Tips for saving money on your trip to Ireland

Ireland can be the trip of a lifetime without costing you your life's savings.

Ireland can be the trip of a lifetime without costing you your life’s savings.

Hoping to travel to Ireland this fall, but dismayed by the cost? There are ways to save money that will actually make your trip more pleasant.

First, stay in a B&B or Guest House, rather than a hotel. AirBnB is a great resource for both international and domestic travel. A whole apartment in Kinsale, with a view of the harbor can cost as little as $85 on AirBnB, whereas hotel prices can easily go for two or three times that much. On top of that, you have the ability to cook for yourself — you’ll save a lot by not eating out for every meal.What do you think?

Do keep in mind, however, that there are scammers out there. If you use a service such as AirBnB, be sure to contact the actual owner to conform the reservation.

If AirBnB isn’t for you, try staying in an old school bed and breakfast. Rick Steve’s tip is that a B&B offers double the warmth and half the cost of a hotel, plus all the local knowledge you could possibly ask for (and breakfast!).What do you think?

And, if you’re down for it, a hostel can be the most inexpensive option of all. There’s always the dorm-style lodging if you’re really cutting costs, but they’re not the only possibility. With the demand for cheaper travel options past just the backpacking hoards, hostels are becoming a bit more swanky and are adding more private rooms.

When you fly to Ireland, don’t travel on peak days. According to FareCompare CEO Rick Seaney in an article from USA Today, this means traveling on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Since most business flying happens at the beginning and end of the work week and most vacationers like to travel Friday through Sunday, airlines drop prices to try to fill seats on “off” days.

Also, don’t book too early or too late; it can actually play against you when it comes to airfare. Quartz suggests buying tickets about 60 days out for international travel to avoid paying too much for your flight.

Picnics save money. Ten dollars buy a fine picnic lunch for two anywhere in Ireland. Stock your room with drinks and munchies upon arrival. You can pass train rides enjoyably over a picnic meal. Many grocery stores have elegant deli sections.

Speaking of train rides, be sure to travel like a local. If the residents take the train or bus, why are you going through the expense and hassle of renting a car? In cities such as Dublin or Galway, you can often walk to most locations, and sometimes a taxi is cheaper than the bus. If you’re going out into the countryside, a car makes sense; not so much in the city.

Don’t rely on your credit card. Many locations won’t accept them. Ireland, for example, has a system of cards with chips embedded to help protect against fraud and can’t take an American card without them. (NOTE: More and more American banks are now switching to the Chip and Pin system as well.) Rick Steves also notes that many of the places that offer better bargains, like craft shops and independent bed and breakfasts, may not accept plastic. Use ATMs rather than travelers checks. You’ll get your cash cheaper and faster. While ATMs give the best possible rates, they do come with transaction fees. Check with your bank on fees and exchange rates before you go. Minimize the fees by making fewer and larger withdrawals. Take out enough for 4 or 5 days. Keep out enough for the day ahead and store the extra cash safely in your money belt.

Now is an excellent time to travel to Ireland because the off-season starts in October, and it’s a great time to look at booking your trip for the spring shoulder season of April and early May, before the main tourist season gets started and prices go up.

Tips for safe travel

The sightseeing bus can be one of the best ways to explore a new city.

The sightseeing bus can be one of the best ways to explore a new city.

Travel is up and prices are down, according to the latest travel industry statistics. Adults 50 and over are some of the nation’s most frequent travelers and some of their happiest memories are those spent traveling with family. As you plan your next trip to Ireland, it’s important to take steps to avoid being victimized. By taking time to prepare before leaving, you can significantly diminish your risk and focus on enjoying your hard-earned trip.

Consider the following tips to protect yourself while you’re away from home:

Safeguard your belongings. Before you leave, make copies of your travel documents or scan them and email them to yourself – that way your documents won’t go missing even if your bags do. Also, keep at least one source of money, such as a credit card, in a place other than your wallet or purse. Keep your passport and most of your cash in a money belt, and have just enough money in your wallet for the day’s expenses.

Prepare your home before you leave. Unplug all major electronics and turn off the main water supply. Also, have a friend keep an eye on your home, if possible. A security system can also add peace of mind. Modern security companies offer a variety of 24/7 monitoring packages that include smoke, fire and carbon monoxide detection. They also offer home automation solutions that allow travelers to adjust their home’s lighting remotely and receive security alerts on their mobile devices.

