Planning a vacation to Ireland comes with many challenges and indecisions that tend to overwhelm people. There’s so much to see and do in Ireland despite it being such a small country.
Am I doing too little? Is my plan too much? Will I miss the important parts?
Today I'm delighted to share some great trip planning advice from Conor of Donegal Thatched Cottages.
Advice On Planning An Irish Vacation:
Friends and family are sending you lists of places to visit and what you should see while there. Keep in mind that things have changed in Ireland in the past years. We are here to help you!
You can find a lot of information online about planning a holiday to Ireland, but most of it guides you on what you need to do, highlighting the most popular destinations, and how to get there.
However, this article is different. We are going to tell you what to avoid when planning your trip to Ireland. Don’t worry; this isn't a post full of negative advice or tips to make you afraid of visiting the Emerald Isle.
While Ireland is an easy-going country to visit, there are a few important things to keep in mind when planning your itinerary.
From the rugged north of Donegal, to the southernmost tip of the island in County Cork, through the quaint small towns of the countryside, everyone planning a trip to Ireland can apply these tips!
Without further ado, let’s look at seven common mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Ireland.
1. Squeezing Too Much Into One Short Trip
Trying to pack in too much in one trip is a big mistake that people make when planning their trip to Ireland.
You may believe Ireland is small when you see it on the map, but it’s much bigger than you might think. Remember there are many peninsulas jutting out into the Atlantic Ocean. The Beara Peninsula in County Cork is about 80 miles long, so traveling around the Ring of Beara is over 160 miles, and that's just in one county.
There’s so much to see and do in Ireland. That’s why most people go back to Ireland many times! It is not possible to see and do all you want in just one trip. Therefore, returning to Ireland ends up being inevitable for many tourists.
Of course, you can spend time on whatever type of trip you want. It is entirely up to you, but slower travel will enable you to stop and learn along the way, and ultimately you will leave knowing more about hidden Ireland.
While you’re planning your trip, start by choosing your 'must see' tourist locations. By identifying your highlights and making them a priority, you have laid down the main grid for your tour map.
However, try not to pick destinations that are spread all over the island. If you are traveling on a tight schedule you'll never get it all done.
It's always best to pick three or four contiguous counties, and exploring all they have to offer.
2. Spending Most Of Your Vacation In Dublin
Dublin is a beautiful, historic city, but some of the best advice you'll ever hear is to limit your time spent there, especially if you only have a week or ten days to spend in Ireland.
Many visitors make this mistake on their first trip to Ireland. They fly into Dublin and stay there the whole time, except for taking day trips to nearby destinations such as Glendalough and Howth.
If you only have a day in Ireland, then sure, it makes sense to spend it in Dublin. However, avoid spending too much time in Dublin if you’re planning a trip to Ireland that’s longer than a day or two. Why?
Dublin is a great city to visit, but it’s very expensive. And there is so much more to see and do in Ireland. Remember the best scenery is on the west coast where the rugged Atlantic ocean meets soaring, lofty cliffs.
Plan your trip to Ireland and do take in the capital city if you are looking to discover your family roots. Many of the libraries and resources you need are found there.
We highly encourage you to spend a short time in Dublin and then leave to see the rest of this beautiful country.
3. Staying In Hotels And Avoiding Bed And Breakfasts:
Hotel stays can be expensive in Ireland especially if you are traveling with a large family. It can be difficult to find rooms with pull-out sofa beds to accommodate families with more than two kids.
My advice is to stay in bed and breakfasts as you work your way around the country.
Most are family owned and operated, and you will be made to feel right at home, with a true Irish welcome in each and every guesthouse.
And the really wonderful advantage of staying with a local - they know all the best places to visit, where to shop and where to have a friendly pint in the local pub.
It is often wonderful to base yourself in a bed and breakfast, then explore the surrounding county each and every day. Ireland's thirty-two counties are spectacular and each one is a unique tourist's paradise with plenty to see and do.
