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Quick Travel Wishlist

23 Jun

I’ve been back from Thailand for almost a full month now and the “itch” is back in full swing… You know, the itch… the one that gets your leg shaking, heart racing, and your eyes moving across a map for the next new and exciting location to explore. For those who aren’t following, I of course mean the travel itch.

My fiance (oh, I didn’t mention? I got engaged in Thailand :)) told me “NO VACATIONS UNTIL OUR HONEYMOON” (yes, in that stern tone of voice) and put me on strict “saving mode.” Now, we aren’t planning on getting married for two years so for me to not take a vacation for TWO WHOLE YEARS, is absolutely ludicrous– right? right??? Okay… so maybe it isn’t such a bad idea to be practical and actually save for the amazing honeymoon I am envisioning (screw the actual wedding– I care more about an exotic honeymoon!– Sri Lanka/India/Maldives or Seychelles/Kenya anyone?) but it does pain me a bit to not have ANYTHING in the travel queue…

So I’m not *technically* allowed to plan any trips, but that doesn’t mean I’m not necessarily prohibited from day-dreaming about one. To feed into my wanderlust, I’ve been thinking about the following destinations. If you know of any good deals for a quick 4 or 5-day jaunt, let me know!!! I think I can justify a getaway if it is reasonably priced… right?

My Current Travel Wishlist

1. Copenhagen, Denmark– I’ve heard nothing but good things about this place and it seems totally doable in just a few days!

2. Dublin/Galway, Ireland– totally doable in 5 days but airfare has been rising lately. I shoulda taken advantage of those $600 for 5 night deals when I saw them! hmph.

3. Florence, Italy– Okay, so I lived there for 4 months and was there two years ago… who cares? I love this damn place!

4. Palm Springs/Joshua Tree, CA– I am a horrible domestic traveler but this has been on my list for a while.

5. Ft. Meyers, FL– Florida has some incredible beaches and I’ve heard great things about this little town.

6. Antigua, Guatemala– I REALLY want to get to Guatemala before the end of the Mayan calendar. I think it would be so fascinating to learn more about the Mayan culture. I got a taste in Mexico last year, but Guatemala is where it’s at! A visit to Tikal is a must too…

7. Reykjavik, Iceland– you knowwww I’m dying to go to Iceland.

8. Glasgow, Scotland

9. Dublin, Germany

10. Prague, Czech Republic

11. Budapest, Hungary

12. Interlaken, Switzerland– snow tubing and sky diving, please!

13. Vienna, Austria

12. Krakow, Poland

13. Hawaii

14. Brussels, Belgium

15. Nice, France

16. Montreal– my brother is moving so now have an excuse to go!

17. Las Vegas– meh, but I gotta get there some day

18. Portland, Oregon– would love to do some wine tasting here!

19. Napa Valley, CA– same for here!

20. Asheville, NC

Am I missing any? Remember– these are suggestions just for places that are doable in 5 days or less!

2011’s Best Beaches!

31 May

I am a total beach girl. In my opinion, no vacation is complete without some time spent on the beach, even if it means one day.

 

Each  year, Stephen Leatherman aka “Dr. Beach,” director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research in Miami, puts out his annual U.S. Best Beaches list. This year is the 21st year of Dr. Beach’s annual beach report. Check out the top 10 beaches below and let me know if any are in your local area. If so, send some photos!

 

St. George Island State Park

St. George Island State Park (Getty Images)

 

Here are the Top 10 Beaches for 2011 from Dr. Beach:

  1. Siesta Beach, Sarasota, Fla.
  2. Coronado Beach, San Diego, Calif.
  3. Kahanamoku Beach, Waikiki, Hawaii
  4. Main Beach, East Hampton, N.Y.
  5. Cape Hatteras, Outer Banks, N.C.
  6. St. George Island State Park, Fla.
  7. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, S.C.
  8. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Mass.
  9. Waimanalo Bay State Park, Oahu, Hawaii
  10. Cape Florida State Park, Key Biscayne, Fla.

 

Oddly enough, last year’s top beach, Cooper’s Beach in Southampton, N.Y., didn’t even get a spot in the top 10 this year.