Protect your identity. A recent survey on identity theft revealed that 30 percent of travelers have experienced identity theft while traveling or know someone who has. Leave unnecessary items, such as Social Security cards or unneeded credit cards, at home. If you have your passport, you don’t need other forms of ID such as a state-issued driver’s license. Leave the bulky wallet at home. How likely are you to need your local discount cards in Ireland. Public wi-fi can be risky, so never enter secure information on a computer in a cyber cafe or businesses that offer wi-fi. Generally, make purchases with a credit card instead of a debit card; credit cards often offer better fraud protection. And use passwords for access to your smartphone or tablet. A variety of identity protection services are available to assist with proactive identity and credit monitoring. Check out Lifelock or Trusted ID for information.

Prepare for emergencies. You spent months planning and saving for your Ireland trip, but it can be ruined in a split second. If you’re traveling abroad and get sick or injured, hospital costs could be extreme – even for relatively minor injuries. Check with your health insurance provider to see if you’re covered while out of the country. If not, check with your travel agent. Travel insurance plans can include valuable medical coverage, trip interruption to protect your investment and more. Always a recommended precaution.

Enjoy that trip, and the peace of mind that come with being prepared.

Eight things to remember for your trip to Ireland

OK, so you have your plane reservations, and your mail stopped. What else do you need to take care of before the big day arrives? Here are eight suggestions that will enhance your peace of mind.

Cell Phone

Cell Phone Wikipedia.org

Cell Phone

Contact your phone company and check on their policies for international calls. If your phone company’s plan is too expensive, you might consider buying a phone with prepaid minutes, or purchasing prepaid calling cards.

Credit Cards

Credit Cards Wikipedia.org

Credit Cards

Contact your credit card company and let them know where you’re traveling and when. That information will alert the card company that your overseas charges are not fraudulent. You should also check out their rates for purchases made outside the US and/or cash advances. Generally, it’s better to use an ATM card to withdraw enough cash for a few days at a time.

Itinerary

Itinerary Wikipedia.org

Itinerary

Make two photocopies of your key travel documents. Those include your passport, itinerary, hotel and airline confirmations, driver’s license and credit cards (front and back). Leave one copy in the US with a friend or family member, and take the second copy with you. If these critical records are lost or stolen, the photocopies can help you replace the documents.

Medications

Medications Wikipedia.org

Medications

If you take medications, bring a physician’s note with you. If you run out or lose your medicine, the doctor’s note (along with your insurance card) can facilitate getting the medicine refilled. Carry your medication in the original container you receive from the pharmacy or drug store.

Emergency cash access

Emergency cash access Wikipedia.org

Emergency cash access

Emergency plan for cash access: Have a plan in place so that money can be sent to you if your cash, credit cards or travelers checks are stolen. A popular method is to send money through a money transfer firm, which allows a friend or family member to electronically send funds to a foreign country. You can receive cash, get a bank deposit, or have the payment posted to a credit card. You’ll find that the currency exchange rates are reasonable, and that the fees for these transactions are low.

Travel Warnings

Travel Warnings Wikipedia.org

Travel Warnings

The State Department provides important warnings and alerts, based on reports from embassies and consulates throughout the world. A warning means that the local consulate would have difficulty helping a US citizen in distress in a foreign land. A travel alert can involve a demonstration or a severe storm in a particular country.

Passport

Passport Wikipedia.org

Passport

It makes customs officials more comfortable if your passport remains valid for several months past the time you visit. If your passport is near expiration, get the passport renewed. The US State Department website explains that it may take 4-6 weeks to process a passport. Keep in mind that a passport is required to return to the US if you travel by air.

Health Insurance

Health Insurance Wikipedia.org

Health Insurance

Check with your insurance company to see if overseas medical treatment will be covered by your insurance policy. Typically, your policy will require that you meet a deductible before coverage is paid for under the plan. A deductible requires you to pay out of pocket for medical expenses, up to a certain dollar amount. Make sure that medical expenses paid overseas are included in your deductible total for the year. If you find gaps in your coverage, discuss them with your insurance agent or ask your travel agent for supplemental insurance.

Examiner.com shut down

No more Examiner.com for me. :-(

No more Examiner.com for me. :-(

I have just learned that Examiner.com has been shut down. I have been a contributor on that media outlet since 2009, providing a lot of information related to travel from Denver to Ireland, which is my specialty as a travel agent. Since I will no longer be able to post on that venue, please check here for news and information on travel to Ireland and related issues. I will endeavor to keep this blog up -to-date and useful to those who have depended on me for travel-related information.

Please subscribe using the Register/Login link in the upper right hand corner to be notified when a new article is posted. Thanks as always for your support.

