because we're in the middle of a recession. The cottage we have stayed in is smack on the Ring of Kerry and perfect for sight seeing. It also allows you to make your own meals which saves a ton of money.

Having said all of that, I also agree with troywestfield: Venice is expensive. I've tried to go several times in the off season and accommodation is just spendy. I have ended up in Prague and Florence in fabulous amazing romantic hotels for vastly, vastly less money.

So I would personally look at somewhere like Prague which has good cheap connections from any european landing point, is fabulously un-American and romantic, offers breathtaking vistas, has cheap food, and does not require a car. I bet you could do this for $2500 all in if you were frugal. Book all your light legs direct. Use and Hipmunk for the transatlantic legs and Easyjet for the internal European legs. Pack light.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:02 PM on March 21, 2012 [2 favorites]

For those wondering, RT flights between the midwest and Europe are pretty insane for this summer. I normally budget $900-$1200 for a RT ticket to Europe (from the east coast), but I'm definitely seeing things in the $1200-$1800 range RT from the midwest to Europe this summer, which is absolute insanity.

Keep in mind that Venice is probably the most expensive major "vacation" destination in all of Europe when it comes to hotels, foods, and activities. Basically every other alternative will be less expensive once you get there.

Pick someplace. Budget $1200/person for your tickets, given that you'll be traveling over the summer. That's your only fixed cost. Everything else you can do from very cheap to very expensive, depending on how much luxury you want to stay in.
posted by deanc at 2:10 PM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]

Unless you can only travel in the summer, I really recommend waiting until school starts. It's not just about the expense-- it's also the weather and the experience. Venice and Rome really turn into Disneyland in the summer. I've never been to Ireland in the summer; I'd imagine that it would be better on all three fronts.

The price of flying Fargo-Venice versus Chicago-Venice is likely to be very similar, but you should check to make sure. Fargo-Venice versus Fargo-Milan, on the other hand, might be quite different. Trains in Europe are fast and convenient and you might save that way.

Personally I'm leery of using flight+hotel packages as a starting point. Find your flight first using (which has flexible dates and flexible month searching), then find your hotel using Expedia or Tripadvisor (great reviews), then plug in the specifics date/hotel name into Expedia's flight+hotel search to see if you can get a better deal.

Since you have SO much time before tickets are even available, I recommend watching some Rick Steves to help you narrow down your top choices. His entertainment/educational value is debatable but watching his stuff has really given me a feel for what places might feel like during busy times. Much more informative than looking at a postcard.
posted by acidic at 2:17 PM on March 21, 2012

So many awesome suggestions, thank you! It sounds like we should certainly try for something NOT mid-summer. And AdmiralHaddock and DarlingBri: Iceland and Prague (or Czech Repulic) were my two top alternate suggestions! Thanks for the back-up on that. :)

Yes, I wasn't too clear on "something different that North Dakota". I know any big city is different, definitely. I guess we were just thinking that if it was more remote, we wanted something more unique than just a mountain resort or something—although gorgeous, we have the nearby mountains in Montana for that. Or, for example, if it's rolling plains, then something different like the unique sights in Ireland or even a coastal area. Something like that. So yes, many options on different!

As far as budget...well, that's a good question. But I at least had an idea that if we could get flight/place to sleep for a couple thousand and vacation frugally once there, we could make it happen! I was really hoping that wouldn't be impossible. From the concensus, it actually sounds do-able if I pick the right spot and time.
posted by Eicats at 2:18 PM on March 21, 2012

*and no- I did not sort by price when I did my initial search! That's seems like such a "duh" moment, but thanks for pointing that out.
posted by Eicats at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2012

One other thought: I had considered the option of driving to Minneapolis if it would help for flight costs, but really, with the high cost of gas (unless that changes drastically in a year—doubtful), I think the added stress and time would rule out any small savings.