 
I am dying to go to Kahanamoku Beach in Waikiki and St. George Island State Park. Are any on the top of your “must visit beaches” lists?

 

Check out photos of the top beaches here: See Photos of the Top Beaches

 

Happy beach daydreaming!

 

 

Friday Question: If you could spend this weekend anywhere in the world…

15 Apr

Happy Friday All!

Let’s celebrate with some wanderlust, shall we? If you could spend this weekend anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

I am one month away from my big trip and craving some real R&R. If the genie granted me one wish, I’d spend this weekend at the Camelback Inn in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Camelback Inn

Camelback Inn

Rooms start around $239/nt at this rustic gem and its located just 25 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Camelback Inn Restaurant

Camelback Inn Restaurant

I would totally take two nights here to power down and enjoy some of their incredible spa treatments. Check out the menu here: http://www.camelbackspa.com/files/March%2010%20Spa%20Brochure.pdf

Camelback Inn Spa

Camelback Inn Spa

Where would you escape to this weekend?

Summer Travel Idea: A Long Weekend in Savannah + Hilton Head Island

12 Apr

Yesterday the weather in NYC hit 70+ degrees, putting me into a full-blown case of  spring fever! This warm weather is dangerous for my productivity. I find myself browsing for spring attire and more importantly, brainstorming summer weekend getaways!

There are 15 weekends from Memorial to Labor Day, which means lots of options for you to get some quality travel time this summer! I must admit, I am not the best domestic traveler. Whenever I have an extra day off, my mind immediately goes to Europe or Central America– wherever I can fit in a quick, exotic (and affordable) getaway– but there are plenty of options for fun, out-of-the-box trips, right here in the U.S.

Take, for instance, Georgia. So much more than Atlanta, this southern beauty of a state has tons to offer. Don’t believe me? Check out this itinerary for a long weekend to Savannah, Georgia, with a stop over in Hilton Head Island in South Carolina! A perfect little getaway to the south during the warm spring/summer months.

Savannah's River Street

Savannah's River Street

Summer Trip Idea: A weekend in Savannah + Hilton Head Island:

Ideal Time to Visit: late spring/summer (when it’s warm enough to visit the beach)

Ideal Length of Time: 4-5 days

Fly into: Savannah, GA (ideally); other options: fly into Atlanta and drive 4-5 hours to Savannah or Charleston, SC and drive 2 hours to Hilton Head Island. Of course, if you are close, why not take a nice drive to either destination and make this a fun summer roadtrip?

Sample Fares from NYC to Savannah:

  • July: low/mid $400s
  • August: high $400s
  • Labor Day Weekend: low $500s

* could also fly direct into Hilton Head throughout the summer; low $500s

How to Spend Your Time: 2 days in Savannah; 2-3 days in Hilton Head Island

Savannah's Forsyth Park Fountain

Savannah's Forsyth Park Fountain

Savannah Activities: Savannah is a charming (partially) cobble-stoned historic town in Georgia, filled with 18th and 19th century structures and a calming river. Here are some suggestions of activities to do while in town.

  • City Market (219 W. Bryan St) : take a stroll through this historic indoor/outdoor market, once used by farmers and traders of all kinds during the 1700s. This is also a great place for nightlife as it is filled with restaurants and bars.
  • House Spotting: walk through the Historic and Victorian Districts and marvel at the beautiful historic homes
  • For Art Lovers: Savannah is an artist’s city, filled with tons of galleries throughout. Visit Chroma Gallery (33 Barnard St.), which has been voted Best Gallery in town for the past three years.
  • Take a Ghost Tour: In a historic town with buildings that date back to the 1700s, you’re bound to encounter a ghost tale, or two. There are plenty of tour companies that will show you around town but Hearse Ghost Tours is a local favorite (http://www.hearseghosttours.com/).
  • Visit the Mercer Williams House Museum: located at 429 Bull St., this 1800s mansion is home to where “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” actually took place. Note: museum is only open on the first floor as the rest of the building is still used as a private residence.
  • Visit Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum (460 Martin Luther King Jr)
  • Picnic in Bonaventure Cemetery (330 Bonaventure Road)

* Sightseeing not your thing? That’s okay. Similar to New Orleans, you can easily get away with doing nothing but strolling along outside and eating delicious meals during your time in Savannah. There are plenty of local shops, art galleries and outdoor markets to keep you satisfied without ever having to pay for a tour. And the mansions can keep you occupied for days!

