Ireland is a land of folk tales and ancient legends. This destination will transport you to another world with its Celtic architecture and wide-open spaces.
Ireland: the must-sees
The center of Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is located around Trinity College. Its famous library is home to the equally famous Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament made in the first millennium.
The medieval quarter of the city and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are also worth a visit.
A trip to Ireland is not complete without a tour of the Guinness factory and ending the evening at a traditional Irish pub.
The Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are a natural wonder of Ireland; the rocky landscape stretches for miles and contains a multitude of caves carved by centuries worth of the Atlantic Ocean’s crashing waves. These cliffs also serve as shelters for birds and animals that escape the coastal winds.
On a clear day, you can also see the Aran Islands in the distance.
Galway is a historic port city on the west coast of Ireland and one of the only areas in the country where the traditional Irish language is spoken.
This city is easily walkable, and you can immerse yourself in the history of the country that has shaped the present culture of Ireland.
The small village of Killarney is full of history, culture, and beauty. Nearby is Killarney National Park, which is full of lakes, waterfalls, forests, and rolling hills for a full nature experience.
Northern Ireland: Belfast
In the past, the city of Belfast has been the seat of conflict between the Catholic and Protestant communities in Northern Ireland, but things have since calmed down. One of the tourist attractions is the Peace Wall.
The must-see in Belfast is the Titanic Belfast Museum, where the ship was built before its ill-fated voyage.
For whiskey lovers, the famous Old Bushmills distillery is close to Belfast; guided tours and tastings are available.
The Giant's Causeway
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most beautiful coastlines in Europe with its polygon-shaped rock formations.
These famous “steps” were created by a volcanic eruption in the region 60 million years ago. It’s a great place for landscape photography.
Plan your trip
When to visit Ireland?
Undeniably, the most “Irish” experience you can have is celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin. The parade is quite impressive, and the events take place over several days. It’s a party!
Then, during the summer period from June to September, you will have a better chance of experiencing beautiful sunny days. From October to January, you will have to deal with more rain.
How much time should I spend in Ireland?
Since most of the trips to Ireland are either nature or whiskey oriented. With a 10 to 14-day vacation, you have plenty of time to enjoy Ireland’s great outdoors and visit several distilleries.
How to get to Ireland?
Flights are available from $600 to $800, but you could also use your rewards points. Let’s see which is better.
Travel points vs. Aeroplan points
The first route that comes to mind to get to Ireland is the direct flight between Montreal and Dublin on Air Canada. One would tend to immediately turn to the Aeroplan program, but there are sometimes better options.
The valuation calculation is not always very favourable to fly to Ireland with Aeroplan points in economy class, as the tickets are relatively affordable with cash. It all depends on your dates and available tickets.
Therefore, you should prioritize flexible travel points that can be applied to your purchases and converted into Aeroplan points.
With the American Express Cobalt® Card, you can earn a large number of points daily; with this card, you earn 5 Membership Rewards Points per dollar on groceries, restaurants, gas and a multitude of retailers with the gift card strategy. These privilege points can be used as cash back on your flight to Ireland.
To better illustrate the potential rewards, an individual who budgets $500 per month on groceries can collect 60,000 privilege points. When you purchase your airline ticket, you can choose to use it to earn $600 in travel credit (cash back).
Finally, if you find yourself in a situation where the cash price is too expensive compared to the number of Aeroplan points for your Ireland vacation, you can simply transfer those privilege points and use them on Aeroplan!
Ireland is a sweetspot destination for your Avios miles. It is possible to travel to Ireland with only 13,000 Avios on a one-way trip (and 26,000 Avios on a round trip) in economy class.
It’s a bargain to use Aer Lingus compared to other programs such as Aeroplan, which often charge over 60,000 Aeroplan points for a similar ticket. And unlike British Airways, Aer Lingus does not charge a carrier surcharge on its award tickets.
With Aer Lingus, the low season fare between Toronto and Dublin is set at 13,000 Avios, depending on the distance between the two cities. The peak season is during the holidays, much of April, and the summer months from mid-June to early September. So, you can even take advantage of this rate to go to Ireland to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!
To earn Avios miles, you can use the same strategy as for travel points and Aeroplan points with the American Express Cobalt® Card!
You can also transfer your privilege points to Avios! So you only need 26,000 Membership Rewards to receive 26,000 Avios miles and travel to Ireland!
Which is the best of the three programs (Avios, Aeroplan, or travel points) to go in search of the leprechaun? Do your calculations when it comes time to book, and you will have your answer. The flexibility of Privilege Points is the winning formula.
You can also earn Avios Miles with the:
How do I book this Avios sweetspot?
1. Find availability
The best tool for finding flights is United.com‘s search engine, which displays available award tickets in a calendar format. United is an Aer Lingus partner.
When you have found the desired Aer Lingus flights, make a note of the flight numbers and dates.
2. Make a reservation
The last step is to call British Airways Executive Club to make the reservation with the information you have taken down. Their phone number is 1-800-452-1201.
How to get around in Ireland?
Visiting Ireland without a car
In Ireland, people drive on the left. I didn’t want to be stressed while driving, so I visited the country without a car.
Ireland’s public transportation system is not perfect, but it’s good enough to visit the country’s main attractions. Dublin is the country’s hub; GoBus, CityLink, and Bus Eireann bus companies serve most of Ireland. Additionally, Wifi is available on board!
To get to Northern Ireland, trains on Irish Rail and Translink provide daily service between Dublin and Belfast. To see western Ireland, there is a train that runs frequently between Dublin and Galway.
Finally, to complete my Ireland trip and to make sure I saw certain sights, I chose to take organized bus tours from Dublin. Many one-day getaways are great for saving time and avoiding planning. The Viator website has a large number of excellent excursions.
These tours can be paid for with a credit card. By using a no-conversion-fee credit card such as the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®, you will avoid paying a 2.5% foreign currency fee.
Additionally, these expenses will generate HSBC Rewards points and you can use these points for travel credit!
Visiting Ireland with a car
Roadtrips are very popular in Ireland and give the freedom to stop anywhere to take in the beautiful scenery.
To save money on car rentals, I often prioritize TD First Class Travel® Visa Infinite* Card, as you can often find deals on Expedia. TDR Rewards points earned through the Welcome Bonus could offset much or all of the cost of the reservation!
Where to stay in Ireland?
Independent hotels and Airbnb
On our trip, I didn’t see a big difference in price between independent hotels and on Airbnb or VRBO.
So we simply booked what was the least expensive and used Membership Rewards Points from the American Express Cobalt® Card to receive travel credits on those expenses. We saved a ton on accommodation and flights with the same credit card!
Marriott Bonvoy Hotels
In Ireland, the Marriott Bonvoy hotels are mainly located in Dublin; since you can base yourself in Dublin to easily explore the country, don’t overlook the fact that you get the 5th night free when you use points to book the stay. This translates to a 20% reduction in the number of points required!
The Moxy Dublin is a great example of how using a simple credit card benefit can save hundreds of dollars. The Marriott Bonvoy® American Express®* Card and the Marriott Bonvoy® Business American Express®* Card give a certificate that can be applied on a night up to 35,000 points. These cards have annual fees of only $120 and $150 respectively!