10 Tips that Will Make Your Trip to Ireland More Affordable

Artwork from the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, Co Limerick.

Artwork from the Foynes Flying Boat Museum in Foynes, Co Limerick.

So you’ve been stashing away a some cash from every paycheck for a trip to Ireland. Congratulations! You, like most of us, understand the piggy bank method of saving, and it works… it just requires patience and diligence.

What many people don’t realize is that there is more than one way to finance your travel. To help me get to Ireland more often, I’ve employed a few tactics that supplement my savings efforts and get me one step closer to my next jaunt to the Emerald Isle.

FLY FOR FREE BY DOING EXACTLY WHAT YOU ALREADY DO: Frequent flier programs are great for those who travel a lot. Unfortunately, if you’re not racking up a regular tally of miles, you end up redeeming magazine subscriptions instead of flights. That’s where credit cards come in.

There’s a good chance your Ireland-bound airline offers a credit card that gives you points/miles for every dollar you spend… on any purchase, not just flights. Suddenly, buying this week’s groceries just earned you points that will get you to Ireland. And it’s not just airline credit cards. I’m in the habit of using my Chase card for everyday purchases; I pay it off at the end of the month; and this year I recorded enough points for a free flight.

DON’T MISS A DEAL: It’s not often I spot insanely low airfare to Ireland, but keeping an eye on prices lets me know how much I should pay for my ticket.

Signing up for e-newsletters from www.ireland.com, airlines, and tour companies gives me an idea of fares and lets me know when a sale worth looking into is posted.

KNOW YOUR CAR RENTAL INSURANCE OPTIONS: In most countries, your credit card covers the insurance on your rental car… thus, buying extra insurance at the rental desk wastes your hard earned cash, BUT THAT’S NOT THE CASE IN IRELAND.

Most credit cards exclude Ireland from their list of covered countries, so you either need to find a card that explicitly DOES cover Ireland and have them send you confirmation in writing, buy the insurance provided by the car rental company, find supplemental insurance, or if you’re purchasing trip insurance check to see if the policy also covers car rental.

GO FOR A CLUTCH: If you’re experienced driving a stick shift, consider booking a manual transmission vehicle over an automatic. For many travelers it can be tricky adjusting to driving on the left AND negotiating the stick shift on their left, but the pedals and key ignition are in the same place as elsewhere, so at least a few things will be familiar.

STAY A FEW NIGHTS: Some hotels and B&Bs will offer discounts if you stay with them for a few nights. These offers are not always published on their website, so be sure to ask.

PRICE HOTELS AND B&Bs AND HOSTELS: When it comes to the best accommodation rates, options can vary between regions. In more remote areas, B&Bs often offer the best “per person” value. Many hostels offer private rooms and family rooms that might suit the budget traveler who doesn’t want a dormitory bunk but hopes to save a few bob. Meanwhile in areas with more than one hotel trying fill beds, there can be excellent “per room” rates. If you are signed up with an international hotel rewards program, you could earn or redeem points in Ireland (the same is true for online booking websites like www.hotels.com, www.bookings.com, www.expedia.com, and others).

JOIN THE EARLY BIRDS: The earlier you eat your main meal in Ireland, the more likely you are to find lower prices. Most restaurants serve dinners from noon until about three with lower prices than the evening menu. Also keep a look out for Early Bird menus on offer at specific times or set price menus with two or more courses (often with wine) for a lower price.

TAKE A MEAL ON THE RUN: It’s not glamorous, but when I travel Ireland I pick up at least one meal a day at a convenience shop, grocery store or petrol station. Fortunately, many of these places offer decent pre-made sandwiches (I’m fond of the chicken and stuffing) or a deli counter. For less than โ‚ฌ5, I walk away stuffed.

GET OFF THE TOURIST ROUTE: Follow the locals rather than the tourists to find a decent, affordable place to eat. This is especially true in Ireland’s cities and large towns where restaurants on the main drag may be more upscale or simply overpriced.

USE YOUR SMARTPHONE: I can recommend two Ireland-specific smartphone apps that will save you money. The Gathering Gestures App includes special offers in accommodation, restaurants, and car rental. The Ireland Discount Guide from Heritage Island features discounts on attractions throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland.

