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Accommodation Options in Ireland and Northern Ireland

By Ginger Aarons-Garrison, CTC, Director

About Ginger: Ginger is an operator of small, intimate tours to Ireland located in Portland, Oregon specializing in genealogy and garden tours to Ireland, North and South and the British Isles. You can find more information at www.timetraveltours.com

Travellers at Giants Causeway 2009One of the biggest questions I get when starting to work with a client, be it an individual or a group, is where are we going to stay? What are the costs associated with the different types of stays and what will our experience be like at each of the different options? Making the right choice for you and your lifestyle is paramount in making your trip a success as each holds a different experience. Let’s take a look at the options:

Bed & Breakfast / Farm Stays

Typically this type of stay will bring you closer to the local people of the town or area youCalves at Belle Isle Estate are staying in as the owners are community members and can offer a wealth of information if you are researching your roots. The positive side of this is type of stay are connections, personal touch, home cooked breakfast and a way to reach potential familial connections.

roomThe downside of this type of stay is that the costs associated are now equal now to a 3 star hotel. If you need your luggage carried up stairs, have a hard time traversing stairs, need privacy (honeymooners) or will need dinner options for dining in, this is not the type of stay for you. Most B&B’s have a set time to be in the house. While researchers often utilize the light of the long summer day, they may be hindered by the house curfew. Choose wisely remembering that, finding the best B&B or Farm Stay is by word of mouth or by using a travel consultant that is “in the know”.

Hotels

In recent times, hotels in Ireland have been hit hard by the economy and are causes for alarm for anyone planning a trip or group/family experience. It is of the utmost importance to work with a qualified agent or tour company that knows if a hotel is in receivership or on the brink of collapse and that you are covered by insurance to help navigate a bad situation should it arise.Bedroom

Hotels range in price from 2 to 5- star hotels. A 2- Star hotel will be more of a classified hostel or boarding house. Three star hotels in Ireland abound and there are some great ones out there, affording the researcher or tourist a comfortable and adequate place to call home for their holiday. Most 3 -star hotels, however, do not always have a restaurant that is open in the evening and many do not offer room service. 4 and 5 -Star hotels in Ireland are also in great number in Ireland and have great bargains for extended stays as well as dining options you can add to your stay and prepay. Most resorts and 4-star hotels have spas for an added value and ranging in size and quality. Also, some of the resort hotels have apartments that can be rented on a weekly basis, adding to your options for touring Ireland. One thing to consider when renting an apartment from a resort is that booking through a small tour operator or directly through the hotel will often lead to a better deal overall, with no hidden costs (such as extra towels) and will guarantee the personal service you expect in a 4 - 5-star hotel. Booking with big operators such as Septre Tours, Expedia or Hotels.com for example, can leave you wanting on the customer service end of things, which only sours a holiday abroad. Remember, their prices are low… and there’s a reason! Many of these operators are taking the last rooms or have contracts that give you the lower price, because not all amenities are included. This is always a buyer beware situation! They do serve a purpose for some travelers, however.

Boutique Hotels

Boutique hotels require their own special category as they are usually family run, small hotels and will cater to every need of the client. Boutique hotels are often more expensive than your usual 3 – 4 - star hotels but overall well worth the price. If you like the small, at your service of a B&B this may be an excellent option for you, providing dining options, room service, personalized service within the area you are researching and providing all the services of a full resort hotel. Many of the Boutique Hotels in Ireland have fabulous restaurants that serve local, fresh fare and provide an excellent overall experience.

Historic Houses

Historic Houses are another category of stay in Ireland. Providing a glimpse into the past, and perhaps to your ancestor’s life on an estate, either as a landlord or worker, is anHistoric House excellent way to travel in Ireland. Each house, privately owned and operated, offers family rooms or courtyard apartments that give a truly unique experience like none other in Ireland. When staying in one of these unique properties, you will experience the world of the Big House, gaining a glimpse of what it might have been like back in the day. From experiencing before and after dinner drinks in the drawing room by a roaring fire affording the traveler a way to meet new people in an intimate setting, to dining with others staying in the house, it becomes a meeting ground for new friendships and is an experience you’ll not soon forget. Other things to consider with this type of stay is that many historic houses, some dating back 400 years, do not always have the modern convenience of central heating/cooling, modern showers (many have high bathtubs for bathing), not to mention the lack of an elevator and an abundance of stairs. This can be a problem for some and realizing that the owner cannot accommodate you and can do nothing about it is common sense and a courtesy that should be considered before People in Roomembarking upon a stay such as this. These wonderful houses are the owners’ homes and often they have records for researching and some even have full service genealogical services.

If your trip is a once in a lifetime trip or you are a returning visitor, using an experienced agent becomes foremost in knowing what to expect from each individual property and what you can expect from your choice of places to stay- from costs to experience. This service usually does not cost and is part of a package produced by a seasoned agent or tour operator. Often you gain invaluable information on where to eat, what to do and driving directions as part of your planned trip, which is critical to a successful trip abroad doing research on ancestors or just holidaying.

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