All you need to know to plan the perfect vacation in Ireland with kids: practical tips and advice from an Ireland resident and mum of 2
Ireland is a fantastic destination for a family vacation. Safe, friendly and full of attractions for all ages, it has dynamic cities, stunning nature and a rich history that comes to life in castles, fairy walks and atmospheric pubs.
These are our best tips for visiting Ireland with kids
A is for Accommodation
Family accommodation in Ireland is easy to find and comes in many forms. Many hotels offer family packages and family activities are available during school holidays.
Some of the most popular family hotels in Ireland are Amber Springs in Gorey, Newpark hotel in Kilkenny, The inn at Dromoland, The hotel Killarney, Maldron Oranmore in Galway and the stunning Ashford Castle in Mayo (you can check our full list of recommended family hotels here).
My favourite way to book hotels in Ireland is via hotels combined, which compares prices of hotels listed on major booking engines such as booking.com, TripAdvisor etc and show you the most convenient. You can check what it is all about here
If you are looking for simpler but more atmospheric accommodation for your vacation in Ireland with kids, a great option for families are B&B and farm stays. You can check many here: just type ‘Ireland in the destination fields for a great selection’.
If you want to mix comfort and contact with nature, Ireland also has some gorgeous glamping options that are family friendly. You can find some of the coolest on offer here:just make sure you book early: they are very popular!
Both are a very popular option especially in the countryside and they will let you experience what Ireland is famous for: Irish hospitality!
B is for Baby Equipment
Baby equipment and food are easy to find in Ireland in supermarkets and specialised stores.
There is an abundance of brands and organic/all natural food options are becoming more and more common. Formula is commonly sold in supermarkets and pharmacies.
If you are breastfeeding, I suggest you carry a muslin cloth or a wrap to help you stay covered: I never had bad experiences (I breastfed my two kids and never received any unwanted attention) but I have heard many mothers who did. They may just have been unlucky but since a bad encounter can ruin your mood, it is better to be prepared.
C is for Car Seats
Car seats are compulsory in Ireland in all private vehicles (not in taxis).
The most comprehensive information about car seats and requirements for different ages can be found on this website, which reports all legal requirement for safe driving.
If you are planning on taxing taxis while visiting Ireland with kids, I recommend you bring your own car seat so keep you child as safe as possible. A good and non-bulky ones for travel is Mifold
Please note: the safety of your child is your responsibility. The following info is provided as an overview only: always check the official rules of the road before driving with an infant or child in the car.
As a general rule, you need:
- Rearward facing car seat: from birth to 13 kgs (approx. birth to 15 months)
- Forward-facing car seat: for kids 9 -18 kgs (approx. 9 months to 4 years)
- Booster seat with back: 15 -25 kgs (approx. 4-6 years)
- Booster cushion: 22 – 36 kg (approx. 6 – 12 years)
- Seat belts are compulsory both in the front and the rear of the car.
D is for Driving
In Ireland, we drive on the left. This may sound irrelevant if you are not planning on going on a road trip, but with kids, it has an important consequence: they need to be even more careful when crossing the road as the cars may come from an unexpected direction!
D is also for Dublin: find here our family guide to the Irish capital
E is for Emerald
Ireland is called the Emerald isle and all it takes is a glance at its stunning green lawns to see why. Emerald, however, comes at a price and the price is rain!
Especially in the West, rain is common and if travelling Ireland with kids you will need to be prepared: rain jackets (even in summer), welly boots and a cover for a buggy are a must.
F is for Fairy Walks
Fairies are some of the most famous magical inhabitants of Ireland.
They populate ancient Celtic stories and they are nothing like the cute fairies kids are used to seeing in children movies. Traditional Irish fairies are scary and folk stories depict them as responsible for the disappearance of children or the sudden onset of illness: not exactly creatures you hope to encounter during a leisurely afternoon walk!
Despite these less than reassuring beginning, Irish fairies have developed into friendly, cute beings.
In several spots around Ireland, you will find fairy walks (nature walks with fairy doors hidden in trees and bushes). The most cynical of us see this as a clever marketing idea but kids adore it: spotting a fairy door and knocking on it makes nature walks a lot easier!
Look out for fairy trails when visiting Ireland with family: some we love are in Greenan Farm in Wicklow and in Russborough house grounds (incidentally, two excellent day trips from Dublin) but they are only two of the many!
