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Planning Your Irish Vacation
Ireland has a reputation for being an expensive destination. And it can be, if you travel in the high season and expect 5 star luxury. But it is possible to travel in Ireland for much less, if you carefully plan an Ireland vacation budget.
The Trilogy of Ireland Vacation Expenses: Airfare, Car Rental and Lodging
Your first, and largest, expense of your Irish holiday is actually getting to and from your destination. I wrote pretty extensively on booking your flight to Ireland in tip #2 in this series.
Your second largest expense is often car rental. Rental fees vary wildly and only a few are all inclusive. You’ll want to study my tips for renting a car in Ireland closely and do your homework. Another thing to remember when renting a car: petrol is paid for by the liter in Ireland. A gallon of gas is easily $8-$10. Rent the smallest vehicle your family can comfortably use.
The third most obvious expense is lodging, which I discuss in A Quick Guide to Lodging in Ireland.
So How Much Spending Money Should You Bring to Ireland?
Now that your three big expenses are budgeted- and possibly even paid for before you arrive in Ireland – it’s time to move on to the fun stuff!
The first thing to remember is that Ireland uses the Euro, which is usually a bit stronger than the US dollar. In other words, if an item costs $1 in the US and €1 in Ireland, the Irish item would cost you a bit more, depending on the currency exchange rates that day.
Budgeting Your Meals
It’s easy to see price differences in your meal costs; especially if the place you are dining translates the bill into US dollars. A perfectly nice, but completely average, pub dinner can easily cost upwards of $100. If you were to dine out nightly that would add up quite quickly. So, how do you save money on food?
- Choose lodging that provides a “Full Irish” breakfast. Yes, it can be a lot of food but a hearty breakfast can fuel you through mid-afternoon.
- Purchase local breads and cheese for a yummy afternoon snack.
- Eat your evening meal unfashionably early. Early bird specials usually end around 6pm but can save you up to 25% on your meal.
- Take advantage of local deals. You’ll find both Groupon Ireland and LivingSocial – Ireland to have loads of tasty deals.
- Plan a few picnics. You’ll find plenty of grocery stores as you travel. Grocery shopping is fun in Ireland- so many different items and brands!
- If you have a self catering cottage plan breakfast and dinner ‘in’ and pack lunch or snacks to take with you, leaving room in your budget for pub evenings and a few nice meals.
Budgeting Your Attractions
Knowing where you want to go and the sites you wish to see comes in really handy as you plan your budget. Now is the time to look for discount cards or bundling options.
- If you plan for 2.5 days (or more) in Dublin, the Dublin Pass offers entry into the most popular attractions- including the Dublin Zoo and Guinness Storehouse, queue bypassing in other locations, as well as free gifts and discounts and 24 hour transportation on the fun hop on/ hop off bus. I would urge you to check out my handy tips to figure out if the Dublin Pass provides savings for your vacation.
- The OPW Heritage Pass can be a great money saver for families if you plan to visit sites owned by the Office of Public Works. The OPW card does not include sites in Northern Ireland, but does have some Dublin sites (so check it against the Dublin Pass if you are considering both).
- The Cliffs of Moher are not included in the OPW program. If you plan to spend a bit of time in the Burren in west County Clare consider the Burren Discovery Ticket for access to the Cliffs and other local attractions.
- Bunratty Castle & Folk Park is one of the most popular attractions in western Ireland. Shannon Heritage manages this site- and many others. Check the Shannon Heritage website for attractions, special offers and to purchase tickets online.
- For independently owned and managed locations be sure to check their websites for any savings.
- If you are planning to stay in a single location for a few days find the village or county website to check for festivals. This is a great way to get the real flavor of Ireland- by playing with the locals!
Budgeting Your Souvenirs
Of course you want to bring back something fabulous. But think about what you really want. So many souvenirs are broken or lost so quickly. Make purchases that will be enjoyed longer than a few weeks. Unless it’s food. Food is never a bad souvenir!
- A nice Aran Sweater runs about $200. I consider this completely worth the cost as, well cared for, it will last for years.
- Bunratty Mead in a stoneware jug is a terrific souvenir. After the mead is gone, the jug looks great on a shelf.
- Hand blown glass shops are great for big and little one of a kind trinkets. Costs vary by item but you can find a beautiful vase for under $50.
- My daughters’ favorite souvenirs are the faerie coins we brought back from Ireland– and the pewter faeries who came home with us to guard them. Pewter boxes can be found for under $10 each.
- A really popular gift for family and friends are Butler’s Chocolates. Especially the Irish Cream or Whiskey laced varieties. A plus: they travel quite well. A box of chocolates can be found for about $15- and you can pick these up at Duty Free in the airport!
- If you happen to visit Galway, a claddagh ring is meaningful and beautiful. (You can get them all over Ireland, but legend says they originated in the village of Claddagh in Galway.) Silver rings or necklaces will cost less than gold and costs will range from high to low depending on size and quality.
- Your favorite souvenirs will be your photos. I recommend a good quality point & shoot or a handy micro 4/3 camera like the Olympus PEN. When you return home create a brilliant photo book (I like Shutterfly) to remember your amazing trip!
Figuring Out How Much Money You Need for Your Ireland Vacation
I’m going to use a much hated word here and recommend you create a budget. Figure out how much you can spend on your trip and work your way down the rows, like this:
|Car Rental (10 days)||$800|
|2 Aran Sweaters||$400|
This is a very simple budget, based on my family of 4. From the example at the right you can see the vacation is coming in under the allotted budget- which leaves room for a splurge of some sort. A great B&B like The Old Bank, or a night at Bunratty Castle’s Medieval Banquet, perhaps?
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