Should You Take a Disney Ireland Vacation or DIY?

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Updated for 2020

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.

Adventures by Disney Vacations, trips around the world with the magic of Disney, has been operating for quite a few years now.  When I saw the Adventures by Disney Ireland vacation, I wanted to see what it entailed and how a DIY Ireland vacation could compare.

This article is updated annually with current costs and updated tips from my continued travels across Ireland.

Malahide Castle Lawn Games. By Aoife for Flytographer; Dublin, Ireland. All rights reserved.
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Is a Disney Ireland Vacation Right for Your Family?

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

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

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 at 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 $5,599 for adults and $5509 for children (2020 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.

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

Adventures by Disney Ireland Vacation or Do-It-Yourself Ireland Itinerary

Compare a Disney Ireland Vacation to a Do It Yourself Irish 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, priced from June 2020.

Just FYI: This is going to get long- to go directly to the cost comparison click here.

Disney Trips to Ireland or DIY Ireland Itinerary

Day 1

Love Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin, Ireland
Love Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin

DISNEY

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.

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 (I recommend Collins Travel) or utilize a taxi from the airport to your hotel.

Dublin Airport Tips for Arrival & Departures

Drop bags/ check into Westin Dublin. (2 nights; 2 rooms- Queen + Classic Twin. Includes breakfast. $595 per room, per night.)

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

Get active to combat jet lag! Explore Dublin. I recommend purchasing the Dublin Pass as it includes most of the city's most popular attractions + 24 hour Hop on Hop off bus tour. (appx €252)

Dinner in Dublin (est €150)

Day 2

Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral are connected via this dramatic stone arch. Dublin travel tips.
Dublinia and Christchurch Cathedral are connected via this dramatic stone arch. Tour Dublinia first as you cross the arch to the Cathedral as you exit.

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 €40/ family)

Enjoy a tour of Dublin. Choose Dublin Highlights & Hidden Corners or The Best of Dublin by Pat Liddy Tours or a Musical History Tour with Fiona Dalton. (appx €46-52)
OR
Try a Hop on Hop off bus tour. (Included with your Dublin Pass  or from $22.52 per person; kids under 14 free with paying adult.)

Stop for lunch. You'll find most restaurants share their menu outside- so handy! (appx €50)

Get out and explore more of Dublin! Utilize that Dublin Pass to the fullest!

No Dublin Pass? Ideas: Visit Trinity College & the Book of Kells ($; book tickets online to skip the queue!), The National Museum of Archaeology is a must- the bog bodies are incredible! (free), the Iveagh Gardens (free) are often overlooked and have an fun maze, visit the National Museum of Ireland- Natural History, aka the ‘Dead Zoo' (free).

Pop into a pub for dinner. (appx €125) 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!

Day 3

Rock of Cashel. Ireland vacation. #IVF2015
The incredible Rock of Cashel

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 Killarney Park Hotel or Great Southern Killarney.

Private group dinner at the hotel.

DIY

Hotel breakfast

Pick up your car in Dublin city. Rates from €300 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 at The Kilkenny Way. (Family package with lunch €70).
If you are going to Kilkenny only for this I would skip it and continue on to the Rock of Cashel.

Explore the Rock of Cashel. (€20/ family)

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

Tip: the OPW Heritage Card is the best deal in Ireland! Gain admission to Office of Public Works sites (including the Rock of Cashel & Cahir Castle) across Ireland.

Check into Great Southern Killarney (click and search Ireland for best deal; family room from $388/ night; check special offers for family package deal.)

Explore Killarney & wander into Killarney National Park.

Dinner on your own. (appx €125)

Day 4

Ireland vacation
Jaunting Cart in Killarney National Park

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 Cart. (€80, cash) Use your OPW card to tour Ross Castle.

Join a Killarney Lakes Cruise (from €15 pp)

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 and Gardens (from €28 family or included in the OPW card). Add in Muckross Traditional Farms (extra cost, not included in OPW card to learn about traditional Irish life – including butter making, music, and dance)

Dine at the Garden Restaurant. (appx €80)

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. DO NOT drive through the Gap of Dunloe.

Consider Irish Night Experience with Dinner at Major Colgan's.

Day 5

Adare Abbey, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland
Views along the Riverwalk in Adare

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

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 (included in OPW card or €22.50/ family)

Arrive at Dromoland Castle for 3 nights. (Click link & search Ireland for best rates; 2 Deluxe rooms from €868/ night per room. Advise castle upon reservation of children traveling to obtain adjoining family rooms.)

~ Want to be Lord and Lady of your own castle? Have a look at Knappogue Castle– just minutes away!

Dinner at Fig Tree restaurant for 2 + childcare (can be arranged with advance notice). (expect to spend €400, minimum, for dinner & child care+ room service for kids.)

Day 6

Hawk Walk at Mount Falcon Estate in County Mayo Ireland. Family activities in Ireland
Hawk Walk

DISNEY

Hotel breakfast

Private tour of Dromoland castle grounds.

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

Explore Dromoland Castle and grounds; tours available for guests.

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, €61.50; online rate)

Traditional Irish Night (best for kids under 14; €35 per child, €42.50 per adult) or Medieval Banquet. (€35 child, €63.00 adult)

Day 7

O'Brien's Tower atop the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland travel tips
O'Brien's Tower was built in 1835 as a viewing spot for the travelers who came to enjoy the magnificent views. Structurally restored visitors can still climb the tower for a bird's eye view of the Cliffs of Moher.

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 €75)

Family Dinner at Dromoland Castle (plan at least €250)

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 2020 Adventures by Disney tour dates June 12-19.

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

DISNEY
$25,736

DIY
€11,292.50 (appx $12,500)

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 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.)

While there is no doubt the Disney Ireland vacation is quite luxurious, it  leaves me wishing it allowed more flexibility.

I can't help but think about how much you would drive past, wishing you could stop and see it, while on Disney trips to Ireland.  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.

Of course any trip to Ireland is a good trip, in my book.  It all comes down to preference.  What is yours?

Need more Ireland itinerary tips? Check out my free Ireland itineraries!

I would love your input!  Have you been on an Adventures by Disney Ireland vacation?  What did you think?  Would you suggest it?  Why or why not?

It's so easy to share or save this article!

Adventures by Disney or DIY Ireland Family Vacation
Comparing Disney Trips to Ireland and Do-It-Yourself Ireland Itinerary

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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