The Need2Save family just returned from an epic family adventure in Ireland and England. Join us for a review of how our family of 4 traveled for 2 weeks on an average of $141 per person per day!
For the past few years, our family vacations have been low key. Typically just a local (within driving distance) week long trip to the mountains, river, etc. Every few years we like to take a BIG trip. We save over numerous years for these larger trips, as we wouldn’t even consider taking on any debt to fund a vacation.
This year, our younger son graduated high school and turned 18. So it seemed like a good time to take an international trip. We’ve been to Canada before when the kids were much younger, but somehow that didn’t seem international enough – even though we went to Montreal and Quebec City (Nous ne parlons pas français bien).
Mrs. Need2Save and I went to the UK for our tenth wedding anniversary. Although we saw a lot, we didn’t get around to everything we wanted to see. So a trip back to the UK, along with Ireland, was set in motion. They speak English, we speak English = no problems. If they would only learn to drive on the right side of the road.
Part 1 – Dublin, Ireland – 5 days
We spent most of our Ireland time in Dublin. I like walking a city (quickly learned our sons do not), so we headed over to Trinity College with a goal of seeing the Book of Kells. Unfortunately, the queue (that’s a line for us Americans) was longer than the Need2Save family was willing to wait in. So we made our way to a few other spots in Dublin, including Christ Church Cathedral and Dublin Castle.
We also made a pit stop at the Guinness Storehouse. You don’t get to see the actual brewing process, but you get a general overview of the brewing process, learn more about Guinness history (a copy of the 9,000 year lease is embedded in the floor), and learn how to pour the perfect pint.
Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) was also worth the visit. Along with a tour of the jail, you also get a nice lesson in Irish history. Mrs. Need2Save and I also checked out the Decorative Arts & History museum which was free and right next to our hotel.
One of our Ireland days was spent on an all-day bus trip across Ireland to the Cliffs of Moher. I think we all agreed that this was the highlight of our entire trip. Except for an issue with the tour company only showing that we had reserved one seat, it was a good excursion. Another interesting sight, besides the cliffs, was the tremendous amount of cattle along the Irish countryside. We’ve never seen so many cows in one day!
One of our days was mostly a travel day, as the ferry ride across the Irish sea took about 3 hours and the subsequent train ride into London took around 4 hours.
Part 2 – London, Cotswalds, Birmingham, and Liverpool, England – 9 Days
We spent the majority of our England time in London. As (bad) luck would have it, we just so happened to visit England during a heat wave. One of the days we were in London was the hottest June day since 1976!
This was our first experience using Airbnb and we rented a flat in the Westminster section of London near Victoria station. Since it usually isn’t so warm in London, the flat didn’t have air conditioning. We are spoiled Americans, so it was difficult dealing with the heat without any A/C.
Although it was hot, I enjoyed a number of good runs through Hyde Park. We also tried out the Santander Cycles which was a bargain at £2 per bike for a day (as long as your rides are 30 minutes or less. You can take as many 30 minute rides as you like for that £2).
As far as attractions go, we enjoyed the Tower Of London, Westminster Abbey, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (sorry, I still don’t like you Shakespeare). Mrs. Need2Save also attended the Trooping the Colour parade that celebrated the Queen’s birthday.
We also took another all-day bus trip which included three stops: Stonehenge, Bath, and Hampton Court Palace. Of these three, Stonehenge was definitely the best. It’s hard to fathom how people 4,500 years ago were able to transport the stones to the site, much less construct the Stone Circle at Stonehenge. It makes my engineering problems at work seem trivial.
After leaving London, we had short stays in the Cotswolds (Moreton-in-Marsh to be specific), Birmingham, and Liverpool. We didn’t have much planned in these locations – just relaxing and checking out the local restaurants. We did rent a car in London for this portion of the trip, and let’s just say that I’m glad to be driving back on the right side of the road.
Over a two week trip, there are of course a lot of memories that we packed in as a family. Here is a summary of some of our favorite moments.
Although not mentioned above, another thing that went very well for our trip was booking rooms with multiple beds. If you are traveling with other adults, there may be situations where adults (or kids of any age) don’t want to share a bed. All except for one night, Mr. Need2Save was able to book accommodations with at least three beds so our two sons could sleep separately (twin beds) and not argue over who was hogging the bed/covers, etc. You parents will know what we are talking about and this was a god-send for keeping the peace.
Not everything was English roses and shamrocks on our trip. There were are few things that didn’t go as planned.
We were lucky enough to get two full weeks off from work for our trip, so after 2 days of travel time to and from the U.S., we spent 14 full days in country. Here is a breakdown of the categories we spent money on for this trip.
The Other Transportation category also includes London Underground Fares and the purchase of 4 Oyster cards which you can reload as needed. We also rented bikes for one morning which was super convenient in the city.
As most trips go, some days were more expensive than others so we like to look at the overall averages. We built in some ‘free’ days that had no planned activities/excursions/tours to give us a chance to catch our breath and also relax, read, and generally goof off. Our sons are adults now (they sure eat like adults I’ll tell you) so we wanted to know how much per person per day the trip cost us. Knowing the per person per day cost can help with planning if you are traveling with a larger or smaller number of humans. Here is that summary:
On average, the net trip cost was $141 per person per day. We could have used a lot more in credit card rewards to offset this trip, however, we decided to preserve our credit card rewards for future vacations since we had budgeted $8,000 for the trip in advance. So we limited our rewards usage to about 10% of the gross costs. We used bonus money from last year to fund this vacation, so no debt was incurred for this trip.
Overall, we found everything to be quite expensive in both countries (especially food). We saved on some meals by eating in the Airbnb rentals which had kitchens and generally skipping sit-down breakfasts (usually just had coffee and muffins/yogurt, etc.). Also, unless we were having a pint of tasty beer or cider, we generally skipped ordering beverages at most restaurants (our sons occasionally ordered a soda). Sometimes we shared meals if we weren’t feeling super hungry. We did splurge on copious amounts of ice-cream for treats as this is a family favorite.
We were glad that we were able to save on foreign transaction fees by using our Chase Sapphire Reserve Card for most of our day to day expenses.
Although there are many global destinations on our wish-list, we would be thrilled to eventually return to both countries to see more of the countryside and visit some of the smaller towns on each of the coasts.
Finally, we’ll leave you with a glimpse of some of our favorite animal sightings from our travels. The animals we encountered certainly added a special element to our travels and are an important part of our vacation memories. The cow in the upper left hand image for example, was roaming free at the top of the Cliffs of Moher on the West Coast of Ireland.