This post has been updated for 2015/ 2016. Some links are affiliate.
I don’t claim to be a Disney aficionado; I’ve been to Walt Disney World twice in my life – once was for a foodie tour, the other we camped at Fort Wilderness. Those trips showed me that Disney is in the business of providing magical experiences. A few years ago I started noticing the Adventures by Disney- trips around the world with the magic of Disney. When I saw that Disney offered an Ireland Adventure, I had to look a bit deeper.
What an Ireland Family Vacation by Disney Includes- and What It Doesn’t
Disney’s Ireland itinerary is 8 days and 7 nights. You will lodge in two very nice hotels and one castle. Breakfast is provided daily, as are some lunches and dinners. Child care is provided one evening. As this is a tour you will be driven by motor coach to your scheduled destinations, as well as picked up at the airport. But, as I said earlier, Disney provides magical experiences and they have many lined up including lunch in the private dining room at the Guinness Storehouse, a ghost walk in Killarney, a Medieval banquet (probably at Knappogue Castle), an adults only dinner at Dromoland Castle, a visit to a working Irish farm and a farewell feast with performances by local musicians.
Prices for an Ireland Vacation by Disney begin at $5,059 for adults and $4799 for children (2016 pricing). Children must be 4 years of age for this adventure and suggested minimum age is 6. This is a land only package; airfare is not included.
Compare a Do It Yourself Irish Family Vacation to Disney’s Ireland Family Vacation
I’ve not been on an Adventure by Disney, but I have been to Ireland multiple times. And looking at the itinerary I think it is possible to plan a very similar magical adventure- while saving money, seeing more of what Ireland has to offer and enjoying more of Ireland’s greatest resource ~ her people.
To provide the best comparison possible I am creating a table; Disney on the left, self planning on the right. Just FYI: This is going to get long- to see the cost comparison scroll down.
Arrive in Dublin. After clearing customs a drive assists you with your bags and takes you to your hotel.Check into Westin Dublin. Get information from Disney Hospitality desk and learn about Dublin.
Private reception dinner at the hotel with other families on the tour.
|Arrive in Dublin. After clearing customs retrieve your rental car (I prefer Dan Dooley). ($465.93; intermediate car; weekly rental, includes all insurance)Check into Westin Dublin. (2 nights; Junior Suite + breakfast; $482/ night)
If you are driving I would recommend staying in a B&B outside Dublin and taking the train into the city.
Evergreen B&B, Malahide (appx $152/ night) + walking distance to fabulous Malahide Castle
DART (2 days; $40)
Dinner in Dublin ($150)
Privately guided tour including Viking Splash and Guinness Storehouse.
Lunch in private dining room, Guinness Storehouse.
Afternoon and evening on your own in Dublin. (at your own cost)
|Viking Spalsh tours pick up near Dawson Street, at the edge of St. Stephen’s Green. (appx $68) Children under 2 not permitted on tour. Dublin is an incredibly walk-able city, but Guinness Storehouse is a bit of a jaunt. Hire a cab for this or consider the green Dublin Hop on Hop off bus. Kids go free with paid adult + each ticket is good for 2 days! ($45)Guinness Storehouse ($95 family ticket)Lunch at the Brewery Bar ($100, appx.)Afternoon and evening in Dublin. (at your own cost) Ideas: Visit Trinity College & the Book of Kells ($), The National Museum of Archaeology is a must (free), wander Grafton Street
Begin at the Dublin Tourism Office on Suffolk St. in the former Church of St. Andrew. It’s a beautiful location and you can collect quite a lot of helpful information!
The Iveagh Gardens are often overlooked but have an incredible maze your kids will love!
Consider the Dublin Pass to save both time and money at some of Dublin’s best tourist attractions! ($200/ 2 day pass; 2 adults, 2 kids)
|Day 3||Board your coach for the journey to Cashel.Explore the Rock of Cashel. (Lunch on your own)Journey to Killarney and check in to the Killarney Park Hotel.Dinner on your own.Killarney ghost walk.||Drive from Dublin to Cashel.Explore the Rock of Cashel. ($18 family)Lunch on your own in Cashel.Drive to Killarney. Check into Killarney Park Hotel (room w/ breakfast from $445/ night).Explore Killarney & wander into Killareny National Park.Dinner on your own.Hop on the Killarney Ghost Tour (over 10 only) (appx $60)
Oh, how this day bothers me. There is so much to be seen between Dublin and Killarney…
I recommend the OPW Heritage Card if you plan to visit 5 or more heritage sites in Ireland. ($65 family pass- good for one year) Buy this at the first site you visit.
There are so many incredible places you can stop and visit on the way to Cashel… And all are covered by the OPW card!
Glendalough, Jerpoint Abbey, the Famine Workhouse, Moone High Cross and Cahir Castle to name only a few (search this webiste for more information on these, and other, great places to visit). Pick one or two. Many shops in central Killarney close early- 6 pm- so unless you arrive quite early there isn’t a lot to do.
Cashel is incredible. Awe inspiring. Do not miss it. And included on the OPW Heritage Card.
