Why we chose to visit Ireland with kids – and you should too
As a study abroad student more than a decade ago, my husband had the opportunity to roam all over Europe. He visited over a dozen countries during those six months, but never made it to Ireland even though he always wanted to explore its scenic beauty and ancient sites.
When we met I had barely traveled and had a few countries high on my priority list – France, Spain and Italy – so Ireland was a bit off my radar. Fast forward to early 2016 as we began our discussions for the year’s travel. Our schedules were flexible apart from a preference to travel in shoulder seasons and we batted around a few ideas. We had already taken the kids (4.5 and almost 2) to several far-flung destinations, so we weren’t scared of long flights.
And then a post from The Points Guy came across my Facebook feed announcing that Aer Lingus would begin non-stop from LAX to Dublin in the spring. BINGO! While we don’t mind long flights with the kids, connections are just the pits: everyone is tired, there’s so much to carry, and our luck often has us scurrying to the far corner of the airport (I’m looking at you, Frankfurt). Best of all, these tickets were much less than the typical price to get to continental Europe and they even have a little discount for the kids. Within a week, we were booked. Our daughter would even get to celebrate her second birthday in Ireland (more on that when we get to Kinsale).
In many ways Ireland is an ideal first trip overseas with kids. The language barrier is minimal and many familiar foods are available, but at the same time the culture is distinct and the scenery is amazing. You can even stay in one of these castle hotels in Ireland for a truly unique experience!
When to travel to Ireland
We visited in early June 2016. We experienced gorgeous weather and minimal crowds, though our family who visited the same week in 2017 we welcomed by rain and cold. I’d still hedge my bets on early summer as the best time of year to visit Ireland!
If you don’t mind the crowds and want the best chance for glorious sunshine (never a guarantee in Ireland) plan your trip deeper into summer. The ocean buffers Ireland’s temperature against extremes, so even if you visit in cooler times of year, don’t expect snow – likely just cooler temperatures and more rain.
How to get to Ireland and how to get around Ireland
Aer Lingus now runs non-stop service from LAX to Dublin! Since we were flying with kids, we took advantage of that option and subsequently rented a car from Hertz to get around.
If we had less time available or weren’t flying with the kids, we would have taken a one-stop flight to Shannon and spent a full week in western Ireland exploring County Kerry using Killarney as our base. If you’re flying from New York, Boston, Philadelphia or Chicago (or many locations in Europe) you’ll have the option of a non-stop to Shannon.
Driving around Ireland was a natural decision for us since we travel as a party of four, and having a car afforded us the ability to explore at our own pace and go off the beaten track. Check out our tips for driving in Ireland.
I highly recommend renting a car in Ireland. Having your own wheels gives you the flexibility to check out adorable small towns, accommodate snack times and nap times and squeeze in activities when it’s convenient for your family. Check here for the best rental car prices.
Where to stay for family breaks in Ireland
Dublin – 2 nights
Killarney – 7 nights (find out why we stayed so long!)
Kinsale – 3 nights
Want to skip all the wondering and planning? Get the perfect 10 Ireland itinerary, ready for you go book from start to finish.
What to do in Ireland with kids
- Rock of Cashel
- Exploring County Kerry, Ireland
- Biking the Gap of Dunloe
- Muckross estate
- Ring of Kerry
- Dingle/Slea Head daytrip
- Cliffs of Moher
- Kinsale and County Cork (check out these great ideas for things to do in Cork!)
Do you love hiking? Ireland offers some wonderful options!
If you’re considering a trip to Northern Ireland (and we will next time!) make sure to visit Giant’s Causeway
For a longer trip, consider heading to the UK to visit some of these top destinations for families
Resources for Ireland
- Travel capsule wardrobe: what to pack for Ireland in summer
- Rick Steves Ireland
- Airbnb (save $40 on your first rental!)