Savannah's Victorian District

Savannah's Victorian District

Savannah Hotel Options (ideally, you want to stay in the Historic District):

  • Mansion on Forsyth Park: rooms start at $229; top-rated hotel; website
  • River Street Inn: from $200; website
  • Westin Savannah: from $180; website (note: location is a bit isolated; across the river)
  • Hamilton-Turner Bed and Bed Breakfast: from $189; located on Lafayette Square; website
  • Planter’s Inn: from $150; website
  • The 1895 Inn: from $175; rated the best B&B in town; website
  • The Old Savannah Inn: from $175; one of the top-rated B&Bs in town; website
  • Amethyst Inn: from $155; website
  • Green Palm Inn: email for rates; adults-only inn; website

Savannah is filled with historic bed and breakfasts (which I would choose to stay in over a generic hotel, any day); view the full list of inns here: http://www.historicinnsofsavannah.com/

The Mansion at Forsyth Park

The Mansion at Forsyth Park

Getting to Hilton Head Island from Savannah:

  • Rent a car and drive via I-95 from Savannah; approximately one hour from Savannah Airport or Amtrak station
Map of Hilton Head Island

Map of Hilton Head Island

Hilton Head Island Activities:

  • Beach Time! All of the beaches on this island are open to the public. Kick back and enjoy some quality R&R time in the sun.
  • Spa Treatments: After lounging in the sun, refresh yourself at one of Hilton Head’s many spas. Check out the list of spas here: http://www.hiltonheadisland.org/members/spa-services/
  • Outlet Shopping! If it happens to rain during your visit, check out the Tanger Outlets for some retail therapy. (Thanks CC for pointing this out!)
Sea Pines Resort

Sea Pines Resort

Hilton Head Island Accommodations:

  • The Inn at Harbour Town; Sea Pines Resort: from $219; top-rated hotel; website
  • Hilton Head Health Resort: from $1,400 for an all-inclusive rate for three dates; weight loss spa and health resort; website
  • Disney’s Hilton Head Island Resort: email for rates; perfect for families; website
  • Marriott’s Grande Oceans: from $445; website
  • Marriott’s Barony Beach Club: from $385; website
Hilton Head- Sea Pines Resort

View of Hilton Head Island from above Sea Pines Resort

Helpful Links:

Happy Planning!

Friday Question: If you could spend this weekend anywhere in the world…

8 Apr

Happy Friday All!

Let’s celebrate with some wanderlust, shall we? If you could spend this weekend anywhere in the world, where would you go and what would you do?

This has been a LONG week. If the genie granted me one wish, I’d spend this weekend on the beaches of the Maldives. Secluded islands with nothing but incredible beaches and insanely clear water? Sign me up!

Maldives

VisitMaldives.com

Where would you like to spend the weekend?

Deal Alert: Vacation Packages to Tahiti Starting at $1459

8 Apr
Aerial View of Bora Bora, Society Islands, Tahiti, French Polynesia

Aerial View of Bora Bora, Society Islands, Tahiti, French Polynesia (Getty)

The French Polynesian Islands, Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea are usually at the top of an extremely short list of “wish list” honeymoon destinations. Unfortunately, if you don’t have an unlimited budget, these islands are usually out of the price range for most people as airfare typically costs around $1200 from LAX and hotels can cost on average $500 per night.

Well… Tahiti’s Tourism Board is offering some pretty amazing vacation packages for as little as $1459 for five nights. Compared to the cost of what it would be like planning a trip on your own, that’s a steal!

