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Planning a Trip to Ireland in 2024: 8 Essential Details

Planning a Trip to Ireland in 2024: 8 Essential Details

STOP – let’s get this out of the way from the start – why should you trust my planning a trip to Ireland guide?

  • Reason one: I’ve lived in Ireland for 35 years
  • Reason two: I’ve spent the last 10 helping thousands of people plan a trip to Ireland
  • Reason three: We recently published the world’s largest Ireland itinerary library
  • Reason four: We use a tried and tested 8-step approach so you plan your visit in a logical manner

I am very confident that, if you follow the steps laid out in the Ireland trip planner below, you’ll remove the bulk of the stress involved in planning your visit! Cheers!

The steps for planning a trip to Ireland in 2024

The graphic above will give you an overview of how to plan a trip to Ireland – these are the steps we’ll take you through below.

We’ve refined this over the years and it’s now our go-to process. Take a few minutes to look through it – it’ll save you time, hassle and money in the long run.

Step 1: Identifying your Ireland road trip uncontrollables

ireland trip planner cost guide

The first step in planning a trip to Ireland is to build a solid foundation.

This means understanding the things that you have no control over from the beginning. For most people, the ‘uncontrollables’ are:

Getting a sense of these elements from the very beginning will set you up for success. This tends to be the boring part when planning an Ireland vacation, but it pays dividends in the long run (I promise).

Step 2: Understand the lay of the land

planning an ireland vacation

The second step of how to plan a trip to Ireland is to get a good lay-of-the-land. This will help you understand what is and isn’t possible when it comes to your Ireland itinerary.

Now, if you’ve been to Ireland before and you know the layout of the country, you can ignore this. However, this is a very useful step for first-timers.

We have three goals for this step:

  • Goal 1: To help you understand where the attractions in Ireland that you want to see are located
  • Goal 2: To identify clusters of attractions (these will help you map our your route)
  • Goal 3: To rule places in or out (the clusters will help you do this)

Here’s what to do:

  • Step 1: Open a Google ‘My Map’ and create a new map
  • Step 2: Plot everywhere you want to see on the map
  • Step 3: Look for clusters of attractions (i.e. areas where you have a build up of attractions)

Step 3: Understand your options for getting around Ireland

best way to get around ireland

The next step in how to plan a trip to Ireland will have a massive effect on both your experience and the cost of your trip.

Deciding how to get around Ireland can be a sticking point for many people when planning a trip to Ireland.

If you’re sticking to main towns and cities (check your map from step 2!) there’ll be good public transport options, and you likely won’t need a car.

If you want to step off-the-beaten-path and like flexibility, a car is your best bet. Here are the pros and cons to both:

Option 1: Getting around by car

Renting a car in Ireland is a good choice if you want to step off-the-beaten-path and like flexibility.

  • The advantages: You’ll have more freedom to explore and you can travel at your own pace
  • The disadvantages: It can be very expensive and, for some, driving in Ireland can be stressful.

Option 2: Getting around by public transport

Getting around Ireland without a car is possible. Yes, using public transport in Ireland is less flexible than using a car but it has its advantages.

  • The advantages: It’s relatively affordable, it’ll be less stressful for some and it’s easy to combine it with day trips
  • The disadvantages: You won’t be able to get to many rural attractions, some places have poor public transport and you have to stick to predetermined schedules

Step 4: Deciding when to visit Ireland

The next stage of our how to plan a trip to Ireland process involves picking the best time of year to visit Ireland.

Deciding when you’re going to visit at this stage puts you in a good position for the itinerary planning step (e.g. in the summer you’ll have many more hours of daylight to explore in).

Some factors worth thinking about at this point are:

  • Your budget: Off peak (Autum and Winter) will be cheaper than peak (Summer and Spring)
  • The weather: Daylight hours and likely weather conditions (see the weather in Ireland by month)
  • What’s on: Some people like to plan around the different festivals in Ireland
  • Your availability: In an ideal world, you’d visit whenever you like, but you may have to plan around work, school etc

Step 5: Mapping out an itinerary

ireland road trip overview

The next step in planning an Ireland vacation is to map out a rough Ireland itinerary.

