There is plenty of information on the web about planning a trip to Ireland, but most of it focuses on what you should do. We even have an Ultimate Ireland Road Trip Itinerary that tells you what to do and how to plan. But this guide is different. This is going to tell you what you should AVOID doing when planning a trip to Ireland. Don’t worry, it isn’t all as scary as you may think. Ireland is an easy-going country to visit, but there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your Ireland itinerary.
We have been to Ireland countless times at this point and have made countless mistakes. This [unfortunatly] has given us first-hand knowledge on what you should NOT DO when planning a trip to Ireland. Ireland was the very first country abroad we have ever visited. We have since been back many times and have covered just about everywhere on the island. From the quaint small towns in Ireland to the rugged north of Donegal, these tips apply to everyone planning a trip to Ireland!
7 Big Mistakes To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Ireland
Mistake #1: Spending Too Much Time In Dublin
Ask pretty much every native Irish or Northern Irish person and they will tell you to get the heck out of Dublin. This is a mistake we made on our very first trip to Ireland. We flew into Dublin and stayed there the whole time, with the exception of taking small day trips to the nearby towns of Howth and Bray [highly recommend!]
If you only have one day in Ireland, then sure, spend it in Dublin because that makes sense. But if you are planning a trip to Ireland that is longer than just a day or two, you should avoid spending too much time in Dublin. Why? Dublin is a nice city, but it is extremely expensive and hotels and restaurants will break the bank. While there is a lot to see and do, it is really not that interesting when you compare it to the rest of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Spending too much time in Dublin is a common mistake people make when planning a trip to Ireland [we did too!] We highly encourage you to NOT make the same mistake we did and only spend a short time in Dublin before leaving to see the rest of this beautiful country. We recommend 1-3 days at the most, depending on what you want to see and do. If you can swing 1-2 days, that is even better! Check out this guide on How To Spend 2 Days In Dublin
If you do choose to stay in Dublin for your 1-3 days or how many ever, we recommend the below hotels for your visit! Ireland has many fantastic hotel options including the ability to stay in castles, even in Dublin!
Where to Stay In Dublin:
Mistake #2. Trying To Do Too Much In One Trip
Another huge mistake people make when planning a trip to Ireland is trying to pack in too much into one trip. Again, how do we know this? Because we did it too and constantly see others doing the same thing. Ireland may look small on the map, but it is actually quite big when you have to explore the whole thing. There is also so much to see and do. This is why we have been back to Ireland so many times! We have never been able to see and do all we want in one trip so we have to go back.
When planning a trip to Ireland, we highly recommend NOT burning out. By burning out, we mean trying to do way too much in a short amount of time. We recommend choosing a few things to do and spending longer at those things than choosing a lot of things to do and only getting a few hours at each. Of course, whatever type of trip you want to spend is completely up to you, but slower travel will really let you know more about Ireland and it will be much more enjoyable.
While you are planning your trip to Ireland, we recommend choosing your highlights and then going from there. Choose the places you must see and make those a priority. If they are all spread throughout the country and you have only a short amount of time, you may want to rethink your Ireland itinerary.
Sometimes it is better to do the top half or the bottom half of the country if you only have a short time, say, 5 days. If your main reason to visit Ireland is to see some fantastic scenery, then make that your priority and don’t try and fit in shopping and pubs and cultural stops all in a few days. This will make you feel burnt out and at the end of the day, you really won’t enjoy the nature that you traveled all the way to Ireland to see!
Mistake #3: Being Too Scared To Drive In Ireland
We are from the United States so we drive on the “right” side of the road. As you may know, in Ireland they drive on the “left” side of the road which scares many people away from renting a car. This is a HUGE MISTAKE when planning your trip to Ireland because renting a car will provide you with so much freedom. If a tour is more your style then that is totally fine and there are some great tours in Ireland that will take you out of Dublin with ease if you are only in Ireland for a few days. You can see our favorite Day Tours From Dublin here!
We suggest checking out AutoEurope.com to find the best and most affordable rate when renting a car in Ireland. This is what we personally use and it allows you to compare rates across a variety of popular car rental websites including Hertz, Sixt, Europcar, Alamo, Dollar, Enterprise and more. This way, you can see a bunch of different prices for your Ireland car hire without skipping around through a bunch of different websites. Make sure to check out the larger cities such as Dublin, Belfast, and Cork for the best deals on car rentals in Ireland!
