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 €5, 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.