Now, if you don’t want the hassle of this, we have hundreds of ready-made itineraries in our Road Trip Hub where you can pick a route based on:

  • How you’re getting around (we have public transport and car itineraries)
  • Your start point (e.g. Shannon, Dublin etc.)
  • The speed you like to travel (fast or slow)
  • Your fitness level (good or limited)

However, you can of course map our your own itinerary. Here are some things to consider if you’re planning a trip to Ireland yourself:

1. Be realistic

The biggest causer of stress amongst people planning a trip to Ireland is that they try and fit everything into one trip.

You need to be realistic about what you can and can’t do during your visit. Yes, this’ll mean not visiting some places but it’ll ensure that you enjoy the time that you’re here for.

2. Prioritise attractions

Go back to the map you made during step 2. It’s time to priortise. If, for example the Ring of Kerry and the Cliffs of Moher are absolute musts for you, leave them in.

If there’s somewhere you’re only half interested in, remove it. Whittling down to your ‘must-sees’ will help massively.

3. Look at your clusters

The next step is to look at the clusters on the map near your starting point. If you find a group of places that you want to see while touring Ireland, take note of the county in your spreadsheet.

This will help you build up a list of places that will form your various different bases. When you’ve run through the whole map, it’s time to bring it all together.

This stage in planning a trip to Ireland can be the most time consuming. Take your starting point and find the nearest cluster to it. That’ll be your first base.

Decide how long to stay there for and then move onto your second cluster, AKA base two. Keep following this process for planning your trip and you’ll eventually have an itinerary to follow.

Step 6: Picking your start point and booking your flight/ferry

The next step in our how to plan a trip to Ireland process is where things get real. At this point, you know where you’ll visit, when you’ll visit and you have a rough overview of your itinerary.

It’s now time to lock in your start point and book your flights. Sometimes, your start point is decided for you based on where you’re travelling in from. If you have the flex to choose, you need to choose wisely!

Take a look at the map that you’ve used to plot down all of your ‘must-sees’ and plot the various different airports/ferry terminals that you have the option to fly into.

If all of your ‘must see’ places to visit in Ireland are in Galway, Clare, Limerick and Kerry, it makes sense to use Shannon as the starting point for your trip to Ireland. Then get those flights booked!

Step 7: Locking in the final route and booking accommodation

booking accommodation in ireland

Photos via The Sandhouse on FB

We’re nearing the last step of planning an Ireland vacation. Now that the flights/ferry have been booked, it’s time to finalise your itinerary.

At this point, you should have a fair idea of the route you’re going to take. Now, it’s all about tightening it up and mapping it out.

Decide on a final itinerary and commit to it. Once you have your plans set, it’s time to get your accommodation booked.

If you’d like some suggestions on unique places to stay, drop into our hub on where to stay in Ireland.

It’s also at this point, if you’re renting a car in Ireland, that you should look at making a booking.

Step 8: Understanding etiquette and time/money savers

And finally we’re onto the last step of how to plan a trip to Ireland – things to know before you visit.

Below, I’ve popped in some handy Ireland travel tips that’ll hopefully save you time and money. It’s worth reading our guide on what not to do in Ireland at this point, too!

1. Laws

There’s plenty of different laws in Ireland that tourists need to be aware of.

Two that people tend to get caught with are the drinking age in Ireland and the fact that it’s illegal to smoke in doors.

2. Tipping in Ireland

Tipping in Ireland, for the most part, is optional – don’t be fooled into believing that you need to tip for everything.

It’s fairly standard to leave between 10 and 15% in places where you’ve had a meal.

3. Northern Ireland vs the Republic of Ireland

Some people are surprised to discover that there are differences between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Yes, they’re separate countries on one island. There are 32 counties in Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland is made up 26 counties and Northern Ireland is made up of the remaining 6. The currency in Ireland is Euro and in NI it’s Pound Sterling.

