Planning a Trip to Ireland

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland Cliffs of Moher

So you’re planning a trip to Ireland! Congratulations! The planning stages are always so exciting, but can also be overwhelming. We created this Ireland trip planner to help you get started and stay organized. If it’s your first trip to Ireland, this guide will be a huge help to get you started.

We’ve done Ireland trip planning for hundreds of clients and for ourselves over the last ten years, after spending time living in the southeast of Ireland. In recent years we couldn’t keep up with the demand that clients had, so we created this guide to help those who we couldn’t personally help. This will walk you through planning your own trip to Ireland and help you stay on track, making sure you’re not missing anything important.

Enjoy planning a trip to Ireland with ease and fun!

Use an Ireland Travel Planner

If you need a good way to stay organized while planning your trip to Ireland, you can download our free Ireland Travel Planner.

Decide When to Visit Ireland

The first step is deciding when to visit Ireland. This will depend on your own personal schedule and budget, but there are a lot of things to take into consideration.

When is the best time to visit Ireland?

Winter – Winter is a very affordable time to take an Ireland trip. Flights and accommodations will both cost less. You will also be battling fewer crowds during your time there. If you’re planning a trip to Ireland in winter, the weather can be unpredictable, so keep that in mind. But the weather can also be unpredictable year-round. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad time to go to Ireland.

The Best Places to Visit in Ireland
Visiting Northern Ireland and crossing Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge in March!

Spring – Spring is a great time to plan your trip to Ireland. Prices are still cheaper than in the summer and the weather is usually warmer, however, can still be unpredictable with the rainy season.

Summer – Summer is definitely peak season and the most popular month to plan a trip to Ireland. You’ll find the warmest weather and the most crowds during this time. It’s also the most expensive time to visit. If you’re looking for a budget trip to Ireland, you may want to avoid the summer season.

Fall – Fall is another great time to plan your trip to Ireland. Like the spring you’ll see fewer crowds, but also less rain. As many tourists are back at school and work during the beginning of the fall, it’s generally a good weather time to go and avoid crowds.

Think About What Kind of Trip to Ireland You Want & Do Some Inspiration Browsing

Before you really start getting into the nitty-gritty of planning a trip to Ireland, consider whey kind of trip you really want to take.

Why are you taking this trip? Is it a vacation where you want to prioritize relaxation? Is it a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Ireland where you want to prioritize seeing as much as possible, famous attractions and iconic sites? Do you want to stay in the city center and do a day trip in each location? Do you want to focus on a small group tour or private tours? Is it a romantic trip with your significant other? Is it to connect with your Irish heritage?

Really think about these questions and what the answers are. Spend some time browsing Facebook Groups, Pinterest, and Instagram and exploring ideas and places.

Figure Out Your Budget

After you’ve done the fun part of planning your Ireland trip, it’s time to get down to brass tacks and really figure out what kind of trip you can afford. So many people ask us how much a trip to Ireland will cost.

This is such a subjective question that it is nearly impossible to answer. When you plan a vacation to Ireland, determining factors for the cost of your trip are how flexible your schedule is, what kind of accommodations you prefer, how often you like to eat out, where you want to visit, what kind of transportation you prefer, etc. As you can see, it’s a very personal decision.

Check Logistics for Entering Ireland

In your next step in planning a trip to Ireland, be sure to check that you can legally enter Ireland and that there are no extra steps that need to be taken. Most people living in the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and of course, the EU won’t need a visa to visit Ireland for up to 90 days. Ireland is not part of the Schengen Zone, and has its own 90 day rules separate from the Schengen.

Ireland has essentially dropped all other requirements regarding the word which shall not be named, so you’re good in that regard.

Decide Where to Go in Ireland

What to visit in Ireland is tough to figure out. At this point in your trip planning process, it’s time to decide where you want to go in Ireland. This can be one of the most difficult decisions to make while planning.

Ireland is not really that big, but it packs in a whole lot into two relatively small countries. Where you go will depend on your preference, budget, time of year, and length of your trip. Besides the most popular cities in Ireland, consider visiting some lesser-known places as well. You may want to go all over the country or stick to one or two regions.

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Figure out Your Itinerary

Once you’ve figured out where you want to visit in Ireland, it’s time to nail down your specific itinerary. Make sure you’re not overscheduling yourself. Leave plenty of time to wander and relax, even if you’re packing in the destinations. If you’re struggling to pick an Ireland itinerary, try looking at this Ireland Itinerary we’ve created.

Book Your Flights

Once you’ve figured out your itinerary and know where you want to begin and end your trip, it’s time to start looking at flights. We recommend setting a travel alert on your favorite flight search engines like Hopper, Google Flights, Kayak, or Skyscanner. Read more of our tips for finding cheap flights.

You’ll most likely want to fly into one of the major airports in Ireland. The most affordable International airport to fly into is usually Dublin. If you’re flying into Ireland from Europe, you may want to check smaller airports, since budget airlines tend to fly into those more often and at a lower price. Smaller airports are in Shannon, Belfast, Kerry, Waterford, Cork, Donegal, Sligo, Galway, and more.

