When I first moved to The Netherlands, I daydreamed about all the places we could just ‘hop over’ and visit. Compared to the Midwest, air, train and even car travel never seemed so easy before. But, like most people, I moved here, did a few short break trips and that kind of travel stopped.
I think travel planning can be overwhelming for most people. There is SO much information out there. And, honestly, it is still sometimes hard to trust the internet. It is difficult to know you are getting the best deal or even if you are getting what you think you paid for.
My advice: Yes, it is true. The more you hunt, the more you save, but do not suck the fun out of the experience by trying to squeeze a few more dollars (or euros) out of your budget.
Travel is always a bit of a leap of faith. I love travel planning. In some respects, I like it more than the trip itself. No, that is not true, but I definitely consider it part of the fun.
So I had a travel planning challenge drop in my lap last week. Yippee! It really truly made my day. My dad is coming to visit this week for just over three weeks and he wants to visit Ireland. I have never been there either.
So where do I begin?
Word of Mouth ~ Think of everyone I know that has been to Ireland. I send them a quick message asking their advice on what to see or not see.
Narrow Down as Quickly as Possible ~ The internet and the options are overwhelming. Pick a city or area as quickly as possible and plan around it. This gets easier with practice.
Tripadvisor ~ I usually start with the forums. For instance, I went to the Ireland forums and typed in “3 days trip baby” and saw what came up. Results: Dublin or Killarney area
Check Flights ~ There is no use researching a place you cannot reasonably get to. Aer Lingus is the main carrier with direct flight to/from Amsterdam and Ireland so that narrowed the search down pretty fast. Go with direct flights when possible. Even if it costs a little more to fly direct, do it. On a three night trip with a baby, I want to spend as little time as possible in an airport. Results: Aer Lingus offers direct flights from Amsterdam to Dublin and Cork, but the flights to Cork were much cheaper.
Take Notes ~ I draft an email to myself keeping track of the hotels, flights, and attractions I have looked at. I include notes on prices and even brief comments about thinks like free wifi or parking. Copy the website links in there too. Keep the email in draft form and then you can send it out to fellow travellers later if you want.
Travel Requirements ~ Who is travelling with you? What are their interests? What do you imagine as relaxing and fun? I will be travelling with my father and seven month old daughter. We are not into pub crawls or museums or hiking, for instance. We will have a wee one (practicing my Celtic) with us, but one is enough for now so we are not interested in family holiday parks. Give us something pretty we can drive to, through, or by and a few quaint pubs with decent food and beers. And, sure, we are up for a few of those re-enactment villages too.
Lodging ~ Prior to E, I really only considered staying in hotels. I think that is a big mistake especially in Europe where hotels can really be shite (Celtic again). Tripadvisor also compiles reviews for hotels, B&Bs and holiday rentals. I found a small two bedroom house in the Kenmare countryside.
With a baby, I am a big fan of self-catering apartments or small houses. Why? Access to a kitchen. More space – you need a space for a baby bed and it is great to have a separate room for the baby. This means you can keep the lights on, chat, watch tv, or do whatever after the baby goes to sleep at 7 o’clock. I also worry less about the people around me. I am very conscientious that our neighbors are on vacation too and they probably do not want to hear my baby crying. The only way I can prevent this is to limit the number of neighbors.
Getting Around ~ Can you use public transport (buses, metro, train, etc.) or is it better to rent a car? For city travel like to Dublin, for instance, public transport would have been the way to go. Take advantage of the hop-on hop-off bus tours, even. But, for staying in the countryside and plans that include driving along the SW coast of Ireland, we really need to rent a car.
Thanks to a friend’s suggestion, we used TravelSupermarket. I splurged for a four door, 5-passenger rental like a Toyota Corolla because I do not want to try to get a car seat into the back seat of a two door car and we will have a stroller to fit in the trunk. But bring your own GPS, if you have one. It will save you some money and it can easily fits into your carry-on bag.
Stay tuned for a trip update from Ireland…