4. Money savers

There’s plenty of ways to save money but you need to be aware of them while planning a trip to Ireland and not after. Some handy options are:

Wrapping up our planning an Ireland vacation guide

final step in planning a trip to ireland

Photos via Dan and Molly’s on FB

The steps above will make planning an Ireland vacation very straightforward once you take the time to work through each of them in order.

One of the biggest mistakes we see people make is that they rush straight to what they want to see and then become overwhelmed when they realise that the attractions are dotted all around the island.

At The Irish Road Trip, we approach the topic of how to plan a trip to Ireland afresh every year and constantly refine our process.

The steps above to planning a trip to Ireland is the most up-to-date process that we use and it has helped us map our hundreds of trips.

Ireland trip planning FAQs

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘How do you go about planning a trip to Ireland for a large group?’ to ‘What Ireland trip planning tips are the most useful?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

How far in advance should I plan a trip to Ireland?

Start planning a trip to Ireland as early as you can. You don’t need to book anything, but it’s worth working out the route you’ll take as far in advance as possible as it’ll make everything else more straightforward.

How many days should you spend in Ireland?

The longer the better. If possible, try to allow at least a week in Ireland. Although this will only scratch the surface, it’ll give you a good period of time to explore a section of the island.

How do you go about planning an Ireland vacation?

In this guide, we take you through 8 steps that follow a logical manner. If you work through them, you’ll remove the stress that many encounter when planning a trip to Ireland.

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Saturday 16th of July 2022

Thank you so much Keith for all the time and effort you put into this site! It's amazing!!

I hope you are still answering questions here. The latest post I saw was 2019 but I really need some help!. My husband and I Had an opportunity handed to us free of charge to go to Ireland over Christmas (23rd - 30th). Are airfare and lodging aren't costing us anything which is great and I am very appreciative but the cottage is in Tulla which I gather is remote. We will be staying there all 7 nights so we would need day trips returning each night to Tulla. We are also there over Christmas. I am having a hard time finding anything open on the 24th and 25th. I was hoping to book some bus tours but I can't find one open the entire time we are going to be there. It's probably just that I don't know where to look. I would really appreciate it if you could steer me in the right direction. Thanks!!!


Keith O'Hara

Saturday 16th of July 2022

Hey Trish - You won't find any (to my knowledge) fee-paying attractions open on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or, possible, Stephen's Day (26th). To be honest, I'd be surprised if any organised tours are operating during that times, as Ireland to an extent shuts down during the Christmas to New Years period. Are you renting a car?


Wednesday 29th of June 2022

Can you park your car at Glenmacnass‌ ‌Waterfall‌ ‌In‌ ‌Wicklow‌ Parking overnight? We are planning to go wild camping around there.

Keith O'Hara

Thursday 30th of June 2022

Hi Alex - We camped at Lough Ouler a few years back and debated parking there or on the other side at Turlough Hill. We ended up bottling it as we'd heard reports about break-ins along the Sally Gap. Parking in the village nearby and got a taxi up. Not ideal, but was good for peace of mind!

Dan ritter

Tuesday 22nd of March 2022

Thanks so much for getting us started with these basic facts. Looking forward to spending our 40th anniversary in your country.


Friday 11th of February 2022

Hi We are planning a trip based on your 11-Day Wild Atlantic Way Itinerary starting last week of May. Do you recommend on making hotel reservations in advance ?

Keith O'Hara

Friday 11th of February 2022

Hey - yes, definitely book in advance! Otherwise you could end up either paying very high prices for a place to stay and/or having to stay outside the town/village/city that you want to stay in. Have a lovely trip and safe driving!

Kay Brain

Monday 7th of February 2022

Brilliant suggestions. Thanks. Just starting to plan a trip…. I was born in cork and am looking forward to going back. I live in Wales. So it should be straightforward 👍👍 Having said that. After reading your suggestions…I am going to do a bit at a time … just so I don’t miss anything Thanks again

Kay x

Keith O'Hara

Monday 7th of February 2022

Thanks Kay. Have a lovely trip!

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