We are talking to those of you who are planning a trip to Ireland and WANT to drive but are AFRAID to. We have driven on the “wrong” side of the road multiple times in Ireland and now we feel like professionals at it. We want to really and truly tell you that it is is NOT as bad as you think and skipping renting a car in Ireland is a mistake! If you rent a car from the airport, you will immediately be on motorway [aka insterstate] and that is the EASIEST place to learn how to drive on the opposite side of the road. Unlike driving in your home country where everything is memorized and you drive like a machine and don’t think about it, you DO have to “think” about driving in Ireland because it is so different from the norm.
We actually think this makes you into a safer driver because you have to put some thought into what you are doing. Our best advice is to drive SLOWLY and CAREFULLY but with confidence. If you turn on your GPS and plug in the location you are heading to, the GPS will put a “path” on your smartphone and you can easily see which way you are going to turn and how. This makes it a little easier for you to visualize when driving.
Driving in Ireland opens the doors to so many more things to see and do. You can drive out to sunset at the Cliffs Of Moher and then down to dinner at a pub. You can drive up to a castle ruins in the distance and spend as long as you want there. You can take a car ferry to a small Irish island for Ice cream. All of these intimate and memorable experiences can be done when you rent a car in Ireland and have a little bit of confidence when driving yourself.
If you have never driven on the “wrong” side of the road, make sure to rent an automatic transmission car. Manual vehicles will be so much cheaper, but it will be very difficult to learn how to drive a stick shift car ” backward. An automatic transmission is driven the same way on the left side of the road as it is on the right side of the road and the pedals are in the same order. With a stick shift, you will have to gear shift with your left hand instead of your right and the narrow roads of Ireland aren’t exactly where we recommend doing things.
Mistake #4: Spending Too Much Money On An International Cell Service Plan
Luckily, with Sprint and T-Mobile, we get free international data and text messages so we don’t have to pay for a pricey international plan like others who have AT&T or Verizon. If you have a phone carrier with an expensive international plan, DO NOT GET IT! You don’t need it. Spending too much money on a pricey international cell phone plan is one of the biggest mistakes people make when planning a trip to Ireland. We were spared from making this mistake because our plans had it included, but know so many people who don’t know this simple trick we are about to share.
When planning a trip to Ireland, you are going to want to get a SIM CARD for “3” NETWORK. The SIM card was for UNLIMITED smartphone data in Ireland and we paid around 30 Euros for an entire month of data. Now, our first time using an international SIM card was in Ireland so we were skeptical at the coverage. And we are here to tell you that the coverage was BETTER than we get in our own home in the USA. The 4G speeds were so fast and allowed us to use all of our apps and social media just like a local Irish person would. All for the price of 30 euros for an entire month. We were shocked. We were impressed. We think it will be a huge mistake if you buy an expensive international plan instead of getting a 3 SIM card when planning a trip to Ireland.
Where do you buy a 3 SIM card? You can buy it at a 3 store in Dublin or anywhere around the country. Simply tell them you want the unlimited plan and pop it in your phone. It is so easy anyone can do it. WORD FROM THE WISE: Make sure that your smartphone is “unlocked” for International SIM card usage. This involves calling or tweeting your cell carrier to ensure that it is unlocked for SIM additions. Simply tell them you are traveling abroad and want to get an international SIM and that you need your phone unlocked. This is one of the easiest tips we have for you when planning a trip to Ireland because it makes getting around so much easier.
Mistake #5: Completely Writing Off Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is part of the UK but is located on the island of Ireland. The “Republic of Ireland” is the place that most people travel, but Northern Ireland is so worth the trip. Many people make the mistake of never considering visiting Northern Ireland for one reason or the other. Maybe they think Northern Ireland is dangerous, as Belfast once was. Maybe they think there isn’t much to do. Or maybe they just aren’t all that familiar with Northern Ireland to even put it on the map when planning a trip to Ireland.
We are here to tell you that Northern Ireland has so much to see and do. It is easy to visit and Belfast is just 2 hours from Dublin. The country is 100% SAFE to visit and the natural scenery is unparalleled. In Northern Ireland, there are castles that tower over the ocean and look fake, even when you are standing in front of them, there are sea cliffs and enchanting forests and rolling hills and bustling cities and towns. Maybe you have heard of a little show called “Game Of Thrones.” Game Of Thrones was actually filmed in Northern Ireland and you can visit all of the places where filming took place. We even put together this Game Of Thrones Ireland Itinerary to show you the best of the filming spots and activities.
