Your precious vacation is for enjoying treats, having a little more luxury than normal and being able to relax – you don’t want to compromise that with penny pinching, but equally you want your money to stretch so that you can buy as many good things and great memories as possible.
These tips are intended to save you money on essentials, whether your budget is big or small, so that you can spend it on having a good time. They are definitely not tips that will make your trip to Ireland mean or miserable.
1. Travel in the hump
All the big ticket vacation items – flights, accommodation, car hire – are more expensive in high season, which in Ireland is June, July and August plus the weeks either side of St Patrick’s Day. You’ll save big by travelling during the hump period at each end, April, May or September.
Since nobody really visits Ireland for the weather don’t let this be a concern. The reality is that is almost as likely that the sun will shine in September as it is in July, almost as likely that it will rain in August as in April. It’s always a bit of a crapshoot in Ireland.
There is also the advantage that attractions, restaurants and other places you visit will be less crowded, lines more or less don’t exist and everything will be generally calmer.
2. Consider alternative accommodation
If you normally stay in a hotel, think about doing things differently for at least some of your trip.
If you are staying three nights or more in one place and are a family or a group, have a look at Airbnb, where there are some really fabulous places to stay in Dublin, Kerry and Galway especially. If you are a party of 4 or more the savings on hotels can be very significant without any compromise on convenience – you’ll certainly save more than enough to allow you to have breakfast in a nearby cafe if you don’t want to make it yourself.
Think about B&Bs too, even if you’ve never tried them before, but look beyond the obvious locations – B&Bs in the centre of towns are going to be more expensive and are often less personal too. Choosing to stay just a few miles away will not only save you money, some of the best and most interesting places to stay in Ireland are farm or country house B&Bs a little bit off the beaten track.
3. Stay put & loop the loop
This is a way of touring that not only saves money but can make for a richer and more relaxing experience. Instead of moving around each night to a new location, carefully select one or two places to stay for a few nights each and tour from your base in big loops each day. You’ll have a place to call ‘home’ and will get to know it and its people better.
You can do this in any kind of accommodation, you’ll get much better deals by staying longer, often including dinners and/or the third night free. It also opens up the possibility of self-catering, a really great option that is wildly popular with Irish people for good reasons. It is not only well priced by comparison with hotels, it lets you live in an area for a short time and it’s lovely to have a home from home.
Here’s two examples:
- Base yourself in Kilkenny and on four days tour great places in counties Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, Laois, Kildare and Tipperary plus fit in a day trip to Dublin.
- Base yourself around Ballingeary in Cork and in four days do the Ring of Kerry, the Ring of Beara, go to Malin head and tour West Cork and fit in a day trip to Cork City.
So, in a week or so you’ve seen a lot and only stayed in two places.
4. Book Late … or maybe early
There are a number of websites that specialise in offloading unsold hotel rooms at the last minute. ‘Last minute’ can be up to a few weeks in advance, if you want to play relatively safe, or just a few hours if you’ve more of an appetite for adventure.
We have the latest offers from Hotwire updated every few minutes, it’s also worth downloading the Hotel Tonight app for really last minute deals with heavy discounts.
The savings can be huge, deals of 60-70% off top hotels are not unusual. Yes, there is an element of risk and sometimes you’ll only know the approximate location of the hotel but not its name, but you can be sure, even in high season, that something will turn up and you will never be left homeless.
5. Rent a smaller car
Not only to save money either – many of the places most popular with visitors are in remote places accessed by narrow roads and smaller cars are far easier to manouvere. But the savings can be big and not only because smaller cars are cheaper to rent, they are also cheaper to drive and with petrol prices very high in Ireland this can be a huge saver.
Users of DoChara.com can get a discount from Dan Dooley car rental, so make use of that if their prices and cars suit you.
6. Get a Heritage Card
Let me say that again: GET A HERITAGE CARD, it is the greatest deal in Ireland. Get one. Use it. Tell anyone you know who is coming to Ireland to do the same.
You’ll get free entry to a huge number of places, among them some of the most popular places to visit in Ireland. It lasts for a full year and there is no advanced purchase required – just buy it in the first place on the list that you visit.
And if you really want value, come back in less than a year while your card is still valid to get to the places you missed!
7. Eat a Big Breakfast and a Small Lunch
Even if you are habitually a ‘just a black coffee’ person in the morning, while you are in Ireland sit yourself down and eat up your cooked breakfast. From the swankiest hotel to the smallest B&B providing an amazing breakfast is a point of pride, so there will be plenty of options and your hearty morning meal will set you up for the day.
For lunch you’ll now just need something small so find a nice cafe and have soup. Pretty much everywhere you’ll get a large bowl of delicious homemade soup with a chunky slice of good bread for a very reasonable price and it’ll be both tasty and filling.
Alternatively if the weather is good go to a grocery store and buy a chunk of nice local cheese, crackers or bread rolls and some fruit, then take yourself somewhere pretty and have a picnic.
8. Have dinner early
Almost all restaurant have great value early bird specials, available to those who order their meal before 7pm (varies, may be 6.30 in some restaurants). These are generally two or three courses from a special menu at a significant reduction on the normal cost of dinner, especially in more up-market places.
Sure, you’ll have less choice than you would when eating a la carte, but the food standard and the quality of cooking won’t change, and you’ll be well fed with a lot more money in your pocket.
9. Look for discounts
Maybe you use Groupon or similar sites for discounts back home? Plan a bit ahead and you can avail of these during your time in Ireland too. We’ve aggregated the best deals for visitors to Ireland from several discount sites. Check them regularly before you travel to find bargains.
Almost all attractions have discounted prices for seniors, students and children – be sure to ask for them if you qualify.
If you are a group of 4 or more going on private tours, taking ferries or taking part in activities such as golf, water sports or similar ask for a group discount. They always exist – they are given to tour operators routinely and there is no reason they should not be given to you too. Expect to get between 10% and 20% off.
10. Get with the tax back scheme
Yes, it’s a bit fiddly, yes it requires you to be quite organised with your paperwork, but there is sales tax (known as VAT) of 21% on almost everything you buy in Ireland and if you are from outside the EU you are entitled to claim that back in full. That’s a saving of one fifth on anything you buy, so it’s pretty significant, don’t leave it behind.
We’ll have an updated page with all the details on how to make sure you can reclaim you VAT very soon, so check back.