Free Online Course about the 1916 Easter Rising!

Learn More about the 1916 Easter Rising

Image

How much do you know about one of the most pivotal events in recent Irish history? Its repercussions ripple throughout Irish society even today, and affect Irish Americans as well. Keep reading to find out how you can learn more.

The Easter Rising

ImageI am really excited about this, and I hope you will be too. I have created some online videos to give people a better understanding of the background and events of The Rising. Do you know why the Irish flag is orange, white, and green? Do you know why this attempt to throw off British rule succeeded (partially) when others had failed? Do you know how close the Rising came to failing? I’ll answer all these questions and more, in this free video course.
But wait (as they say on TV), there’s more. I’m also working on a special Commemoration of the Rising. It will be unique, enjoyable, and a Once in a Hundred Years type of opportunity. More on that in the videos.
For now, please click here and enjoy the free videos with more information about the Rising. And keep an eye out for messages when I release future installments of this series.
Click here to see the videos.

Please leave any comments or questions below. Thanks!

Top Ten Mistakes to Avoid when Traveling to Ireland

Just read a list of mistakes not to make on your trip to Ireland. Most of them were stupid, so I thought I’d create my own.

When I was in college, we read a book called The Ugly American. There are reasons why Americans are not universally loved in other countries. My high school Spanish teacher once told us he was glad he could speak Spanish without an American accent so he wouldn’t be associated with the other Americans he encountered in Spain. We Americans have many endearing qualities. We also do stupid obnoxious things when traveling. Forewarned is forearmed, so here are ten things you should never do when traveling, especially to Ireland.

1. Don’t come unprepared.

Check out Rick Steves' guidebooks. Updated every year, just the essentials, and step by step when you need it.

Check out Rick Steves’ guidebooks. Updated every year, just the essentials, and step by step when you need it.

Good guidebooks are essential. Rick Steves offers my favorites.  You can also use those from Fodor, Frommer. Michelin, Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Let’s Go, DK Eyewitness Backroads Ireland, and more. Check them out in your local library and decide which one(s) you like best, then purchase one or two favorites. If your guidebook covers much more than places you plan to visit, tear out the relevant sections and leave the rest at home.

While you’re at it, check some internet forums for up-to-date, often locally sourced information. Many people are intimidated when they do a web search and find out how much information is out there, so limit yourself to a few good sites. I like TripAdvisor, but there are others out there too. Local councils and visitor’s bureaus often have excellent information, so search for those with the local place names you want to visit.

Do your research before you come, check and verify it with as many sources as possible, and carry the information you need as you travel for constant reference. That way, you’ll be ready for anything, expected or not.

2. Travel as a local as much as possible, rather than as a tourist.

The front door is more expensive, less personal, and insulates you from the real Ireland. Go through the back door.

The front door is more expensive, less personal, and insulates you from the real Ireland. Go through the back door.

I call this traveling through the “back door.” Where I grew up, in the hinterlands of eastern Colorado, only strangers knocked or rang at the front door. Friends come through the back door. That’s so true in Ireland. A big tour company will show you great scenery through the window of the coach, as you follow all the other coaches to attractions and shopping areas that give the driver a commission on sales. Get away from those, find the locals, and learn how they live and what they value. Your trip will be so much better. The next suggestion is an excellent way to make this happen.

3. Don’t neglect the pubs.

A real Irish pub is a treasure.

A real Irish pub is a treasure.

The two most important social centers in Ireland are the pub and the church, in that order. While the church is essential to Irish culture, the pub is where it is really experienced. That’s confusing and contradictory to Americans, who often don’t know the difference between a pub and a bar. A pub may HAVE a bar, but it’s far more a place to socialize, meet people (not in the “pick up” sense of many American bars) and truly experience the life of a local. For this reason, I don’t ask which pub someone recommends, I ask which one they go to after work. I have an entire article with more details on this. Checi it out here: http://dorascuil.com/blog/?p=74

4. Don’t travel in the peak season.

Travel "off peak" and experience a more relaxed Ireland.

Travel “off peak” and experience a more relaxed Ireland.

OK, so this one may not be avoidable, depending on when you have your time off. But if you can, visit Ireland during what is called the “shoulder” season. High season in Ireland is the summer, from June through August. Mid-September through October, and April through mid-May are times when far fewer people travel, so you’ll avoid crowds, find the locals less stressed, and even save money on airfares. You can travel the low season (winter) if you want, but the weather is not as friendly and many attractions are closed. Not bad if you spend much of your time in pubs (see above) and stay away from the tourist traps. This can be especially good if you like walking in the rain, but bring a good woolly jumper and a plastic mack. More info here: http://dorascuil.com/blog/?p=160 and here: http://dorascuil.com/blog/?p=80

5. Don’t miss Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is technically a part of Great Britain, but there's still a lot of "Irish" to be experienced there.

