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Itinerary help! 2 weeks in Ireland with 2 small kids

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Next summer, my husband and I plan to take our 2 children to Ireland for 2 weeks (they will be 3 and 4 at the time of travel). Here is our (very) tentative schedule:
** Fly into Dublin, and out of Shannon
2-3 days: visiting with family in N. Ireland
2-3 days: Dublin
2-3 days: Somewhere in Co. Kerry
2-3 days: Dingle
2-3 days: Doolin/Cliffs of Moher

My husband and I have both been there before, now it is just about showing the kids a good time, visiting family, and revisiting some of our favorite places. Is this too much / too little / too boring for little ones?

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    When I post my views on this, often people accuse me that I am not family friendly, that I have no kids so who am I to talk and so on. But it is still my opinion, and comes from an experience working decades in tourism and very often on family oriented resorts/hotels. Note that I am Greek but I have worked in hospitality in Belfast and Cork, and I have travel around Ireland many times.
    I never get what is it that a 3 or 4 years old will enjoy on a trip on a foreign country that quite possibly will not remember after a few months. I do not get why seen a park or a castle or anything makes any difference on a kid if it is 2 kms from his home or 7000kms away. I do not see why parents think vacations abroad is a way to "bond" with their children and they can not bond at home! In other words, I do not see why parents do not admit that holidays are their decision, for their needs, and try to convince that it is a holiday about their children. Nothing wrong about a family holiday or parents needing a break, but lets face it, children are not in a position to decide on that. They follow, like it or not!
    Lets face it, this is a trip about you and your interests/likes/dislikes, not about them. You just have to make it a bit more comfortable to them, because if they are not happy, then you will not be either.
    I do not know how well-traveled your children are, some toddlers are fine with long drives while other toddlers can not stand more than half an hour in the car. Some kids feel very stressed in a bus or train, especially when they are not used to use public transport back home. Some children adapt easier on time zone/temperature/climate changes, some children are not. I do not know your children, so I can not judge, but I think that changing location every 2-3 nights might not be ideal for them. Packing/unpacking, changing environment,spending considerable time on transit and so on might be stressful for the them. "Showing the kids a good time" might not bled in with visiting family and revisiting YOUR favorite places. If they do not know this family, they might (or admittedly might not) like to be around them for long. If your favorite places include museums or hiking, this might be too boring or too tiring for them. I guess you have to find activities to keep them busy and happy, so possibly playgrounds, ice cream stops and dealing with their favorite toys might be necessary. Local members with kids might suggest suitable activities of interest for your kids. You do not mention when this trip is exactly on next summer and if you plan to drive or use PT, but personally I would do this a 2 or 3 centered holiday at most to make things easier.
    Children at a young age like their routine and dislike sudden changes. So I would start preparing the children and make them looking for this trip too. For example some background, maybe some mythology given as a ferry-tail related to the places you'll be visiting, or go to the nearest national park and try to do some light hikes if this is what you plan to do in Ireland and see how they respond, or if you plan to visit museums or castles in Ireland but you do not do this at home, try to visit a couple of such sites and see how children respond... Closer to the time of your trip, talk to them about it, and explain your plans, so they will get used to the idea and be somehow ready for this. Nothing worse than kids having no idea, and suddenly parents drag them out of the house to an airport for a long flight somewhere they have never heard about before.

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    We began visiting Ireland with our daughters when they were under 2, so please don't let the critical people bother you.

    Your itinerary is very do-able, though may feel a bit rushed when you do, actually, drive it.

    2 Days in Dublin will be more than enough. I might even suggest a single day. We just didn't find Dublin that great a spot with kids.

    If you'll be in Kerry, I suggest Killarney. Yes, it's touristy- but for good reason. There is much to do there, including a very fun animal farm.

    Dingle is lovely, but 2 days will probably be plenty, as well.

    You might want to find a self catering rental somewhere between Killarney & Dingle to rent for 5-6 days. It would give you time to really explore that area.