G is for GAA
GAA stands for Gaelic Athletics Association and comprises several sports: Gaelic football (often just called ‘football’, not to be confused with ‘soccer’) hurling, camogie, handball and rounders. These sports are traditionally Irish and survived during the long centuries of British occupation: they are popular among adults and kids and are at the centre of many community events.
The flagship GAA stadium is in Dublin and it is called Croke Park: a visit here is a real treat for sport loving kids and a great way to get acquainted with a strong Irish tradition
H is for Home Exchange
No other system makes you experience life as a local like a home exchange and finding houses in Ireland is easy.
We are avid home swappers ourselves and we know many other people around the country who make their house available for swaps.
If you are travelling with kids, staying in a house that is fully equipped for little ones is guaranteed to make your holiday easier. If you are not sure if a home exchange is for you, you can read our family guide to home swapping with kids, with details of what home swapping as a family means.
I is for Internet
Internet and wifi are widely available in Ireland with the notable exception of some rural areas where coverage can be inconsistent. Hotels and B&Bs usually are equipped with free wifi but if you are driving, don’t rely on the GPS on your phone as it is likely to let you down.
For the same reason, if travelling with kids you want to make sure you have entertainment that doesn’t depend on an active internet connection – a great excuse to cut down on screen time!
J is for Jig
Ireland is famous for the contagious rhythm of its music and accompanying dance moves.
With kids, there is no better way to spend an evening than going to a dance show. They come in many forms, from big productions such as Riverdance to smaller shows in local pubs and restaurants, often advertised by posters on the door.
K is for Kerry
One of the most popular destinations in Ireland is Co Kerry, in the South West of the Country. The best way to explore this area is driving the famous ‘Ring of Kerry’, a road looping around the Kerry peninsula and famous for offering stunning views over the Atlantic ocean.
Kerry is a gorgeous area to explore with kids and has a specific inhabitant that may catch their attention: the Kerry cows, native to Ireland and totally black!
If you are not sure you have time to include the ring in your itinerary, check out our recommended Ireland road trip here to see what you can fit it.
L is for Legends
Ireland is a land of legends and saints. Medieval castles, monastic sites and windswept landscapes are the perfect backdrop for ghosts stories and the children imagination can run wild following leprechauns and chasing pots of gold at the end of the rainbow.
M is for Music
Ireland has a beautiful and rich musical tradition, easy to enjoy at all ages. Traditional sessions can be enjoyed in many pubs, in Dublin and outside, sometimes accompanied by a nice meal.
If travelling with your children, do ask if children are allowed before counting on a night out in a pub: in many establishments, there are rules and specific times when families are welcome.
N is for Night in a Castle
Ireland is famous for its many castles. Some of them are now atmospheric ruins (such as Dunlough castle) but others are still in use (Birr Castle) and have been transformed in appropriately regal hotels. An amazing castle you can stay at in Ashford in County Mayo: the experience cannot be described as affordable but if you can treat your kids to even just a night there, they are guaranteed to never forget it.
O is for Official Language
Ireland’s peculiar history means nowadays the country is bilingual Irish (or Gaelic) and English. Gaelic is learnt in school and is a prerequisite to enter certain professions such as primary school teacher or lawyer but, in practice, English is the most widespread language in the country and the only language you need to travel in Ireland.
If you want to expose your children to Gaelic, the best way to do so is to turn on the radio and to pay attention when travelling in the West: radio stations do broadcast in Gaelic and while not overly popular, you do hear it occasionally in the Westernmost part of the country.
Road signs are all in two languages: challenge your kids to figure out what they say!
P is for Paddy’s Day
Ireland National Day is the 17th of March. On this day, the country celebrates his patron Saint St Patrick: schools and offices close, people wear funny hats and shamrocks and the streets of many towns and villages fill up with parades and celebrations, popular with locals and tourists alike.
St Patrick’s day is also a day when consumption of alcohol is high. If travelling with kids, I recommend you avoid travelling on St Patrick’s day or the day immediately after as the roads are, sadly, unsafe due to drunk driving.