WHAT ARE YOUR MONEY SAVING TIPS? Use the comments below to tell us the tricks you use to save money for your trip to Ireland.

Author: Corey

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  1. We always pack a collapsible cooler and articulated refreezable ice pack to take to Ireland. While making day trips from our home base, we pack sandwich fixings, soda, water, cookies and chips. This way we always have something handy to eat and drink, as well as allowing us to find a great picnic spot with a fabulous view and dine al fresco! This is less expensive by far than stopping at the local pub and have soup and sandwich at lunchtime–although you may miss interacting with the locals!

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    • I do the same… and love it. I’ve ended up having lunch in some extremely beautiful places. Thanks, Karen!

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  2. Well, so many of the greatest things I’ve done in Ireland were free. Forgotten stone forts, moss laden forest parks, a walk on a beach, a visit to a crumbling abbey. And these things, void of tourists, are my favorites.

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  3. And many of the things that do cost might better be substituted for more authentic, such as the Guinness Storehouse and tour. I understand if you feel it’s obligatory, I did it once, too. However, I would recommend a friend have three or four pints around Dublin in old, historic pubs rather than dish out 17 euros for the tour. For Dublin look into http://www.dublinpass.ie though so many museums are free, so make sure it is worth it

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    • Thanks, Abby. Your tips line up with a project I’m working on… kind of the Ireland alternative list.

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  4. Abby: I agree with the Guinness Storehouse “experience.” Not something I would do again, as it really is not a tour at all and not much of an experience. If the weather is an issue, even the view from the gravity bar is lame. Like you, I would rather use the money in a historic pub or two in Dublin for a real Guinness moment!

    Corey: Some great ideas here. Thanks for sharing and letting us live vicariously through your recent trip.

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    • I’m with you on the Guinness Storehouse. It’s interesting enough, but there are other ways I prefer spending my time and money.

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      • I thought Kilmainham Gaol was the most interesting thing we did in Dublin. An incredible experience and something I would tell others to make sure and see if they can.

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  5. Corey,
    Where do you fly out of? What price do you consider a deal in context of seasons? What is the cheapest you have paid for a flight? Non Stop?

    Do you take the excess for the rental car or live on the wild side? Do you pay extra for a car with diesel to get better mileage vs petrol?


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    • Bobby,

      I fly out of Milwaukee or Chicago unless I’m already on the East Coast then it’s Newark or Philadelphia. Lately, anything under $1,000 in high season is okay… in winter, you can sometimes find a flight for half that. Lowest I ever paid was probably more than 10 years ago… $350 round trip and it included car rental in January — unbelievable deal!!! I try to fly direct whenever possible.

      Expect Aer Lingus to offer a fare sale this week in conjunction with Milwaukee Irish Fest. It’s usually for travel in Oct, Nov, and early Dec.

      I have a credit card that covers the excess car rental insurance… there aren’t too many of them out there. I budget for driving petrol because a diesel isn’t always available… if I get a diesel, I do a happy dance in the parking lot and then spend the savings on extra ice creams and pints ๐Ÿ™‚

      You might find this video helpful http://irishfireside.com/when-is-the-best-time-to-visit-ireland/

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    • We’ve been over 6 times now, always rent a cottage in the west for most of the trip with day trips every day, but also, plan a first night place no more than 2 hrs from airport, cause of jetlag, and close to airport with shuttle on final night, get rid of rental car on evening before with the free shuttle to and from hotel, one less thing to deal with on morning of flight.

      Self catering cottages can save hundreds of dollars over B & Bs, but you have to get groceries and cook. Hotels in shoulder season are desperate, and we have found great deals, less than B&Bs.

      Also sign up for groupon.ie, get some great hotel rates there.Always get the super cdw insurance on rental car, it saves the pressure of a dented fender, or broken side mirror, etc. which can easily happen on the small roads.

      We prefer Shannon Airport, and the west, but we have flown free the last 4 times with AA miles card, are only credit card, from citibank, and AA only flies to Dublin.

