App: We are always our own tour guides. Get the Discover Ireland App, which has tons of helpful tips, lots of recommendations and a calendar for what's happening.
Flying: Dublin is the largest airport in Ireland. However, about 2 hours southwest of Dublin is Shannon Airport. Flying in and out of Shannon is remarkably less expensive than Dublin. Carriers like Ryan Air, Air Lingus, and even Delta fly into both Shannon and Dublin Airport. If you want to skip the hustle and bustle of Dublin, Shannon is the perfect and less expensive alternative.
Transportation: Yes, in Ireland they drive left. This can be intimidating for tourists (my family included). However, we did find there was much less traffic in Ireland than we'd anticipated. So driving around wasn't as big a struggle as we'd thought it would be. We rented a car via Hertz using our American Express Card. Why American Express? Before departing for Ireland, we contacted AmEx customer service, realizing that their rental car coverage extended into Ireland. We had a letter issued and presented that letter to the Hertz counter. Had we not had the additional insurance coverage, we would have had 2 options: 1) buy the additional coverage from Hertz or 2) give them a deposit for the vehicle of €5000. USAA offers a similar letter as well if you have insurance and/or a credit card with them. Since we are both capable of driving manual, that kept the rental less expensive. However, it took 48 hours to get comfortable with the stick-shift being on the left rather than the right. You can rent an automatic transmission vehicle, but the costs are significantly higher.
Pack your breakfast/lunch: Tesco, one of Ireland's many grocery stores, offer premade sandwiches and a deli counter at the larger locations. We purchased baked goods for breakfast there and had sandwiches made and wrapped to cut food bills by 80%. Corner delis and mom and pop grocery stores offer the same, this is a great way to limit costs while traveling.
Stay: The Westbrook House. On days we opted for the breakfast, which was fantastic, the staff were willing to accommodate our wacky times (up at 7am some days). They also treated our daughter to a Gaelic lesson. It's about 5 minutes drive from the center of Ennis, walkable too. We purchased food and placed in the fridge for quick breakfasts/lunches as we went, saving a lot of money.
Eat: The Cloister was the best meal we had in Ennis, but by far a splurge at €35/adult. Just around the corner is the Sherwood Inn, a large restaurant geared towards events. The food at the Sherwood was quite good, the prices were fantastic at €15/adult.
Dingle and Kerry
Stay: The Dingle Skelling is a charming hotel located in Dingle. The onsite restaurant did not disappoint and the views were stunning. The hotel is geared towards families, so there's lots for kids to do including the Fungi Kids Club. For the more adventurous, friends of our stayed on the Dingle Peninsula in Cabins, just 100 meters from the sea at Camping Cabins Ireland. For a romantic stay on the Ring of Kerry, stay at the Gurtenard House, prices run €65-90/night. They offer onsite breakfast, accommodating for dietary needs. The rooms are furnished in antiques, taking travelers a step back in time.
Eat: Having prepared breakfasts (a few splurge Irish breakfasts along the way too), we opted for a high end meal in Dingle. Out of the Blue was one of the best meals we had in Ireland. A chef friend of ours recommended Out of the Blue, it did not disappoint. They accommodated for our preschooler, preparing a simple pasta dish that she gobbled up. Other recommended area restaurants: Deirdras Cafe for a quick lunch/early dinner (the soup is divine there) or the Reed Dingle Fish for fish and chips. During our day trip to the Ring of Kerry, we stopped here
Stay: We enjoyed our stay at the centrally located Harding Hotel, it was inexpensive and central to what we wanted to see. The only issue we had was parking. Call ahead and ask them where accessible parking is located. We ended up parking on the street, moving the car every few hours. On day 2, we parked in a suburb and took the bus back into Dublin.
Eat: The Woolen Mills is a charming restaurant located in the heart of Dublin, this place is kid friendly and has a huge menu. We were impressed with the quality for the price. Yet another family friendly restaurant located in Temple bar is the Elephant and Castle, coined as American style Irish food. Again, food was reasonable at €9-18/adult.
- Shelby Van Voris