This series began with an introduction, and here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. We started with anticipation and forward planning, discussed how and what to put on the itinerary, and finished up with thoughts on making your trip everything you want it to be—making it magic.
But part of finding the magic is planning just enough so there are no unpleasant surprises and no disappointments in your logistics. So let’s run down a list of miscellany …
• Eat your breakfast. Always. And bring some snacks along, just in case.
• Definitely make reservations. Remember that rates quoted for lodging are often pps (per person sharing), so double it!
• Generally, B&Bs are less expensive than hotels … which is the opposite of how things are in the States.
• Remember to ask for a VAT (tax) form or VAT card and then clear it when you leave the country. You might be surprised at what you save.
• Do bring an adapter. The right one is easier to find in your country of origin.
• Yes, you will need the extra insurance on a rental car.
• Bring your own GPS but don’t forget to buy and download the proper maps.
• Wi-fi will be dodgy sometimes. But, hey, it’s good to be unplugged on occasion.
• Use Skype to call home.
• Your local AAA office sells “tip packs” of coins and small bills in euros. It’s always nice to have a little local currency in your pocket.
• If you go into Northern Ireland, you’re in the UK—and you’ll need different money.
• I’ve gotten better deals on rental cars from on-site (that is, in Ireland) companies (which include Avis, Hertz, and so on) than by making arrangements before I left the States. (Here are some other tips.)
• There are two major airports in Ireland—Dublin in the east and Shannon in the west—and you should choose which to arrive at based on your itinerary. This seems self-evident but you’d be surprised how many folks I’ve known who flew into Dublin and immediately headed west.
You’ll have seen some recommendations for sights to see in this series as well as in the trips I’ve already posted, but by all means, do your own research. You can find material online and in books, too, like traditional travel guides, but don’t neglect nontraditional travel books like Ireland, journalist Max Caulfield’s coffee table–quality book of six tours, illustrated with gorgeous photographs.
I’ve written some about being realistic about time and travel conditions—about not trying to squeeze too much into too short a time—but I want to stress that again. You won’t enjoy a trip that begins to feel like a forced march: up at dawn, into the car, drive, drive, drive. This is stated very well in “Five Trips for Planning Your First Trip to Ireland,” from from travel writer/tour operator Mindie Burgoyne, who says:
1. Lose the idea of “must-see” sites.
2. Think about your best choice for transportation.
3. Think about what appeals to you before you plan the trip.
4. Don’t be afraid to consult a travel blogger.
5. Book your first night before you leave and try not to move around too much.
There’s a lot more information in this article than just these points, but you’ll note right away that Burgoyne and I are mostly on the same page when it comes to planning a trip to Ireland.
You’ll note none of this includes signing up for a tour (which is where Burgoyne and I part ways). I’ve never been in a tour group in my life and I’m not starting now. It might be the right choice for you, though, and I’ll happily concede that some folks like having the logistics handled for them … and that’s OK.
One reason I avoid tours is the likelihood that you’ll be shown TOURisty sites. While I agree that some things absolutely shouldn’t be missed—the Rock of Cashel, say—Bunratty Castle and kissing the Blarney Stone are never gonna be on my list of things to do. 🙂 Instead, have a look at this list and see if there’s something that appeals.
And that’s it from me. I hope your trip to Ireland is spectacular!
Have you got your passport?