The 5 most common Ireland vacation planning mistakes PLUS 3 experiences you should include in your Ireland vacation.
We All Make Mistakes When Planning an Ireland Vacation
In 2 decades of Ireland travel I've made my own share of mistakes.
My very first trip – solo- just me, a rental car, a map & a book of B&Bs – I drove, made quick stops, and drove more. I didn't take the time to stop and really see where I was until my B&B hostess in Dingle asked what I had done on the way down to the peninsula. I was able to give a general overview of what I had seen and, checking the notes I kept in a notebook to track the photos I had taken (because cameras were still film back then – good and affordable digital cameras were still a few years off) I was able to tell her where I had been.
As I was talking with her I realized I hadn't experienced much during those quick stops. I took a few photos. But I was anxious to ‘see' the next thing. I wanted to ‘see it all'.
My second trip to Ireland – with a 1 year old in tow – was definitely at a slower pace. But we still made mistakes. Mainly with our accommodations. There were too many of them.
There were more mistakes on my third trip – now with a toddler, a 16 month old, and my mom- and this one was with our rental vehicle.
Truly. Every travel mistake there is to make when visiting Ireland… I have made it. And I have learned from it so now our travels to Ireland – while not without mishaps – are relaxing, rewarding, and filled with experiences and adventures that appeal to my family.
Common Ireland Vacation Planning Mistakes
There is a lot of information coming! Be sure to visit the show notes for links & information!
Too Much Driving
I understand. This could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You want to make the most of it. But you don't want your memories to be quick pictures and short notes in a journal. Plan to spend time at the sites you want to see. And take time to find other interesting spots in that area.
Need tips on how to do this? Read Planning an Ireland Itinerary That Won't Ruin Your Vacation.
Too Many Accommodations
This actually goes hand-in-hand with too much driving. Switching accommodations nightly can be nerve wracking! Often you have to skip some spots on your itinerary because you misjudged how long the drive would take (Google gets this wrong! See the referenced article above for tips!) or you spent more time than you planned at a spot you loved.
Even if you pack light, unpacking and repacking daily is a hassle.
Try to stay at least 2 nights at each location. This gives you a break between long drives and lets you really enjoy an area.
For accommodation tips read A Quick Guide to Ireland Vacation Lodging.
Your Rental Car is Too Small (or Too Big)
There is a lot to know about car rental in Ireland. But one of the things you want to pay attention to is the size of your car. Too large and you may have issues on narrow roads. Too small and you will either be uncomfortable your entire trip – or have to upgrade at the last minute (which is never cheap!).
Luckily online car rental providers have guides to help you decide on the correct car size. If you are honest with yourself on the amount of space you need for people and luggage.
Get all my car rental tips! Read & save Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental in Ireland.
Overwhelmed by All the Options
Though Ireland is a small country (roughly the size and shape of Indiana), she punches above her weight when it comes to things to see and experience. And it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the options.
If you need help narrowing down your options and keeping your vacation manageable, download one (or more) of my free Ireland itineraries. You can read the description of each before you select it, so you will have an idea of what is included and if it is right for you.
Each itinerary includes accommodation options for multiple budgets, as well as arrival & departure airport information, and handy Ireland tips.
Underestimate Time at Dublin Airport
As Ireland's main airport and international gateway, Dublin airport is busy.
On arrival – usually at the same time as 3-5 other flights – you have to queue for Immigration.
Then, if you are collecting a car, you will need to find the shuttle then queue and complete paperwork for that.
It is very easy to spend 2-3 hours just getting out of the airport!
And, as you prepare to leave you have flight check in, security, VAT (and maybe a bit of shopping) and, if you are traveling to the US you have a second security screening and US preclearance.
You should plan to arrive 3 hours before your flight boards (for US flights) and at least 90 minutes for European flights.
Get more tips for Arrival and Departure at Dublin Airport.
On the day this podcast was published Ireland had not yet reopened after COVID-19. The article linked above is always evolving based on my experiences so you can be assured it will have the most up-to-date information available when you click through.
3 Experiences to Include in Your Ireland Vacation
Irish Breakfast – A meal not for the faint of heart, but one you should try once. Black & white pudding (sausage), rashers, eggs, fried tomato, possibly beans.
A coastal walk – You won't have to go far to find a dramatic coastal view. A few favorites: Howth (near Dublin), Dunmore East or Ardmore in Waterford, Cliffs Coastal Walk in Clare, hike above the Slieve League Cliffs (not for casual walkers), Causeway Coast hike.
Follow a Brown Sign – take the road less traveled and follow where a heritage sign leads. You never know what you might discover!