Northern Ireland is technically a part of Great Britain, but there’s still a lot of “Irish” to be experienced there.

Americans have heard the stories of The Troubles, and violence in Northern Ireland. But first, those times are largely behind us, and second, the violence was only between those who had grown up with the enmity between them; they never mess with tourists. Seriously, there was once a time when bombs went off and people were gunned down, but such things are a seriously rare occurrence these days, and they only target known enemies, never tourists. There’s no such thing as 100%, but I’ve never heard of Americans or other tourists being involved in such incidents these days.

On the other hand, Northern Ireland has some of the most outstanding scenery anywhere in the world, you can visit such places as the shipyards where the Titanic was built, and the pubs are as friendly as any you’ll find in the Republic, as long as you don’t try to talk politics. The Irish in the North are proud of their British heritage (well, most of them), but they’re still Irish to the core, and proud of that as well. And as an American, you can travel both sides of the controversy, from the walls of Derry, to the Shankhill road and bogside, to the Orange lodge and Church of Ireland facilities. Travel is a way to open your eyes to realities you’ve never known or experienced at home and the North of Ireland is an outstanding place for that. Ask questions and keep your mouth shut, you’ll learn more. Plus, you’ve never experienced the glory of a real Irish breakfast or full English breakfast until you’ve had an Ulster Fry.

6. Don’t miss out on the music.

Find a good local session and experience what Irish music is really all about.

Find a good local session and experience what Irish music is really all about.

Irish traditional music (or TRAD, as aficionados call it) reaches the soul more thoroughly and effectively than almost any other type of music, whether you’re Irish or not. I have played, sung, listened to, and experienced TRAD music in many different venues, and I never cease to marvel at the emotional impact it has on those who experience it. I have played and sung with Germans, Scandanavians, Europeans, Americans, and those of many different backgrounds; all of whom have chosen this style of music because of the way it attracts. It’s astounding.

As you follow this advice, and I really hope you do, read points 2 and 3 again. There are many places where they play only for the tourists. They can be interesting, but the real music of the people happens mostly in pubs and homes. Find a small local pub, not just a tourist trap like Temple Bar in Dublin. (Though Trinity College students actually lead an interesting TRAD music pub crawl out of the Oliver St. John Gogarty Pub. It’s a good compromise if you have limited time.)

For the real experience, find small town or out of the way pubs, where the locals gather just to enjoy the music and each other’s company. For instance, instead of the Temple Bar when you’re in Dublin, visit nearby Howth. Check out Doolin and Ennis, rather than the more touristy Galway. As with the pubs, ask locals where they gather, where they like the music, rather than where they recommend to tourists.

7. Don’t limit yourself to the bigger towns.

A small town can show you the real Irish spirit in a way that's harder to find in the city.

A small town can show you the real Irish spirit in a way that’s harder to find in the city.

As above, remember that bigger places, such as Dublin, see a lot more tourists, so they become jaded and offer what they think you might like, more than something you really should experience. Find time to get out into the country side, the small communities that are the heart of Ireland. Stay in a local B&B (instead of a hotel) and ask the landlady some probing questions about her favorite ways to spend some quality time. I know of a couple who own a B&B in Dingle who also do archaeological tours of the peninsula. That kind of discovery can make an already enjoyable trip into the experience of a lifetime.

In the UK and Ireland, every neighborhood in the big cities has its own local pub, where neighbors and friends gather regularly. That’s even more true of smaller towns, where the controversies of the day may be forgotten for the moment over a few pints. That’s when you start to experience the music and the stories that make the Irish people famous.

8. Learn about the history of the country.

The history of Ireland stretches back ten thousand years and more. Learn about it and you'll have a much more enjoyable trip.

The history of Ireland stretches back ten thousand years and more. Learn about it and you’ll have a much more enjoyable trip.

The Irish are said to have a long memory. The famine of 1845 is a recent event. This past April we commemorated the anniversary of Brian Boru rising to become High King of Ireland in 1014 AD. I mentioned archaeological tours above. There are passage tombs a Bru Na Boinne that are older than the oldest pyramids of Egypt. The story of Ireland goes back ten thousand years or more. Don’t miss that when you go.

