If you are thinking about a trip to Ireland or you are actively planning an itinerary for travel to Ireland, you’ll need to have some background knowledge of the country before you go.
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While doing a Google search on the various aspects of visiting a new country may seem pretty easy.
In reality, it can bring you down a rabbit hole that won’t always end up with the right results.
Where to go, how to get there, and how long to remain in a certain destination may all seem confusing.
Here are some things to consider when planning an itinerary for travel to Ireland.
How Much Time Do You Have?
Americans, in particular, have very little vacation time compared to people in other countries across the globe.
Two weeks is pretty much standard here, although that’s not to say that some don’t get more than that.
If two weeks is all you have, you need to plan your time wisely and productively.
For first-time visitors to Ireland who are eager to see Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions, it’s best to start in Dublin and make your way south from there.
If you give yourself 10 days, you could see some of Dublin and then begin to make your way south to Wicklow, Kilkenny, Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Galway, returning to Dublin for your flight home.
If you don’t mind driving in Ireland (remember, they drive on the left), the above itinerary is a fairly packed one. You can certainly do it in 10 days though.
If you have a week or so to see the most popular sites in Ireland, I’d suggest that you limit your destinations to say, Kilkenny, Cork, Kerry, Clare, and Galway, which in itself would be a whirlwind journey, giving yourself one night in each destination.
Best Time of Year to Travel & When to Book
July and August are peak times to travel around Ireland.
The days are really long (it rarely gets dark before 11 p.m.) and the weather is usually best during this time, although as you may well know, the Irish weather can be unpredictable even during the summer months.
While these are great times to travel for the above reasons, the prices and lines to popular attractions can differ dramatically from other times of the year.
If you are thinking about visiting Ireland during the popular tourist season, I suggest that you start planning and indeed booking some things about 6 months out.
Some of the super busy spots include the Cliffs of Moher in Co. Clare, one of Ireland’s most popular (if not the most popular) outdoor attractions in all of Ireland.
“Shoulder season,” which is typically mid-April through May and late September through October, is a more affordable time to visit given that airfares, car hire, and accommodation are all cheaper in Ireland during those times.
Ireland doesn’t attract many international visitors during the winter months due to the shortness of the days (it starts to get dark after 4 p.m. in the dead of winter) and the cold, damp weather.
However, some visitors may enjoy it around Christmas, when the holiday seems to go on a lot longer than what most Americans expect.
If you are traveling to Ireland during the off-season, you can look at booking accommodation a couple of months beforehand.
Book special airfare deals as soon as the deals are released as they will go quickly.
When looking for airfares as you are planning your itinerary for travel to Ireland, I always recommend checking the fares on a booking app like Hopper, Google Flights, Airfarewatchdog, or Priceline unless a particular airline that flies to Ireland, like Aer Lingus, has a special deal.
Tour Bus or Rental Car?
It really all depends on you and your comfort level.
If you are planning an itinerary for travel to Ireland for the first time, you might want to stick with a tour company.
If you don’t want the hassle of driving a car yourself, then definitely let the tour company create the itinerary for you.
If, on the other hand, you’re like me and you want to have more control over your vacation experience, along with more flexibility, you’ll want to rent that car and enjoy the sights at your own leisure.
To get the lowdown on how to save the most money on renting a vehicle in Ireland, you should head to this page.
Renting a car will give you the flexibility to stop when you feel like it and go off the beaten track if you want, too!
Aer Lingus is offering a number of packaged vacation deals that include airfare, accommodation, and rental car all wrapped up into one.
At the Aer Lingus Vacation Store site, you can choose from independent vacations, as mentioned above, escorted tours, golf vacations, city vacations, and more.
Pro Tips on Renting a Car in Ireland:
- Make sure you have your driver’s license with you and a major credit card (Amex Gold, Amex Platinum, and Chase World Mastercard work well for American travelers).
- Use the above credits cards if you have them to cover the CDW insurance that will be tagged on to your final costs otherwise. See more in this blog post.
- Rent the smallest car possible but be practical, too. If you have too much luggage, it may not fit in the trunk. European cars are generally smaller than American ones.
- Get an automatic if you are uncomfortable driving a stick, but know that it will cost you more as most people in Ireland drive manuals.
Where to Go in Ireland
This is a difficult decision for many, even for tourists who have been to Ireland before.
