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7 Tips to Help You Plan Your Best-Ever Trip to Ireland

Irish Flag, Chris and Melissa

Are you planning your first trip to Ireland? Chris and I spent three full months on the Emerald Isle. In this post, we’ve put together a list of seven tips to make your trip to Ireland even more amazing than we’re sure it will be. There are, after all, so many ways to have a delightful time there, no matter what your interests are. 

Our 7 Tips to help you plan your best-ever trip to ireland!

1. Rent a car

Consider renting a car, so you can get wherever you want with (relative) ease. Be prepared to drive on the left and for some tight squeezes on the road. Watch the little video below to see what I mean:

Oh, and just so you know, we didn’t find one straight road in the Irish countryside – they all have their twists and turns. 

We rented a 2021 RAV4 from Tadg Riordan Tallaght in Dublin for the full three months of our stay. The car was grand and it was the most reasonable option we could find at the time, though I’m sure it wasn’t the cheapest. After all, it was an automatic with loads of safety features. My favorite feature was the lane departure warning that beeped at Chris whenever he drove over the line. It kept me from having to cover my eyes too often.

We were delighted by the service provided by Keive Murphy at Tadg Riordan Tallaght. They do offer rentals for as short of a time as a single day. No, they are not sponsoring or paying us to say anything nice. 

2. Make your dining reservations well ahead of time!

Some of Ireland’s best restaurants are small and book up fast. When we lived there, it could take a couple of weeks to get a reservation at a place we wanted to check out. Depending on which season you’re visiting Ireland in, you may want to follow the same advice when it comes to booking hotels, just in case.   

3. Choose the right season for you to travel to Ireland in.

What’s more important to you, gorgeous weather or fewer crowds? We arrived in Kinsale in early August and stayed until near the end of October. It could be quite busy any day of the week from August straight through to mid-October. During our entire stay, we only felt raindrops on a handful of days. 

If you want great weather and to be enjoying tourist attractions without the press of too many people, you can have them both much of the time by being an early riser. When we went to Blarney Castle on a Sunday during high season, we arrived fifteen minutes before they opened and didn’t have to deal with crowds. Also, when you arrive at a tourist attraction, don’t waste time getting to the spot you know most tourists are there for. Do that and then enjoy the rest of your time there at a leisurely pace. 

When we went to Cliffs of Moher (pictured above), we arrived a couple of hours after they opened. The weather was gorgeous and the views stunning. O’Brien’s Castle, one of their big attractions, already had a line. We still bee-lined for that spot first and we’re glad we did. The line for the castle grew during our time there and the paths became quite busy as well. 

4. Traveling from the U.S.? Stopover in Iceland on Your Way to or from Ireland

If you’re traveling from the United States, make your trip even more fun by doing a multiple-day stopover in Iceland on your way to Ireland. When you book with Icelandair, you can do the stopover at no extra cost for your flights. We did it and spent a few of the most magical days of our lives there. Click here to get a feel for what it’s like and see if you should add a stopover to your trip to Ireland. 

5. Book Guide-Led Tours at Historical Sites!

Melissa Listening to Padraig, our tour guide at Charles Fort in Kinsale, Ireland
Melissa listening to Padraig, our tour guide at Charles Fort in Kinsale, Ireland

If you’re a history lover or someone who loves to hear great stories while walking around a centuries-old castle, fort, or gaol (jail), book guide-led tours. Sometimes the guide-led tour cost a bit extra, but it was never that much and we found it to be worth it every time! Ireland is full of great storytellers and the tour guides at the historic sites we visited were top-notch storytellers. Our most memorable guides were at Charles Fort, Kilkenny Castle, Rock of Cashel, and Kilmainham Gaol

6. Pack layers, a good raincoat, and an umbrella!

Chris and Melissa Dressed for Ireland's Weather on August 22nd
We took this photo on August 22nd in Kinsale, Ireland.To be fair, it was morning.

Pack layers, a good raincoat, and an umbrella. While we were spoiled with sunshine during our three-month stay in Ireland, it is not uncommon to have all four seasons in a day. Harsh winds and pounding rains drench the unprepared. A rain jacket with a good hood can be easier to manage than an umbrella on some of the small cobblestone sidewalks, but when the wind makes the rain go sideways, you might want that umbrella! 

Speaking of rain, those charming cobblestoned streets that we adore get quite puddly when it rains, so you’ll want to bring leather, or water resistant, or waterproof shoes of some sort. I made the mistake of wearing tennis shoes on a rainy day in Dublin. Wet and cold feet do put a damper on an otherwise delightful day. 

We rarely experienced a truly hot day (above 75 degrees Fahrenheit). In August we wore a mix of short sleeves, long sleeves, and light jackets. 

7. Put a Tidy Town on your itinerary!

Several towns have won the Tidy Town award over the years. There’s something so comforting about wandering the cobblestoned streets of a town that takes pride in its appearance, where graffiti is not allowed to become de riguer. We visited three of them during our stay: Kinsale, Killarney, and Kilkenny

If you’re planning a trip to Ireland right now, we are so over the moon happy for you. It’s so charming, green, and full of wonderful places to explore. Click here to see our list of 17 Fantastic Things To Do in Ireland. You can also check out our full Ireland Travel Inspiration playlist

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