If you are in Ireland on this day, my recommendation is to pick a smaller town and stay put for a couple of days, enjoying the local festivities: village parades are usually the most enjoyable and colourful (we often go to the one in Wicklow)
Q is for Questions
Irish people are known for being friendly and talkative. They are also, in general, happy to help with directions and advice. If staying in a B&B or local home, don’t be shy about asking questions to your hosts and they are guaranteed to recommend you the best food, attractions and local pubs in their area!
R is for Road Trip
The best way to visit Ireland is to plan a road trip. Distances in Ireland are not long but much smaller, country roads can be slow. If you can, I would suggest spending at least 10 days in Ireland and, ideally two weeks. You can find my favourite Ireland road trip itinerary here
S is for Surfing
Ireland’s northerly location may not immediately conjure up the idea of surfing beaches but the country has some amazing surfing spots, many of them suitable for kids. Among the best ones, there are the stunning beaches of Donegal, in the North West of Ireland and in Co Clare.
T is for Tea
You may think Guinness is the Irish National Drink but this is not what you will be offered in an Irish home. Rather, what you will be offered is tea: hot, milky and often accompanied by cake, it is the lubricant of most social interactions and something you should always accept.
U is for UNESCO
Ireland appears on the Unesco list of World heritage sites with two historically meaningful location: The complex of Brú na Bóinne (counting the prehistorical sites of Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth in Ireland ancient East) and the monastic complex Skellig Micheal.
While Skellig Michael is not suitable for kids, I highly recommend a trip to Newgrange as suitable for all ages: just make sure you book in advance as entry is strictly regulated. You can find our guide to the Boyne Valley and the Newgrange area here.
V is for Visa
Depending on your country of origin you may need a Visa to enter Ireland: specific rules and regulations can be found here.
If you are travelling alone with a child in Ireland, additional regulations may apply. I have often been asked to produce the kids’ long form birth certificate, to prove I am their mother (we have different surnames) and it is also a good idea to bring with you a letter from your partner authorising you to enter/leave the country alone with the kids.
While I was never asked to produce such a letter, I have heard of it being asked so it is worth checking specific rules with your local embassy before travelling, to avoid delayed and unpleasant surprises on arrival
W is for Writers
Ireland has a very rich and interesting literary tradition, James Joyce, Oscar Wyld, and W.B. Yeats being only some of the many names people think of when thinking about the emerald isle.
Some of their works are for adults only, but many can be also enjoyed by young kids: Gulliver’s Travels are a favourite for several generations and older kids are likely to enjoy the Picture of Dorian Grey. Many contemporary Irish writers are also worth reading: here are some of our suggestions (if you click on the pictures you will be redirected to the amazon.com website, with latest prices and availability)
X if for Crosses
One of the most peculiar rights in Ireland are the big Celtic crosses you see especially in graveyards. They can be easily recognised because of their elaborate engravings and because of the peculiar circle surrounding the area where the arms of the cross merge. The one in the photo is in Kikenny, a must see stop when visiting Ireland with kids
Irish legends report that celtic crosses were first introduced in Ireland by St Patrick. The pagan population of Ireland was used to worshipping the sun so the Saint is said to have combined the Christian cross with the circular pattern of the sun in an attempt of making them accept more easily the symbol of Christianity.
However accurate or legendary this explanation may be, there is no doubt that the Celtic crosses are evocative and peculiar to Ireland. Kids tend to be oblivious to their meaning but since they tend to be of a significant size, they are usually reason for great curiosity!
Ireland can be visited in all seasons. Despite its northerly latitude, the gulf stream hitting Ireland’s Western coast means winter and summers here are mild and temperatures rarely drop significantly below zero even in the midst of winter.
This doesn’t mean it is no important to wrap up: in winter, warm jackets and waterproof shoes are a must and in summer layers are the name of the game, especially with children. Weather changes very quickly here and a sunny day can turn into a cold and rainy one: with young kids, always have a change of clothes handy and good waterproof shoes in all seasons.
Z is for Zoos
Ireland has beautiful wildlife and some zoos kids are likely to enjoy. Dublin zoo has an interesting ‘African plains’ area, a gorilla enclosure and a newly create orangutang area, while in Co Cork there is Fota Wildlife park, where animals have wider spaces available and almost cage free (with some exceptions!)
I hope you enjoyed our ABC to visiting Ireland with kids. If you find it useful, pin it for later!
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