Horse on Inis Oirr, Aran Islands, Ireland. © 2016 Jody Halsted, Ireland Family Vacations; Halsted Enterprises, Inc.
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Planning an Ireland Itinerary That Won’t Ruin Your Vacation

Do You know the one thing that can ruin your Ireland vacation?

No, it's NOT the weather!

It's planning an Ireland itinerary that has too much driving!

Reather Listen? Traveling in Ireland Podcast Episode 114

Ireland Vacation Planning Tips

When you begin planning a trip to Ireland you have a lot to consider – the group size, relationships, and ages of the travelers; activities they enjoy; and their ‘must see' sights.

Ireland vacation planning
Some ‘must see' sights of Ireland

Inevitably the sites that are rated ‘musts' are scattered across Ireland – much like the map above.

Ireland may be a small country, but she is deceptive.

Point A to Point B may only be 100 miles apart- but those miles often include narrow, winding roads through mountains, small villages, and picturesque farmland edged by stone walls which hug the road.

While it's beautiful, and the very essence of driving in Ireland, it's not quick.

Armed with only that information, a glance at the map should show you the single thing that can ruin your Ireland vacation : too much driving!

Related: Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental in Ireland

Choosing Must See Sights for Your Ireland Itinerary

O'Brien's Tower atop the Cliffs of Moher. Ireland travel tips | Ireland vacation |
O'Brien's Tower atop the Cliffs of Moher is one of Ireland's most popular attractions.

Glancing again at the above map – actually my own ‘must visit sites' for a past trip – you can see a few groupings of circles.

Dublin, the Hill of Tara, and Newgrange.

Limerick, and Lough Gur.

Letterkenny and Glenveagh National Park.

And then there are a few places that are kind of on their own – The Cliffs of Moher, Clifden in Connemara, Belfast, and the Giant's Causeway.

Though our trip was longer than average (3 weeks as opposed to 10 days), there was still no way to visit all of these sites and enjoy it.

Not only would we spend most of our time driving, but we wouldn't have time to enjoy what we were seeing – not to mention missing everything in between!

It's Hard to Choose – I Know!

Nearly every Ireland traveler has to cut down their ‘must see' lists. You just can't see it all. And you really want to remember the places you did see – not how much driving you did to see them!

So now you must narrow down your choices. For our trip, we skipped the Dublin sites, Connemara, and the sites in Northern Ireland.

Then we filled in the empty spots.

A foal frolics at the Irish National Stud

Between Dublin and Limerick we visited the Irish National Stud in Kildare and spent a couple days in Kilkenny before swooping down to the Dingle Peninsula and Ring of Kerry, then up to Adare and Bruff.

We went back to Dublin to pick up my husband, spent a day in the city, then spent two nights in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, before heading up to Donegal and the Inishowen Peninsula.

And that was nearly too much.

Steps to Plan Your Ireland Itinerary (aka How NOT to Ruin Your Ireland Vacation)

Step 1: Buy a decent sized laminated map of Ireland. Or print a map on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper (just know you'll have to print a few).

Step 2: Divide Ireland into 4 quadrants – north to south and east to west. Circle all the places you really want to see.

Step 3: Check for groupings.

Step 4: Use an online map (like Google maps) to calculate distances between the center of groupings and other sites. This will give you travel distances and travel times (calculated by road speed limits).

Step 5: For times under 3 hours, add on at least 30 minutes. For 3-5 hours add on 45 minutes. For over 5 hours, add on another hour. This will give you more realistic driving times (you rarely go as fast as the posted speeds in Ireland).

Read: Tips for Driving in Ireland
Listen: Ireland Driving Tips Podcast

Step 6: How much time are you (realistically) ok with driving each day?

Step 7: How often do you want to change lodging? Daily? Every 2-3 days?

Related: Quick Guide to Accommodations in Ireland

Step 8: Re-examine those ‘must see' sites. I recommend one ‘must see' site every 2 days. Make changes on your map.

Step 9: Fill in the gaps. You'll be surprised just how much there is to do in between those big sites. Use my clickable map  or the Ireland Travel Kit to help you.

Step 10: Create your perfect itinerary, marking all spots on your map. From here you can begin choosing your lodgings!

Related: Here's what MUST be booked in advance – and what you can leave to chance

Let Me Help Plan Your Ireland Itinerary

Choose one of my free Ireland itineraries!

Use the ‘My Ireland Vacation Planner & Journal' to plan your trip step-by-step.

If you would like a more personalized itinerary consider my vacation coaching or custom itinerary creation services.

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Looking for More Ireland Travel Tips?

Visit the Ireland Travel Tips & Frequently Asked Questions page!

Jody Halsted
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  4. I have been to Ireland three times now and planning a fourth. During is part of the fun and you will find amazing things along the way which are worth stopping to check out. We never schedule or reserve a place to stay head of time; instead we get a room in a hostel where we happen to be stopping—ideal for the Republic of Ireland. A little more difficult in the north. We do schedule the first two days and last two days at the Rowan Tree Hostel in Ennis. And we reserve a car ahead of time as well. Also, we ask the locals what is worth seeing in the area–found lots of gems tht way and had a great time. IMHO it’s the best way to travel. And every cheap.

  5. I agree that driving isn’t what most would consider a ‘vacation’… However, I disagree that it is a vacation killer. My husband and I did Scotland and Ireland in 10 days, drove around each of them with a short flight in between and we had the time of our life! We saw all the big sights we wanted to see(Edinburgh to isle of Skye and through the mountains…then from Dublin to Blarney castle to the cliffs of moher, and giants causeway) , and grew closer during that trip than I’d known possible. Of course its nice not to run around, but we loved that we got to experience so much even in the short time, and really enjoyed eachothers company. (Laughing and trying to keep pace with those darn delivery vans everywhere we went!)

    1. Hi Kelly and thanks for the comment! You covered a lot of ground in your 5 days in Ireland – and I’m so glad it worked for you. But for most people, that type of hectic schedule leaves them wanting a vacation from their vacation.