Whether you will visit Ireland for three days or three weeks your vacation time is limited. You are using your hard-earned cash to see Ireland. Think of each day, hour and minute you are in Ireland as money trickling away through an hourglass. Why spend precious “Ireland time” looking for accommodations, planning routes or deciding on sightseeing? Do it now! By spending your free time in advance researching you will optimize your valuable time in Ireland.
Discounts, deals and special offers abound in Ireland. Many accommodations offer weekend and mid-week specials if you can spend two or more nights in one place. Some hotels will include dinner, golf or a spa treatment as part of the package. However, most special offers must be booked in advance. Seniors can avail of “Golden Years” specials. Discount brochures, passes and coupons are all available. Yet another reason to plan ahead.
2. Getting Started
When you do your taxes, make a will or renovate your home do you hire a professional who knows the ropes, rules and loopholes or do it yourself? It probably depends on your knowledge, time available for the task and whether you are handy at the job. You can plan a trip to Ireland yourself or you can get assistance from a travel agent, tour operator or travel planner.
Know Before You Go:
Read guidebooks (libraries are a good free source).
Familiarize yourself with what you are interested in seeing in Ireland: Do you want to surf, hike, golf, fish, visit castles, garden hop, pub crawl, explore ancient sites or visit relatives?
Tourist Board: Contact Tourism Ireland 1-800-223-6470 (USA & Canada) for a free map & travel kit.
Choose a Plan: Do-it-Yourself, travel agent, tour operator or travel planner.
3. Choose Your Dates
Many people can only travel during the summer season, while others can visit at any time of year. There are many variables to take into consideration when choosing your dates.
Weather: The Irish weather is fickle and cannot be depended upon. My best advice is to hope for sunshine but take an umbrella. The most favorable weather will be found from March through October. Generally, Ireland has a temperate climate without extremes. However, winter months in Ireland can be cold, rainy and dreary.
Daylight: Hours of daylight vary throughout the year. In the winter it can get dark by 4 pm. In June daylight can last till 11 pm. Obviously you can fit in more sightseeing in the spring and summer than in the autumn and winter. Sunrise/Sunset Chart.
Openings: During the off-season sightseeing attractions may have restricted opening times or be closed entirely. Many places that close off-season will open by Easter or mid-April and stay open through September or October. In Northern Ireland quite a few attractions only open June – August, with shoulder season openings restricted to weekends or Bank Holidays.
4. Do Ahead
Passports: Renew or apply for a new passport, which can take 6 weeks or more.
Driver’s license: If renting a car make sure your driver’s license is current. You do not need an international driver’s license.
Credit cards: The credit card you use can save you lots of money. It is worth the time to find one that has no foreign transaction fees and that covers car rental insurance.
Health Insurance: Check to see if your health insurance company covers you in Ireland.
Trip insurance: Can you afford to loose the money you’ve invested in your trip if something goes wrong? If not, look into purchasing trip insurance.
5. Choose A Travel Style
Everyone has a different travel style. Some want to do and see it all, cramming as much into each day as is humanly possible at a break-neck pace. Others prefer to see the highlights of Ireland at a more moderate rate, realizing that a few two or three-night stays in strategic areas will add to their enjoyment. A third type of traveler knows it is impossible to see it all and instead decides to slow down, see one portion of Ireland thoroughly and have the luxury of time to soak up the Irish culture in a leisurely manner.
Whichever type of traveler you are it is important to know that unless you have a year to spend in Ireland, you really cannot see it all. Despite Ireland’s deceptively small size once you get off the major motorways into the most scenic areas, you will average 35 mph on small, winding roads that you will share with sheep, cattle, bicycles, pedestrians and the occasional huge tour bus. Rich in history, stunning scenery, ancient treasures and little villages – exploring Ireland is like peeling an onion. As each layer is removed there is much more revealed. Every photo stop, sightseeing attraction you visit, leisurely lunch and new discovery adds to the charm of rural Ireland but will slow you down. When planning your itinerary you must take into consideration the reality of travel in Ireland.
