Trip Coach: September 13, 2005
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher answers your questions on Ireland
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Hi, I'm Suzanne Rowan Kelleher. Thanks for joining me for this chat about Ireland. I'm taking questions now.
Deer Park, NY: Hi Suzanne,
We have 7 children and as you can imagine have a very low budget for traveling. We usually take weekend trips in the northeast, but I absolutely have to get my wife to Ireland somehow. Where do I start to find a nice pkg that is affordable?
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Seven kids! You're going to have such a blast in Ireland. Tom, the problem with packages is that they tend to be priced on a per-person rate. Which, in your case, will add up very quickly to a hefty sum. You can put together your own scenario that will keep your costs lower than what a package can offer. Here are some tips for keeping costs down:
Aer Lingus's web site (aerlingus.com) offers better airfares than what you'll find elsewhere-even better than Travelocity, Expedia, and the other "best price" sites. Click "Fares Through Spring 2006" and you'll be able to see Aer Lingus's fare schedule through April 2006. Be aware that the fares listed are for one-way travel, but they are still much cheaper than what you'll find elsewhere. The site lets you see a calendar with upfront prices for every date, so you can choose the cheapest combination for outbound and return.
Hotels and B&Bs in Ireland also tend to charge by the person. So, to save money on both lodging and food, I would strongly recommend that you rent a cottage or house for your entire visit. Not only will you get more space for your money, but you have more control of which meals you'll eat out. Ireland is small enough that you could comfortably see a large section of the country by making short day trips from your base. I would recommend flying into Shannon and finding a cottage within a 2-hour drive. Check out the Clare coast (Personally, I love the Loop Head Peninsula) and Connemara, outside of Galway City. Both areas put you within easy striking distance of a lot of wonderful places to see and things to do.
There are many advantages for families having a home base. You don't have to pack and move every day, and you have more privacy and autonomy than either hotels, hostels or B&Bs can offer. Kitchens are usually stocked with the basic utensils and bedding is provided. Laundry machines are often provided, as are dishwashers and televisions. There are generally three price periods: April, May, June, and September (midrange prices); July and August (peak prices); and October through March (lowest price). Weekly rates can range from about [eu]200 to [eu]1,200 ($250--$1,500) in the peak season for a two- or three-bedroom cottage. Rates drop sharply in low season.
Many organizations offer rentals (called "self-catering" in Ireland). Check out Family Homes of Ireland (family-homes.ie)-be sure to click the "self-catering" rubric. Also, try Irish Cottage Holiday Homes (www.ichh and Rent an Irish Cottage plc. (www.renttage.ie). And for something really special, look into The Irish Landmark Trust (www.irisdmark.com), a non-profit preservation group that rescues historic but neglected properties all over the island and restores them into fabulous hideaways, complete with period furnishings. The properties range from lighthouse keepers' houses to old farmhouses to the gatekeepers' lodges on old estates. I have stayed at a half-dozen of their properties with my own family, and I can testify that each is simply wonderful.
A big part of your budget should be allotted to your rental car, which will be pricey since you'll certainly need a minivan at the very least. Gas prices in Ireland are more than twice what they are here-hard to believe, but true. It's another reason to rent a cottage within a few hours' drive of the airport. Shop around for a good rate, and definitely do not stick to the international rental companies like Avis and Hertz. Check out a local favorite, Dan Dooley (dan-dooley.ie), which often offers lower rates than those big guys.
Hope this helps, and have a great trip!
Brunswick, Maine: What are the rainy, cold months to avoid?
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher: Typically, October to April are the rainiest. I've always liked traveling in May and September. They tend to be dry months (relatively speaking, of course) and airfares aren't as expensive as in the summer.
Sharpsburg, MD: We have traveled to Ireland several times doing a self-drive intinerary. Our platinum MasterCard always covered our car insurance we needed to rent a car, but I have heard that credit card insurance coverage is no longer accepted for renting cars in Ireland? Any truth to this?