Compare a Disney Ireland Vacation to a Copycat Self-Drive Trip

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Updated for 2024

Adventures by Disney Vacations, trips around the world with the magic of Disney, has been operating since 2005.  Their Ireland vacations – available with family and adults only options- take in some of Ireland's top sights, including Dublin, the Rock of Cashel, Killarney, and the Cliffs of Moher.

With 2024 pricing starting at $6649 for children under 12 and $6999 for ages 12 and up, an Adventures by Disney Ireland vacation isn't for everyone.

But you can create a nearly identical self-drive vacation for less than half the price!

Adventures by Disney Ireland Vacation or Do-It-Yourself Ireland Itinerary
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This article is updated annually with current costs and tips from my continued travels across Ireland.

Is a Disney Ireland Vacation Right for You?

Below you'll find a breakdown of the Adventures by Disney Ireland Vacation side-by-side with a DIY self-drive Ireland vacation.

Please note that I have never experienced an Adventures by Disney Ireland Vacation myself, but I do have two decades of Ireland vacation experience.

What an Adventures by Disney Ireland Vacation Includes-  and What It Doesn't

The Adventures by Disney Ireland itinerary is 8 days and 7 nights.  Your accommodations include two very nice hotels and one castle.  Breakfast is provided daily, as are 4 lunches and 5 dinners.  Child care is provided one evening on the standard trip.

The tour begins in Dublin and ends in Shannon. If your flight home departs from Dublin you will have to arrange your own transportation back to the airport.

Families of 4 (or more) note that connecting or adjoining rooms can be requested but are not guaranteed. Guests are required to book 2 double rooms.

As this is a guided group 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 private tours at some of Dublin's most popular attractions, experiences with local experts, a shamrock hunt in Cashel, a traditional Irish farm dinner, an adults only dinner at Dromoland Castle, and a farewell feast with performances by local musicians.

Prices for a Disney Ireland vacation begin at $6999 for ages 12+ and $6649 for children under 12 (2024 pricing; dependent on dates).  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 and must be purchased in conjunction with the vacation package.

Gratuities for your tour guide and driver are not included in the package price.

Read: Do You Need Vacation Insurance for Your Ireland Vacation?

Compare a Disney Ireland Vacation to a Do-It-Yourself Ireland Family Vacation

As mentioned above, I've not been on an Adventures by Disney Ireland vacation, but I have been to Ireland many, many times.  And looking at the itinerary I know 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 the country's greatest resource ~ her people.

To provide the best comparison possible I am breaking it down with side by side daily comparisons, Disney on the left, self planning on the right. Prices are approximations based on a family of 4 with two children under 12, priced from June 7-14, 2024.

Just FYI: This is going to get long. Final cost is Disney $30,416, DIY appx $14,057.

Disney Ireland Vacation vs DIY Ireland Itinerary

Budding archaeologist at National Museum of Ireland Archaeology. Dublin with kids. Ireland travel tips.
Treasure Hunt in the National Museum of Ireland, Archaeology

Day 1

DISNEY

Arrive in Dublin. After clearing customs a driver assists you with your bags and takes you to your hotel.

Check into the College Green Hotel. Get information from Disney Hospitality desk and learn about places to visit in Dublin.

Welcome reception dinner at the hotel with other families on the tour.

DIY

Arrive in Dublin, clear customs and retrieve your bags. For ease, arrange for a car service to pick you up (contact Bob at About Ireland Taxi Tours to assist with this) or utilize a taxi from the airport to your hotel (appx €30).

Dublin Airport Tips for Arrival & Departures

Drop bags/ check into College Green Hotel (2 nights; 2 rooms- Deluxe King + Deluxe Double. Includes breakfast. €415 + €445 per room, per night).

~ For a more affordable hotel option with family rooms I recommend The Castle Hotel.

More Dublin accommodation options

Get active to combat jet lag! Explore Dublin. I recommend purchasing a 2 day GoCity Dublin Explorer Pass as it includes many of the city's most popular attractions + 24 hour Hop on Hop off bus tour & a night bus tour (appx €366).

Dinner in Dublin (est €200).

Stamp you passport as you journey through EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum is massive. Stamp your passport as you travel through.

Day 2

DISNEY

Breakfast at the hotel.

Privately guided tour including EPIC- The Irish Emigration Museum.

Guided tour of the Teeling Whiskey Distillery.

Pub lunch with interactive music experience- learn some Irish tunes and sing along!

Spend the afternoon exploring Dublin on your own.

Dinner in Dublin on your own.

DIY

Breakfast at the hotel.

