I’m 33 & This Is How Much I Spent On A Trip To Ireland With My Boyfriend & His Sister

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Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 33-year-old product designer tours Ireland with her boyfriend and his sister on a road trip that starts and ends in Dublin. 
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Age: 33
Occupation: Product Designer
Salary: $87,500
Travel Companions: Boyfriend, T., and his sister, K.
Annual Number Of Vacation Days: 15
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Trip Location: Ireland (part of a bigger trip that also includes Italy and France)
Trip Length): 2 weeks
Travel Companion Number of Vacation Days: 0 or 365, however you look at it — he was laid off in January
Costs:  We booked LAX to Dublin for $812.28 (per person, me and my boyfriend T. traveled together on the flight) and were brought to the airport by our friend, J. No charge! We had a layover in Paris for a few hours before getting to Dublin. We didn’t check luggage; carry-ons, always! 
In Dublin, we rented a car because we planned on visiting a new city in Ireland every night for five nights. (Well, four cities, because we did Dublin twice.) It was $117 per person (split three ways) before we left for the trip. 
From Dublin to Florence (or next destination, not included in this diary), we booked flights for $228.50 per person and had a layover in Amsterdam. 
Total: $1,157.78
Costs: Our first hotel in Dublin, the Temple Bar Hotel, was $331.58 total; $110.53 per person. Then in Galway, we stayed at the Forster Court Hotel, $155.99 total; $52 per person. In Cork we stayed at Hotel Isaacs, and T. paid for it with Expedia points. In Kilkenny, we stayed at the Kilford Arms Hotel for $107.39 total; $35.79 per person. Then when we returned to Dublin, we stayed at the Abbey Hotel, $153.61 total; $51.20 per person. 
Total: $249.52
Miscellaneous pre-vacation spending:
Gel manicure: $50
Pedicure: $27
New dresses and shirt: $141
Makeup wipes and travel makeup remover: $8
Roll-up water bottles to refill: $14
“Litter box” and box cutter (I built a makeshift litter box to make it easier on my friend who is taking the cat; it’s a Rubbermaid tote with a hole cut in the top. Almost cut my hand off doing it but it’s so much cleaner for her): $10
Snacks to leave at my cat sitter’s as a treat for her, the sitter: $10
Advil, stomach relief stuff (traveling blows up my stomach): $14
International data: $60 (paid by my nervous father) for 1GB of data and unlimited text messages
Total: $274 
Miscellaneous post-vacation spending
Cat sitter (it’s my friend who takes her into her own house). It’s a $15 a day but I added a little extra to make it an even number: $250
Car rental extras: fuel, GPS, insurance (charged once we were home in LA): $115 each person.
Total: $365

Day One 

6:00 a.m. – It’s my first day off in forever! I’m beyond pumped to have the next two weeks off with no work obligations. I work from Michigan once a month for a week to help my dad, who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, so I get “time off” from LA, where I live, but I have to work the whole time so it’s not really a vacation. I get up early, stuff some food in my mouth so I don’t get coffee anxiety, make a Nespresso, and go for a walk with my boyfriend, T. It’s one of our favorite morning rituals. We talk excitedly about the day and our impending flight that night. We are going to road trip around Ireland with his sister K. for five days before touring other parts of Europe to meet T.’s family and do more traveling.
9:00 a.m. – I run around finishing packing. T. had already packed two weeks ago along with his entire family (they’re planners) and I’m more of a relaxed vacationer and packer. I pack my favorite backpack for traveling as full as it can be. I know I won’t wear half of the shit in the bag, but of course, I can’t bring myself to take anything out. 
11:00 a.m. – T goes with his friend to see Avenger’s End Game again as I pack up the cat to bring her to my friend’s place for the next two weeks. She loves my kitty and I can’t express how thankful I am that she cares for the cat, in her own home, when I’m away for long trips. Of course, I pay her but the peace of mind is worth any amount of money. My cat gets lonely and crazy when she’s alone too long so this helps. 
12:00 p.m. – Sob, I stop procrastinating and bring the cat to my friend’s. I already miss her. I bring along some of my friend's favorite treats as well and leave them on the counter as a bonus thank you gift. The cat immediately hides under the bed (my friend is at work) and I try to find her for one last pet, but it’s no use. I yell to her that I love her, because I’m insane, and lock her in the apartment. I head home to finish packing.
3:00 p.m. – I unplug everything in the apartment and hide my laptops because I’m that person. K. gets home with our airport ride, our friend J. We pack up the car and fight LA traffic to get to LAX. Our flight isn’t until 9:00 p.m. but we have lounge access and we don’t want J. to have to be in traffic at rush hour on a Friday. We trade airport rides with him for free because all three of us travel a lot. It’s nice!
5:00 p.m. – We’re through TSA (Pre-check! Do it!) and already lounging. T. has a Chase Sapphire Reserve and it includes a Priority Pass that lets him bring a guest to anything the Priority Pass includes, which in this case, is a lounge. We grab drinks and snacks and sit outside on the “balcony” overlooking the international terminal. T.’s brother and his fiancée get to the airport and lounge with us. We are all stoked. It doesn’t feel real! (We’ll meet up with them in Florence after our Ireland trip; they’re going to other cities first.)
6:30 p.m. – T.’s brother and his fiancée have an 8:00 p.m. flight so they want to do real dinner at P.F. Chang’s (also included for free with Priority Pass for up to $30 a person). We all order: I obviously get chicken lettuce wraps and listen to some drama with TSA because an employee of the restaurant apparently badged into the terminal but has not badged out yet though his shift is over. We strain to hear everything going on as the police have shown up, but in the end, they discover the employee is at home and that his badge just must not have worked on the way out. We finish our meal and get our fortune cookies. Mine is “You will soon discover that love is everything.” Oh, really? We all pay for the tip ($20, not included in Priority Pass) and I throw in the last of the cash I have in my purse. Next stop: Europe and euros! $7
9:00 p.m. – We board and settle into our seats. We’re in the last row, which is perfect because it’s two seats instead of three and it reclines really far for a coach seat. I take half a Xanax because I hate flying (but love traveling) and am prescribed it solely for flights. Next stop: layover in Paris! Everything is included in our flight so we don’t spend any money.
Daily Total: $7

