Having an itinerary is a great idea, but trying to cram multiple destinations into a day can leave you exhausted and overwhelmed. Because of the nature of Ireland, many activities will require walking, so make sure to pace yourself. The worst thing you can do is tire yourself out in the earlier part of your trip. Instead, we suggest planning a flexible itinerary and then seeing where the path takes you.
Check what the weather will be like during your stay and pack accordingly. Besides being known for all things Guinness and wool, rain is far too common in Ireland. Make sure to pack a rain coat that doubles as a winter jacket, as it can get chilly. We had a few tumbles with the slippery mud caused by all the rain, so wear shoes with traction to avoid an embarrassing fall. The snow flurries were beautiful to see, but it was unexpected and chipping ice off our car was no walk in the park, especially as Floridians. Luckily, Irish people are kind and we had some help.
Although Ireland is beautiful even with its cloudy skies, we highly recommend considering a few things before deciding when to visit. We traveled to Ireland during the later part of December into the early part of January. Yes, we were there for New Years, but maybe we shouldn’t have been? Although the streets are more relaxed and it’s easier to drive at a more reasonable pace, most castle tours and other outings may be closed due to the Holiday. We highly recommend checking websites and making a few phone calls to double check your must-see spots are open.
Remember that the Irish drive on the left side of the road and their steering wheels are on the right. On motorways, the right lane is for passing only. Remember that in some counties, deer, sheep, goats, and other animals have access to the road your on. Drive slow on these roads; the animals are unpredictable and will walk out right in front of your vehicle. We almost hit a lamb, three dogs, and a horse. So, drive slow and be prepared for anything and everything.
This one is weird. After a few conversations with multiple people from multiple parts of the country, the result was that tipping your waiter or bartender is not something that is required of you. Although, you can tip, it isn’t expected and in some places is considered rude. A bar tender mentioned that he’d rather us get another item off the menu than tip him, since that would further the company over himself. This foreign concept is an odd one for us. Also, don’t wait to be seated or handed a check when in sit-down restaurants. When you walk into a pub or restaurant, find a seat on your own and stay there until the waiter or waitress comes to your table to get your order. When you’re ready to pay, most places will have a register somewhere near the exit, and if not, find someone behind the bar and pay them there.
This country is full of kind and helpful people. Some of our favorite memories of Ireland were the simple yet meaningful conversations we had with the locals. They’re willing to answer your questions or just have a chat, so don’t be in such a hurry that you miss out on a conversation with them. You may find yourself in a 2 hour conversation like we did. Looking back we would have preferred talking more with the locals over exploring the landmarks.
As travel journalists, we understand that most moments should be captured with a camera or in a blog, but don’t forget to really enjoy your trip. Put down the camera occasionally and see the beauty with your own eyes, instead of through a lens. As much as you want to document everything, you’ll always miss a few shots, so don’t stress and be proud of what you do get.