When we took the loop road around the Dingle penninsula, we saw clochan (stone huts) that are still tight against the rain hundreds of years after they were built, and the Gallarus Oratory, built along similar lines and just as solid as it ever has been. We saw standing stones so old that nobody knows why they were set up, and pillar incised with Ogham, one of the oldest forms of writing known to man.

I have a friend who says that every stone next to every road and field in Ireland has a story. You’ll find that the locals know those stories and will be glad to tell them to you, especially if you buy them a pint. Speaking of which, don’t forget that in Ireland, the custom is that you buy a round for you and your friends, and they return the favor, unlike America, where everyone is responsible for his own drink. So if someone buys you a pint, don’t neglect to return the favor.

9. Don’t miss out on local sporting events.

Hurling is an essential part of Irish culture, and actually predates soccer and rugby.

Hurling is an essential part of Irish culture, and actually predates soccer and rugby.

Hurling is the national sport of Ireland, and its cousin GAA football is played in every county and townland you’re likely to visit. You may not be able to find an event in Croke Park, but you’ll certainly see somebody playing one of those sports, or perhaps soccer, rugby or Australian rules football in any local community. I spent some of the most enjoyable hours in Kilronan (the only town in the Aran Islands) with some locals, watching a football (soccer) match between Dublin and Westmeath. It’s a great way to really get to know people.

10. Don’t try out your Irish accent.

Leave the Lucky Charms at home and you won't be an ugly American.

Leave the Lucky Charms at home and you won’t be an ugly American.

There are many other possible mistakes you could make on your trip, but I saved this until last because so many Americans just don’t understand how stupid it sounds when you great them with “Top O’ The Morning” or some other cliché you learned from the Lucky Charms leprechaun. If an Irish man or woman came to America and talked like a cowboy from a 1930’s western movie, you would look on them the same way as the Irish look on an American who comes to Ireland and says, “Sure and begorrah, ’tis a grand country you have here.”

There are many other suggestions I could make to enhance your trip to Ireland, but these are some of the top reasons many Americans don’t have the trip they really dreamed of. I hope this is helpful. Please make other suggestions in the comments.

How to deal with flight delays and cancellations

A trip to Ireland is a special treat for most people, maybe even once in a lifetime. We don’t like to think about the idea of things going wrong, but they can and do. How you deal with that reality can make the difference between saving your holiday or having it ruined.

Bad winter storms seem to get all the attention when it comes to disrupting flight schedules but summer thunderstorms can be just as bad. Bottom line: There are things you can do to help yourself when weather affects your trip, but some of this calls for advance preparation.

Before You Fly

Booking refundable vs. non-refundable tickets: It would seem like a no-brainer to book a refundable ticket, especially since airline change fees have zoomed to as much as $200. However, refundable tickets are much more expensive than non-refundable airfare so most us don’t even consider them. Plus, when bad weather cancels flights, most airline waive change fees in advance. Weigh your own needs carefully before booking.

Be sure airlines have your contact information: When you book a flight, you will normally be asked to provide a phone or email address (or both). Go ahead and provide this information, so the airline can contact you about delays or cancelations before you hear about it on the news.

Day of the Flight

If your flight is delayed: Some delays are temporary in nature; a mechanical problem or a passing thunderstorm. If this is the case, go to the airport anyway because if the delay is shorter than anticipated (the mechanical problem is fixed quickly, or the storm is less severe than first thought), the plane could leave earlier and if you’re not on it, you’re out of luck. If you look out the window and see 10 inches of snow and it’s clear no planes are going anywhere for a while, proceed to the next section.

If your flight is canceled: In this case, you have several options.

Option 1 – Do nothing: If you do nothing, the airline will almost always book you on another flight; however, it may be days later, and if you don’t want that, you must contact your airline.

Option 2 – Rebook your flight: In order to get on the next available flight out, you must act quickly because everyone else will be trying to catch the next plane out, too. The key is getting in contact with the airline and the key to doing that is multi-tasking:

  • Get in line. If you’re at the airport, find a gate/desk agent and get in line.
  • Get on the phone. Call the airline while you wait in line; you may get a quicker response. [Suggestion from a reader: If all lines are busy, try calling the airline’s international number, but use Skype or a similar type program to keep costs down]
  • Get on Twitter. Airlines monitor social media carefully and this could get you the quickest response of all
  • Get online. If you can look up alternate flights you can help speed the process with the airline rep. And consider looking at flights to hubs outside the bad weather zone – even if it’s not your final destination – because you might more easily find a flight with available seats to your city from a storm-free airport.

