When I stared planning this trip I realized that I had no idea where to start. I knew some of the things I wanted to see but honestly the idea of planning the whole trip was a little daunting. There is a lot to see and do when visiting any new country. Many of popular things to do are easy to find online but there is so much that only the locals know about. Because of this we decided to go with a travel company, at least for the first part of the trip.
The company we decided to go with is one that I had looked at for a while, Wilderness Ireland. They work to be eco-friendly and outdoor oriented. We decided to go with one of their self-drive tours. They booked the hotels and outlined the trip along with planning the guided portions of the trip and driving routes. I will dive deeper into Wilderness Ireland and our wonderful guides later. I did book the flights and the rental car along with planning more of the trip after the Wilderness Ireland part was completed. The tour company would have booked the rental car for us but I wanted the points.
If you are traveling internationally I do suggest planning at least an extra day at the start and end of the trip if possible. This worked well for us because we had some flight issues and instead of flying to Belfast we had to fly to Dublin. From Dublin we took a train to Belfast where our tour started.
Post Travel Company Trip
We planned extra time in Galway, Cork, and Dublin after the Wilderness Ireland portion of the trip. If you are not visiting a country with a travel company, I highly recommend visiting the city’s website to find hotels. Look for hotels in the city center, a lot of bars and restaurants and historical locations are in walking distance of the city center. Booking with the hotels directly allowed us to get better pricing, better cancellation policies, and book reservations at their restaurants. One of my favorite things about buying and booking things in Europe is all the taxes and fees are included in the price up front. Yay for no hidden fees.
The island of Ireland is made up of two different countries: The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and does use the pound sterling while The Republic of Ireland is part of the European Union and uses the euro. There is a soft border between the two countries and really the only indication that you have gone from one to the other is that the road signs change from miles per hour in Northern Ireland to kilometers per hour on the rest of the island. Both countries do drive on the left side of the road. If you are renting a car be aware that most are standard and you have to specifically rent an automatic vehicle. Also, if you are planning and road trip please get a good road map. Don’t be afraid to stop and take side trips suggested by locals.
To keep myself organized, I created a Google drive doc where I had everything from flights to hotel information, travel insurance, and things to do (with links). I planned something for every city the only issues was that I over estimated how much energy we would have after having been traveling and hiking for a week. If you take no other suggestions, listen to this one, if you don’t have anything officially booked, plan alternatives.
Speaking of pre-booking, do it. Covid changed things and part of that means that pre-booking things like the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Center and the Book of Kells is suggested and sometime can save you a little money and headaches of trying to locate the ticket office. For things like the Causeway and Cliffs of Moher, showing up a little late is okay as long as you have your tickets ready. However, for things like the Guinness Storehouse and the Book of Kells be there early with your tickets ready. The national parks in Ireland do not have an entrance fee, however there are busses and such in them that do cost, but not much.
For any big trip my suggestions are:
- Know how you are going to get there.
- Know where you are going to sleep.
- Book your must-see things.
- Leave time to be spontaneous.
If you have any questions or have suggestions for planning a big trip, please feel free to comment. I will be diving deeper into all of the places mentioned. Ireland had a lot to show us and we just barely scratched the surface. Remember, safe travels and leave no trace.
Thank you KW Photography for allowing me to use your wonderful photos!
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