Q&A: Answers to Your Questions About Family Travel in Ireland with Jody Halsted

Although I can answer a lot of questions about Irish travel… when it comes family travel, I certainly don’t qualify as an expert. So when two family travel questions came in this month, I went directly to Jody Halsted from www.irelandfamilytravel.com who stepped in to share her wisdom. — Corey

How do you plan a family vacation to Ireland for under $2,000?  That’s our vacation budget for a week’s stay and we usually go to Florida.  Flying there is cheap, to Ireland, not so much! — Dena from Michigan via email

The Halsteds of Bunratty www.irelandwithkids.com

Jody and her family at Bunratty Castle

The short answer is, unfortunately, you don’t plan a trip to Ireland for under $2,000. Unless you live on the East Coast and find a crazy low fare, flights will eat up that budget. And then you have car rental (or train fare), lodging, entertainment, and food to add on.

My advice is that you plan to take that trip to Ireland in 2-3 years. Make it your goal. Begin to budget for it, foregoing dining out, morning lattes, cable TV, and unnecessary ‘stuff’. Consider a cheaper, more local getaway for a few years instead of the Florida vacation. Maybe even create a written budget – and include a monthly stipend for Ireland Vacation (my family does all these things).

Watch airfares (Airfare Watchdog has a great tool for this) so you can get a sense of when the most affordable tickets are likely to be available. Don’t be averse to traveling in the ‘off season’ as demand- and therefore prices- are lower.

When you are ready to take that dream vacation, pick a central location and rent a self-catering cottage. The cost for a week is lower than nightly B&Bs, plus you will save money on food as you will cook many of your meals – and be able to pack lunches and snacks for during the day.  And be sure to read 10 Tips that Will Make Your Trip to Ireland More Affordable.

Or maybe all that budgeting and planning will leave you with an incredible vacation budget and you can really splurge!

I would like to know more about the preferred places that would be best to take a family vacation in Ireland. Somewhere a five year old very curious little boy would really enjoy but the parents as well. — April via email

There are just so many places to recommend! Ireland is an incredibly family-friendly country and you’ll find fun activities for kids — and their parents — all over the country.

A few of our favorites:

  • Irish National Stud, County Kildare (30 minutes from Dublin). Acres and acres to explore, 2 amazing gardens with plenty of tunnels and rocks for climbing, and horses.
  • Birr Castle Demense, County Offaly. Science rules at Birr Castle Demense. The science center is popular with kids for its hands-on displays, and the extensive parklands are filled with pathways, mazes, and what was the World’s Largest Telescope until the 1910s. And we can’t forget Ireland’s Largest Treehouse!
  • Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark, County Fermanagh. The caves may be the highlight of this goepark, but there is quite a lot more to do – from exploring Florence Court to finding a hidden and ruined castle in Castle Caldwell Forest.
  • Bunratty Castle and Folk Park, County Clare (just outside Shannon and Limerick). A castle you can explore top to bottom, a village to wander through, animals to pet, and a fun play area. To extend the craic, stay for the Traditional Irish Night in the corn barn (additional fee).
  • Killarney, County Kerry. This is the area I recommend for first-time family vacations in Ireland. It truly has everything. Castles. Horse-drawn carts. Huge national park with fun playground. Animal parks. Magical waterfalls. Scenic drives. Beaches. And an easy day trip to Dingle to visit Fungi, Oceanworld Aquarium and eat Murphy’s Ice Cream.
  • The Chocolate Garden of Ireland, County Wicklow. Chocolate. Need I say more? In addition to being one of the best artisan chocolate houses in Ireland, you can also do hands-on chocolate workshops. Even if you don’t attend a workshop, be sure to stop for an afternoon treat. You can enjoy it while the kids run out the sugar on the playground.

I hope these answers have been helpful and am always happy to help families who want to make their Ireland travel dreams a reality!

Jody Halsted is a writer & photographer of captivating travel escapades, family foibles, and objective critiques. Living the dream in Iowa; dreaming of living in Ireland. You can connect with Jody on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.

Author: Jody Halsted

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  1. Good advice on taking a trip to Ireland with kids. We took an 8-day vacation several years ago with our two young children. We went off-season (spring break in April). Drove from Michigan to Chicago to save on airfare and fly out of O’Hare rather than from our local smaller airport. We rented a small manual car and booked a week in a cottage outside of Killorglin on a working farm. We made most of our meals in the cottage or packed a picnic and took day trips around the Ring of Kerry, across the Dingle Peninsula, down to Blarney Castle and Kinsale, and into Killarney. We only splurged on a B&B once – our first night in Doolin to visit the Cliffs of Moher and enjoy a little trad. It’s a vacation we still talk about to this day, but it wasn’t cheap even with all our penny pinching (about $5000 total).

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    • Dan- thank you for the positive affirmation. I do wish Ireland were a more affordable destination but you have assured us that it is definitely unforgettable! Thank you so much for sharing your travel memories!

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    • Thanks for this information!! Would you perhaps know the contact information to the cottage. Would you suggest staying in one place and doing day trips or drive to new places and stay?

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  2. Jody is right when she says that Ireland isn’t an inexpensive vacation but what my three kids took away from our 2+ weeks is so much more valuable than all of the weeks spent (in previous vacations) at theme parks! Dan mentioned a bunch of things that we did too to save some money while we were in Ireland. We also skipped taking a big vacation the year before our trip to Ireland. Our kids were willing to forego Christmas/birthday gifts because we told them that we were putting the money toward part of the trip. Wrap up silverware and tell the child that their birthday present is dinner in the pub of their choosing, etc.

    My daughter didn’t have a tremendous interest in history before our trip to Ireland this past summer. She has already signed up for AP European History next school year…as a 10th grader! Don’t underestimate the lasting effects a visit to Ireland can have.

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    • Thanks for weighing in, Amy. It’s always nice to hear that the advice I give has been used in the past and works!

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  3. Hi! I’m planning a trip in early 2017. I’m finding many suggested places to visit. But no information on where to stay. Any suggestions? We are a family of 4. We are traveling with kids and look forward to exploring and just getting out!

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    • We stayed in two self-catering cottages….one week each…and used them as a base to explore. In Clifden we stayed at the Coast Guard Station. http://www.coastguard-station.com/ It was a wonderful place with lots to see right out the front window. Tommy, the owner was so much fun to be around. We aren’t the only family that invited him to dinner or dessert that week!

      In Kilkenney we stayed at Croan Cottages. It is outside of the city but in a fabulous area. The owner has put together a ton of resources about what to see in the area. http://www.croancottages.com / Both places were very reasonable prices for a family.

      If you are really bored, you can read a little about what our family did while we were in Ireland on my blog. https://mapesfamilyadventures.wordpress.com/category/ireland/

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