Option 3 – Cancel your flight: Before canceling, confirm with your airline what if any penalty you’ll have to pay. Most will waive change fees but refunds are unusual; you are more likely to be given a voucher good for travel within the next 12 months.

“Got no fixed abode, with nomads I have wandered”

There’s a really meaningful Irish song, written by Ewan MacColl, which laments the diminishing numbers of The Travelers, who are the Irish equivalent of gypsies. They have an idea where they’re going, but don’t worry too much about the details of how they’re going to get there, or how long they’ll stay.

I was reminded of that song recently, when I saw a quote from Lao Tzu, the famous Chinese philosopher. “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.”

Both of these make a statement about travel that many of us would find unnerving. We usually develop painstaking itineraries, with dates and times and details of where we’re going to stay, and how we’re going to get there. When I do a custom trip to Ireland for someone, I research bus schedules, opening hours, and the like, and I work through the whole trip minute by minute to make sure my clients aren’t stranded or wind up in the wrong place. I often recommend they book attractions ahead of time, to make sure of being able to go. I tell them to bring enough cash to pay the B&B because some of them don’t take credit cards.

And yet, the surprises on a journey are sometimes the most memorable part of the trip. I remember speaking with a member of a group of doctors who had taken a tour of China that wound up in Beijing just as police were cracking down on protesters in Tienanmen Square. He described how the tour operator rounded them up onto a special bus and sneaked them out of town to the airport just ahead of flight cancellations and serious security restrictions. He almost glowed as the told me about these experiences and how he wanted to go back to China as soon as possible. Scared? Yes, but also tantalized and excited.

That kind of travel does appeal to some people, such as the college-ager who backpacks across western Europe. But we don’t have to go to that extreme to find the footloose version of travel, providing we do some advance preparation.

Many B&Bs and guesthouses, especially when it’s not high season, have openings for which you can call just hours in advance to book. And there are associations that keep lists of local accommodations, so you can call two or three if you have to, to find someplace to stay on short notice.

Having a car makes your itinerary much more flexible, but Ireland also has pretty decent public transportation and you can get from place to place fairly easily. Jump on the bus or train, call ahead to find a place to stay, and voila, you’re on your way to a new adventure.

In much of Europe, you can hop a train in the evening and arrive in another country by morning. Transportation and accommodation in one!

Food is another issue, but if you’re not tied to four-star restaurants, your options are pretty open. Stop at a farmers market or a grocer’s and pick up some picnic style eats; fruit, sandwich fixings, bottled drinks, etc., and you can dine almost anywhere. Hit a little cafe or pub when you get the chance and you’re much more in touch with the local scene all around.

One essential item for this kind of travel is a good guidebook. I recommend those published by Rick Steves. They are practical, informative, and updated every year “on the ground” from actual travel experiences. You can also get good information from Frommer’s, Michelin, Fodor’s, Lonely Planet and more. Rick recommends tearing out the sections that cover your destination and leaving the rest behind. A good tip for traveling light.

With this kind of travel, “light” becomes even more important. You don’t want to be schlepping a heavy suitcase when you walk a few blocks from the train station to the guesthouse, or when you’re hopping a bus with limited baggage space.

There’s a comfort factor in a package tour or pre-arranged itinerary that can be very relaxing, but if you long for a more flexible holiday, that’s possible and enjoyable as well.

Plastic still the best way to travel to Ireland

Things are looking up in regard to money on your next trip from Denver to Ireland. The exchange rates have moderated somewhat, so you’re not paying out the nose because of that. And plastic is still your best bet for what you need to spend during your trip.

Most major credit cards, such as Visa and Mastercard, are issued by banks. These banks usually charge around 3% conversion fee for transactions in Ireland. 1% of that is for the international Visa and Mastercard networks, the other 2% is the bank’s cut. That’s far less than the conversion fees you’ll face at a bank in Ireland and the currency exchange kiosks nick you even more. So, for major purchases, use your Visa or Mastercard. Diner’s Club will sometimes work, Discover doesn’t, so for this trip, stick with the biggies.

For everyday expenses, use an ATM. They may be a little hard to find in the really rural areas, so get money first if your itinerary includes such out of the way places. And because there’s usually a fixed transaction fee along with a percentage, take out a fair amount of money each time. You’ll drive up your expenses quite a bit if you take out only twenty at a time. Withdraw several hundred for instance, put forty in your wallet and the rest in a money belt under your shirt to be dispensed as needed. Stick with ATMs at banks whenever possible, the ones in stores or other places are more likely to tack on extra fees.