Day Two

4:50 p.m. – Landed in Paris! Thank god I took that Xanax because we had maybe one of the most turbulent flights I’ve ever been on. I don’t get motion sickness and even I started to feel sick. We slept a good amount on the flight, however, and I got to rewatch one of my favorite movies, Bridget Jones’s Diary.
6:00 p.m. – We finally made it through customs and re-scanned our bags, which took forever because we had to walk a long way, then an American woman was demanding to speak to a “manager” at security because they wouldn’t let her into our terminal to shop because she didn’t have a ticket for those gates. She was also my age, which is disheartening. Just don’t be a dick, everyone. Our next flight to Dublin isn’t until 9:00 p.m., so we go in search of drinks.
6:30 p.m. – We get Champagne to celebrate arriving in Europe ($20.41 for my glass) and I stop by Ladurée for macarons ($9.45). We have two Ladurées in LA but I heard they’re not as good as in France. Maybe it's the placebo effect, but they do taste better! We aren’t in the right terminal for the lounge included with T.’s Priority Pass, which is a bummer, but we find comfy seats and park there, reading and eating macarons until we need to board our flight. $29.86
8:00 p.m. – I decide I’m hungry and in need of caffeine, so I stop at Pret A Manger for two cappuccinos, beet chips, and a chickpea, hummus, and feta cup. I record all my purchases in Tripcoin, which is awesome and does conversions (so does my credit card – I have a Chase Sapphire Preferred and I set it up to send me a text message every time an international charge posts). T. doesn’t have a job right now, so I plan to cover as much as I can for him too in terms of small items like cappuccinos, but we split most of all the bigger purchases and use Splitwise to keep track. $16.49
9:00 p.m. – T.’s sister, K., is at the bar in Dublin on WiFi and is impatiently texting us to hurry up and get there because she’s four drinks deep and ready to party. Our flight is slightly delayed, but we finally take off for the short trip to Ireland.
10:15 p.m. – We made it! Good Lord, I have to pee. We have to get to the car rental counter by 11:00 p.m. so we haul ass to get there, but I duck into a bathroom, yelling at T. to go ahead. Afterward, I try to find him in the place I assume he’s at – the off-site car rental – so I start to get on a shuttle. Luckily, the car shuttle driver is very nice and says the counters are still open inside so I should check there first. That would’ve sucked. He walks me in and I find T. finishing up getting our car. I go to the bank ATM while he finishes and I take out a few hundred euros. My credit union covers all ATM fees up to $15 and has great conversion rates, so I’m the designated cash person. I pay a $4 fee, to be reimbursed at the end of the month. We have to add insurance and a GPS to the car, so I will owe more for the car later. The Enterprise employee tells us excitedly that he got us a Skoda, and we don’t know what that is, but we thank him and go find our car. 
11:00 p.m. – The Skoda is just a nice, roomy four-door sedan which we have no feelings about either way. T. is the first who is going to attempt to drive on the left side of the road on the right side of the car, and I will admit, my anxiety is pissing him off. I’m a backseat driver who is technically in the driver’s seat (if we were in America) and it’s all a little nerve-wracking. We pay one toll on the way into Dublin. We make it to our hotel, but can’t find the parking lot and there’s people everywhere. We are staying on Temple Street, which was possibly a mistake. I run inside our hotel to grab K. and ask where we should park. We finally find the lot, park, and get to our room. Quick change, and out the door to get drinks and explore the area! $3.40
12:00 a.m. – This street is hopping. We find a bar called Oliver St. John playing live music and I grab the first round of drinks. ($24.38) I got a Guinness. I had to! It’s so packed in the bar, and there are people from so many different countries there. (We know this because the singer calls out approximately 20 countries and people scream back at the mention of every one.) K. and I get very excited when they play the Scottish song 500 Miles by The Proclaimers. We dance, K. gets hit on by nearly every dude there, and T. buys us another round of drinks. K. doesn’t want anymore as she had a head start, but as her big brother, T. insists we do a shot. It is gross. We move onto another bar. $24.38
1:00 a.m. – Next bar playing live music. We meet guys from NYC (who we initially did not want to talk to and told we were from Canada) but they ended up being very nice and one is very interested in K. It turns out he and I technically worked for the same company for a while and discuss mergers. Super exciting Ireland bar talk. The guys buy us all drinks, T. buys them all drinks, K. buys us drinks, we dance more and before we know it, the bar is closing. 
2:30 a.m. – T. exchanges numbers with the guys because they’re road-tripping also. We know we won’t see them again. K. and I bolt to the hotel room because we’re starving. There’s no food open late here! Or really, we are just too drunk and lazy to find it. We hit the lobby to buy Pringles and beer and I get a Smirnoff Ice to ice T. because drunk, and I apparently think that joke is still funny 10 years later. We eat the Pringles but 100% don’t need the beer, so it sits unfinished as we get ready for bed and crash. I pay for the stuff because it was definitely all my idea. $23.81
Daily total: $97.94

