We have our “places to stay” all set up for our trip this September. However, we’ve left two nights “unscheduled” to see possible places we might not have heard about until we get there. Will it be easy or difficult to find a place to stay while traveling without booking ahead?
If you’ve got a sense of adventure, you should have no problem “winging it” with accommodations in Ireland. When I travel – even in high season – I often wait to book my accommodations until the day I arrive.
This type of “unplanning” isn’t for everyone… especially those who are picky about where they spend the night or who have a hard time making a quick decision, but it can also lead to some very unexpected finds.
Here are some tips:
- Book by 6pm: It can be fun to drive or walk around looking for accommodations that appeal to you. Sometimes this process can be time consuming, so it’s a good idea to always have an eye out for a place to stay… especially in the afternoon. Then, have your accommodations lined up by 6pm or earlier. That way, if the area you are visiting is busy and rooms aren’t available, you can extend your search a little outside of town without it getting uncomfortably late.
- Use the Tourist Office: Official tourist offices provide accommodation booking services. Note that their hours might be limited depending on location and time of year.
- Ask for a Referral #1: If a B&B that interests you is full, ask the owner if there is another property they would recommend nearby. Often a B&B owner will make a phone call on your behalf to save you a trip.
- Ask for a Referral #2: If you know where you’re heading later in the day, ask your host at breakfast if they can recommend any places to stay.
- Check Reviews: If you have computer access or a smartphone with data coverage in Ireland, use the same resources you’d use at home to check reviews… like TripAdvisor, travel forums, and review sites.
- Research and/or Book Online: Websites like www.booking.com and www.hotels.com and www.bandbireland.com can help you determine how much accommodations will cost. Some sites may focus on hotels, but many B&Bs are now listing there as well. They also provide photos and reviews, so the information they provide can be extremely valuable. You can also book right from their websites and smartphone apps, so you can secure your spot any time you have internet access.
- Book Ahead for Cities and on Holidays: If you’re staying in Dublin or Belfast or visiting an area on a busy weekend… like Galway during the Arts Festival, Kilkenny during the Comedy Festival, or anywhere there is a major sporting event. Also note that the first Monday in May, June, and August… as well as the last Monday in October are holidays in the Republic which means you could find destinations that are popular with the Irish very busy (Northern Ireland has its own list of holidays).
- Look Ahead a Few Days: Just because you’re “winging it” doesn’t mean you can’t do a little preliminary research. As soon as you have an idea where you will be heading, use the internet to run a preliminary check on availability and prices. You might find that a picture-perfect place is running a special or that you might have to change your plans because there’s an event in town snapping up all the rooms.
- Ask to See the Room: You might be a casual walk-up, but you still should check things out before you agree to stay.
- Ask if Breakfast is Included: Some B&Bs are starting to offer bed-only rates (especially when listing on websites like www.booking.com or www.hotels.com), so it’s important to know what you’re getting before you book.
- Don’t Get Discouraged: Although you may find the “perfect” place to stay, they might not have room for you at a moment’s notice. Don’t get discouraged; start a wishlist of places you’d like to stay on your next trip.
Leave your tips and experiences with “winging it” in Ireland below…