In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a lot of Americans are still without power and I am reminded of a young Irish woman with four children under the age of four that I met in Ireland this past month when I was traveling there.. Although they don’t usually get snow, they get what they call “frost.” I imagine the roads can be very slippery and she told me the Irish do not salt or sand the roads as we do in America. They just stay put. On rare occasions when they get snow, I was told there is one snow plow in the whole country and it is in Dublin. Two winters past, my Irish friend told me her pipes froze and people had to wait for the Spring thaw. Her family was without power, water, and electricity for six weeks!!! I cannot even imagine what that must have been like but the Irish seem to take this in stride. Never knowing how bad a coming winter will be, they stock up on food, water, and make preparations beforehand. I’m in awe at their resilience and willingness to just take charge of their own situations. But that’s not really what this post is about.
Americans like to travel but we also prefer the same luxuries we had at home. I call them luxuries because not everyone lives the way we do, with Starbucks on every corner, a Walmart with every available item under the sun and 1-2 cars in every garage filled to the brim with gas no less. In Ireland gas is about $9.00 a gallon so they don’t drive far.
Here are some tips to make your trip to Ireland , a bit more hassle-free and American friendly. Often these tips carry a cheaper price tag as well, so listen up!
1. Do your homework. Scope out where you want to go and how you will get there. Decide the places you want to see and make your own itinerary. Don’t rely on a tour group or scheduled itinerary from some outside source. There are several reasons for this. A. tour packages can be as much as $1000.00 higher per person than renting a car and traveling on your own. Also, we were able to add three more days than is often allowed in a tour package. There are other reasons such as seeing what you want, taking your time, not being on some tour operator schedule etc. The photo of the Moone High Cross was a rare treat we stumbled upon while going from one place to the other. It was not easy to find, hidden away behind a stone wall in the back of a
farmer’s private property. We had to squeeze through a small opening to get inside the area where it was kept, another advantage of driving on your own. What fun that was finding it!
2. Rent a car and take out the extra ins. too. ( I recently found out that many credit cards will cover collision on rental cars) Driving in Ireland is not as scarey as you may think. Although there are few street signs and there will be places where the roads are very narrow. Everything takes twice as much time to get to than it appears on a map so allow for this. Rent your car before you leave the states and rent an automatic (if that is what you prefer) way ahead of time. Rent or buy a GPS with voice activation. I’ve driven with a map and I’ve used the GPS both. I survived both times but the GPS added so much ease to the trip that it greatly added to my enjoyment. note: An advantage of buying the GPS in the states and loading the European maps ahead of time, will allow you get to know how the gizmo works before you get into a foreign country.
3. Stay at a bed and breakfast. Many tour companies stick with the few hotels available because they need to accommodate a larger group of people. B@Bs often have about four rooms to a dwelling. The advantage of a bed and breakfast is Great Value! and the personal attention. The last time I traveled in Oct. I payed 60 Eu which is about $75 a night including a full Irish breakfast. (Irish Breakfast: porridge, bacon, eggs, toast, sausage, fruit, coffee, tea, juice, etc etc) We were greeted at the door and offered tea and scones, when we got there. Here’s a tip: Look for the Shamrock. Ireland has a great advantage over America when it comes to accommodations. Every place with a shamrock on the sign is guaranteed by the Irish Tourist Board to be good and I’ve never been disappointed.. One place even washed our clothes for an added fee. Another note: book your Dublin accommodation for the night you fly in and the night you fly out. (over the internet) It also is a good idea to pay for the night before you arrive as most places won’t let you in the room before 3pm otherwise and since you’ll have major jet lag and you’ll arrive early a.m you may want to sleep. ( the time change will mean you lose most of a nights sleep before you arrive) Its; alright to book the rest as you go as there are plenty of B@Bs all over the country at least in the off season.
4. So you’re getting your breakfast included in your b@b. Now how about lunch? Just about every pub, restaurant, tourist stop I can think of serves homemade soup and fresh baked bread. This is your best value and nutrition. It’s cheap and healthy. No McDonalds here, lads and lasses although they are beginning to spring up.
5. Nine to twelve months ahead of your trip watch for cheap flights! Every couple of days or so pop on the internet and search flight prices on as many sights as you can find.. I’ve found May and Oct. to be pretty cheap but I’m sure if you look you could find other months as well. If possible do not fly in the summer as those flights are usually double what you would find in other months of the year. My last flight to Ireland from Roc. to DUB was under $600 round trip. If you live in NY or Boston its may be cheaper as that is the connection from where I live. Also fly in and out of Dublin. Shannon and Belfast will make you connect there any way and charge you for that connection. Besides there are lots of things to see in Dublin.
These are the major points to make your trip to Ireland American friendly. I would add , invest in a Ireland Tour book by Frommers It can be any edition but be sure to get a paper map with it. They also have a website. This is by far the best traveling tour book out there and will help you with your itinerary.. Its also good just to flip through if you have no real destination. That’s how we found the Moone High Cross.
Another great place to find hidden gems to visit in Ireland is at a blog called RUINIreland.com (R U IN Ireland) The blog is written and updated often by a fabulously helpful woman named, Elena Clancy. Elena writes reviews and travel tips about some of the less traveled spots in Ireland, some of the best, and some of the most popular, which she will be very honest in either promoting or telling you not to waist your money on. She will even answer your questions or point you in the right direction before you travel as she has lived in Ireland for over ten years and knows nearly every inch of her beautiful landscape.
I welcome any other tips on how you can save money, time and have as much “craic” as ever while touring Ireland. For more savings tips go here! Or.
If you have any tips or stories about Irish travel, leave a comment below. You can also subscribe on the home page to read more Irish history..