Here’s a look at some of the packages available:

5 nights in Tahiti for $1459

  • Includes: R/T air from Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Nui
  • 5 nights at the Manava Suite Resort Tahiti with breakfast (or Radisson Plaza Resort Tahiti)
  • All transfers and baggage handling
Moorea

Moorea (Getty)

5 nights: Tahiti/Moorea Combo for $1699:

  • Includes: r/t air from Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui
  • 1 Night at the Intercontinental Tahiti Resort (or Manava Suite Resort Tahiti)
  • 4 nights at the Intercontinental Moorea Resort & Spa (or Moorea Pearl Resort & Spa)
  • Daily breakfast
  • One complimentary 3 course dinner for two in Moorea
  • R/T ferry from Tahiti to Moorea
  • All transfers and baggage handling
Bora Bora

Bora Bora (Getty)

6 nights in Bora Bora for $2459:

  • Includes: r/t air from Los Angeles to Papeete on Air Tahiti Nui
  • 5 nights at Le Maitai Polynesia Bora Bora (or Hilton Bora Bora Nui Resort & Spa)
  • Daily breakfast, lunch, dinner and limited beverages
  • Non-motorized activities (kayaks, canoes, snorkeling, etc.)
  • R/T inter-island air transportation on Air Tahiti
  • All transfers and baggage handling

For more information, or to book, visit TahitiTourisme.com.

Happy Planning!

Bucket List Trip Itinerary: A Long Weekend in Iceland

5 Apr
Credit: Iceland Tourist Board

Credit: Iceland Tourist Board

Iceland has been on the radar of in-the-know travelers and experts for quite some time. Best known for its stunning beauty and extraordinary excursions, Iceland has a little something for everyone. Thanks to some awesome deals (see here) and a pretty cool promotion from Iceland Air (and here) that allows you to stopover in Iceland (for up to a week) without an additional charge, Iceland is now top of mind for Average Joe travel enthusiasts, like myself, who love to travel, but sadly don’t get to do it for a living.

For those who are being enticed by the ridiculously good deals to Iceland but aren’t quite sure if this is a trip that would suit their travel needs or interests, I’ve pulled together an itinerary for a long weekend for first-time visitors that is sure to help you decide. If you’re interested in visiting Iceland but unable to make it work during the days available through current deals, I’ve included prices in this itinerary so you can get a sense of what a trip would cost if you booked it yourself.

Downtown Reykjavik (Getty)

Downtown Reykjavik (Getty)

Bucket List Trip Itinerary: A Long Weekend in Iceland

Ideal Length of Time: 3 full days (but can make do with two and half); leave on a Wednesday or Thursday evening so you arrive fresh the next day, ready to sightsee!

Fly into: Keflavik Airport and head straight to Reykjavik (the capital); this is where you will set up shop during your long weekend

Sample Airfares from NYC (priced with a Wed departure; Sunday return):

May: from $611

August: from $629

Labor Day: from $501 (Thurs departure; Monday return)  **low fare  alert!**

November: from $684

Christmas Break: from $530

New Years: from $727

Getting to/from Airport:

–   Flybus Airport Shuttle: $31 per person for roundtrip transportation to/from BSI Bus Terminal in Reykjavik city; website (make sure they list your hotel on their website; might have to change buses as well so allow extra time)

–   Taxi: approximately $120 total; taxis line up outside the airport

–   Blue Lagoon + Airport Transfer: many people head straight to the

Blue Lagoon (Getty)

Blue Lagoon (Getty)

Blue Lagoon after landing, before heading to Reykjavik as its on the way (you can also do this the morning of your departure, if you have time); Blue Lagoon is 40 mins outside of the city/20 mins from the airport; $55 per person with Reykjavik Excursions, including entrance to Blue Lagoon; website (Iceland Excursions offers the same service for $55 per person without entrance fee; website)

Visa Requirement: Not required for visitors from USA

Weather: Iceland has pretty moderate year-round temperatures. According to its official tourist board, visitors should dress similar to how they would in NYC- for cool weather during fall/spring, and cold temperatures during winter months. Summer temperatures remain mild, however, rarely ever reaching above 75°F (keep a light, water-resistant jacket on hand). The weather in Iceland can be pretty unpredictable so don’t sulk if you see rain in your forecast as it could change to sunshine rather quickly!

Language: Icelandic is the official language however most people are fluent in English. Danish, German and Spanish is also widely spoken.

Currency: Króna; $1 USD = 114.000 ISK / $20 USD = 2,280.00 ISK

Hotels:

Location note: Reykjavik is fairly small and easily to navigate by foot or a short (but expensive) taxi ride; for the best experience, stay in the city center.