Day Three

9:00 a.m. – We wake up after a fitful night of sleep. Time changes and drinks. We all shower, get ready, and repack. We debate exploring some of Dublin, but we’ll be back here in a few days so we instead decide to check out to get breakfast and make our way to Galway. We bring our stuff to the car (minus T.’s and K.’s backpacks, which both have their laptops in them) and then wander to find food.
11:00 a.m. – We eat breakfast and it’s pretty amazing. I’m happy to have something besides Pringles and airport food. I get a smoked salmon platter and coffee for both me and T. He also gets a traditional Irish breakfast (beans, blood sausage, the works!) and K. gets fish and chips. Breakfast of champions. $23.75
12:00 p.m. – We pay for parking ($6.80 per person - we’re splitting everything evenly, for the most part, and have a Splitwise group for the three of us). We set the GPS to Galway and T. drives us. K. and I both love My Favorite Murder so we relisten to the Dublin live episode on the way, for theming. We go through a few tolls that I pay for ($4.53) and watch the scenery go by. K. is out and sleeping in the backseat. T., who gets really tired while driving, asks me to drive after a little while. Here we go. It is pretty terrifying at first, but I think it makes me an even better driver having to pay 10,000 percent attention. The worst part? Switching lanes and making sure you’re over far enough. It’s crazy how much driving we do by feel and what we are used to. Both T. and K. are passed out so I drive alone for 1.5 hours, switching to Janelle Monae’s “Dirty Computer” album to keep me entertained. We arrive in Galway! $11.33
2:00 p.m. – A nice woman gives us her parking pass so we don’t need to pay for parking in our lot. We walk to the hotel and check-in. There was a mixup with the reservation so they have to charge us extra for the room. Make sure you note the correct number of people staying in the room! We get up to our room and it seems that a fuse is out, because no lights turn on. I call the front desk, who amaze me when they tell me you put your key in the box by the door to activate the lights! Who knew. Not me. I swear I’ve traveled before, everyone. $13.60
3:00 p.m. – We wander around Galway. I love this city. It’s a cute seaside town. We stop for a Smithwick’s beer. K. passes on the beer, so I just get one for me and T. and a Diet Coke for myself. ($13.28) We continue wandering post-beer and stop in the Galway Cathedral. I put $5.67 in as a donation for all of us to visit the cathedral, and I light a candle for $1.14. I always pay to light a candle in every church I go in – I’m not Catholic, but I really like this. I usually light a candle for my mom, who passed away two years ago from complications of early-onset dementia. The cathedral is beautiful and on our way out, we pay to use the restroom ($1.14). $21.23
5:00 p.m. – We continue wandering by the water and shop a little. I want a wool sweater but it’s $69.90 and it’s a little steep for me. I get a wool hat instead for winter, because LA winters are no joke, lol ($22.40). T. buys a Celtic cross for his mom’s birthday in a week. T. is also set on sending “drunk postcards” so I get some with stamps. ($13.60). We decide we’re hungry and pop in an old bar called 1520 Bar. It’s so cute and I get an amazing chowder ($9.01). We continue wandering and I buy a cappuccino for me and a latte for T. ($6.80). We decide to go back to the hotel to rest for a bit. $51.81
8:00 p.m. – We head back out and go to An Pucan, a bar nearby. We get drinks and sit outside, though it’s a little chilly. I get a Tullamore dew and spiced orange ginger beer, which is too sweet for me ($7.94). We decide we’re starving so we go in search of food, but everyone has stopped serving food already. We just want some garlic bread! (It’s on the menu everywhere in Ireland, including at Subway.) We try three different bars and nearly give up, but a Mexican Chipotle-style place is still open until 10:00 p.m. I effectively get a Chipotle burrito bowl but it’s way better here ($15.19). We go back to the hotel to eat and go to bed watching the Graham Norton Show. Will Smith is on and damn, Will as the Genie in “Aladdin” is goddamn terrifying. $23.13
Daily Total: $144.85

