"Eat at a local restaurant tonight. Get the cream sauce. Have a cold pint at 4 o’clock in a mostly empty bar. Go somewhere you’ve never been. Listen to someone you think may have nothing in common with you. Order the steak rare. Eat an oyster. Have a negroni. Have two. Be open to a world where you may not understand or agree with the person next to you, but have a drink with them anyways. Eat slowly. Tip your server. Check in on your friends. Check in on yourself. Enjoy the ride." - Anthony Bourdain
Plan the adventure you’ve been imagining when you close your eyes and make a wish. And not a little wish. Go big.
Pick your dream spot and make a plan. Start today. Really. Don’t wait for ” some day. ” Some day is now.
Want to trace your family roots? Explore a culinary region unlike any you’ve experienced before? Need to stretch your athletic ability? Expand literary horizons? Drink in all nature had to offer? There’s a great big world out there waiting for you!
Maughold Lighthouse, Isle of Man
Many people have asked me how we plan our trips without joining a tour group. I’ll attempt to explain my methods … I am by no means a trained travel professional 🙃 but it works for us!
I share solely as inspiration … I hope you can gain some helpful tips along the way but please always research destinations for yourself before traveling. Things in today’s world change quickly. I am not compensated for any of these suggestions and my experiences and opinions may not fit your dream adventure ❤️
Follow along with me as I share my travels in parts of Europe. And who knows where’s next!
Enjoy the ride.
Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Scotland
*** new topics will be added often, in no particular order, including random tips, fun facts, and hopefully interesting content. Definitely some selfies too ;)
And what does this have to do with painting? Absolutely nothing 😂
Apply for one - without it, you’re just having a staycation ;)
Once we decide on a destination, I spend a crazy amount of time reading everything I can before making a decision about transportation, accommodations, activities, etc. We often plan a year in advance and book our major items about 6 months out.
travel guides - yes, an actual book lol. Check out Amazon or visit a bookstore and find one you like that includes the info pertinent to you (and small enough to pack in your backpack). Again, I like the ones from Lonely Planet.
Belfast City Hall, Northern Ireland
* Fun Fact Don’t expect to find regular old potato chips. They are as rare as no rain in Ireland ;). Instead enjoy flavors such as prawn cocktail, roast beef, cheesy sour cream, and of course lots of salt and vinegar. Oh, and they aren’t chips - those are French fries. You’ll be looking for crisps.
#3. Timing your Trip
Getting the most out of your chosen destination can depend on a lot of factors but most definitely the weather. While there’s never a guarantee of warm temps and sunshine, choose the time of year that suits the activities or events you plan to enjoy. We know there will undoubtedly be rain at some point while we’re in the UK and we try to have options open. Flip flop a day of sightseeing with another day if possible. See the museum instead of taking a hike. Make the best of it. Your photos may not look as magazine worthy but you were there and that’s what’s important. Some travel dates may not be flexible if you’re scheduling around an event or festival (or concert - more on that later). Allow an extra day before and/or after due to travel delays or the timing of flights. Think about the season - is it buggy? Cold? Gets dark early? (Many parts of Europe are higher latitude than where we live so you may only have 4-5 hours of darkness; conversely a lot less daylight in winter.) Shifting your trip ahead or back a week or two if you can may also snag you cheaper rates and shorter lines. Something to consider if you are flexible.
Isle of Skye, Scotland
Snaefell Mountain, Isle of Man
#4. Trip Length
Budget dictates many aspects of your vacation. For me personally, I want the most bang for my buck. With the cost of an international flight, I’m going to stay as long as possible and travel multiple places while I’m there. My ideal trip would be 2 weeks. Long enough to see an amazing variety of sights, but not too long that you’re exhausted. I’ve been lucky enough to make 6 trips to the UK - as short as just a few days and as long as 23 … ‘not enough’ and ‘wow we were tired!’ Do what you can afford but make it count.
Book with an airline you trust. Or at least do your research and check on current rates of cancellations or delays. The air travel industry is facing many obstacles right now and cancellations as well as luggage issues are a real problem. Consider costs for your flight as well as extras such as premium seat selection (we always upgrade to an emergency exit row for more leg room - worth it on a 6-8 hour flight), checked bag if not included, and insurance. When flying into Dublin or Shannon, we have always had good luck with Aer Lingus. We prefer flights from Newark (which tends to get a bad rap but we have never had a problem there) because they have a daily flight. We also use Aer Lingus when flying domestically (within the UK/Man/Republic of Ireland). We’ve done 10 different flights with them and all have gone smoothly.
Dublin Airport is fairly easy to navigate although they’ve had their fair share of delays lately at check-in as well as through security. A huge plus to flying out of Dublin when returning home is the USA Pre-Clearance. Ireland is one of only 6 countries that offer customs checks prior to departure. Make your customs declarations prior to boarding and once you land in the US, you get your baggage and head home. Dublin airport has some fast food and a cafeteria style restaurant as well as a nice variety of duty free shopping 😉 Express/Airlink buses are the best way to get to/from the airport. It’s about a 30 min trip. You must take a shuttle to reach the rental car pickup/drop off area.
There are several other airports in Ireland - not all offer international flights though. We have flown JFK to Shannon and it is an extremely easy (small/rural) airport to navigate. Flights are not regularly scheduled here though.
Edinburgh Airport is similar in size and suffers from the same check-in and security delays. Restaurants here are better and it seems to have more shopping as well. Always a good way to use up leftover Sterling or Euros! Buses to the city center are available a short walk from baggage claim and you can also walk to the rental car desks.
Belfast City Airport is very small and easy to get to - a 10 min taxi ride to the city center. The taxi stand is very close to the exit from the baggage claim. Rental cars are also available. (Belfast does have a second, international airport which is located some distance away from the city.)
I have flown British Airways to London also. Heathrow is a lot bigger and trickier to navigate so consider that in your plans. I would not suggest renting a car from Hearhrow and navigating London traffic while learning to drive on the wrong side of the road. Just sayin’ 🚕
* Travel Tip Use the airline app to check-in. Save yourself a lot of time standing in line. Most airports also now have self baggage tag kiosks. Print your own tag and boarding pass, plop it on the belt, and head to security. We bypassed 100s of people this way.
More coming soon!
Topics/observations I plan to chat about… I’ll keep adding to this list. What else would you like to know?
Luggage/Carry ons Backpacks Airport parking Public transport - bus pass Money/CC Driving Cell service Traffic Regulations Food - Groceries Restaurants Downtime Car Rentals Train Travel Toiletries Laundry Accessibility/ADA Covid Umbrella vs. Raincoat Historic Scotland Card Flexibility European Appliances/Switches Security Insurances Language Booking.com Buses Time Zones