Check with your B&B ahead of time as well. Some take credit cards, but there are still quite a few who require cash for your stay.

Different banks have different fees, so check with yours before you go. Some have special cards or rates for preferred customers, but shopping around can help in any case. Some banks are reducing or dropping their rates for foreign transactions. Some research now can save you money and hassle on your trip.

In the Footsteps of the Celtic Saints

How about a spiritual pilgrimage to ireland?

Here’s some information about a tour I’ve recently heard about. Contact me for more information.

web of killary harbour connemara

“Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.”
John O’ Donoghue

Pilgrims will visit sacred sites associated with St Patrick, St Brigid, St Ciaran, St Brendan and St James.   We will spend time with Irish Scholars and members of the Irish religious community including Sr Maire Hickey of Kylemore Abbey, Mark Hederman Abbot of Glenstal Abbey and Sr Mary Minehan of Solus Bhride.

DETAILED ITINERARY

DAY 1 : Stone Age passage graves at Newgrange

070105 Newgrange 011Today we travel to Newgrange for a visit to the Stone Age passage graves.  Newgrange was constructed over 5,000 years ago (about 3,200 B.C.), making it older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Newgrange has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. We will see the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick lit a paschal fire as a challenge to the pagan High King of Tara and visit Monasterboice to see Muiredach’s High Cross, the finest high cross in all of Ireland.  Later we will visit Mellifont Abbey, founded in 1142 and the first Cistercian Abbey in Ireland.

Dinner & Overnight, Dublin—Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

Day 2: Dublin – Ireland’s Capital and Fair City

StpatrickscathedralWe will spend a day in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin where we will visit Trinity College and see the magnificent Old Library and the 1200 year old Book of Kells, the beautifully illuminated version of the Gospels, designed by monks in the 9th century.  We continue to the National Museum, housing a rich collection of Irish antiquities from the prehistoric times to the end of the medieval period.   We will visit St. Audoen’s Church the oldest parish church in Dublin still in use.  We will also visit St Michan’s Church, rebuilt in 1686 on the site of an 11th century Hiberno-Viking church.  The dull facade of St. Michan’s hides a more exciting interior.  Deep within its vaults lie a number of bodies that have barely decomposed because of the dry atmosphere created by the church’s magnesian limestone walls. Their wooden caskets, however, have cracked open revealing the preserved bodies, complete with skin and strands of hair.   After our visit we will return to our hotel for dinner.

This evening we will enjoy The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl. You will hear some Irish history, music, and literature.  Led by two actors, the tour will take you to several pubs frequented by some of Ireland’s greatest writers, Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, Yeats, Wilde, and Behan, among others.

Dinner & Overnight Dublin—Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

Day 3: Clonmacnoise and the West of Ireland

Clonmacnoise

This morning we will travel to Galway City on the Atlantic West coast of Ireland.   On our way we will stop at Clonmacnoise, an early Christian site founded by Saint Ciaran in the 6th century.  This site includes the ruins of a cathedral, eight churches (10th-13th century), two round towers, three high crosses and a large collection of early Christian grave slabs.  In the afternoon we will enjoy a guided walking tour of Galway city and we will be free to explore the bustling streets of this Medieval City.

Dinner & Overnight, Galway—Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

Day 4: Connemara & Kylemore Abbey

“Prayer is the very breath of our Benedictine life, from which everything else flows”

Abbey-in-Autumnal-sun

This morning we will travel through beautiful Connemara to Kylemore Abbey the oldest of the Irish Benedictine Abbeys. This community of nuns who have resided here since 1920, has a long history stretching back three hundred and forty years.  We will visit the Abbey and stroll along the lake shore to the ornate Gothic Church and then through the parkland to the Walled Gardens.   A section of the Abbey (the enclosure) is retained strictly for the nuns’ use and is not open to the public:   Here the nuns devote themselves to their monastic life of prayer and work.   We will meet with Sr Maire and spend time with her to gain an insight into the Benedictine way of life.

Dinner & Overnight, Galway— Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

Day 5:  Cliffs of Moher & Corcomroe Abbey

“The Burren, a rocky wilderness in western Ireland, is a region of ancient magic and infinite strangeness”

web cliffs of moherWe will travel through the Burren, in North County Clare.   With its huge pavements of limestone making it the only karst landscape in Western Europe, famous for its plant life with many rare and protected species.    We will visit one of the Burren’s most substantial monuments, the ruined abbey of Corcomroe, near the northern coast.  It was founded by the Cistercians in the 13th century.  The abbey acquired the name of ‘Sancta Maria de Petra Fertili’- ‘St. Mary of the Fertile Rock’ which reflects the fertile nature of the Burren lands, which ensured that here a Cistercian community could, by cultivation, provide itself with the necessary means of support.