    If you haven't been to the Cliffs of Moher in the past couple years, you'll like the changes- especially with kids in tow. And don't forget Bunratty castle- there is a terrific play area and the Irish Night is great fun for kids. (You can also find discounts for the Cliffs & Bunratty on the Shannon Heritage website).

    Doolin is great. Have fish & chips at Gus O'Connor's. The kids probably won't care for the Burren.

    Someplace you might like is County Offaly. A great B&B in Kinnity, Ardmore House, is near to quite a bit of fun family activities like Birr Castle Demense, Lough Boora and many Slieve Mountain trails.

    I would be happy to help you with any plans- I kind of specialize in family travel to Ireland and own the only website devoted entirely to that subject. It's called Ireland With Kids (dot) com. Please let me know if I can offer any other advice.

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    I didn't find mariha to be critical, just practical. 3- and 4-year-olds are different from their parents, and even older kids, and they are not going to enjoy or remember the things that others would.

    Self catering in one or two places would be ideal.

    Plan carefully and enjoy your trip.

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    I know a lot about traveling with children of all ages. I am a parent of two grown children who each began traveling with us when they were 3 months old. Our family lived on 4 different continents and visited at least 25 different countries before our children moved away from home.

    Based on my extensive experience, I think Mariha has given you some very valuable information which you would be wise to consider.

    Mariha simply noted that this vacation is really about (and should be about) what you and your husband want to do. Your children are too young to fully appreciate (in all meanings of this word) what they are seeing and what you are doing. It's absolutely true that a castle in Ireland is no more special to them than a Little Tykes castle on the neighborhood playground. (Actually, it's probably less special to them at the ages of 3 and 4.)

    Mariha's suggestions are all things that my spouse and I have done in travels with our children and they work! 1) Know your children (Can they tolerate long drives and constant moves?) Plan for their comfort, which will ultimately be YOUR comfort. 2) Prepare your children for the trip. Explain a long plane ride if they have never taken one. Show them pictures and tell them stories about the places you plan to visit. Take short hikes or museum visits before you go if you plan to do these activities on your trip. 3) Find playgrounds everyplace you go (!!!) and check out local kid-friendly venues. The local Tourist Information office is a good source for this information.

    Fortunately, you have almost an entire year to research and plan this trip. I urge you to get as much information as possible about Ireland and to base your vacation mostly around what YOU want to see and do. With a few child-friendly activities thrown in, the kids will manage fine with the "grown-up" things you want to do.

    BTW, I am currently going through all my old photographs to arrange them in new albums. My kids stopped by the house recently and I showed them some pictures from a vacation we did in New Zealand when they are around the ages of your children. They had absolutely NO memory of the vacation at all. I know we had a good time as a family there, but I'm also glad that I didn't plan that vacation entirely around "showing them a good time".

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    While traveling with young kids can certainly have its challenges, there is nothing like seeing the world (whether that world is 10 miles away or 1000 miles away) through their eyes.

    Maybe they won't remember much of the trip (though I am surprised by what mine do remember, of course equally surprised by what they forget, lol!), but to me, that isn't the point of the trip. It's spending time together, it's experiencing new things, it's getting them used to travel.

    But, as others have pointed out, you know your kids best and know what will and won't work for them. I have one child who is go with the flow - needs no routine. The other, not so much. Our first trip when they were 1 & 3 was hit and miss, but an eye-opener as to what works for us. But every trip since then has been a success. For us, one of the keys to a successful trip is lots of kid-centered activities.

    To address your questions:

    For my kids at that age, it was all about being outside, animals, and being well-fed, lol!

    I agree with Killarney as a stop - lots of wide open spaces to run around in Killarney National Forest, Muckross Estates, and Ross Castle. I think the kids would enjoy a boat ride on the lake and a ride in the jaunting carts. It's a very easy "hike" from the parking lot to Torc Waterfall. There is also a sheep farm you can visit.

    Dingle, too - the harbor to see the boats, take a boat ride and look for Funghi, there is an aquarium, nice beaches in the area, and even driving the Dingle Peninsula and getting out at the stops they would enjoy.

    My only suggestion would be to slow down a bit, moving every two days is a lot, but you know if your kids are good car travelers.

