Our family is just back from our very first international trip. I can’t wait to share tons of specifics about our trip and loads of tips I picked up. However, first I want to do a general post to answer a few questions I’ve received about our trip. This will mostly answer the how/what type questions involved with the planning of our vacation.
One of the most frequently asked questions has been: How did you pick Ireland for your first international trip?
Honestly, there is no succinct way to answer that question. Yes, there were SO many options of amazing places we want to visit. However, Ireland just jumped out as the place to start. First, I went there on my first trip out of the country when I was my daughter’s age. The sentimental side of me thought it would be the perfect place for our family to start too. In addition, getting to Ireland wasn’t a difficult feat. Our flights were much shorter than many other destinations we considered. Lastly, English is the language predominantly spoken. Knowing we’d run into all sorts of other cultural differences, I wanted to avoid the language being an issue.
Of course, these reasons are just the icing on the cake. I guess the real reason is- why not Ireland? It’s one of the most beautiful countries on the planet!
Here is another question I’ve heard a lot: How did you plan your trip?
I can’t lie, I worked extremely hard to plan the details of this trip. I started by picking several weeks that would work for our travel dates. Taking those weeks, I researched the cost of flights and settled on the least expensive travel dates. Once we booked our airline tickets, I began to research Ireland and sketch out a rough schedule. Again, I had a little knowledge from having been before. In addition, I spent a lot of time talking to family members who offered great advice based on experience.
There was SO much temptation to pack in too much. I really wanted to cover everything… like the whole country and every stop along the way. But I knew that would be miserable for my kids (and myself!) Instead I picked a few key stops to focus on and told myself that we can go back and cover more in the future.
So, where did we go and why?
With 4 full days on the ground, I selected 1 town/area per day. Although packing up and moving each night added a little work- it ultimately meant less time in the car. We did our furthest drive on the first morning and basically journeyed back towards the airport for the remainder of our trip. This schedule worked particularly well for the children.
I wanted to see the Atlantic Ocean so we ventured out to the coast. I wanted to stay in at least 1 Bed & Breakfast so I found the best one along our route. Seeing a “big” city was a priority so we opted to spend a day in Cork. This location also worked well for us to hit one of the top attractions in the country- The Blarney Castle. Last (but certainly not least), my kids wanted to go to Killarney. It’s the main thing they knew about Ireland and I knew it would be memorable.
Overall, how did it go? Anything you’d change about your first international trip?
I can honestly say the answers to those two questions are- amazing and no. It was a phenomenal experience for the whole family. My kids did well with the travel, and even better with the schedule in Ireland. I did not overload our itinerary. We kept it simple and I believe that was a major key to our success. No one felt rushed. The children got plenty of time to run around and be kids. Although we were in the car some, we were able to break it up and we were never in a rush to get anywhere.
My husband worked hard to find good food for us along the way. This was one of the only aspects of our trip that we didn’t plan in advance. We ate only local food while in Ireland and I was really proud of how adventurously my kids ordered. We talked to locals a lot and took their advice on almost everything.
Although I’m not always the most spontaneous person (understatement of the year!), we left some wiggle room in our schedule. On one of the days we ended up spending an extra few hours in town just because we wanted to. It was totally worth it to switch up the schedule a bit and enjoy our day. Overall, I would say having a plan for our trip was critical, but flexibility worked too. Our whole family had a blast and we made tons of memories!
As I mentioned, I can’t wait to share more details of our trip over the next month or two. You can always pre-view our travels by following Mom With A Map on Social Media (links in the sidebar on the right.)