Day Four

9:00 a.m. – Up, pack, go down in search of food. A restaurant across the street called Jungle Cafe is just opening. I get a flat white and a smoked salmon croissant. ($13.60) It is one of the best flat whites I’ve ever had and the smoked salmon is also amazing. T. got overnight oats that are incredible as well. Highly recommend! We plan out our trip for the day at breakfast. We are heading to Cork, but are hitting the Cliffs of Moher on the way. We also find a cute fishing village to stop at called Doolin and a castle called Dunguaire that’s on the way, too. We head to the hotel to grab our things and go. $13.60
9:30 a.m. – We ask the front desk people on our way out where we could possibly watch the second to last episode of Game of Thrones, since it aired the night before in America. They tell us a bar nearby will air it that night at like 9:00 p.m. We’re leaving for Cork so we are bummed we can’t see it, but we figure we’ll find a way. We walk to the car, stopping to grab gum and water on the way, and T. drives us to our first stop, Dunguaire. $6.80
10:00 a.m. – We stop at the castle and it’s beautiful, but not open. I have to pee and contemplate peeing in the bushes. This is pretty typical as I’m in a constant state of having to pee. Everything’s fine, my bladder just hates me and I love water. We stop at a gas station and K. buys a 70% dark chocolate Kit Kat, which is pretty great. We continue to Doolin.
11:00 a.m. – Doolin is such a cute little town! We go into some shops and T. buys a plaque of his last name. He has a very Irish name (including his first and middle) and he’s excited about the plaque. We head out towards the Cliffs of Moher on beautiful one-lane farm roads and luckily no one ever is coming the other way. I’m not sure where we’d go? Into the weeds, I suppose, and hope for no stone walls.
12:00 p.m. – We arrive at the cliffs and pay for entry, though K. is $1 less with her student discount. (She just graduated from the same grad program I went to! So proud!) The booth attendant is so happy and says: “It’s a beautiful day! All Irish boys are happy on a sunny day.” This seems scientifically unprovable, but cute nonetheless. The cliffs are incredible and we do luckily have a beautiful, clear, sunny day. We walk all the way to the end, which takes about an hour, and T. makes me mad with a picture that he takes with K. where he pretends to be falling off the cliff. I told him that he was going to become a statistic and walked away. They were fine, but I was displeased. I’m not really a risk-taker, if you cannot tell. After that, however, he was much more respectful of my cliff’s edge rules (as in, stay far away from it). Of course, as we get to the end of the cliff, I have to pee and almost pee behind a stone wall with MS13 graffiti on it. Instead, we hoof it back to the entrance where there are co-ed bathrooms that work beautifully. Can’t we do this everywhere? $8.69
2:00 p.m. – We head to the car and make our way to Cork. I’m a little verklempt on the ride because we didn’t see a puffin. I had a wish to see a puffin right by me on the cliffs (impossible) and then I was going to put it on Instagram with the caption, “Not now, Irish Puffin,” but alas, no puffins. We are hungry for lunch so stop at a little restaurant called The Good House. It is not only good, but it is also great! What a lovely place. I get fish and chips and espresso ($18.14). We continue onto Cork, passing a toll road on the way ($2.15). $20.29
4:00 p.m. – Finally in Cork. I am not loving being in the car for this long. Today was probably our longest driving day, however. We check-in and T. has once again only put one person on the room reservation, but there is nothing left. This hotel has a salty front desk clerk and we have a room with only two twin beds. We decide T. gets the floor between the beds or if he’s nice, he can share the twin with me. (That probably won’t last long, I don’t like to snuggle at night – too hot!) We spend the next while searching for where to watch GoT in Cork. We find a place that says it’s in Cork but it’s 30 minutes away. Our car is parked for the night so we’re not doing that. We call our salty friend and he claims there’s nothing. K. and I both work in tech and pride ourselves on understanding search and search behavior, but we cannot find any bars showing this show. We give up then T. tells us he found a place. We call to be sure, as he gloats, and they confirm. Off we go to explore and then watch the show at 9:00 p.m.!
4:30 p.m. – I lead us in the wrong direction with my GPS, per usual because it won’t update and I hand it to T. Luckily we all like walking a lot. We’ve been averaging 15,000 steps a day for the past two days. We wander all around Cork, exploring the town. After a bit, we want a drink so we decide to go scope out the bar where they are airing the show. We get the scoop that we need to be in the theater (attached to the bar) early because it fills up and that we can bring food in. The bartender tells us to order take away from the bar and just bring it over but that we should do it by 7:30 p.m. We get a round of drinks. I have a Murphy’s, which is like a Guinness but...I can’t tell you what. It’s just like a Guinness. $9.07
7:30 p.m. – I order dinner at the bar after another drink for T. and a Diet Coke for me. K. is too anxious for the show to drink. I get a burger because it sounds good for dinner, K. gets a shawarma-y bowl, and T. gets a burger as well. K. hops up and goes to scope out the theater, even though it isn’t opening until 8:00 p.m. and she doesn’t return. Either she’s kidnapped or she grabbed us seats early. Our food arrives and we carry it over, finding her in some prime seating at the front. The theater is already packed. Also, by “theater” I mean it’s a tiny comedy club. We settle in for some big screen GoT and dinner. $25.90
9:oo p.m. – After watching an episode of Blue Bloods while we wait for GoT to air (Literally, Sky has it on before GoT. Nothing is weirder), I order two glasses of red wine for the show. It comes on and everyone is completely silent. We were nervous about watching the show in a group (and the place is packed so tightly I’m scared that if there’s a fire, we’re all dead), but everyone is regulating each other and it’s dead silent. However, there’s a bowling alley upstairs? And the TV show sound is only coming out of the projector. It’s awful. Then, the TV shuts down. The crowd revolts. We couldn’t hear the first 15 minutes then it went down. The poor bartender is the only one there and people are losing their shit. We sip our drinks and debate if we should go. Finally, a man comes out and asks if they restart it and fix the speakers, would we be mad? And everyone says (shouts) “NO. PLEASE.” So after 45 minutes, we restart. It’s perfect and loud and got-damn, Dany. You crazy. $13.60
10:45 p.m. – We need to discuss the episode, so we find a Raven-themed bar around the corner that’s about to close at 11:00 p.m. We tell them we’ll drink fast and they’re fine with it as they close around us. I get a Smithwick’s red ale. We discuss theories and head out the door after downing our drinks. $9.07
12:00 a.m. – We land at our hotel after wandering some more and T. falls asleep in the bed with me. We’ll see how this goes.
Daily Total: $107.02

