Well, we’ve finally done it. Ryan and I have finally finished booking our Ireland trip. After a week (and many hours) of discussions, Googling and Trip Advisor perusing, we have beds to sleep in for every night of the vacation. I can’t believe we planned it in less than a week, and I can’t believe we waited until two months before we left to start.
I’m sure I’m going to stumble my way through a few more major lessons between now and our flight out, but here are a few tips on planning a trip to Ireland that I’ve picked up and am happy to share with you.
Tip 1: Plan at least six months in advance. Ryan and I knew we’d run into a few issues due to planning procrastination, but we underestimated how quickly places booked up. And we spent hours staring at laptop screens, frantically searching for the perfect place to stay that was still, you know, available.
As I mentioned earlier this week, for me, the fun of vacation planning usually rivals the fun of the vacation itself. Not this time. So much anxiety.
If When we go to Italy and Germany sometime over the next few years, I’ll definitely start planning nine months out with the goal of having major reservations solidified six months out. That way I can enjoy all the Googling.
Subtip: When you find the right hotel, don’t agonize over the decision. Just reserve the room. We had two places booked right under us, because we had too many browser tabs open and were comparing and contrasting too many hotels at a time.
Tip 2: Find the perfect castle first. Our biggest hurdle to jump? The castle conundrum. Ireland is fully stocked with castles, but finding a good one on our route that doesn’t cost $500 a night was a tall order, especially since we were planning everything so late. I’d fall in love with a castle only to find out that one room costs €750 a night or that you have to book out the entire castle for €5,000 a night. Yikes. Or, we’d find an affordable castle that had been booked up for months. Or, the best (most argument-causing) version of the problem – we had to decide if it was worth it to drive two hours out of our way just to stay in a castle.
We couldn’t book all of the rooms until we found the perfect castle, because we had to leave a few areas of the country open for possibilities. Today, we finally reserved a room at Kinnitty Castle. Finding great places to stay after we knocked out the castle decision was relatively easy. I’m relieved, exhausted and excited all at once.
Tip 3: If a castle’s website touts celebrity visitors, you probably can’t book a room there. Don’t waste your time. I was dead set on a beautiful castle that JFK once vacationed in, and its management won’t even answer my emails. Another replied with a, “Ha, ha, ha. We’re an exclusive castle.” (I’m paraphrasing and reading between the lines, but that’s the gist.) Most of those establishments only rent to the rich and famous.
Tip 4: Consider exchange rates. Ryan and I paid for almost everything in advance, but some of the hotels won’t take payment until checkout. The Greece debt crisis and its effect on the Euro to dollar rate has me cautiously weighing the outcome of paying at the current rate (€1=$1.10) and seeing how the everything plays out overseas. Luckily, the latest financial reports actually indicate the next several months are a great time to travel – Ryan and I could be looking at much closer to a 1:1 rate in September. Woo! Now I just need to figure out when and where to stock up on Euros before Ryan and I leave. Or do we do that once we get there? More Googling ahead, I guess.
Tip 5: If you’re driving in Ireland, get car insurance. My best friend and her husband honeymooned for a few days in Ireland in May, and Ryan and I pestered them with questions about what to do and see when they visited us earlier this month. One piece of advice they gave stuck with us: get the car insurance. Apparently, cars get destroyed there if you park on the street. Hm, sounds a little like Chicago.
Honestly, I’m more concerned about the two of us trying to drive on the left side of the road than I am leaving the car parked somewhere.*
Tip 6: If golfing, stay at a golf resort. It pains me to say it, but Ryan and I are staying at the Ireland Trump International resort for a night. We Googled as many golf courses as castles, and I’ve got to hand it to the Donald, he sure makes golfing affordable for the middle class vacationing in Ireland. Ryan and I were considering paying $200 each for 18 holes, and I was having nightmares about playing a terrible round and having to pay that much money to be angry on vacation. By booking a golf package at the Trump resort, though, we’re getting a steal of a deal. We’re staying in a castle-like resort, right on the ocean and playing on a links-style course practically on beach. I won’t vote for Trump, but I’ll buy what he’s selling.
Tip 8: Consider waiting for Christmas. Apparently, Christmas in Ireland is a major thing. Almost every single castle had a “Christmas” section. The Irish take the holiday pretty seriously.
I’ll share more plans for our trip as Ryan and I solidify them, so if you have any insights what we must see and must do, please either drop them in a comment below or contact me directly.
Have a lovely week!
*I searched far and wide for a gif of the scene in The Holiday in which Cameron Diaz drives for the first time on the left side of the road in Surrey. Because that’s exactly what I will look like when I get behind the wheel in Ireland. If someone finds that gif, please send it to me immediately. This post is incomplete without it. For now, skip to 0:37 on this clip.