Sinead Ryan: How to save money by holidaying close to home
Staycations are convenient and very cost-effective, writes Sinead Ryan
If only we'd known summer 2018 was going to be so nice, we could have saved loads of money on booking foreign holidays.
Staycationers lucked out this year but it's still August, so if you haven't organised a break, you can keep the fingers crossed. This week, I'm looking at the benefits of holidaying at home.
This is the biggest factor, undoubtedly. Hotels are enjoying boom times since the introduction of the low nine per cent VAT rate, resulting in cheaper packages and meals out.
Family rooms no longer mean truckle beds squished into the corner, but inter-connecting rooms, kid-friendly bunks and activity clubs on site to make Ireland a fun destination.
For the price of two weeks in the sun, a family of four could enjoy two different holidays here, splitting location and timing, if parents' work schedules don't permit one long break. You'll also save on the cost of travel insurance and, of course, the biggie - flights.
A four-night family break in Galway (above) vs Portugal saves €2,199.40.
Getting abroad takes a day each way out of your holiday, even if you're only going to Spain. Staycations save on restrictive baggage rules, long airport waits and car hire. You can start your holiday straight away when you arrive, with no language difficulties (except in Kerry maybe!), and familiar routes on trains, buses and motorways. Kids love public transport, so use it where you can.
Children don't adapt well to being overheated, bored or jet-lagged. Avoid it all by piling into the car on an adventure, with plenty of stops built in. You'll have familiar surroundings (Irish, but different), and know that home, family, your GP or a hospital is within driving distance. Staycations allow a real home from home - much of the time you can bring your pets, bicycles and toys that are forbidden on a plane.
You can shop for familiar food brands in shops you know and if you're self-catering, that's a must. You can even pack booze and essentials from home and bring them with you.
For more ideas, see mummypages.ie, familyfriendlyhq.ie, familyfun.ie.
You can't win them all but kids really don't care. Whether you're in a tent, caravan or fancy hotel, there are tons of things to do with a little planning to keep everyone happy. The usual advice - to pack for four seasons - still holds.
Ireland is a vibrant tourist destination and often we forget just how hard towns and communities outside the cities work to keep it that way.
There are plenty of websites (see end of this article) to help you uncover secret trails and fun activities - indoors and out - and you won't have time to see them all.
Foreign beaches are mainly used for sunbathing as it's too hot to do anything else, but it's much more fun to explore rock pools, coves, promenades, water sports and picnics on our own beautiful strands which you'll often find, instead of being crammed with sweaty, pot-bellied holidaymakers on sun-loungers, almost completely deserted, just for you!
TripAdvisor's 2018 top three Irish beaches are: Inch, Co Kerry (above), Inchydoney, Clonakilty, Co Cork and Dog's Bay Beach, Roundstone, Co Galway - bring your own picnic and the craic will find you.
Irish tourism websites
Being a tourist in Ireland is easy, and not just for foreign visitors: check out wildatlanticway.com, irelandsancienteast.com, heritageireland.ie, museum.ie, failteireland.ie and greenway.ie, just for starters.
Last-minute deals at home and abroad
Hodson Bay Hotel, Athlone
August 24 for 3 nights, family room incl. 3 B&B + 2 dinners (adults), free activity camps (ages 4 - 12), adult activities incl. yoga, beer tasting etc. from €995. Access to Bay Sports water sports €4 - €17.
Fota Island, Cork
September 1 for 4 nights, 2-bed lodge, €690. Kayaking, canoeing, archery etc on site (fee applies), and Fota Wildlife Park (family ticket from €48).
Connacht Hotel, Galway
August 10 for 3 nights, family room, kids' club, pool and activities included, €557.60.
Mijas Costa Oasis, Malaga
1-bed apartment for family of four for 4 nights mid-August, flying ex-Dublin, €1,525.13, Budget Travel, (budgettravel.ie).
Alvor Baia, Portugal
1-bed apartment for family of four for 4 nights mid-August, flying ex-Cork, €2,757, TUI (tuiholidays.ie).
Norcenni Girasole Campsite, Italy
2-bed mobile home for 6 nights on August 14, €817.20, flights extra (eurocamp.ie).