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Lyn writes about how to fly nearly free on Southwest at GotoTravelGal.com, but she and her family recently took their first trip to Europe almost entirely on miles. I’ve asked her to share what her family enjoyed in Dublin, Ireland, so you can follow in her footsteps if this city is on your travel list!
Lyn: This summer, my family of 4, including my husband and boys ages 9 and 13, flew to Europe by taking advantage of Aer Lingus Airlines’ off-peak season awards that cost only 26,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip in coach from several major US cities to Dublin. While our plan was to explore other parts of Europe, including Paris and Tuscany, we spent several days at the beginning of our trip in Ireland’s capital.
The flights to and from Dublin were some of the 8 nearly-free flights we took this summer, saving us $5,600. I’ll show you what we did, where we stayed and how we saved, so you can do the same if you’re headed to Dublin soon!
Note: Some hotels and activities included in this post were provided to Go to Travel Gal at a reduced rate or complimentary in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Save on a Family Trip to Dublin
Dublin is a fun way to begin a trip to Europe and works especially well for families. It’s helpful to start your trip in an English-speaking country, and who doesn’t adore a great Irish accent?! We especially enjoyed hearing our boys referred to as “laddies.” 🙂
Dublin is also ~6 hours by plane from East Coast cities like New York City and Boston, making it a more palatable flight for kids. We chose to fly from Chicago, the closest major city to our home in Indianapolis that allowed us to take advantage of the off peak-award fares. The flight from Chicago was ~7 hours to Dublin and ~8 hours returning.
Flying to Dublin
To fly to Dublin, we took advantage of Aer Lingus’ off-peak awards, which allow you to fly from cities like Hartford, Chicago, and New York City to Dublin for 26,000 British Airways Avios points round-trip per person. You can read step-by-step how we collected the points and booked the flights.
Wondering if Aer Lingus is a good airline to fly? Read my review of our experience.
From Dublin, you can use points to fly on British Airways, Aer Lingus, or other major airlines to other destinations in Europe. Or take advantage of discount airlines like Ryanair to fly cheaply to the next major European city. We flew from Dublin to Paris on Aer Lingus, using British Airways Avios points, from Paris to Bologna on Ryanair, and then from Bologna back to Dublin on Aer Lingus using British Airways Avios points.
Getting to Our Hotel
Once you arrive in Dublin, you’ll need a way to get to your hotel. You can rent a car, though Ireland requires that you purchase high amounts of insurance, and you’ll have to drive on the opposite side of the road. 🙂
We decided to skip renting a car and instead took a shuttle from the airport to the hotel. We made an online reservation with Aercoach, which cost us ~$25 for 3 adults and 1 child, and was easy to find outside Dublin airport.
Where We Stayed in Dublin
We chose to stay outside Dublin’s historic city center area in an upscale neighborhood called Ballsbridge at the InterContinental Dublin. It’s a quiet area with its own small village with restaurants, pubs, and shopping, and close to the modern Aviva Stadium for football, rugby, and other sports.
The InterContinental Dublin was comfortable with well-appointed rooms that were spacious, modern, and had private balconies with views of Dublin’s skyline. We were also happy to enjoy an American-style breakfast buffet each morning with yogurt, pastries, eggs and, of course, bangers and mash! 😉
You can book the InterContinental Dublin and Holiday Inn Express hotels using IHG points.
Other good hotel options in Dublin include:
At the end of our European getaway, we had to make our way back to Dublin to return to Chicago on Aer Lingus and chose to stay at an airport hotel for 1 night. The Maldron Hotel Dublin Airport was affordable, but very nice, with an on-site bar and restaurant and literally just across the street from the airport. The Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport is another great airport option.
Getting Around Dublin
We had 1 day to explore Dublin’s historic City Center, and we chose to hire an Uber to take us there. The driver had the most charming Irish accent and was quite a character, making for a fun ride into town.
You can also take one of Dublin’s many Wi-Fi equipped double decker buses (they reminded us of the Knight Bus from “Harry Potter” 😉 ), though you will need exact cash or you can buy a “Leap” reloadable card online. Another option is to take DART, Dublin’s electric rail system, though it was a further walk from our hotel.
Fun and Affordable Dublin Activities
1. Guinness Storehouse
The number 1 thing you must do in Dublin is visit the Guinness Storehouse, the home of Ireland’s famously dark brew and the country’s top attraction. At the Storehouse, you’ll learn about Guinness from its history and how it’s made, to how to properly pour and drink a pint. I’m not a beer drinker, but I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth this beer is when you learn to drink it correctly (Key tip: Don’t drink the foam!).
The Storehouse has several places to dine, including the restaurant 1837 with fantastic views over Dublin and where you can order classic Irish beef stew paired with a brew. Book your tickets in advance online to save 30% and get a free pint per person (kids get a soft drink). Don’t miss the Gravity Bar on the top floor with epic 360-degree views of the city, which you can enjoy while drinking your complimentary beer.
2. Top Attractions
While we did not see everything in Dublin in a day, we did visit key attractions. St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is one of the few remaining Medieval buildings in Dublin and which dates to the 1200s, is worth a look. You’ll find the burial place of Jonathan Swift, author of “Gulliver’s Travels,” and stand on the site where St. Patrick baptized converts. A stop at beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin’s oldest building, should also be on your list.
For more history, head to Trinity College, one of the oldest colleges in Western Europe, for a look at the Book of Kells, which is an elaborately illustrated and handwritten manuscript of the Bible’s 4 New Testament gospels dating to the 800s. You do need to purchase tickets in advance (children 12 and younger are free), and the library closes daily at 5:00 pm with shorter hours on Sundays. I’d also recommend exploring Trinity College’s campus, which is absolutely beautiful.
3. Free Activities
There are lots of free things to do in Dublin! In fact, you could just walk the city center and enjoy the facades of the buildings and Dublin’s outdoors, so long as it isn’t too rainy!
Our kids had fun exploring St. Stephen’s Green, a lovely park in the heart of the city with lots of green spaces, ponds, flowers, and waterfalls. We happened upon the park on a perfectly sunny day, and it seemed all of Dublin had come out to enjoy the outdoors. Phoenix Park is another popular outdoor hang-out in Dublin that spreads over 1,700 acres and is home to Dublin Zoo. The park boasts its own herd of deer and the residence of Ireland’s president.
A walk down Grafton Street, Dublin’s main shopping district, is also a must-do. It’s a lively street filled with people and where you’re likely to happen upon street musicians performing an Irish tune. Stop in Ireland’s Brown Thomas Department store and find the perfect souvenir for your Irish vacation.
Temple Bar is one of the most famous areas of Dublin known for its plentiful pubs and bars and where you’re likely to not just raise 1 pint, but several! Families may want to avoid this area at night, but it makes for a fun stroll past during the day.
Dublin is a fun spot to spend a few days exploring its history, outdoors – and beer! With award flights incredibly reasonable on Aer Lingus, there’s no reason not to go experience the luck of the Irish – either as its own trip or as part of a larger European getaway.