Hotel Borg

Hotel Borg


  1. Hotel Borg (from $328/nt in May): located near an array of great restaurants and the main shopping area (Austurvöllur Square); highly recommended by Trip Advisor users (most say it has the best location in town); website
  2. The Hilton Nordica (from $202/nt in August): often featured as an upgrade in Iceland Air packages; has a great restaurant inside the hotel but also surrounded by other restaurant options; 12-15 min walk to the main shopping area; 10 min walk from Laugardalslaug, the town’s biggest outdoor geothermal pool; website
  3. Fosshotel Baron (from $232/nt in May): three star hotel, noted for a great location and helpful staff; website
  4. Castle House Apartments ($128/nt in May): allows you to choose where you’d like to stay, but all are centrally located; rated #1 on Trip Advisor; website
  5. Central Apartments (studios from $78/nt in Nov): basic, clean apartments, centrally located; rated #2 on Trip Advisor; website
  6. Hotel Reykjavik Centrum (from $261/nt in May): Centrally located privately owned hotel; popular bar for happy hour; website
  7. Icelandair Hotel Loftleidir (from $172/nt in Sept): owned by Iceland Air (frequently featured in Iceland Air packages); nice hotel with good service but located about 30 min out of the city center; website
  8. CenterHotel Thingholt (from $239/nt in May): decent 3 star hotel; centrally located but has received mixed reviews (mediocre service, basic accommodations, etc.); website
  9. Radisson Blu 1919 Hotel (from $254/nt in May- with 3 night
    Raddison Blu

    Raddison Blu

    promo): centrally located modern hotel; rooms on the small side; website

  10. Hotel Holt (from $204/nt in Nov): Clean, basic hotel located just a few minutes walk outside the city center; website

Activities (** denotes must-do activities):

1. **Golden Circle (appx 8 hours): Visit Thingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir, some of Iceland’s world-famous geothermal areas. See the hot springs, pools of bubbling mud, and exploding geyers in Geysir, Gullfoss’ waterfall, and the famous Pingvellir National Park. This tour gives you a taste of Icelandic history, a look at where two tectonic plates move apart, volcanoes, waterfalls and more. It will also take you to the area where the oldest working parliament in the world was established.

–   Book With: Reykjavik Excursions ($86 per person; website); Iceland 4 You ($81 per person; website); Iceland Excursions ($81 per person; website); Season Tours ($215 for private tour; website); Super Jeep ($260 for private tour with option for snowmobiling, rafting, etc. for additional charge; website); Go Travel Iceland ($70 per person; website)

 

Credit: Iceland Tourist Board

Credit: Iceland Tourist Board

2. **Visit the South Shore: Visit beautiful waterfalls, black sand beaches, and various towns all the way to the town of Vik and back, giving you a true taste of Iceland’s various landscapes.

–   Book With: Season Tours ($295 for private tour; website); Reykjavik Excursions ($108 per person; website); Iceland 4 You ($113 per person; website); Iceland Excursions ($188 per person; website); Super Jeep ($260 for private tour with option for snowmobiling or dog sledding for additional charge; website); Go Travel Iceland ($127 per person; website)

3. **Blue Lagoon: save this excursion for the morning of your departure if you are taking a 5pm (or later) flight. You only need a few hours to bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take pictures, even if you intend to use the spa, and the site is located on the way to the airport (see airport transfers for tour pricing)

4. **Familiarize yourself with Reyjavik: walk around town, enjoy a long dinner, do a pub crawl, etc.

 

Downtown Reykjavik (Getty)

Downtown Reykjavik (Getty)

5. Northern Lights: from September to early April, visitors can try their luck at spotting the famed Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) by trekking on a late night adventure.

–   Book With:  Season Tours ($83 per person; website); Reykjavik Excursions ($45 per person; website); Iceland 4 You ($43 per person; website); Iceland Excursions ($43 per person; website); Super Jeep ($127; website); Go Travel Iceland ($45 per person; website

 

Northern Lights over Mt. Esja

Northern Lights over Mt. Esja (Getty)

6. Glacier Hike and Glacier Lagoon Boat Ride (June-Sept only): Visit Vatnajökull for a day of adventure

–   Book With: Vatnajökull Voyager ($263 per person; website)

 

Iceland Tourist Board

Credit: Iceland Tourist Board

Other Great Tour Companies:

Eskimos: http://www.eskimos.is/english/html/golden_circle3.html

Iceland Horizon: http://www.icelandhorizon.is

Destination Islande: http://www.destination-islande.com

Additional Tidbits:

–   Country Code: 354

–   Electricity: 220 Volts, 50 Hz AC, the European standard, and plugs have two round prongs.

