What NOT To Do When Planning Your Ireland Vacation
Wednesday, May 18, 2022 | Categories: Ireland Travel Planning;
It's a Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip
About 50% of our business has been clients who are planning a "once-in-a-lifetime" vacation, thinking that they will never go back to Ireland. That means they want to fit in as much as possible, with very little down time to explore a region or really getting to know a particular town or village.
We will plan anything you want but we also make it VERY clear that you will likely see Ireland through the windscreen and to ask that clients not post a bad review if this happens - we warned you!
Ireland is a destination that is best traveled slowly, seeing some of the major sites, finding off-the-beaten-path attractions and getting to know the people and the location before moving on to the next. Find what it is you like so you can explore it more on future vacations.
Too Scared To Drive
This is another point of contention with new clients who are looking to do a bus tour because they are too scared to drive on the left and opposite side of the car. I've personally spent hours talking to people and convincing them that they are putting the stress on themselves and it's quite easy.
We always recommend an automatic car for first-timer drivers in Ireland - it just takes a little stress off the driver and allows you to focus on "stay left" instead. Yes, it costs more for an automatic car rental but it is well worth it and will save a relationship at the same time.
Many cars have GPS these days and we all have mobile phones with Google Maps readily available, making it nearly impossible to get lost. Remember, it's an island - you'll hit water at some point, indicating you need to turn around!
The roads can be small in many rural areas but you do have choices on how to get from one town to the next, either the larger roads, motorways or stay on the tiny rural roads. Road improvements have drastically improved the size and quality of the roads in Ireland over the past few years. When on those small Irish roads, you'll find pull-offs if you see another car coming toward you, simply slow down and pull over to let them pass.
The Irish are extremely patient and we'd be hard-pressed to remember an incident where we had someone come up behind us and beep... we wish more people here at home were that patient!
With all of them out of the way, we start to discuss the ability to see more of Ireland that most don't get to because you've decided to rent a car. You can hit the Beara Peninsula instead of the Ring of Kerry (more on that below) because tour buses are too large to fit!
Spending Too Much Time/Starting in Dublin
Many clients fly into Dublin before heading out to the countryside which we try to avoid, knowing that flights land early and hotels cannot commit to check-in until late afternoon. There is a very good chance you'll be wandering around Dublin, always checking to see if your room is ready and not really enjoying your first day of vacation.
We suggest hitting the road right away, letting that adrenaline and caffeine surge to get your vacation started as soon as you land! Spend the day exploring and when it's time to check-in to your first accommodation, you'll be exhausted and ready for a quick nap, dinner and then bed. You'll be refreshed, adjusted and ready to go by the next day.
Spending too much time in Dublin is also a concern as post-vacation feedback is, invariably, "I wish we spent more time in the country." Our recommendation is two nights at the end of a trip so you can drop the car, relax and explore Dublin on foot. This gives one full day to do quite a bit of exploring which allows you to get a good feel for the city before heading home.
Only Traveling During Summer
Too many people think that summer is the best time to travel to Ireland but we completely disagree with this - it's the most popular time, yes, but, in our opinion, not the best. We actually prefer early October or even last September.
Peak season is June through August, demand and pricing is high so you will definitely spend more in the summer as you compete for everything from flights and car rentals to accommodations. Weather is warmer but it doesn't mean you'll always have warm, sunny days.
We prefer October because families are back to school, tourism tends to slow down a bit and pricing is better - but weather has typically been good. All of the sites and attractions are open, giving us more time to really appreciate them without having to fend off other people or feeling like everything is too crowded. You can find space in cafes or restaurants without lines and relax without feeling pressure to get up so someone else can have a seat. Laid-back and relaxed, the way we like it.
Hitting All of the Tourist Spots
First-time visitors need to see the main tourist spots, we get it and we won't discourage that. What we will do is try to incorporate a nice mixture of major tourist spots and some off-the-beaten-path locations as well.
For instance, everyone talks about "The Ring of Kerry", one of the major sites that we traveled on our first trip in August 1994 - a spectacular drive coastal drive around County Kerry. Over the years the roads have been widened, larger shops with car parks litter the drive these days and the tour buses are non-stop during the peak. It's popular and listed in all of the tour books so we understand that people want to drive the Ring and be able to talk about it with their friends.
One peninsula south is the Beara Peninsula, much smaller and still untouched like the Ring of Kerry - so far, no tour buses can get down those small roads! It's a much shorter drive but the ruggedness resembles the Ring of Kerry from 1994.
Blarney Castle will give you the gift to gab but have you heard of Mizen Head, the southern-most point? Cliffs of Moher as well known but have you heard of Slieve League, even higher cliffs but not as well known.
There is so much more to Ireland than just the major tourist spots listed in the tour books.
Speaking of more to Ireland that the tourist spots, what about the people? Taking time to slow down, spend a few days in each town and really getting to know the people... from your B&B owner to the local pub's bartender -- you'll make memories that other tourists have missed.