Our weekend getaway to western Ireland was one of the best family vacations we’ve had in awhile. We had been itching for a quick trip and began stalking discount airline sites a few months back. We decided on Ireland and then had to choose a regional airport with the best deal. Indecisiveness commenced. We finally made a decision and hurriedly purchased the tickets before prices could go up any further. Three days before departure I finally pulled up the email itinerary my husband had forwarded to me a month before. And then I saw it. We were supposed to spend three days in western Ireland. We’d planned it so we would arrive early Friday morning and depart late Sunday night. Or so we thought. European airline sites’ drop-down calendars go Sunday to Saturday. We’re used to American drop-down calendars that go Monday to Sunday. And that’s how (we think) the fateful error was made. We would be spending less than two days in Ireland. Our itinerary clearly showed we were departing early Friday morning and returning late SATURDAY night. To correct our error would have cost us quadruple the original price. And these were tickets where paying for the baby to sit in my lap cost more than our actual seats… So the dilemma became just canceling the trip or going anyhow on a whirlwind 36-hour tour of Ireland. If you’ve read any of my recent posts (like The Hypocrite who Kissed the Blarney Stone) you’ll know we opted to go anyhow. But I was not a happy camper. I had a list–a list of places we were going to visit each of the three days we were in Ireland. There was no way this list could be completed in just TWO days. And I’m pretty sure that is why our vacation was so successful. Call it cramming or over-scheduling, every decent list of rookie travel mistakes includes some variant of that same idea. I am ALWAYS guilty of this. And I know it, I admit it. I just can’t stop doing it. Each time we travel, I think I have finally planned an attainable, manageable, and realistic itinerary for a family travelling with kids. I’m always wrong. Take our first weekend trip to London. I pushed too hard and demanded we end our weekend at the Tower of London. We hadn’t even made it to the crown jewels when the trifecta of meltdowns began. Diaper baby had awoken in the boba wrap and screamed inconsolably to be released while the Temper demanded to be in mommy’s arms and the Tattletale went berserk about some souvenir in the gift shop window we hadn’t purchased for her. You know it was beyond chaotic because I couldn’t even find time to take a picture of the craziness unfolding. And yet I continue to cram things onto our itineraries despite my husband’s pleas and London reminders.
I had undoubtedly overscheduled our three days in Ireland, but this unforeseen hiccup with our travel dates forced me to be more realistic. Knowing that just the Cliffs of Moher and the Burren were on the agenda for that first afternoon meant we could take hours at the Cliffs just watching the kids run in the fields (away from the edge). Then when they were exhausted we drove to the Burren and took turns taking in the views while they slept in the car.
Our rental house was more of a duplex with the owner’s house right next door. The owner and her young daughter were there to greet us and showed the kids the tree house and trampoline in their giant backyard. We hung out with our new Irish friends for the next hour, got recommendations for dinner and sightseeing the next day, and headed out to the local pub. It was awesome. I even came to my senses, with the help of our rather in-your-face Irish host, and decided we would not attempt to drive two hours to the Ring of Kerry to then spend all day driving the ring and then drive all the way back and get on an airplane. Yeah, I’d really considered it. Instead, we spent our second, and final, day exploring two castles: Blarney Castle and Bunratty Castle. No rushing or arguing about trying to squeeze more in and plenty of times for the kids to run free. In fact, we were meltdown free for over 30 hours, which is pretty good for us. We left content with what we’d accomplished and looking forward to going back again to finish exploring the western coast. Often times the best experiences in life can’t be planned.