Ireland Travel: Planning Your Irish Vacation
Considering a trip to Europe? Think Ireland! Its charming and colorful cities, castles, cliffs, and countryside will exceed your expectations.
I went on a 7-day whirlwind vacation to the Emerald Isle this past January with three girlfriends. We had talked about Ireland travel for months, but when a Groupon deal for $799 shot across our computer screens, including rental car for a week, a villa for four, and air fare, we knew it was time to start thinking pubs, learning how to river dance, and adding green to our wardrobes. And thank goodness Pantone chose emerald as its color of the year, because we had lots of green clothes and accessories to choose from. Perfect for Ireland!
Planning an Irish Vacation
We booked our flights in August, 4 months before our travel to Ireland, but I won't lie, we didn't do a lot of planning. Here's the gist of how we rolled:
- Bought a Lonely Planet Ireland book.
- Researched a few recommendations online, including Rick Steves' site focused on travel around Ireland.
- Put together a short list of places that were highly recommended in the book and online.
- Prepared just for the basics: rental car, lodging, and flight information.
- Asked friends who had been there for clothing recommendations and bought items we didn't already have.
- Got to our hotel and opened up the travel book, looked at our online recommendations list, checked out the weather, and prepared our entire itinerary around it. For example, if some areas required sun, we planned our visits there on days with the highest likelihood of sun.
And for the most part, planning light worked for us.
Trip Planning Recommendations
But now that our Ireland travel is over, here are some recommended things we found would have been helpful to know ahead of time and that we recommend you consider as you are planning your Irish vacation:
- Adapter. Make sure to take the right adapter with you. In fact, take two just in case!
- Driving. Unless you are staying in a city and relying on organized tours, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the car. When you rent the car, pay the extra money for an extra driver or two to split up the time.
- Hours. Keep in mind if you are traveling in the winter months that it gets dark (as in pitch black) around 4:30 p.m. Shops close shortly after at 6 p.m. Leave early in the morning to maximize your site seeing opportunities.
- Lodging. Our villa had a full kitchen and a washer and a dryer. I recommend both. Being able to grab snacks at home and prepare sack lunches for long road trips helps save both time and money. And, packing light is made easy when you can wash your clothes mid trip.
- Money. Take some Euros with you so you have money for tolls and other incidentals. Then, use your credit card or ATMs in the country to get additional funds.
- Packing. I highly recommend packing as light as possible. This will save you money on the flight as well as will save time, especially if you are moving hotels more than once. Ireland is cold, especially in the winter months. Your coat, hat, gloves, and scarf will be your main fashion statements.
- Phone. Get the Skype app on your smart phone, turn your cell to airplane mode, and video call your family via the Skype app wherever wi-fi is available.
- Purchases. If you plan to buy a lot of souvenirs and other purchases, ask for a tax voucher or tax card to show at Customs when you enter your home country again.
- Trains. If you plan to spend an entire day in a major city and can take the train there, I highly recommend it. Mass transit and tours like Hop On, Hop Off make getting around cities like Dublin and Belfast a breeze.
Seriously planning a trip to Ireland? Check out our posts in this series on Ireland travel, including must-see sites, what to wear and how to pack, driving recos and watch outs, photography tips, food finds, and more.
Have you traveled to Ireland? What tips would you recommend to a traveler heading there for the first time?