You'll find Dublin to be a very walkable city!

Visit EPIC – the Irish Emigration Museum. (Included in Dublin Pass or €53/ family.)

Try a Hop on Hop off bus tour. (Included with your Dublin Pass or from $31.28 per person; kids under 12 free with paying adult).

Stop for lunch. You'll find most restaurants post their menu outside- so handy (appx €100).

Get out and explore more of Dublin! Utilize that Dublin Pass to the fullest! Check out the Jeanie Johnston Tallship (just across from EPIC), Christchurch Cathedral (mummies in the crypt!) and Dublinia (Viking history), St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin Zoo, and the Big Bus Dublin night tour.

No Dublin Pass? Ideas: The National Museum of Archaeology is a must- the bog bodies are incredible! – (free), the Iveagh Gardens (free) are often overlooked and have a fun maze, visit the National Museum of Ireland- Natural History, aka the ‘Dead Zoo' (free).

Pop into a pub for dinner. (appx €200) or utilize your Dublin Pass for savings on tours or events this evening. Pre-booking necessary so order your Dublin Pass prior to your trip!

The magnificent Rock of Cashel

Day 3

DISNEY

Breakfast at the hotel.

Board your coach for the journey to Kilkenny and your chance to experience the Irish sport of Hurling followed by lunch.

Explore the Rock of Cashel while Junior Adventurers enjoy a Shamrock Hunt with one of your Adventure Guides.

Journey to Killarney and check in to the Great Southern Killarney.

Private group dinner at the hotel.

DIY

Hotel breakfast.

Pick up your car in Dublin city. Rates from €427.92 including Zero Deductible CDW Excess.
2 articles you MUST read:
Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental in Ireland
and
Tips You Need When Picking Up Your Car Rental in Dublin City Centre

Drive from Dublin to Kilkenny (consider a stop at the Rock of Dunamase on the way).

Consider a hurling experience with Hurling Tours Ireland. (€20-€30/ per person).
If you are going to Kilkenny only for this I would skip it and continue on to the Rock of Cashel.

Grab lunch in Killarney or Cashel (appx €80).
Explore the Rock of Cashel (€20/ family).

Continue to Killarney. I highly recommend a stop at Cahir Castle (€13/ family; along your route).

Check into your room at Great Southern Killarney. From €415 per night per room.

~ For a charming accommodation with family rooms consider the Old Weir Lodge.

More Killarney accommodation options

Explore Killarney & wander into Killarney National Park.

Dinner on your own (appx €150).

Ireland vacation
Jaunting cars are a popular way to get around Killarney National Park!

Day 4

DISNEY

Breakfast at hotel.

Journey to Ross Castle for a photo stop.

Boat ride on Lough Leane.

Butter making demonstration and Irish Dance Lessons.

Group lunch.

Afternoon on your own in Killarney.

Dinner and evening on your own in Killarney.

DIY

Breakfast at hotel.

Journey to/from Ross Castle via Killarney National Park in a Jaunting Car (from €80, cash).
Tour Ross Castle (optional).

Join a Killarney Lakes Cruise to Innisfallen Island (from €20 pp).

Drive out to Muckross Abbey. Explore the Abbey- it is incredible with a Yew tree in the center and towers to climb. Walk (or drive) from the abbey to Muckross House.

Explore Muckross House and Gardens. Add in Muckross Traditional Farms (to learn about traditional Irish life – including butter making, music, and dance) €28 for house & farm.

Grab a light lunch at The Garden Restaurant (appx €50).

Then drive to Torc Waterfall and the Ladies View. These are both naturally beautiful areas, very picturesque and worth visiting.

Optional: You might consider this Gap of Dunloe & Killarney Lakes Tour.

Dinner in Killarney – enjoy one of the pubs and stay for music (appx €150).

Adare Abbey, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland
Stroll by the river in Adare

Day 5

DISNEY

Breakfast at the hotel.

Load coach for drive to Adare, County Limerick.

Tour of Adare Desmond Castle.

Lunch on your own and time to explore Adare.

Arrive Dromoland Castle.

Private tour of the castle grounds.

Adults only dinner at the castle's Fig Tree Restaurant.

Kids enjoy a movie night with kid-friendly dinner and other fun activities.

DIY

Breakfast at hotel.

Drive to Adare and explore.

Tour Adare Desmond Castle (€22.50/ family).

~ a better tour (in my opinion)… make a detour to Lough Gur near Bruff in County Limerick.

Arrive at Dromoland Castle for 3 nights. 2 Deluxe rooms from €995/ night per room. Advise castle upon reservation of children traveling to obtain adjoining family rooms.