–   Reykjavik is the world’s northernmost capital city

–   Reykjavik is the same distance from New York to Iceland as from New York to Los Angeles.

–   During the summer, Reykjavik receives 22 hours of daylight

–   Reykjavik is known for its music scene and wild Friday night runturs (pub crawls)

Helpful Links:

–   Lonely Planet: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/iceland/reykjavik

–   New York Times: http://travel.nytimes.com/2009/01/11/travel/11hours.html

–   Trip Advisor: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g189970-Reykjavik-Vacations.html

–   Iceland Tourism Board: http://www.goiceland.org/

–   Iceland Air: http://icelandair.com/

Why Go Iceland: http://www.whygoiceland.com/dining-on-a-budget-in-reykjavik.html

 

Happy Planning!

Bucket List Trip Itinerary: Ireland

1 Apr
Four Courts and River Liffey, Dublin

Four Courts and River Liffey, Dublin

Ireland has been on my radar ever since I wasn’t able to head over from Italy for a quick weekend during my semester abroad. Ever since then, I’ve been craving a taste of the Emerald Island. It’s no secret that Ireland has been facing some pretty serious financial issues and the outrageous travel deals that have come across my radar the past year is certainly reflective of it. Almost every week, a deal for a 5-7 night trip, including airfare, to Ireland for under $1,000 is featured in the Wednesday sale round ups from Travelzoo and Sherman’s Travel.

In light of these outrageous deals, I’ve been trying to plan a 5-6 day trip but it never seems to work out. I am hoping to get over there sometime late summer or early fall this year. Until then, here is my Bucket List Trip Itinerary for you to use if you decide to take advantage of the current steals available!

Bucket List Trip Itinerary: Ireland

Killarney, Ireland

Killarney, Ireland

Ideal length of time: 56 days (but can certainly make do with a long weekend)

Airports: Fly into Dublin; out of Shannon (or vice versa)

Flights: Ideally, you want to leave at night, or late afternoon, so you can hit the ground running when you land the next day in the morning (you also save a night in a hotel!). Prices for flights vary, dependent on the time of year, but you can often get the best deal by buying a vacation package from Aer Lingus, Dooley Vacations, Sceptre Tours, etc. This is one country that I’m actually supportive of vacation packages– I usually prefer to book everything on my own but there are some great deals out there that offer the traveler almost total freedom for booking what they’d like to do.

Sample of r/t fares from NYC:

In August: r/t Dublin only: $950

Labor Day Weekend: r/t Dublin only: $750

Being that many of these vacation packages offer r/t international flights and 6 nights in top hotels, we say go for those instead of paying more for your flight alone!

Ideal Quick Getaway Breakdown:

–                3 days in Dublin

Northern Ireland Coastline

Northern Ireland Coastline

 

–                2-3 days in Galway

Hotel Options:

Dublin:

–                O’Callaghan Mont Clare: from $128 per night; website

–                Hampton Hotel: from $124 per night; website

–                Trinity Lodge: from $121-131 per night; website

–                Croke Park Hotel: from $160 per night; website

Galway:

–     Griffin Lodge B&B: from $75 per night; website

–     Imperial Hotel: from $155 per night; website

–     Jury’s Inn: from $135 per night; website

–     Park House Hotel: from $155 per night; website

Halfpenny Bridge, Dublin

Halfpenny Bridge, Dublin

Getting between Dublin and Galway:

–                Bus: takes about 3 hours

o      Citylink Bus: Costs 14 euros; http://www.citylink.ie/

o      Bus Eireann: costs 13.50 euros; http://www.buseireann.ie/

o      Go Bus: costs 10 euros; http://www.gobus.ie/

–                Train: takes 2.5-3 hours

o      Irish Rail: costs 25 euros; https://www.irishrail.ie

–                Rent a Car: drive is about 4 hours, if you are daring enough to try it! (tip: remember to keep change on you for the two tolls)

