On par with moving in together, taking your first international trip as a couple is one of those "big steps" in a relationship. This of course means it's not without it's challenges. Brandon and I started planning our trip to Ireland in February 2017 and found a deal in March on plane tickets that were too good to pass up! If you're flexible with your travel date I can't recommend the app Hopper enough! It lets you pick a location and time range and let's you know if you should buy now or wait. It will also alert you when there is a good deal available! This is how we landed $500 round trip tickets to the UK!
Come October we are flying half way across the world for 2 weeks! After 28 hours of travel (we had a 12 hour layover ugh!) we landed in Dublin and went to get our rental car. We had never rented a car before, and surprise they need a deposit in case you wreck it! They wanted $2,000 which would have been all of our spending money! So instead we end up paying a non-refundable amount of $600. This was our first big stressor of the trip. We immediately drove the car into town and parked it in a lot for the next 2 nights, costing us an additional $75. Driving in Dublin is scary (narrow roads, no street signs and bad drivers) and expensive. Moreover it is just not necessary!
Tip #1: Take a shuttle from Dublin airport into the city and then back when you need a car to get to your next city! You'll save money by renting the car for less time and not needing to park in Dublin!
Dublin was amazing and some of the big highlights were the Guinness Storehouse (which had a Gravity bar on the top floor with a 360 view of Dublin), the Temple Bar, Trinity College Library, Celtic Nights at the Arlington Hotel, and the Jameson Distillery! We fit everything we wanted to do into 3 days, but could easily have found more to do if we were there longer!
Our next stop was Belfast! Prices for hotels is Belfast were crazy high, so we ended up at a quaint B&B called Astala Lodge in the close by town of Bangor. We had a great view of the marina, and it was just a quick train ride into Belfast. Some of the highlights were the Titanic Museum and St. George's market. We only stayed there for one night but I wish we had stayed for at least two!
After our night in Bangor we took a little detour to what is possibly the nerdiest place in all of Ireland. We went to the Winterfell Castle a Game of Thrones Visitor Attraction! We signed up for the "Bran Archery Package" and I honestly have no regrets! We got to wear costumes from the actual show and shoot arrows for a good 30 minutes.
Tip #2: Do the nerdy thing that you think everyone might judge you for! When you're traveling abroad you really only have one chance to do what you want - so go all out!
After our Winterfell excursion we went to the most magical place I have ever been: Giant's Causeway! The legend the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant. The story goes that an Irish giant was challenged to a fight by a Scottish giant, and so he built the causeway to get to Scotland.
The real reason behind the geometric pillars is ancient volcanic activity. The quick cooling of the lava caused the formation of the "Giant's Causeway." There are several hiking options depending on ability and time allotted. We took a moderate hike that led us to the green meadows atop the causeway. There was a spectacular 360 view of the ocean, cliffs, and small farms with sheep off in the distance. Although there is not much else to see around the area of the causeway, it is a must see.
Our next stop was Londonderry. We got in late after the long drive from the causeway, and missed much of the beautiful scenic drive because it was already dark. Overall this pit stop was kind of a flop, and we wished we had driven straight to our next destination, Galway.
Tip #3: Don't have FOMO when planning your trip. Only plan for things that really excite you! If it seems boring, chances are it is and you won't be missing out.
Galway was our next stop and really the only time we had bad weather in Ireland. I'm talking sideways rain. But that is the risk of traveling in October. I'd say overall we got pretty lucky with weather in the low 60s and high 50s our entire time in Ireland. Galway is a beautiful coastal town with lots of history and charm. We had a traditional Irish dinner at The Galleon and drinks at some very fun bars.
The Latin Quarter is a must see when you're in Galway. It has the best shops, cafes, and bars, all tucked together on a quaint cobblestone street. If you're looking for a claddagh (a traditional Irish ring) this is the place! There is even a Claddagh museum. I myself opted for a nice trinity knot ring to buy as a souvenir, but there were many beautiful traditional Irish rings to choose from!
We stayed at the Ocean Crest B&B which is excellently situated on the ocean front and an easy walk to anywhere you could want to go! For a whooping total of $75/night including a very nice full Irish breakfast this place was a steal and I would highly recommend it!
Tip #4: Stay at the cheep B&B as long as it's close in to town. When traveling as couple, staying in a B&B gives you the best bang for your buck and complete privacy (compared to a hostel or airbnb).
On the way out of Galway we stopped at the cliffs of Moher, which you may recognize from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood-Prince as the filming location for the creepy cave with the locket in it. It is quite a beautiful location, especially when the weather is good. There is an observatory tower, and a short trail where you can walk along the cliff side. Be sure to bundle up - it's very cold and windy!
Our very last stop was Cork. At this point we had been in Ireland for over a week and were getting pretty tired of the traditional Irish food. I have a confession to make. We missed good old american food. I am almost embarrassed to tell you where we ate not one, but two nights in a row. We ate at a place called Captain Americas. That's right, Americas. It was very popular with the local university students, and I can see why. They had ridiculously cheep drinks and food just for showing your college ID. Ah to be able to drink at 18. We enjoyed vanilla vodka cokes, steaks, ribs, and more!
Tip #5: Don't be afraid to stay inside the box. Enjoy things that are comfortable and that you know you like! Traveling doesn't always have to be about trying new things. It should be about enjoying yourself to the fullest.
There are many castles close to Cork that you can visit. The main one being Blarney Castle. Home to the famous Blarney Stone, it attracts many visitors daily. The castle and the grounds it's on are quite stunning. There are many gardens you can walk around that are picturesque. My other favorite is the Franciscan Friary.
No matter where you trip takes you with you significant other, the important thing to remember is that you are building memories that you'll be able to look back on for years to come! Enjoy the time spent together, and don't sweat the small stuff. International travel isn't something you get to do everyday so make it an experience that you'll never forget!