Stroll into central Killarney for dinner.
|Day 4||Journey to Muckross House via Killarney National Park in a Jaunting Cart.Tour Muckross House and enjoy lunch after.Hike or bike through Killarney National Park.Dinner at Kate Kearney’s Cottage.||Journey to/from Muckross House via Killarney National Park in a Jaunting Cart. ($80)Tour Muckross House ($29 family or use OPW Card) or House & Traditional Farm ($50 family ticket- farms not included in OPW Card)Lunch at Muckross Garden Restaurant ($80)Rent bike for cycling in KNP ($65)
Journey through Killarney National Park via Jaunting Cart ($80) to Ross Castle ($12 or included in your OPW card). Tour Ross Castle. Ride back to Killarney.
Drive out to Muckross Abbey. Explore the Abbey- it is incredible with a Yew in the center and towers to climb. Walk from the abbey to Muckross House. (Or drive.)
Explore Muckross House (included in the OPW card). Dine at the Garden Restaurant. ($80) The Traditional Farms are not included on the OPW Card. ($50)
Explore the beautiful Muckross Gardens. Then drive to Torc Waterfall and the Ladies View. These are both naturally beautiful areas, very picturesque and worth visiting. Or drive to the Gap of Dunloe and stroll through the ancient trade route.
Killarney on your own.
Irish Night with Dinner at Kate Kearney’s Cottage (appx $250)
|Day 5||Drive to Blarney Castle.Coach travel to Adare. Explore and lunch on your own.Arrive at Dromoland Castle for 3 nights. Adults only dinner and Disney movie night for the kids.||Drive to Blarney Castle. ($40)Drive to Adare. Explore and lunch.Arrive at Dromoland Castle for 3 nights. (from $675/ night)Dinner at Fig Tree restaurant for 2 + childcare (can be arranged with advance notice). ($450)
Visit Blarney Castle before arriving in Killarney. (it is the opposite direction from County Clare. Be sure to get the Souvenir Audio Guides for an extra $7 each.)
I would probably head down to Dingle for today. Though it is a bit of a drive it is well worth visiting. I would spend the night here after driving the Slea Head Drive– it’s spectacular. Visit Fungi, Dingle’s resident dolphin.
Stay at Dingle Skellig Hotel. ($170)
Eat in Dingle. I suggest a pub with lively music. ($150)
|Day 6||Private tour of Dromoland castle grounds.Birds of prey demonstration.Explore Dromoland Castle; take advantage of some of their offered activities. (Additional costs may apply)Medieval banquet (not specified, likely at Knappogue Castle, though could be Bunratty)||Explore Dromoland Castle; tours available for guests.Schedule a Hawk Walk (schedule in advance) (appx $400)Drive to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. (Family Ticket, $45)Traditional Irish Night (best for kids under 14; $150) or Medieval Banquet. ($188)
Drive to Dromoland Castle for 2 night stay. (from $675/ night)
Adults only dinner + childcare (arranged with advance notice) ($450)
||Irish farm tour and lunch.Cliffs of Moher.Farewell dinner at Dromoland Castle.||Follow the Burren Food Trail and visit some of the farms that provide food to the Burren restaurants. (most have no charge)Lunch at one of the amazing places along the trail. I highly recommend Kilshanny House ($80)Family Dinner at Dromoland Castle. ($400)
Explore Dromoland Castle; take advantage of some of their offered activities. (Additional costs may apply)
Drive to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park. (Family Ticket, $45)
Traditional Irish Night (best for kids under 14; $150) or Medieval Banquet. ($188)
|Day 8||Enjoy breakfast and head to the airport.|| Enjoy breakfast and head to Shannon Airport. Drop off your car. (Small, friendly airport- this will take only a few
|CostFamily of 4||Cost was calculated using dates June 11- 18, 2016
|Cost was calculated using dates June 11-18, 2016
Like Disney Vacation: $7100 (appx)
Alternate: $4745 (appx)
Which Ireland Family Vacation is Right For You?
Of course I do not know every little “extra” Disney has up its sleeve; I have done my best to recreate the same trip on a much smaller budget. (Remember- neither trip includes airfare.) I also made a few changes in the itinerary, including and excluding stops based on my experience traveling with children in Ireland. The biggest difference? Disney’s Adventure requires children to be 4 years old; my trip is for children of any age (my daughters were both 1 when they made their first trips to Ireland.)
While there is no doubt the Disney trip is quite luxurious, it feels a bit dry to me and leaves me wondering- where is the craic? Granted, the driver meeting you in Dublin would be very nice. But you can certainly do that, spend 2 days in Dublin and then have a driver pick you up and take you to get a rental car.
I can’t help but wonder how much you would drive past, wishing you could stop and see it, while on a bus. In my mind the freedom of renting a car far outweighs the convenience of a tour guide. And, yes, I noticed that I suggested dining in pubs quite a few times. But honestly, we had some of our best meals in pubs- and a couple of our worst in regular restaurants.
Of course any trip to Ireland is a good trip, in my book. It all comes down to preference. What is yours?
I would love your input! Have you been on an Adventure by Disney to Ireland? What did you think? Would you suggest it? Why or why not?