Later we will stop at the Cliffs of Moher.  The Cliffs are 214m high at the highest point and range for 8 kilometres over the Atlantic Ocean on the western seaboard of County Clare.

st. brigids well liscannor
We will also visit St Brigids Holy Well, hidden between Lahinch and Liscannor.  This Holy Well is enclosed in a little house full of votive offerings such as holy pictures rosaries, medals and photos of loved ones left by pilgrims.  It is traditional on the four annual Pilgrim Days to perform the rite barefooted, as has been the custom for centuries.  “The barefooted pilgrim of course is in direct contact with the Earth”

We continue our journey to the Southwest of Ireland and arrive at the peaceful village of Dingle, once cited as ‘the most beautiful place on earth’ by the National Geographic.

Dinner & Overnight, Dingle— Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

DAY 6 : Dingle Peninsula

dingle peninsulaToday we will explore the Dingle Peninsula with its beautiful seascapes. We  journey in the footsteps of St Brendan and St James.  We will visit the Gallarus Oratory, Ireland’s best preserved pilgrims church dating from about the 8th century.   We will visit the ruins of Kilmalkedar.   This Early Christian site is spread over a large area of around 10 acres.   The history of this site is associated with St Brendan, but the site is said to have been founded by St Maolcethair in the 6th century.   At the centre of this area is a 12th century Romanesque Church, it consists of a nave and chancel.  Amongst the other features here are, the Alphabet Stone,  A holed Ogham stone, sun dial, two bullaun stones, a large stone cross, St Brendans Oratory and numerous cross slabs.
Dinner and overnight, Dingle— Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

DAY 7 : Killarney, Adare Village, Trinitarian Abbey

copy of gallarus-oratory-ireland-1280x1024This morning we will visit Muckross House before we will depart for Limerick.  Built in 1843, this Victorian mansion house is one of Irelands leading stately homes.  It stands majestically on the lake shore in the National Park, Killarney.  Queen Victoria paid a visit here to the Herbert family in 1861.  The House was later owned, in turn, by Lord Ardilaun (of the Guinness family).  Today, many of the rooms in this magnificent mansion have been restored to their original Victorian splendour.  We will stop in the Ireland’s prettiest village Adare and visit Trinitarian Abbey, which was founded in 1230.

Dinner and overnight, Limerick— Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

Day 8 – Glenstal Abbey & Solus Bhride

copy of glenstal abbeyToday we will visit Glenstal Abbey a Benedictine monastery in County Limerick the Abbey has is the home to a community of about 40 monks.  The community life of prayer is combined with running a boarding school for boys, a farm, a guesthouse and various other works. Situated on a 500 acre estate with streams, lakes and woodland paths, surrounds a castle built in the romantic Norman style. The monks assemble in Church four times a day for the Divine Office and  Mass.

In the crypt of the church is a chapel with Orthodox icons, designed by the architect, Jeremy Williams.  It is a unique sacred space reminding us that monasticism has its roots in the Christian east.  In traditional Byzantine style, it takes the shape of a cross in a square with a central circle surmounted by a dome.  We will meet and spend time with Mark Patrick Hederman, Abbot of Glenstal Abbey. Abbot Mark Patrick is a native of Co. Limerick and has been a member of the community for forty-five years, many of them as librarian at the monastery. He has lectured in philosophy and literature in America, Nigeria and Ireland, and was a founding editor of the cultural journal The Crane Bag. He is also an established author who is deeply interested in art.

We will continue our journey to Kildare to visit Solas Bhride (Brigid’s light/flame) a small Christian Centre, which has as its focus St. Brigid and Celtic Spirituality. Here we will meet with Sr. Mary Minehan and we will “Walk in the footsteps of St. Brigid”, a pilgrim journey to the sites around Kildare town associated with St. Brigid. On this journey you will be invited to:

• get in touch with your own inner journey

• reflect

• linger for a while

• be still

• walk close to the earth

• encounter the legends of Brigid and their relevance for today.

Dinner & Overnight,  Dublin— Dinner, Bed & Breakfast included.

Day 9: Day of Departure

This itinerary can be customized to meet your precise dates and to include all of your wishlist.

Contact: Michael