Day Five

8:00 a.m. – T.’s on the floor. He claims I pushed him out of bed, which is entirely possible, but more likely that he was just done in a tiny bed. We shower and get ready while discussing our next move. We debate walking around more of Cork but decide we want to go for a drive and see more of the countryside. We also want to go to Blarney Castle. I buy the tickets on my phone for the Castle. Also, I woke up sick and pissed at every coworker I’ve ever had who came to work sick, past and present. (A lot of people came to work sick last week – why? We have two weeks sick time plus we can work from home whenever we want. You are just an asshole.)  $18.11
9:00 a.m. – We chat with the front desk about where we should get breakfast. She is so sweet and very unlike our salty friend from yesterday. We decide to go two doors down to Tara’s Tea Room, which is so cute and delicious. I really want to get smoked salmon again but feel like I need to take a break. I can easily get burnt out on it, but it’s so good! I get poached eggs and toast, but also sneak a lot of bites of T.’s scone with clotted cream. K. gets smoked salmon. I look at it longingly but resist taking a bite when she offers. I also get a cappuccino with my food ($12.45 total with food). We finish up and go get the car out of the parking, which was much more expensive than we expected. We each pay $9.05. Woof. $21.50
10:00 a.m. – On our way to Kilkenny (I’m driving again!), but first, a stop at Blarney Castle. I don’t think any of us expected it to be so wonderful here. The Castle is a huge attraction there once you get past the gates, of course, but it’s also just a ton of beautiful gardens and greenery. There’s walking pathways, little buildings to explore, cafés, and more. We have beautiful weather and we luckily get to the Castle early, so there are no lines to get into the structures. We go right upstairs at the Castle and kiss the Blarney Stone, which is super unsanitary and scary! You have to hang upside-down while a man holds you. We wait in line and are shocked when we see how it works. There’s a bunch of blankets on the ground and a rubber mat for you to lay on, face-up, with your head tilted down towards the castle wall. There are two workers – two men – one who takes your photo with your phone and one who holds your waist as you lean backward and down to kiss the stone. I always thought the stone was more like a Plymouth Rock situation on the ground but no – it’s built into the castle wall and there’s a hole in the ground to let you “down” to where the stone is built into the wall. Imagine if you lay on your back over an open manhole – that’s basically what you’re doing, except not on your stomach, only on your back so you can stretch your back downwards down the hole to kiss the stone that’s opposite the wall you’re laying on. Almost like a backbend? It’s so hard to explain and very scary since you’re like four stories up! There are metal bars about five feet down but I mean… what if you fall!? I’m short, so I could barely reach the stone and I don’t trust the man to grip my waist tight enough as he lowers me down. T. starts a rumor that I “licked” the stone instead, but it’s untrue! I definitely kissed it. (And wiped my mouth with hand sanitizer afterward. The men “clean” the stone after every few people but, ew. Still worth it.)
We explore the grounds for a while, finding a ton of wild garlic that smells delicious. It really is great here. As we are wandering, we see the line to go kiss the stone is now 2 hours long! Get here early, everyone! We get “peckish” as T. likes to say, so I buy us Shamrock and Onion chips from a café there as well as two cappuccinos ($10.14). (The chips taste like sour cream and onion. Less magical.) T. also makes me buy more postcards for the “drunk postcards” we’re “definitely” doing tonight ($3.24). I haven’t told either of them that I feel like garbage yet, so T.’s going to be sad tonight when I refrain from drunken anything. $13.38
12:00 p.m. – We head over to the big shopping area by Blarney Castle in search of gifts for people. I don’t like buying souvenirs for people because most stuff is junk, but certain friends always buy me things while they’re away and I feel obligated. I’d rather just find a gift if I see something I think someone would like! K. and I are also both in the market for a nice claddagh ring, but we don’t find anything we like. We finish shopping and head to the car to get to Kilkenny. K. pays the parking fee.
