Planning Our First Overseas Trip:
Last weekend we made a decision to book a trip to Ireland. A bit impulsive, I know. We’ve been talking a lot (or at least I have) about wanting to go to Italy, but as I looked a bit more into the idea of going, I really just struggled with fitting it all into 10 days.
I started asking Dave “would you ever want to go to…..” and we quickly landed on Ireland. I wanted to find somewhere that 10 days was going to give us a pretty good grasp of the culture, as we’ve never been to the UK or Europe. We’ve both got some Irish in our blood, so it felt like a good fit.
My problem arose when I realized I have no freaking clue how to plan a trip over seas. I’ve generally just booked an all-inclusive vacation, or a few days in New York. Even when my friend Kristin and I road tripped to Arkansas, we barely even booked anything. We didn’t even book hotels. (what kind of crazy was I back then?!)
I’m sitting here now, 1 week after planning our trip, and I have booked, re-booked and booked again 3 of our hotels. I’ve changed destinations two or three times, and I have a word document 3 – 4 pages long with all of the destinations categorized BY the hour (Ok, only 3 days out of 10 have hourly plans). In an effort to not over plan, I’ve added hours to make sure we had lots of time to stop, explore things, and factored in our long drives. We only have three days of long driving, so this is one thing I wanted to keep in mind, in order to ensure we weren’t always rushing places!
How did we start?
Book Your Flights: I refer to this as not putting the cart before the horse. I mean, you can plan your sites before, but don't book anything until you've done this! This is important because you want to make sure you have your flights planned before you book anything specifically. If you want to skip to step two before booking your flights, go for it, but please for your own sanity, don't book anything (non refundable) before you book your flights!
Make a list of things you ACTUALLY want to see: I emphasize actually, because there were a number of places I felt like we ‘had’ to see because of the internet. It’s a dangerous thing. We’re not going to see it all, so lets just focus on what is really important to us.
Asked friends for Recommendations: Everyone has suggestions on places we should visit. We can’t see ‘em all, but we did do a lot of research on some of them.
Looking for places to stay: this really shouldn’t be done until you’ve confirmed your itinerary. I impulsively booked 3 different hotels, and 2 AirBNBs (2 or 3 days after we booked the flights). We found some towns were just too expensive for hotels, but once we booked the AirBNB's we were limited on changes. Hotels on the other hand, we had flexibility to make changes to our reservations.
Car Rentals: Now this was the hard part. In Ireland, most rental cars are manual, neither of us drive manual, PLUS, you have to shift with your left hand, vs your right, here in Canada. I figured, we’ll upgrade to an automatic. Prices are higher. Shocking! In Ireland they also have Collision Damage Waivers, some rental companies ask for huge deposits (try € 5,000, which is well over $8,000 Canadian!). Do your research here; you don’t want to be stuck with some crazy unexpected bills. The other thing we could have done was buses/transit, but we wanted to ensure we had lots of time to do what we wanted, not having to rush to buses or meet someone else's timelines.
Double Check EVERYTHING: now this is something I’m happy I did fairly quickly. I realized we had some issues with our flights. I booked the 2nd lowest fair (Standard) and online it had me set to Basic, which didn’t include luggage. Fortunately, my itinerary showed Standard, and we could get everything fixed up, but I had a minor panic attack thinking our cheap flights were going to cost an extra couple hundred bucks once we included luggage.
I'm looking forward to sharing our itinerary and all of the things we're planning to do as we go, not to mention how close we actually stick to the itinerary. I'd love to hear your favourite places in Ireland, if you've ever been!