4. Sticking To Pre-Organized Tours And Being Too Scared To Rent A Car In Ireland.
Yes, Ireland is one of the countries in the world where drivers are required to keep to the “left” side of the road. This is the case in most countries that were once part of the British Empire.
This scares many people away from hiring a car, especially those from countries, such as the United States, where drivers stick to the “right” side of the road.
My advice is to think this over carefully. Hiring a car will provide you with freedom to roam wherever your heart may take you.
If you are hoping to find your Irish roots, your family probably hails from a corner of Ireland that is way off the beaten track. No tour bus will take you there.
If a tour is more your style, and you don't wish to feel under pressure, then you will find many tours that will show you the highlights of the country.
The Irish airports offer many choices for renting a car in Ireland
Driving in Ireland can lead you to the road less traveled and you'll find many things to see and do, which the majority of tourists miss out on. Drive slowly and carefully and simply stick to the left side of the road.
In your own hire car, you can explore the highways and byways and create memories.
5. Staying In The Republic Of Ireland Only
Northern Ireland consists of six counties which are still part of the United Kingdom. However, it's very easy to travel between the north and south of Ireland. No border or patrols, just continuous roads.
Many tourists only travel to the south of Ireland believing that the north of Ireland is dangerous. There were troubles in Northern Ireland over twenty years ago, but the whole island of Ireland has been at peace for many years. There is no need to be afraid of traveling to Antrim, Armagh, Down, Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone. All six counties have so much to offer.
Some tourists mistakenly believe there's very little to do in Northern Ireland, but trust us, this is not the case. The scenery is amazing, and Belfast is a dynamic city with a thriving food scene and is now home to the wonderful Titanic Visitor's Center.
The popular show called “Game Of Thrones” was filmed in Northern Ireland and visiting all of the filming locations is an experience to be remembered.
6. Sticking To The Beaten Tourist Track
The Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin are three of the most visited tourist destinations in Ireland.
But with popularity comes crowds, especially in the busy season of July and August. Why huddle with the masses when Ireland has so much more to offer.
Now don't get me wrong. The Ring of Kerry is breathtakingly beautiful, but if's not the only magnificent scenery in Ireland, or County Kerry to tell you the truth.
The Ring of Beara in County Cork or the Dingle Peninsula in County Kerry are just as spectacular and offer more serene and quiet locations to explore, what I call thin places.
The Cliffs of Moher can be overcrowded with large tour buses. There are plenty of cliffs to be seen on Ireland's coastline such as Slieve League in County Donegal and those at Mizen Head in County Cork.
Any spot along the 1500 mile long Wild Atlantic Way is scenic, beautiful and less crowded than the word famous Ring Of Kerry.
7. Traveling To Ireland When It's Most Crowded With Tourists:
The most popular time of year to visit Ireland is in the summer months of July and August. With over 9 million tourists visiting Ireland every year, that means many of the most popular tourist spots can be very crowded during the summer.
Ireland's summer weather is never guaranteed and July and August can be just as rainy as the spring and fall or autumn months.
Now all that rain in Ireland means that the famous Irish fields of green are always green. In 2018, the summer was exceptionally warm and Ireland's famous green grass turned a little yellow. But that was an exceptional year. Ireland is usually green all year round.
In the winter months of November, December and January, Ireland's days are very short. Mornings don't brighten until around 8 am and it can be dark by 5 pm on the shortest day of the year. Also, some tourist spots do not open during the winter.
Our advice therefore is to consider spring and fall for visiting Ireland. The weather is relatively mild, and there's always a year-round welcome for tourists to Ireland.
Donegal Thatch Cottages provide traditional Irish thatched cottages, which you can rent as your holiday home during your vacation in Ireland. Call us today now to make your reservation.
Many thanks to Conor for this wonderful post. And if someone you know is planning a trip to Ireland please do share this great advice.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
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- Tips for Learning the Irish Language