Some want to be footloose and fancy free while on vacation, winging where they will go each day and deciding at the last moment where to spend the night. This plan can work off-season or in the shoulder season provided you remain very flexible. For instance you might not know that a certain town is having a festival. You arrive to find no room at the inn. In that case you must move on to another town. If your arrival time is too late you could find yourself scrambling for accommodation late into the evening. Even those who are winging it will want to have a loose plan in place for each day with ideas of what they want to see and where they might spend the night. They should also have an alternate plan in place in case of an emergency. I do not recommend this type of plan for people traveling in high season or on holidays or for those traveling with more than four people in their group.
6. Create Your Plan
Your trip to Ireland is like a jigsaw puzzle. You dump the pieces out of the box and start with the easiest ones – making a frame that you will fill in with more difficult pieces as you progress. Listed below are the puzzle pieces you need to assemble to create your trip to Ireland.
Dates: Decide which dates work best for you.
Length of trip: The longer the trip the more you can see.
Type of trip: Consider what best suits your needs.
Airfare: Monitor websites and sign up for airline newsletters.
Budget: Familiarize yourself with costs in Ireland.
Itinerary: It is very important to plan ahead carefully.
Lodgings: Good places to stay can make or break a trip.
Reservations: Essential in high season and on holidays.
Cell Phone: Find the phone and plan that’s right for your needs.
Car Rental: Although frustrating, researching this step will save you money & headaches.
7. Avoid Info Overload
You have a lot of information to digest if you want to plan a good trip. Consider it a banquet spread out in front of you. Instead of wolfing it all down at once and making yourself sick, taste small bites, enjoy each one and digest it before moving on to the next plate. Instead of suffering from info overload and indigestion you will methodically work your way through the banquet of information and enjoy it over time. Don’t worry. Help is available from fellow travelers who graciously share their knowledge on my Free Ireland Travel Forum. It is the best resource for getting answers to all your questions – no matter how large or small.
8. Organize Essentials
As you progress with your plans for visiting Ireland you will accumulate a stack of info. Decide what is essential to take on your trip and start organizing.
Must Have: Tickets and passports.
On Arrival: If renting a car you will need your car rental confirmation, credit card and driver’s license. If you are using your credit card to cover car insurance you need the letter of coverage from your card company. It is also good to have the Irish toll-free phone number for your credit card available in case confirmation is needed. Keep all your car info together and quickly accessible for arrival in Ireland.
Maps: You should have your free map from Tourism Ireland ready when renting a car. Most car companies will provide a basic map free, however, toward the end of the season they can run out of them. In a pinch, the airport shops sell maps and atlases.
Lodging Reservations: Most reservations are made via email. Print the confirmations to bring along.
Itinerary: Absolutely essential.
Organization Method: Use what works for you be it a mobile app, laptop computer, spreadsheet, daybook, folder or calendar. Travel Guides: Take at least one trusty book with you.
9. Avoid Common Mistakes
Trying to see it all
Not budgeting time for attractions
Distance calculation times
Weather: have rainy day & good day options
There are so many different sources of information on the Internet. Forums and travel advice abound. I often smile when reading on travel forums, “We have not been to Ireland yet, but this is what we are doing and where we are staying.” People who have not yet been to Ireland are giving advice to those who have not been to Ireland! The blind leading the blind? Get real help from a real Ireland Travel Expert.
Review sites purport to publish the “truth” about various accommodations only to find that their websites are rife with abuse. With no way to know who is actually posting the reviews these websites find that the lodgings owners are posting their own reviews or asking their friends, family and guests to post glowing reviews so they will be in the top listings. Savvy travelers know this and take such reviews with a grain of salt. Others prefer to optimize their time and deal with websites offering reputable reviews.
It is easy to spend months or years planning a trip while sifting through all the info online. Decide how much time you want to devote to planning your trip. Get help from fellow travelers who have visited Ireland and know what they are talking about. Buy a minimum of two guidebooks. I suggest you get one with pretty pictures and another that is text rich and full of info. They will help you focus on “must sees” and abandon things lower down on your list.
If you plan your trip to Ireland well in advance all the annoying little details will be ironed out before departure. On arrival you will be able to relax and enjoy every moment of your time visiting the Emerald Isle.© 2011 Michele Erdvig Websites: www.IrelandYes.com & www.IrelandDreamTrip.com Book: www.IrelandDreamTrip.com Blog: www.irelandyes.wordpress.com Michele’s Irish Shop: www.zazzle.com/irelandyes* Twitter: www.twitter.com/IrelandYes