Explore the grounds – an estate map is available at reception. Don't skip the fairy trail!

Dinner at Fig Tree restaurant for 2 + childcare (can be arranged with advance notice). Expect to spend €700 minimum, for dinner & child care+ room service for kids.

Other nearby accommodations.

Private hawk walk

Day 6

DISNEY

Hotel breakfast.

Birds of prey demonstration.

On your own for lunch in one of the Dromoland Castle restaurants.

Explore Dromoland Castle; take advantage of some of their offered activities. (Additional costs may apply.)

Authentic Irish Farm Dinner, scone making, and entertainment.

DIY

Hotel breakfast.

Schedule a Hawk Walk with the Falconry -advance reservations required (appx €280/ 4 people).

Visit Bunratty Castle and Folk Park this afternoon. Just 15 minutes away! (Family Ticket, €44.95; online rate.)

Optional: Book into the Medieval Banquet at Knappogue Castle (this is more lively than the banquet at Bunratty) or enjoy a pub dinner at Durty Nelly's.

O'Brien's Tower atop the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland travel tips
Many people consider the Cliffs of Moher a ‘must see' spot in Ireland.

Day 7

DISNEY

Hotel breakfast.

Visit the Cliffs of Moher (and probably other spots in the Burren).

Enjoy lunch at one of Doolin's traditional pubs (probably Gus O'Connor's).

Farewell dinner & entertainment at Dromoland Castle.

DIY

Hotel breakfast.

Plan a day filled with activities in the Burren! Including the Cliffs of Moher, a Cliffs of Moher cruise, tasty stops along the Burren Food Trail, Poulnabrone Dolmen, and so many more! Use this article to help you decide what to do!

Choose a tasty spot along the Burren food trail for lunch. Recommendations here (appx €125).

Family Dinner at Dromoland Castle (plan at least €350).

Day 8

DISNEY

Enjoy one last Irish breakfast in Dromoland Castle.

Board coach for transfer to Shannon Airport.

DIY

Enjoy your final breakfast in Ireland.

Drive to Shannon Airport – under 20 minutes away- drop off car and check in for flight.

Shannon Airport Tips for Arrivals and Departures

Final Cost: Disney vs DIY Ireland Family Vacation

Cost was calculated using 2024 Adventures by Disney tour dates June 7-14.

DIY cost is calculated by making the tour as similar as possible to the Disney tour. This cost can, of course, be lowered significantly by simply changing accommodations.

DISNEY
$30,416 (plus gratuities appx €400-€600)

DIY
€13,035 (appx $14,057)

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 smaller budget (remember- neither trip includes airfare).  I also added a few suggestions to the DIY itinerary based on my experience traveling with children in Ireland.

The biggest difference?  The Adventures by Disney Ireland Itinerary 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.)
For a full itinerary that is quite similar to this and includes dining recommendations, more accommodation options, and loads of castles download the FREE 7 Castles in 7 Days itinerary!

While there is no doubt the Disney Ireland vacation is quite luxurious, it leaves me wishing it had more flexibility and chances to explore.

I can't help but think about how much you would drive past, wishing you could stop and see it, while on Disney Ireland vacation.  In my mind the freedom of renting a car far outweighs the convenience of a tour guide.

Want to recreate this trip on your own, with a private guide?
I recommend Ireland Chauffeur Travel.
Average cost for a one-week driver guided tour with 4/5 star accommodation begins at €4550 per person.

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Jody Halsted
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6 COMMENTS

  1. Great breakdown, Jody!.. & I’d like to second your suggestion of using Ireland Chauffeur Travel… wonderful folks & they provide excellent service & an unforgettable experience…

      Thank you Leslie! It’s always great to hear that the companies I recommend are living up to expectations!

    IMO, looks like just another money-maker for Disney if people chose this option. I’d rather be able to plan my own vacation, for considerably less as you have pointed out, and not have such a set schedule. The beauty of going to Ireland is having the freedom to experience everything in your time and do what you want to do. Plus, if airfare isn’t included, for us (2 adults, 3 kids), that would easily add another $5000 on to the total cost. Disney is pricey I know, but that seems a little over the top.

      Again, I am sure there are “extras” that I don’t know about- Disney is incredible when it comes to making vacations magical. One day I would like to try their vacation- just for the experience.

    Wow! Thanks for the side-by-side comparison.

    I haven’t done a Disney Adventure in Ireland… I’m sure they take care of every detail, but for families on a budget and a sense of adventure, I’d probably choose your alternatives.

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