Purchase Travel Insurance

In these uncertain times, it’s never been more crucial to have travel insurance. You just never know. We highly recommend getting it as soon as you book your flights.

Book Your Accommodations

Once your flights are booked and your itinerary is pinned down, it’s time to start booking your accommodations for your trip to Ireland. We recommend only booking hotels on official booking sites that offer full refunds, which is almost every hotel these days. But always remember to read the fine print.

I find the best way to search for hotels, houses and apartments in Ireland is to use Expedia. It allows you to search not only hotels, but also home rentals, similar to Airbnb, but better because of the great cancellation policies and customer support that booking offers. Other sites we like to use are and Hotels.com or Booking.com.

For home rentals, we always use VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner). We used to use Airbnb, but their fees have just gotten crazy and their customer service is just bad!

You can also check out my accommodation guides on Where to Stay in Ireland.

Book Tours and Activities

Once your accommodations are booked, you’ll want to start looking at activities, tours, and cooking classes. We love booking local tours that really elevate your time in Ireland and make it more meaningful. Some of our favorite tour companies to book through are Get Your Guide, Viator Ireland Tours, and With Locals.

If you’re looking for great food tours we also like the 10 Tastings Tours from With Locals. With Locals also offers great history tours, family tours, and welcome-to-the-city tours. Booking tours far in advance is a great way to save money.

Package Tours in Ireland

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the tours and options in Ireland, you can always book package tours in Ireland. These can be a great way to explore areas without stress. If you’re organizing a large group or a family reunion in Ireland, these can also be great options if you’re not up for planning a trip to Ireland all on your own.

These companies take care of most of the logistics. Just be sure to read recent reviews and have all your questions answered before booking. Always check refund or rescheduling policies.

Book Your Transportation

Now that your tours, activities, and classes are booked, you can move on to booking your transportation within Ireland. Depending on where you’re going, you’ll need to decide whether you’re going to travel by train, bus, rent a car, or hire a driver. If you’re traveling between major cities in Ireland, the rail system will be the best choice. If you’re venturing out of the city centers and heading to the countryside, smaller towns, or the coast, you may want to consider renting a car.

Make a Food Bucket List and Make Dinner Reservations Where Necessary

Ireland may not be known for their food, but it might just surprise you. The country has really gone through a food revolution in the past decade, and you’ll find a huge amount of great local Irish restaurants and pubs, but also a really good variety in handcrafted farm-to-table options, as well as international food all over the island.

Ireland with Kids What to Eat

Planning a trip to Ireland would not be complete without planning some time and money for food. If you’re a real foodie, take as many food tours and cooking classes as you’re able to fit in and afford. It will make your trip to Ireland so much more meaningful and fun!

If you’re eating at any restaurants in the popular cities of Ireland, we recommend making as many dinner reservations as possible. You don’t want to schedule every night. Allow room for exploration and spontaneity, but it will alleviate some stress if you can book places ahead.

Make a Packing List & Shop for Supplies

Once you’re done with the bulk of your Ireland trip planning, it’s time to make a packing list and shop for any items you may need before your trip. What you need will depend largely on the tie of year you take your Ireland trip and what season you visit. This Ireland packing list will help you find all the things you need.

Make Last Minute Preparations

Planning a trip to Ireland should be done one year to six months in advance, but there are a few things that need to wait until just before you leave.

Internet Access

If you’re planning to use international data during your trip to Ireland, you’ll need to contact your cellular phone provider, plan on purchasing an international SIM card on arrival, or use a portable WiFi Device. We use this one.

Portable WiFi Device

Contact Credit Card Companies

Before you visit Ireland, be sure to contact your bank and your credit card company to let them know that you’re traveling abroad. If you’re looking for a great international credit card, we love our Amex Platinum card. It offers so many benefits, including airport lounge access, Global Entry, TSA Pre Check, Airline Credit, Clear, rental car insurance, and more!

Apply for Amex Platinum Card

Sign up for STEP

Before your Ireland trip, sign up for STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program). This is run by the State Department and is a free service that allows US Citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest embassy. This is important if there is a national emergency or if something should happen to you during your trip. You can receive alerts from the nearest embassy, input emergency contact information, and be accessible during an emergency. We have many friends who work at embassies and they agree that this is the most important step (see what we did there?) when planning a trip to Ireland.

Plan for Spontaneity

Learning how to plan a trip to Ireland is great, but be sure to leave room in your Ireland itinerary for fun and spontaneity. Leave time to get lost, make new friends, have fun, and explore Ireland like a local. Plan on something going wrong at least once during your trip! We always say “it’s either a good time or a good story.” Hopefully, your Ireland trip is both! Happy planning!

I hope this Ireland travel planner has been a helpful tool to you and that you’re able to stay organized and plan a trip to Ireland efficiently.

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