There are so many great places to visit in Ireland. Even on a two-week vacation, you won't see all of them, which means that you’ll just have to go back for more!
The most popular places to visit in Ireland include the following:
- Major Cities – Dublin, Galway, Cork, and Killarney in the Republic of Ireland. In Northern Ireland, Belfast is the most popular city destination.
- Regions & their Most Popular Attractions – Antrim – Giants Causeway; Clare – Cliffs of Moher; Cork – Blarney Castle; Galway – the Aran Islands; Dublin – The Book of Kells; Kerry – the Ring of Kerry; Kilkenny – Kilkenny Castle; Meath – The Hill of Tara; Offaly – Clonmacnoise, and Wicklow – Glendalough Monastic Site.
Suggested 10-Day Itineraries
Here are some suggestions if you are planning an itinerary for a trip to Ireland for 10 days.
These are not definitive itineraries but rather examples of what you could do over a 10-day period.
The places in between each overnight stay are stops that you might want to take before you spend the night at a particular destination.
- Dublin + Southeast/South Coast – Dublin (2 nights); Wicklow, Kilkenny (1 night); Waterford, Cork City (1 night); Kinsale, Ring of Kerry, Skellig Michael, Dingle (2 nights); Doolin, Clare (1 night); Galway City (1 night); Aran Islands (1 night).
- Dublin + Northeast/North/Northwest Coast – Dublin (2 nights); Belfast (1 night); Coastal Causeway Route, Derry (2 nights); Malin Head, Glenveigh National Park, Inishmore Island, Slieve League Cliffs, Donegal (2 nights); Sligo (2 nights).
Planning a City Break
For tourists who already live in Europe, city breaks are frequent and favorite getaways.
Ireland’s cities are perfect places to escape from your daily routine at home and to experience the culture, the friendliness of the natives, the excellent food that’s on offer in many of Ireland’s restaurants these days, and a traditional music session thrown in for good measure.
Here are some ideas:
- Belfast in 24 hours – sure, it’s a whirlwind itinerary, but you should be able to fit in all that’s mentioned in this useful blog post.
- Dublin’s Free Museum and Galleries can be enjoyed on a quick city break to Ireland’s capital.
- Want to spend 36 hours in Cork, Ireland’s second-largest city? Direct flights from Amsterdam and London are available to Cork Airport. The Roscoff to Cork route is an easy way for French tourists and others to get to Cork.
- Looking for a wild time in Galway, Ireland’s young and vibrant city? Check out this blog post on what to do and see.
Planning for Accommodation in Ireland
Choosing where to stay in Ireland is an important part of the itinerary process.
Like other European countries, there are plenty of accommodation options to choose from in Ireland.
Naturally, the cost of accommodation varies depending on what kind of accommodation you stay in and where you are staying. Cities like Dublin tend to be more expensive than, say, a cottage rental in Donegal.
It is wise to do your research before you leave. Here are some tips to get you started.
Since budget is the focus of this blog, I won’t include the upscale/luxury types of accommodation that are available in Ireland.
Prices have gone up since the pandemic, unfortunately.
Accommodation in the midrange spans from €110 to €250 per night, about $129 – $294.
Typical budget accommodation ranges from about €60 to €120 per night ($70 to $140).
Anything lower than that, such as hostel accommodation or a shared room in an Airbnb will cost you about €20 to €35 per night ($25 to $40).
If there’s one area of the country that you would like to explore in detail, renting a cottage is always a good idea, and in many cases, it is more affordable.
How to Book Accommodation in Ireland
There are a number of ways you can book accommodation as you're planning an itinerary for travel to Ireland.
One of my favorite sites is Booking.com simply because it has a large range of options, from hotels to bed and breakfasts, apartments, and more.
Once you land on the site, you can easily compare prices.
But perhaps the greatest plus when using this booking app is that it offers free cancelations on most rooms, especially useful when it comes to unexpected last-minute changes.
Other sites I recommend include the following:
- Vrbo – the best site, in my opinion, when booking rental properties.
- Airbnb – there’s a wealth of properties to choose from, which is why you should always check it out and compare the rates against Vrbo and others.
- TripAdvisor – known primarily as a review site, but you can also book accommodation here too.