Dublin Activities:

Dublin, Temple Bar

 

–                Visit the Guinness Storehouse: this museum is an ode to Ireland’s finest brew; a visit isn’t complete without a glass of Guinness in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building

–                Stroll Temple Bar: Grab a drink or catch some live music in this loud, touristy, trendy area

–                Dublin Castle: a visit to this 18th-century castle is a must-do activity; free tours available on Sundays and holidays

–                Trinity College: The country’s most famous university is also one of the most stunning areas, equipped with outstanding buildings and landscapes that date back to the 18th century. Be sure to take a peek at Book of Kells, one of the world’s most famous manuscripts, which is housed in The Old Library.

–                Lose Track of Time in Iveagh Gardens: Once known to locals as the Secret Garden, this stunning landscape is located just behind Newman House.

–                Christ Church Cathedral: This is Dublin’s most impressive church and is a famed landmark. It houses the tomb of Richard de Clare, the Anglo-Norman conqueror of Dublin.

–                Kilmainham Gaol: This prison was once home to centuries of pain, oppression and suffering through Ireland’s rocky road to independence.

–                Lounge Out in St. Stephen’s Green: People watch or relax in one of Dublin’s most popular parks.

–                Do some shopping on Grafton St.

–                Listen to some of Ireland’s best live music at Hughes bar on Chancery St.

–                See a football match at Aviva Stadium; schedule here

–                Cut out of Dublin a day early and drive to Kinsale: located 2.5-3 hours south of Dublin, this cute seaside town has some amazing restaurants and charming B&Bs (see Landfall House). Note: if heading up to Galway, you are looking at about a 5 hour train ride from Kinsale.

Galway Activities:

–                Spend a day exploring the city on foot: Galway is a fun, young college town, full of hidden treasures. Get acquainted with this cobblestoned city by mingling with the locals or students in one of its many pubs and checking out some great live music. You wont find many “tourist traps” here so just kick back and relax. There’s no need to rush while in Galway.

Cliffs of Moher

Cliffs of Moher

–                Aran Islands: Galway is a great base for exploring the picturesque Aran Islands, located just off the west coast of Ireland. More info about the islands here.

o      Arrange a shuttle/ferry with Galway Tour Company for about 30 euros per person; more here

–                Cliffs of Moher: Stroll along (but not too close to the edge!) the incredible Cliffs of Moher in County Clare. The heart-stopping cliffs will have you feeling a pit in your stomach, no matter how adventurous you are.

o      Tour with Galway Tour Company costs 25 euros per person; book here

Getting to/from Dublin Airport:

–                Several buses are available (see list of bus companies above)

Getting to/from Shannon Airport:

–                Bus Eireann offers a shuttle for 13.50 euros but make sure the bus schedule works with your flight time otherwise you may have to arrange a private car transfer. You don’t want to get stuck in Shannon as there isn’t much there aside from the airport!

Booking Tip: If you are looking to book a trip to Ireland on your own during the summer, you are looking at upwards of $1500-$1800 per person when all is said and done. If you wait until late fall or winter, that price drastically drops. When in doubt, take advantage of some of the amazing packages offered each week via websites like Travelzoo and Sherman’s Travel.

Here are two Ireland deals from this week:

–                6 Nights in Ireland/$899 (+ tax): Including air to/from NYC/Dublin, one night at Four Seasons Dublin, two nights at Glenlo Abbey in Galway, two nights at Adare Manor, one night at The Ritz-Carlton Powercourt, car rental with unlimited mileage; select dates Sep-Dec; book by April 8; More details at Travelzoo

–                6 nights in Ireland/$899: Including r/t air from NYC, six nights in a 3-bedroom cottage at Bunratty Castle Gardens, car rental; travel July-Aug; book by April 8; more at ShermansTravel

Helpful Ireland Planning Links:

–                Top 10 for Ireland First-Timers (Lonely Planet)

–                Top 10 places to see a traditional Irish music session (Lonely Planet)

–                A Weekend in Dublin Slideshow (New York Times):

–                36 Hours in Dublin (New York Times):

–                One Week in Ireland (Frommer’s)

Happy Planning!

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