Planning Your Irish Vacation
Tips for Finding Your Best Ireland Vacation Lodging
Ireland vacation lodging is as varied as the landscape. From hostels perched on the wild Atlantic cliffs to royal castles with every imaginable luxury; lodging options for everyone from budget to luxury travelers.
Most Ireland travelers find themselves somewhere in between the two extremes, searching for comfortable options with a night or two of terrific splurge.
Choosing a Hotel in Ireland
The first thing to realize is that the hotel star-rating system is completely subjective. A 3-star hotel in Ireland may be closer to a 2-star hotel in the US, but a 5-star hotel is a 5-star hotel the world over.
Choose a hotel stay for the experience. Be it incredible pampering, the chance to sleep like royalty or hundreds of acres of land with adventures galore, choose your hotel wisely. Read the hotel website so you know what is- and is not- included in your stay. And if you are not clear on something, send an email and inquire before you book.
Ireland Hotel Tips
- In my experience, 3-star and lower hotels can leave you regretting your choice of lodging. Yes, you pay more for that extra star or two, but it is well worth it.
- Be sure of check in and check out times – especially at your first hotel.
- Check the amenities. If you're traveling with kids an included breakfast is practically a must.
- If you choose your hotel because it has a pool, know that bathing caps (and sometimes pool shoes) are required and children are only allowed in pools at approved times.
- Check the availability of the creche or kids club if you plan to use it. Some are only open during high season or holiday weekends.
- If you're staying in a city, check the map for nearby public transportation. How far will you have to walk to catch a bus or train? If you have a rental car how much will it cost to park (and would you be better off picking up the rental as you leave the city?)
Stay in an Irish Castle
It's definitely a splurge, but one you won't forget! Ireland is dotted with castle hotels. Ashford Castle has been named ‘Best in the World' by Travel & Leisure multiple times. Adare Manor, Dromoland Castle, Ballynahinch Castle, and Clontarf Castle are only a few of the dozen castle hotels in Ireland.
But all castle hotels aren't created equal, so be sure to do your homework when booking! Some hotels include the word castle due to their proximity to a local ruin. Others may have a few rooms in the castle while another nearby building provides more lodging. Know what you're getting before hitting the reservation button!
Staying in an Irish Bed and Breakfast
I do love a great Irish Bed & Breakfast. In a B&B the céad míle fáilte (hundred thousand welcomes) is evident the moment you walk in the door. My first trip to Ireland, solo, I entered a B&B near Shannon. My hostess took one look at my cold, wet self -it was November and I'd come from the Cliffs of Moher- took me straight to my room, started to draw a hot bath and delivered tea and biscuits a few moments later. No matter how nice a hotel, you don't get that kind of service.
No two Bed & Breakfasts are alike. One may be in a fabulous Georgian Manor, while another may be purpose built with spacious rooms and ensuite baths, and yet another may be an expanded family home with cozy rooms. But they all have one thing in common- a personal touch that can make your Ireland vacation magical. Not only is the B&B owner your host, they are also your tour guide, restaurant critic and insider into local activities.
Ireland Bed & Breakfast Tips
- Do your research before booking your room. Make sure the house accepts kids; some have age limits. Family rooms are becoming more prevalent in Irish B&Bs.
- Search over 800 Bed and Breakfasts by county to find fabulous, family friendly B&Bs.
- Do you want to enjoy the pubs after the kids are asleep? Some B&Bs offer child care, or can help arrange child care, for an extra fee.
- Take the time to talk with your hosts. Ask about their favorite sights nearby, their favorite restaurants, hidden spots. This is the best advice you'll get!
- Don't forget to say ‘thank you'. While the B&B may be a business, it is also a home and you are a guest. A little politeness goes a long way.
Ireland Vacation Homes & Self Catering Cottages
A terrific option for large families or a tight budget is to rent a self catering vacation home. A vacation rental's only downfall is that it keeps you in a single location, sometimes for up to 7 days. If you choose this option you will be taking a lot of day trips, returning to the same place nightly, so you want to choose a house that is centrally located to the places you plan to visit and activities you want to pursue. The most enjoyable part of renting an Irish vacation home is feeling like part of the community. You'll experience things you might normally miss- like grocery shopping, relaxing is “your own” garden and trying your hand at cooking Irish cuisine. We love self catering stays for the large amount of space and the ability to truly relax without worry of bothering other guests.
Ireland Vacation Home Tips
- For families who like their space and don't want to worry about disturbing others, a vacation rental is the perfect lodging.
- Some luxury and castle hotels offer vacation rentals on their properties. This is a fabulous way to enjoy the amenities of the location while enjoying more room and spending less.
- Be in direct contact with the owner before securing the rental. Do not wire cash as vacation rental scams can happen.
- Ask the owner for tips on day trips, shopping, good pubs and nearby events before you go.
- Be aware that electricity is wired differently in Ireland and heat may come from a fireplace. Ask about these things- and know how to handle them when you arrive.
- When using owner direct companies like Sykes Cottages, Air B&B, Rural Retreats, VRBO, and Home Away be sure to read terms and testimonials carefully and know that if a last minute cancellation occurs (and they do) you will not have much help finding new lodging. Never send cash or travelers checks; always do business within the company website to receive all coverages and assistance if anything goes awry.
Hostels in Ireland
All hostels are not created equal. If you're on a budget you'll find many hostels that offer private and family rooms, linens, and very comfortable common areas. Doolin Hostel is a perfect example. Irish Fireside offers a terrific list of Ireland's Boutique Hostels, modern hostels that are ‘raising the bar'. And check out UniqueIrishHostels.com for more hostels worth checking out.
Ireland Hostel Tips
- Read room descriptions carefully. Be sure to check if linens are provided! If you have questions send an email.
- Inquire about large group policies. If the hostel allows ‘hen and stag' parties steer clear if you have kids or prefer quiet evenings.
- Know where the hostel is located. Some hostels can be remote so if you're not a backpacker or have transportation they may be difficult to reach.
- Hostels are not for everyone. Read reviews carefully, knowing that all budget travelers aren't created equal.
Which lodging best suits your needs? Only you can decide. Depending on the length of your trip you may be able to experience all of them!
Share your favorite Ireland lodging & tips in the comments! Do you have a question about choosing lodging for your trip? Comment below and I will respond!