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  6. I actually need a winning lottery ticket so I can go any time I want to, for as long as I want, bringing whomever I want with me, stay where I want, do what I want. . . I want, I want, I want!!!!

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  7. Great tips! Do remind your readers that most car rental places have a maximum age to rent a car in Ireland. I think it is 70 but could have changed.
    At one time there was a program that provided free train travel for the Irish AND visitors and I can’t find if it is still in effect. A great way to get around unless you are loaded down with luggage.
    I have always done the escorted tours, but arrive in Dublin three nights early and stay three nights after the tour in Dublin. My first tour to Ireland decided me that I would NEVER drive and when someone else is driving that knows where we are going and is going to tell us all about it when we get there…
    One tip for the older ladies (but young at heart) that hesitate going to Ireland – I have seen many go by themselves and they have a ball. The motorcoach has 44 new friends they haven’t met yet. I go to Ireland every year and already have my space reserved for June 25 2014 – it will be my 16th tour to Ireland, but not my last.

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    • Thanks for the tips… and your perspective. The upper age restrictions on car rental were supposed to be lifted several years ago, but anyone under 25 and over 70 should double check their rental companies policies to make sure.

      As far as I know, the Golden Trekker rail pass program is no longer on offer, but seniors qualify for a lower rate on train travel.

      Have a great trip!!!

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  8. We’re recently back from 8 great days in Dublin Yes, I did call our B & B directly since the price varied for the weekend nights, and she worked out a GREAT deal for the 8 day’s stay, including breakfast

    # 2 Going to Dublin? Sign up with Dublin Greeters— free, and a volunteer will give you a choice of 3 great places to go for tea, a snack or a pint as his/her guest. We sat with our “Greeter” for hours and found a lot in common, and learned about great places in Dublin to see or shop as the locals do A most enjoyable afternoon. Starts at the Little Museum of Dublin

    # 3 Spend a part of an afternoon in Saint Stephens Green Sit on a bench with friendly locals, watch
    people, and feel the heartbeat of the city


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  9. Hey Corey, and all the other Firesiders. ๐Ÿ™‚

    When my mom and I go, we try to book as early as possible, usually in February or March for a late May/early June trip. Booking early let’s you get better deals, and traveling in the off-season not only saves money, but, it lets you see everything with less crowds.
    You’re right about staying in one place a few days as well. Most times, we’ll spend a few days at each B&B, and they’ll usually offer a discount for that. Our first time in The North, we stayed at one B&B the whole time, and used that as our home-base, which allowed us to map out our daily excursions. I’d recommend that, if anyone wanted to see a lot of a certain area.

    We used a tour company the first time we visited Ireland (CIE Tours), but now we do the self-drive, which is also a money saver, as well as letting you see everything at your own pace. Also, as a few others have pointed out, it lets you explore the non-touristy spots, which are usually much cheaper, if not free all together.

    There are many ways to save money and fully enjoy Ireland.


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    • George,

      Thanks for sharing your tips… it’s amazing the adjustments we make to our planning after the first trip.

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    • Liam,

      Thanks for your insight. I definitely recommend following the links you mentioned.


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  10. Thanks for a great newsletter. One of the things I am considering for my fourth trip to Ireland is renting a house through Vacation Rentals by Owner. It is much cheaper than booking hotels and will accomodate more people if you are going as a family or a group. The self drive seems to be the way to go, once you are familiar with the country. CIE tours are wonderful, with great guides, for first timers.

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  11. Born, bred & living in West Cork, on Twitter (@rosscarberyreci), I’m always happy to make suggestions. So many places to wander for free in Cork city & county – also if you have particular interests eg history, food etc can be great deals around some local festivals – http://www.festivals.ie. West Cork has huge choice of B&Bs, hotels, self-catering. You do need a car as public transport doesn’t go everywhere.

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  12. I have free use of a cottage from a photographer who did a photoshoot with my daughter.
    That will be the base of my journey. Then to another county I will stay with people I never met thanks to ‘couchsurfing’ . That’s an adventure but you’ll find real locals to stay with.

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