You can easily drive, take the train, take a bus, or fly into Northern Ireland. Visiting Northern Ireland is a fun way to technically visit two countries on one trip [UK and Ireland] and as soon as you cross the border you will see the British flag fly and the dialect change. We think a huge mistake people make when planning a trip to Ireland is writing off Northern Ireland from the itinerary and we just wanted to shed a little awareness so you can make an informed decision!
Mistake #6: Prioritizing The Ring Of Kerry
We had heard so much about the famed Ring Of Kerry drive in Ireland. After four trips to Ireland, we FINALLY decided to drive the Ring Of Kerry drive and we are here to tell you that it was a total waste of time. It was also moms first time to Ireland and she was on the floor of the car super sick from the narrow roads and unimpressed from the scenery. We had been to pretty much everywhere else in Ireland before we made it to the Ring Of Kerry so we had high standards and the Ring Of Kerry fell flat.
A huge mistake people make when planning a trip to Ireland is putting too much focus on driving the Ring Of Kerry. You heard it here first! Skip the Ring Of Kerry. It doesn’t offer the best scenery in Ireland or even in the area. It is overly crowded with massive tour buses who try and make their way down incredibly narrow roads at incredibly fast speeds. And you even have to PAY to see attractions such as the Kerry Cliffs. It was just….unimpressive and we think you should skip it.
So if you skip the Ring Of Kerry what should you do instead? If you are in southern Ireland [near the Ring of Kerry area] we HIGHLY recommend the Dingle Peninsula. We cannot suggest visiting Dingle enough. It is everything the Ring Of Kerry should be and more. Epic views, Star Wars filming locations, little cottages, cute small towns, and not many massive tour coaches. A friend recommended Dingle to us and we only budgeted one night on the peninsula which was a HUGE MISTAKE! Skip the Ring Of Kerry and spend that time on Dingle instead. You can check out this list of 10 Things To Do In Dingle Ireland too!
If you aren’t going to Southern Ireland, DO NOT WORRY there are so many other scenic drives other than Ring Of Kerry and Dingle. The “Causeway Coast” drive in Northern Ireland is stunning and way easier to drive than Ring Of Kerry. If you are in the far north of Ireland in Donegal, pretty much every road is fantastic. Pretty much anywhere along the Wild Atlantic Way is scenic and beautiful and was less crowded than Ring Of Kerry. Do your research and do whatever you want anyway, but we want you to go into planning a trip to Ireland with full knowledge that there are way prettier things to see in Ireland than the Ring Of Kerry.
Where To Stay On The Dingle Peninsula:
Mistake #7: Only Traveling To Ireland In The Summer
Most people think that they can only plan a trip to Ireland during the summer. Why? Because that is when it will be the greenest with the best weather. We are here to tell you that this isn’t exactly true. You can plan a trip to Ireland any time of year and we highly recommend visiting during the off-season. When we visited during the summer or warmer months, the entire island was crowded as locals were off work for bank holidays and the heat made hotels without air conditioning unbearable.
We recommend checking out Skyscanner to find the best and most affordable time of year to visit Ireland. We use this tool to discover the best flights for our trip because you can easily compare rates. We also suggest booking your Ireland itinerary on a travel credit card so you can earn points towards future travel! These are the travel credit cards we personally use!
When we visited Ireland in the spring or fall, we had a fantastic time every single time we visited. The weather was cool and pleasant, the tourist season was low, prices were cheaper, and we didn’t need AC in a hotel. We were also SHOCKED to discover that Ireland is pretty much green 24/7 due to high rainfalls so if you want to see Ireland green, you can visit any time of year. We visited Ireland once in October and fall in Ireland was just stunning. The weather was beyond fantastic and there were hardly any other visitors. On the other hand, when we visited in June, we were fighting with tourists for a parking spot and everything was overcrowded.
If summer is the only time you have to plan a trip to Ireland then please, feel free! But we just want to let you know that summer isn’t the ONLY time you have to plan your trip. Ireland is essentially a year-round destination and we have had great experiences visiting when the air is cooler and more pleasant outside.
We hope this post helped you figure out a few mistakes to avoid when planning a trip to Ireland. Ireland is the first country we visited abroad and remains one of our favorite countries without fail. We can’t wait for you to experience it and we hope that these tips help you when planning your Ireland itinerary. They aren’t meant to scare you, but to make you “think” about a few alternative mindsets!
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