2:00 p.m. – We arrive in Kilkenny at the cutest hotel that may or may not be haunted. We don’t see any ghosts but the hotel room is at the end of an extremely long, winding hallway (after endless sets of stairs) with no lights and the building is so old. We decide there’s no way the building feels this creepy without ghosts. We pray for a sighting. Or maybe just I do. We get to our hotel room and the door is slightly open but empty. Or is it?
We drop off our stuff for the ghosts and I finally admit to K. and T. that I feel like crap. We walk across the street to the pharmacy, because my pharmacist sister and doctor brother-in-law said I probably have strep throat and should see if they’ll give me antibiotics. I’m so upset I’m sick. I’ve been looking forward to this vacation and break from work, but I’m struggling every time we stop moving. The pharmacist is super hilarious, but tells me it’ll cost me 50 quid to get a doctor’s appointment plus more for the antibiotics when all I need is this antiseptic throat spray, some Emergen-C, and “a lot of hot whiskey.” I buy the Emergen-C and the spray ($15.11) and we go off in search of hot whiskey for me. $15.11
3:00 p.m. – After wandering around and learning about the city, we book a ghost tour for 8:00 p.m ($18.11, per person). We mostly just want it for the walking and history, and this one has good reviews. We sit on the river at a restaurant for hot whiskey (me) and split some sweet potato fries and fried shrimp ($12.45). The hot whiskey is so good – they push cloves into a lemon wedge for the drink, which is quite literally boiling whiskey and water. Amazing! We decide to wander back to the hotel for a bit to relax. $30.56
5:00 p.m. – Even though we’re going to learn about this place for our ghost tour, we decide to walk to get dinner at a very old pub called Kyteler’s Inn. It is so cool and there’s a black cat on the logo, which I love because I have a black cat! The band inside is playing Galway Girl which is one of my favorite songs, so I am extra pumped. K. and I get giant salads because it’s necessary, and T. gets a lamb stew that is borderline life-changing. We also split garlic bread with cheese because balance. I don’t get a drink, but sip some of K.’s beer flight. $19.92
8:00 p.m. – After wandering the city, we end up at our meeting point for the tour. The tour guide is hilarious, but our group is so boring and all American. I ask the tour guide a lot of questions as he takes us around about history and his life since I can tell he is frustrated with no reactions from anyone. We learn about a witch who was living where Kyteler’s Inn is, among other things. I love witches. I had a Sabrina the Teenage Witch obsession in the ’90s. (The new show is so dark. And I don’t like watching teenagers be indignant because I’m 85.) The tour wraps up by Kilkenny Castle, which is so beautiful (minus the history of torture in the dungeon) and we part ways. 
10:00 p.m. – We stop at a bar called Matt the Millers for a hot whiskey for me and a beer for T. ($11.88). This bar has moving paintings à la Harry Potter which is pretty cool. We debate going out more, but since I feel like garbage, we head back to the hotel where there’s a band playing in the attached bar. T. gets K. and I baby beers (half-pints) and we sip them as we listen to music. This guy plays Galway Girl as well. We realize we’re hungry again and nothing is open except a little fast food joint across the street called Marble City. We go and get too many fries, and I get chicken fingers with ranch like an 8-year-old ($9.05). I am sick, so I get a pass. We head back to the hotel to eat in our (definitely) haunted room. Still no ghost sightings, but it’s cold and dark and we’re just convinced. $20.93
12:00 a.m. – I break out the Emergen-C and K. swallows an entire packet dry, preemptively. I am horrified and impressed. We call it a night on the least comfortable beds we’ve had this entire time. A literal spring is poking me in the back.
Daily Total: $139.51