But thank you for thinking of all of these options, that's what I need!
posted by Eicats at 2:30 PM on March 21, 2012

Great! Go to Prague, stay at the Henrici, which is lovely and literally spitting distance to the castle, or walking the other way, the tram. We stayed in 2009 in a "Good Luck" room for 318.00 for 5 nights, plus an additional airport pickup and drop off. I have no idea how we bagged that deal but it was before they were in the NY Times and it was lovely. It now looks like a minimum of €80 per night but I imagine it's still lovely.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:37 PM on March 21, 2012

Venice or Ireland: if I had to make a choice for you right now, I would choose Ireland because it is less expensive, more relaxing and has a wider choice of activities that you are both likely to enjoy.

Venice is an incredible amount to see but it is one of the most tourist-overwhelmed places on earth. I would choose to go later on and way in the off season: perhaps November through January. A great anniversary gift.

I would also choose Prague over Venice: these is still an incredible number of historic sights - but it is also a capital city with a vibrant modern population: not just a tourist destination. It also gets many visitors in the summer: I would recommend May or September perhaps.

At the moment you seem to be suggesting a combination of site-heavy historic cities and more rural locations where the interest is in the scenery and the people. If possible I would try to make a detailed list of exactly what sort of experiences you would like to have. Targeting the sort of honeymoon you would like to have is a good way of helping to reduce costs too.
posted by rongorongo at 2:47 PM on March 21, 2012

To start with, look for flights separately from hotels. Not to say that booking the two together is necessarily a ripoff, but it simplifies your equation.

If you have flexibility, that can really cut down on costs. is my flight search engine of choice. Undocumented feature: you can enter up to four airports for origins or destinations (using the IATA codes). So BIS, MOT, YWG, MSP searches not only Bismarck and Minot, but also Winnipeg and Minneapolis. A quick test search had $1600 per person from ND, $1340 from Winnipeg and $1100 from Minneapolis (and MSP is the one of the three most likely to have seat sales); it's your call, but I'd drive from Bismarck to Minneapolis and back for a thousand dollars; the gas is probably only $150.

Summer is expensive. Shoulder seasons (May, October) are cheaper, and don't have the same crazy level of crowds. Venice is expensive. Depending on how much time you have, you could spend some time in two or three places, one maybe more expensive and the others potentially cheaper. If you're prairie natives like me (I'm from Calgary), then going anywhere with the ocean and boats is magical. But Venice isn't the only place with boats; the Croatian coast (Split, Dubrovnik, Zadar), for instance, is easily half the price of Venice, and IMHO equally awesome. You can also book an open jaw flight going to one place and back from another, which may open up some options.

ITA's flight search is the most powerful, if you're looking at complex flights.

Rick Steves' materials are good for a first-time traveller to Europe, as you do your research.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 2:48 PM on March 21, 2012

My fiancé and I will be honeymooning in Scotland this September. Depending on where in Europe you end up, you might want to consider renting a flat (so-called "self-catering"); this seems to be fairly common in the UK, although I'm not sure about elsewhere. I've seen some pretty good deals with this (via TripAdvisor), and there's the added benefit of having a good excuse for cooking most of your own meals to save some money, if you'd into that sort of thing. (We are!)
posted by divisjm at 2:58 PM on March 21, 2012


Also, n'thing Kayak for flights.
posted by divisjm at 3:01 PM on March 21, 2012

Don't forget, too, that the Olympics are happening in London this July and August. They seem to be making flights that go anywhere even vaguely near London more expensive than usual this July. Flights in 2013 might end up being much less expensive.
posted by sueinnyc at 3:30 PM on March 21, 2012

Sorry, I made a mistake in my previous post on costs, and since costs are the basis of your question, I thought I should correct things. It was actually Cork > London $403.56 and LON > EWR $1,540.09 -- combined, round trip, for the two of us. I completely and totally take back my "you can do this for $2500" pitch because clearly you cannot when you've just spent 2k on airfare and you haven't actually left North Dakota or gotten to Prague yet.