    And absolutely follow the advice of the PP regarding preparing then for the trip - read books and look at pictures of things they will see and do, talk about the plane trip, etc.

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    Just returned from 8 nights traveling around Ireland with kids ages 6 and 9. We stayed in 6 different B&Bs and hotels over those 8 nights which is very unlike us but necessary for this trip in particular.

    I agree with the suggestions to stay in the country or at the shore as much as possible. We loved Dingle, Muckross House and farm (the kids' favorite part), Giant's Causeway... By the time we got to Dublin we were all exhausted. I personally prefer non-city time in Ireland - especially with children. I would suggest considering staying away from Dublin this time - you can always come back!

    Two weeks may be too long - have you considered taking a ferry to Scotland for a few days? There are some 2-3 hour trips over.

    Side note - we just got back yesterday and the warmest day was 68 degrees, most of the time it was about 62 - bring rainboots and layers for the kids.

    Good luck!

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    Actually, Mariha is shockingly accurate for a lot of her diatribe. I traveled with a couple of older people who look like me when I was small and as much as they tried to show me around, they also knew full well that the purpose of the trip was their own touring and they'd let me absorb as I wished. My oldies are educators so we had LONG trips (28+ days) and we'd definitely come to some level of routine.

    My wife and I have traveled with our small hobbits both domestically and internationally. Domestically, they're relatively fine because the routines are easier; internationally is more difficult because the time change really throws them for a couple of days and then they need to reconfigure their routines. We're not teachers so our trips are about the length of yours or shorter.

    I think moving after every 2-3 days would be a bit difficult with small kids and we didn't do it for ourselves before they debuted - we took the hub-and-spoke approach with a couple of main places to stay and day trips from there. The itinerary you've set up makes this more difficult because you basically want to hit all four corners (for lack of a better visual) of Eire - N. Ireland, Dublin, the Ring of Kerry, and the Atlantic Coast.

    For your purposes, 2-3 in Co. Kerry and 2-3 in Dingle is probably duplicative - Dingle is in County Kerry and you can either stay there and tour about the place or stay nearby and visit instead of having two temporary homes. We stayed a week in Killarney when I was much younger and that worked as a good base of operations.

    Ultimately you won't see nearly all you want because the halflings will have their needs, which always come first.

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    Dublin -zoo, Viking Splash Tours, Sea Safari, Dublin City Libraries, Dublinia, DublinThe Ark, Malahide Castle, The National Aquatic Centre, The Lambert Puppet Theatre, Croke Park GAA Museum, parks, walk around Trinity College
    Killarney or Kenmare- Killarney Park, take a jaunting cart rides , Muckross pet park, ROK ...lots of stops...beach
    Dingle- boat ride to see dolphin, slea head, there is a church that has music during the day
    Doolin- Bunratty Folk Park, Burren...stop and look at the flowers

    So much of Ireland is the natural beauty... So as long as there is space for them to run around... So many great places to explore and picnic... Run around ancient ruins, sheep, castles, Burren, coast.

    Touring with my sister and her kids... We toured inside of sights... Her and kids enjoyed outside.
    I think it is a beautiful thing to do to share your love of travel with your kids ... You will remember being with your family...and share those memories as they grow. Have a great trip!

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    I didn't see Mariha as being at all critical of you OR your parenting style. Just just sensible advice/POV. Don't take it so personally and re-read what she wrote. . . . Basically that for children that young it usually isn't at all about them sightseeing/learning things/knowing what the heck is going on.

    It is about them just being w/ you, playing when they can, taking naps when they can. Could be in Ireland or could be in Kansas City.

    So do what YOU want to do, just slow down a bit so you don't have to deal w/ tired cranky kids.

    (Martha wasn't rude - maybe a slight language issue)

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    This is such a valuable thread! We're also planning a trip next Spring (early May) to Ireland with our daughters who will then be turning 3 and 5 at the time of the trip. We've both been to Ireland a few times before, pre-kids, and know it's the perfect place to let kids be kids but take in new experiences and scenery.

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