Day Six

11:00 a.m. – The one night we have a terrible bed, but don’t set our alarm, we wake up at 11:00 a.m. K. has been up since 8:00 a.m. and we had planned to walk around more, but now we just need to head to Dublin. T. and I feel really guilty that K. didn’t get to explore more, but I’m happy to have some longer rest. I still feel horrible, but the throat spray helps. Jury’s still out on the hot whiskey cure. We pack up for the umpteenth time and head to our car. I’m going to be happy to not be riding in a car once we get to Florence tomorrow.
1:00 p.m. – We arrive in Dublin and cannot find parking near our hotel. We finally park at a mall with a decent overnight rate, but I realize that we have to leave at 3:00 a.m. and there’s no in or out from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. That would’ve sucked really hard had I not seen that sign. We decide to just go to our hotel to find out where we can park and move the car later. Our rooms aren’t ready yet, so we leave our bags with the clerks. They tell us about a parking lot around the corner that’s open 24 hours. We’re starving, so we decide to go eat first. We head to a restaurant around the corner that’s inside an old church. It’s creatively called The Church. I get a cajun chicken sandwich that's okay with a hot whiskey and a cappuccino ($30.55). I’m still trying this cure. $30.55
3:00 p.m. – The car is moved to the correct parking garage. We go back to the hotel to put our luggage in the room and figure out our next moves. We debate doing a Guinness tour or a Jameson tour, but it’s getting late. Instead, we decide to do a walk around the town and go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral “for mom.” (T. and K.’s mom is very Catholic and loves to hear her kids went to a cathedral.)
5:10 p.m. – We make it to St. Patrick’s but it’s closing in 20 minutes. It’s $7.91 for entry (the woman will give us the student rate) but we’d have next to no time there. We decide to do it since we’re too late for a lot of other touristy things in Dublin (so sometimes, maybe you should plan ahead on trips). The church is gorgeous and we walk around admiring everything. There’s a quote on a memorial that I love: “Her life was one of unostentatious piety. Her end was peace.” Ostentatious has been one of my favorite words since Miss Congeniality taught it to me, and alternately, I love thinking of someone’s end as being peaceful. My mom’s end was not, so I consider people lucky to have a peaceful end. Too dark? I’m in a church. It’s allowed. 
We are getting rounded up to exit the church as mass begins with an eight-person men’s choir that sounds incredible in the giant sanctuary. Well worth the $7.91! I light a candle for my mom with a euro T. hands me. We leave to explore the park outside. $7.91
6:00 p.m. – K. and I are still on the hunt for Claddagh rings and we find some at a stand in a mall nearby. I get two rings and a pair of earrings with a cool intertwined design. $30.50
6:30 p.m. – Swing by the hotel to drop off our stuff, then grab a quick drink at the hotel bar. There’s a sign saying “Management reserves the right to refuse people in football jerseys” which leaves me questioning what kind of shenanigans happened here, but it’s also Dublin, so. Probably drunk hooligans. K. declines a drink but T. and I have a lager and a Guinness, respectively. I pay. ($16.81) There’s a man outside the bar who is yelling a lot and kicking the garage door across the street from our hotel. We watch him warily, but as we’re from LA, this isn’t unusual so we sip our drinks to the yelling and banging sounds. Ah, peace. $16.81.
7:00 p.m. – We’re a little hungry, but we’re not starving so we find a restaurant bar overlooking the river. We sit down and pick out two apps, as well as wine to drink. We order and the server says: “And what are you having for your meals?” We’re confused, so we just say that’s it! He then proceeds to kick us out saying: “Come on, this is a fancier restaurant. You can’t just have starters and wine.” He’s wearing jeans. “Fancier” must have a different definition in Dublin.
Perturbed, we leave, laughing at the absurdity of the situation. The restaurant was also nearly empty. We were one of four tables, with approximately 10-15 open. Anyway, we go downstairs, newly paranoid that nowhere will let us just split appetizers and drinks. We go to the restaurant below, which is objectively nicer than the one upstairs, and clarify with the hostess that it’s okay to not get meals. She is confused at the question and says: “Yes, of course!” so we head inside. We get anchovy toast (amazing!), heirloom tomatoes with burrata (to die for), and T. decides to try a wild garlic and pea mac and cheese ($11.28 per person for the food). PSA: That is the best mac and cheese I’ve ever had. Incredible. Check out The Woollen Mills if you go to Dublin! T. and I get wine to drink, but K. declines the drink ($14.10 for my drink and T.’s). This place is way better than the jean-wearing snobs upstairs! $25.38
9:00 p.m. – We go back to our hotel and decide to just call it a night. We have to get up at 3:00 a.m. to return the rental and fly to Florence, so we’re pretty wiped. Sorry, Dublin, we didn’t see a whole lot of you, but we’ll be back, I’m sure.
Daily Total: $111.15

