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Winging it in Ireland

Hubby and I are planning 10-14 days in Ireland in April or early May Just curious if anyone has any input on not booking stays ahead of time.
Is it absolutely necessary in the smaller towns to book ahead? We like winging it in case we fall in love with a place and want to stay longer or leaving if we don't. Thank you for any and all thoughts.

Posted by
1220 posts

My friend never books ahead and she travels with her family of 4 during the summer. I would probably be very anxious, but I am also envious. She traveled around Ireland in, I think, May-June, and booked nothing in advance and it worked great. She prefers it because then she has the freedom to leave a place she doesnt like or linger where she wants. Just one anecdote, but I bet you'd be fine at that time of year.

Posted by
1064 posts

I have to book my B&B's or Hotels before hand because I'm OCD, but also so I don't have to worry about finding a place to stay. Also I read the reviews carefully of any place I book so I know what I'm getting into. One place I would recommend in Ireland is Ashford Castle, this is a magical place, amazing food and the grounds around the castle are worth the trip alone, they also have a Falconry School where my wife and I took a 1/2 day class on Falconry that was the highlight of our trip to Ireland.

I would recommend spending time in Dingle, it's just a lovely small village on the coast with charm and beautiful views.

Posted by
2184 posts

We always travel through Ireland that way, just winging it. Only once in numerous trips did we have difficulty finding a place but that was our fault by not realizing we were going Into Kinsale during a major music festival. It took several tries but we finally did succeed. Enjoy!

Posted by
329 posts

"because then she has the freedom to leave a place she doesnt like or linger where she wants."
I always have the freedom to leave a place or accommodation I don’t like or a location that is disappointing. And have done this a few times in my years of travel.
But I have reservations because the inventory of better accommodations is more than last minute,more choices in terms of quality and affordability.
Even more important to me is my precious travel time. Don’t want to spend my time looking for accommodations when I am traveling .

Posted by
262 posts

We have a tour booked for September. After the tour we want to visit Carrickmacross about an hour south of Dublin. Family history. While talking w/the guide he relayed that there are a lot of Ukraine refugees in the smaller towns. That may impact available lodging. The number he said was 75,000

Posted by
384 posts

I used to wing it in Ireland, but that was in the early to mid-1990s when I visited Ireland two times. I would book hotels as I arrived in town, including Dublin.

However, winging it became difficult in 1999. I arrived in Dublin, bought a phone card and from a pay phone called every listing in my travel guide: Everyone was booked. I resorted to going to the tourist information office off Grafton Street. They found me a hotel in suburban Dun Laoghaire. Later in the trip, when I was in Galway and the Aran Islands in the west, I could still book a hotel day in advance.

I was back again in Ireland once in the 2000s and once in the 2010s, when I booked everything in advance.

Now my guess is it is difficult in April and May to wing it in Dublin and a few other big towns but still possible in small and mid-size towns. I would recommend calling, emailing and using the web to make reservations in advance. That limits your freedom to wander -- something I loved to do, too -- but it gives you peace of mind that you won't be sleeping in a park or bus station.

Posted by
9 posts

I just booked all our hotels for our mid-May trip. A number of the Dingle Rick hotels were already booked.

Posted by
29 posts

I appreciate all of the responses. Keep them coming. Need all the advice we can get.

Posted by
6780 posts

Our first trip, in June 2012, we were traveling by touring bicycles, so mostly winged it, not certain how far we’d be pedaling from one day to the next. There were a few places we booked before ever leaving home - destinations that we knew we wanted to guarantee a room, and knew the date we needed to be there, but over half the places were easily just booked the same day, after we determined where we were heading to spend the night. Being June, it was before the heavy tourist season that didn’t start until July - at least that’s how it was 10 years ago.

Second trip, September 2018, we had everything booked before arriving in Ireland, all B&B’s, except for the apartment in Dublin. I don’t think anyplace we stayed was completely booked though, so it might not have been hard to find a place to stay on the fly. And again, May could be easier to find rooms than some other times of the year, unless 2023 is going to be quite different than 5 and ten years ago.

Posted by
34 posts

Just curious if winging it is there usually a tourist information center than can help book you a place at the last minute? I'm going to date myself but back when you could travel Europe on $20 a day the train stations had a tourist service desk that would find you accommodations at guest houses or B&B. Not sure if that is still a thing.

Posted by
1479 posts

I don;t know about Ireland but it certainly isn't in the UK now. So many tourist information centres have closed. Nearly everyone uses the internet to research and book accommodation.

Posted by
508 posts

Bewteen 1988 and 2007 we took nine bicycle trips (July-October) all over Ireland and the North, reserving our B&Bs for only our first and last nights. We chose our routes and overnight towns day by day and within a few minutes of arriving in town had secured a room by calling or knocking on a door or two.

The Internet has taken away all that flexibility and serendipity, as booking months in advance is now the norm, even for restaurants.

In 2022, I took the advice of a few locals I know, factored in the effects of Covid and retirements on B&B closures (c. 2007 and before there were some 2,500; today, perhaps a third that number) and the housing of some 50,000 Ukranian refugees in the countries' hotels and B&Bs and for a month-long solo bike trip made advance reservations for each night. It took a couple of hundred emails and phone calls and a full month to do so. Even then, only about a third of the B&Bs I contacted responded. In the end, though, I had a bed for every night.

Moreover, there are fewer restaurants today than in prior years. Many had closed permanently and others were short-staffed, which meant each was closed on a different day of the week.

The major downside to this, in addition to too much structure to the trip, was not being able to see and select my B&Bs before committing. Even so, 99% were excellent, save for one whose website presented a totally fraudulent picture (and was grossly overpriced and had no resident owners) and another where I was quite rudely treated. The owners of the latter, not surprisingly, are not Irish, whom I've found are the friendliest and most hospitable people in the world.

To decide whether or not to reserve in advance or to wing it then is a toss up. It may still be possible, but especially during the summer months the competition will be heavy.

Posted by
29 posts

Thanks again, everyone. I guess we'll try to book most everything in advance. We just did a trip up the US East Coast last year and didn't have a reservation one. We really enjoyed that freedom but it seems that having a plan is better this time around.