Ireland: Instead of Dublin, go to Shannon
Book a trip to Ireland and you automatically plan to fly into Dublin, right? Flights to less-visited Shannon on Aer Lingus and United (nonstop from New York) can sometimes be had for cheaper, and put you just an hour south of the fascinating west coast town of Galway, with its lively student population, great pubs with live music and even friendlier vibe than the capital. Spend a few days in the city, then make tracks for wilder scenery about an hour north at the just-renovated Ashford Castle (reopening March 28), which dates to the 12th century and is one of the most luxurious hotels in all of Europe. There's excellent salmon and trout fishing out the castle's front door on the River Cong and on Lough Corrib, nine holes of golf to play and clay target shooting onsite, too. The fabled hiking terrain of the Connemara is a short drive away.