Day Seven

3:00 a.m. – It’s so early. We sleepily pack up and stumble to our car that feels even farther away at 3:00 a.m. in the morning. Also, “yelling guy,” as we affectionately coined him while sitting at the hotel bar yesterday, is still outside yelling and we hope he doesn’t decide to cross the street and yell directly at us. We get in the car and T. drives us to the airport. 
4:00 a.m. – We figure out how to return the car (just park it and put the keys in a box), and we somehow find our way to our terminal. It’s not hard, but we’re just not all there. We make it through security without incident and wait for our early flight.
6:00 a.m. – We board without incident and eat weird butter and cheese sandwiches on the plane. When flying in Europe, you always get free food on board, even for short flights. They usually give you small sandwiches or croissants. My favorite is any type of meat and cheese baguette, so I would say the butter and cheese sandwich isn’t my favorite; however, I enjoy it just fine, but T. and K. are disgusted. I mean, it is quite literally a white bread with a thick spread of creamy butter and white cheese so. I understand the disgust, but a woman’s gotta eat. I get coffee with the sandwich. 
8:45 a.m. – We deplane in Amsterdam, our layover, and the customs line we didn’t realize we’d have to go through is insane. We start to panic a little because our flight is boarding in five minutes. I finally flag down a TSA guy and he lets us cut, to which some salty Americans say to us: “Our flight boards in 30 minutes. Get behind us!” K., who is the nicest ever, gets salty back and says: “Okay, well ours is boarding right now, we’re all in the same boat. You don’t have to be rude.” They shut up but still don’t let us go in front of them, but in the end, our line moves faster and we haul it out of there before they do. Triumph! We are sweating profusely by the time we get to our gate and as soon as we are there, the flight gets delayed. After taking off layers of clothing, we finally board. Automated gates with scanners are such a great international treat (truly!) and make boarding so fast.
9:50 a.m. – We aren’t sitting together, so K. and T. sit together in the back while I sit up a little farther. I read some of my books and enjoy some alone time (as alone as you can be on a flight). The flight goes smoothly and we land a few hours later in Florence! Time to meet up with the parents and the rest of the family for the rest of our trip to Europe trip.
Daily Total: $0
How did you prepare for this trip?
I try really hard not to prepare for trips, to be honest. I like to fly by the seat of my pants for European travel, but my boyfriend’s family are hardcore planners. We’ve been getting emails about the trip for about a year now, which has made me crazy. It stresses me out to think about things so far in the future when it’s not necessary – I’m not someone who gets very excited in anticipation of an upcoming trip, I get stressed and overwhelmed. I love to travel, but on my own terms. I have a dream after this trip of taking a long weekend in London (somewhere I’ve never been) alone. I just want to stroll the streets and meet interesting people, not be forced to go on a tour with the rest of the Americans.
My boyfriend booked and found all the hotels since he has an Expedia Gold account and he rented the car. I booked one of the flights but he found it and just had me put it on my credit card for points. I did a lot of the restaurant research on the trip (not before), because I had international data. I asked people I trusted for food recs and also did a lot of searching on TripAdvisor for quality places to eat. I think it worked out fairly well!
Did you use credit card points/miles to pay for parts of this trip? If so, please explain further:
Nope! I spend my miles as soon as I accrue them, but have been saving recently (just not before this trip).
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? Nope! I spend my miles as soon as I accrue them, but have been saving recently (just not before this trip).
When did you book your flight? Do you think you got a good deal?
We booked our flights in January of this year (about four months out). I think we got an okay deal. We were more concerned about timing because of work, so we focused on that. Our one-way flight to Dublin is more than I’d like to pay, but we wanted a specific redeye on a specific day and that’s just how it worked out. We are doing a lot of hopping around.
 What was your favorite part of the trip? 
In Ireland, it was definitely the road trip. Though the drives felt long when jet-lagged and the different driving experience was a little tough at first, it was a great way to explore the country and a bunch of different cities. The countryside is beautiful and the sat nav in the car made it really easy to navigate even without phone data.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
Wild garlic and pea mac and cheese! So amazing even though it doesn’t sound like it.
Is there a tourist trap you wish you had avoided?
I don’t think so – while in Ireland, we did touristy things but they were worth it. We didn’t go crazy. We mostly wandered around the towns exploring, which is hard to translate to a diary we walked 15,000-30,000 steps a day in every city on our trip. We didn’t always see particular landmarks or famous sites, we just loved seeing the cities by foot.
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Maybe do a little more planning than we did. I love flying by the seat of my pants but we really didn’t see much in Dublin at all and we also missed some exploring in Kilkenny. I should’ve read a little more about the history of the towns and some non-touristy things to do (beyond just wandering around, which I also love!) 
Would you stay at your hotels again?
Our hotels were all sufficient since we didn’t hang out in them too much. I don’t usually really care where I sleep as long as it’s clean so I’m pleased with the ones T. picked! We obviously didn’t love our hotel in Kilkenny but somehow had the best sleep of our lives? So I can’t even complain about that one. Maybe it was the ghosts.
Where were you located in a specific city and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
In each city we went to, we tried to stay centrally. T. picked all of the hotels and there wasn’t one that felt out of place or like we should’ve stayed somewhere else. I think our Galway hotel was by far the most perfectly picked place, however. Right by a delicious café! And a few blocks from the water. I would recommend not staying on Temple street in Dublin because it was insanely crazy. It’s a party street. Unless you’re into that, then definitely do that. 
Is there anything you wished you had time to do but didn’t?
Everyone says the Jameson or Guinness tours are worth it in Dublin so I would’ve liked to see it for free alcohol, but I’m not sure I’m too bummed out about missing them. It would’ve been nice if we had a few bonus days and energy to travel up to North Ireland and explore around there. We heard from a lot of people that the Giant’s Causeway is amazing, but we weren’t anywhere near it.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
I definitely think five days is plenty of time in Ireland for what we set out to do. I know I could’ve for sure stayed longer, though I’m not sure if my stomach could’ve continued to handle the amount of beer and french fries I consumed. I think I ate more potatoes in five days than I did in an entire year, and I’m not kidding. 
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