- Imagine Ireland – lots of properties to choose from on this site. Be sure to compare prices with the other sites mentioned above.
- B&B Ireland – lists an array of approved bed and breakfasts throughout Ireland.
If You Choose Public Transportation
Ireland has a decent train and bus network. However, I suggest that you start in Dublin as you can get to most places in Ireland from the capital by bus or train.
If you want to see the more rural parts of Ireland without renting a car, it is best to take a bus. Bus Eireann is where you will be able to purchase your tickets.
Unlike the rail system, Bus Eireann operates buses all across the country, reaching even the most rural places.
For tourists, traveling on Bus Eireann with the “Open Road” tourist travel pass is a good idea. The hop-on, hop-off ticket will give you lots of freedom to explore Ireland at your leisure.
Find out more about the ticket here.
Traveling by train in Ireland is a pleasant experience that allows you to soak up the beautiful Irish countryside in the most relaxing way. All trains have free WiFi as well as dining cars.
You can purchase a ticket from the Irish Rail website since the best fares are offered online. Special deals for tourists include the Trekker Four-Day Ticket and the Explorer Ticket. You can get more details here.
If you want to travel by train across Northern Ireland, you can purchase tickets and see train schedules at the Translink website.
The most popular route is the Dublin to Belfast line, which takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes and is operated jointly by Irish Rail and Translink.
Information on Tours and Purchasing Tickets
If you have a good idea of what you want to see when you are planning an itinerary for travel to Ireland, you’re already halfway there in the process.
Even if you are clueless, there are several companies that can be a great resource while you are doing your research.
Two of my favorite tour ticket aggregators are Get Your Guide, a booking platform that offers information on more than 25,000 attractions, tours, and activities in 2,400 destinations worldwide, and Viator, another booking platform owned by TripAdvisor.
What I really like about the Get Your Guide online booking system is that you will get a detailed description of each tour so that you know exactly what you are signing up for. You can also easily cancel if you wish.
In addition, you can access reviews from previous customers, which is always helpful.
If you find the same tour with another company at a lower price, Get Your Guide will refund the difference.
Once you have paid, all of your information is stored on the Get Your Guide app, which is available on both Apple and Android devices.
If you are spending some time in Dublin, you should most definitely purchase the Dublin Pass.
The sightseeing card will grant you free access to over 30 top attractions, monuments, and museums in the city, in addition to other discounts and dining offers.
The best value, in my opinion, is a three-day pass for €99 for adults, which will give you plenty of time to see Dublin’s most popular sites.
Some of the attractions include the Guinness Storehouse, the Jameson Distillery Bow St. Tour, the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship & Museum, and so much more.
Check out ticket prices here.
Day Tours from Dublin
If you don’t have a car and want to explore other parts of Ireland, then day tours are the perfect solution.
Some of the doable day trips that you can take include the train ride from Dublin to Belfast on the Enterprise, which you can catch from Connolly Station.
Belfast is a great city to visit in a day. There’s so much to do, including seeing the incredible Titanic Belfast attraction, the city’s homage to the great Titanic.
Other ideas for guided day trips from Dublin include tours to the Glendalough Monastic Site in Co. Wicklow, about an hour’s journey from Dublin, Newgrange, and the Hill of Tara, and a tour of the Burren Park in Co. Cavan.
Money and Your Budget
The local currency in Ireland is the Euro.
If you’re like many other tourists, you probably won’t be carrying too much cash.
Even though Ireland is a relatively safe country, except for some pickpocketing in Dublin, it’s best to use credit or debit cards while traveling throughout the country.
In fact, there are certain cards that you must bring with you if you want to save money, including specific no-fee-paying bank cards that are a must when traveling in Ireland and indeed throughout Europe.
Expected Costs on Your Vacation in Ireland
Apart from the cash that you’ve already doled out on airfare, accommodation, and car hire if you decide to rent one, as well as any tours you’ve booked beforehand, I suggest setting aside about €130 ($153) a day for eating out and purchasing snacks for two people.
That might be more than enough for you or not enough.
However, if you’re serious about enjoying a budget vacation in Ireland, you should commit to spending not much more than €100 per day.
Are you in the process of planning an itinerary for travel to Ireland?
If so, let me know if you have found these tips to be helpful. And as always, feel free to sign up for my regular e-newsletter below.