However this is really annoying me now and I am determined you guys are coming to Europe for your honeymoon. My husband is looking flights up on and you can apparently fly Fargo > Chicago > Philly > Dublin for $945 each on a midweek flight in October 2012. A week later you can get a $1080 fare for Fargo > Chicago > Istanbul > Prague but it's like a 40 hour journey with insane layovers. But basically, if you are flexible with your dates AND ask Matrix to show you 30 days in either direction from your optimal dates, you can find deals like this. So on reflection, I do think you can do this for $3 - 3.5K.

For what its worth, we sort of did this the opposite way - we chose our honeymoon based on the cheapest destination, airfare and flat rental combined when priced out separately, that sounded fun from our departure point. We ended up in Nice, France, which was surprisingly brilliant and we had a great time on a combined daily budget of €50 a day.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:46 PM on March 21, 2012

I love traveling cheap, it's my thing. You might want to consider one of the packaged vacations. I'm usually pretty particular about choosing my lodging and cities to visit, but couldn't beat a price last year to Scotland with one of those deals. We paid $2200 for 8 nights, which included flights, lodging with breakfasts, an automatic car, and all taxes. For two. The lodging wasn't spectacular, but we didn't care (some packages offer upgrades, be sure to check out the choices on tripadvisor or a similar review site first).

Three things to note: 1) this was late May, and I believe prices went up by about $300 each for the summer months 2) We had to fly out of Boston to get the best price. You might want to consider a cheap flight to JFK in New York or Logan in Boston so you can take advantage of the best package prices 3) I haven't seen pricing this spectacular in recent months, but it can still be a good deal.

There are a few package sites available. The one we used was Sceptre Tours, and I think they are also known as Dooley Vacations for Ireland. The best thing is to get on the top 20 list so you will get an e-mail when any of these package companies run a promotion. Caveat: These companies are not great on the customer service, but we never needed them beyond asking them to fix our return flight rental car situation.

Finally, for another suggestion - you might want to consider Iceland. I had my eye on some VERY affordable packaged trips through Iceland Air until I got pregnant and decided to purchase a new house instead. The prices are fantastic now due to the economy. There are some good posts on this site about the awesomeness of Iceland.
posted by smalls at 5:12 PM on March 21, 2012

Another suggestion for an alternative location. If you are considering Prague, I believe that Hungary is similarly lovely, but hasn't quite caught up with the Czech Republic in terms of touristiness/price increases. When I stayed in Prague eight years ago, it was still do-able on a shoestring, but I hear it really isn't now. Other parts of Eastern Europe (including Hungary) are.

In my experience, once you have moved beyond wanting to stay in backpacker dorms, the cost of accommodation tends to equal or exceed the cost of even a long-haul international flight, so you are best to pick a cheap city rather than worrying too much about the flight costs. This is especially true if you feel like you have limited time/ability/patience for ferreting out deals. Concentrate on the cost of food and accommodation and let your travel agent (or Expedia) worry about the flights.
posted by lollusc at 6:53 PM on March 21, 2012

The following advice is very situational (and some people will definitely shun it), but if you’re in the right situation, you can really benefit. I literally just finished booking a honeymoon for my fiancé and I this past weekend. 14 days in Europe (Netherlands -> Germany -> Czech Republic), all nights in category 4 hotels, with flights (NY->Belgium and Prague->NY – one stop each), and the grand total is just over $400. That was all in airline fees. I estimate we saved close to $10,000. How did we do it? Credit card points from signup bonuses.

Before I go on, I don’t recommend signing up for credit cards if you have poor credit, have a large loan coming up in the next few years, or can’t pay it off in full each month. Applying will slightly impact your credit score and a higher interest rate can really add up if you’re purchasing something like a home.

There are numerous credit cards which offer very high signup bonuses. Often they will require a certain amount of spend in a certain amount of time (“Must spend $3,000 in 3 months”) before receiving these bonuses. Normally, spending this much would be out of the question, but with wedding expenses, you can meet the requirements of several cards. You can then spend these points on hotel stays or flights. Below I’ve listed a couple great options.

Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) AMEX Personal and/or Business card – Earn 10,000 SPG points after 1st purchase and 15,000 points after spending $5,000 within 6 months (SPG hotels can be booked for 7,000 – 10,000 – 12,000 points and up. The value of 25,000 points is likely around $800-1000)

Chase Sapphire Preferred – Earn 50,000 points after spending $3000 within the first three months. Points can be transferred to United/Continental Airlines, British Airways, Hyatt, Marriott, Priority Club, Korean Air, Southwest, and Amtrak.

You can find more information at the following blogs if you are interested and want to learn more (check out their “Top Deals” sections) -
posted by cad at 4:35 AM on March 22, 2012

Oh, I have a website you might love. If you are experienced travelers I think usually the way to go is to book everything separately (flights, hotels, etc).

If you are thinking about doing this then I would strongly recommend looking at discount airlines that fly out of Fargo (if there are any). For example, flying from Minneapolis are two discount airlines, Southwest and Sun Country, which you can't search from aggregate search sites like Kayak or Expedia. These airlines tend to be exponentially cheaper than traditional airlines like Delta.

Another suggestion if you know where you want to go is to figure out what the local equivalent of is (it seems like is mainly American). For example, when I traveled to New Zealand I found that the local equivalent of a cottage is called a "bach", and the equivalent of VRBO is "Bookabach". Never would have realized this on my own, I had a local to help me figure it out.

If you do not want to go through booking the separate steps yourself then the site you must visit is Budget Travel. Look at the section called Real Deals. They sell package deals all over the world, here is the page for Europe. They often run an incredible package for Ireland bed and breakfasts with a car rental, I don't see it right now, but as an example, they are featuring right now:

$999 Ireland Air, Car, and Castle Deal: $999 per person, flight gateway is New York City
"Round-trip airfare from New York City to Dublin on Aer Lingus, one night at Cabra Castle in Kingscourt, one night in Kilronan Castle Estate and Spa in Roscommon, two nights at Kinnitty Castle Hotel in Kinnitty, two nights at the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel in Dublin, a standard manual car rental throughout, a Chic Outlet Shopping VIP Discount Pass to Kildare Village, from $999 per person—including all taxes and fees."

This is just an example, they always have a ton of amazing sounding deals posted, and you just have to book for one of the dates listed, and you must fly from the gateway city they have set (they will often list multiple gateways with variable prices, but Fargo isn't going to be one of them). So once you have the incredibly cheap package tour booked, you just book a separate flight to get yourself to NYC or wherever. Just make sure you leave plenty of time on either side in case something goes wrong, in fact ideally you would arrive in NYC the day before the flight to Ireland departs and depart NYC the day after returning from Ireland, this way in case of serious flight disaster where you have to be rebooked for the next day, you're still on track to get home despite being on two different carriers. Final note: I have heard that if you contact the company that runs the specific deal you're interested in, you can negotiate with them for other dates and prices, YMMV because I have never personally tried it.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:35 AM on March 22, 2012

p.s. also on Budget Travel Real Deals right now for your Venice Dream Trip:

Italy, Air, Train, 9 Nights Again, your cheapest gateway is NYC.

Multicity airfare flying into Venice and out of Rome on Alitalia, two nights in Venice at Hotel Amadeus, one night in Bologna at NH Bologna de la Gare, four nights in Florence at Hotel Lorenzo il Magnifico, two nights in Rome at Milton Roma Hotel, daily breakfasts, all in-country transfers on Trenitalia (Venice to Bologna, Bologna to Florence, Florence to Rome), a departure transfer to the airport in Rome, a guided tour of the Uffizi Museum in Florence, a walking tour of Rome, and hotel taxes, from $1,739—plus estimated airport taxes, fees, and airplane fuel surcharges of up to $505.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:41 AM on March 22, 2012

Everyone's response has been so helpful, I can't pick one best answer. DarlingBri, I had to laugh and especially appreciate your determination. :) That itasoftware is really cool for finding a range of prices.

I'll be doing a lot of checking on all of the website suggestions provided.

Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by Eicats at 8:34 AM on March 22, 2012

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