Travel Dreaming

Dublin 101

Ah, the Emerald Isle! Americans stamp their passports here more than any other country. Why? Because there is simply nothing like the charm and friendliness of Ireland. The Irish are famous for their hospitality and “come join us” attitude. It’s this amazing spirit that allows for so many opportunities to learn and enjoy. The nation’s capital, Dublin, is full of amazing sites and experiences. But, what is actually worth it? We’re here to tell you what to get to fast, what to pass on, and what to see instead. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, and let’s get to the craic!

Join us as we chat all about planning a trip to Ireland and discuss all of our picks! It’s all on our podcast Babcia and Yia Yia Travel The World! Click here to listen and choose your platform.

Guiness and Jameson’s

The storehouse experience is literally the most visited tourist attraction in the country. Spoiler alert: they do not make beer here. They also do not make whiskey on Bow St. when you visit Jameson’s Distillery. I know!!!!! I’m sure the beer and whiskey enthusiasts would love it but if that is not your cup of tea, consider whether your time is worth it.

guinness glass filled with beer
Photo by Engin Akyurt on
  • Verdict: Pass on Ireland’s, number one tourist draw. Instead hit up the Smithwick’s tour in Kilkenny and the Jameson’s distillery in Cork.

Book of Kells at Trinity College

The story of this illuminated manuscript is one of legends. From the age of Saints and Scholars, monks toiled over the pages to create this work of art which is now beautifully enshrined in the grand library at Trinity College. The setting is gorgeous the exhibit is first class. But if you don’t know why monks coloring pages in a bible is important, is this for you?

brown book page
Photo by Wendy van Zyl on
  • Verdict: Pass if it’s not your thing. Go if you are enamored by art that was created with love under such dire circumstances. Above all, know the story.

St. Patrick’s and Christ Church

Religion can be a touchy topic in Ireland. While troubles were certainly centered in Belfast for years, make no mistake, Dublin was the original epicenter of uprising. What’s this got to do with churches? Many Irish Americans go to pay their respects to their Catholic ancestors who left Erin’s green shores on coffin ships during the famine. These are not their churches. In fact, they are not Catholic churches at all! Don’t get me wrong, they are stunning. However, their architecture is easily found and centered in places like London. Is it worth your precious time?

low angle photo of blue concrete building
Photo by Mark Dalton on
  • Verdict: Pass, unless churches and their architecture are your thing. For those of you looking honor your Catholic roots, check in at Our Lady of Knock Basilica or Croagh Patrick in the west.


Speaking of your Irish roots, so many visitors strive to understand the journey of there to here. In fact, the umber one reason people visit Ireland is to trace their roots! Dublin has heard you all and EPIC is certainly the place for you. This modern immigration museum traces the history of the Irish population throughout the world and strives to connect you to your heritage and culture.

brown brick road
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  • Verdict: A must! If you are looking for a place to start understanding your roots, this is stop number one. Leave with the name of a town in a county and set out to find your people.


What 1776 is to Americans is what 1916 is to the Irish. It was here at the main general post office that 16 brave men started taking action towards British independence. In short, the story of a free Ireland starts here with the Easter Rising.

The Irish Declaration of Independence
  • Verdict: A must! To go here is to understand Ireland. There are no substitutes for this impactful piece of history.

Kilmainham Gaol

Once you finish at the GPO, head towards Kilmainham. The jail that housed those 16 men until they were all executed by the British authorities. The story is powerful and the building is an interesting mix of tragedy and splendor. you may even recognize some of the areas from famous movies.

hallway with window
Photo by Jimmy Chan on
  • Verdict: Top of my list! If you see nothing else in Dublin, see this! History buffs, proud patriots, architecture hounds, and movie maniacs will all connect.

Temple Bar Pub Crawls

If there is one word that should be central to your travels in Ireland, it should be storytelling. And while pub crawls in the US tend to be full of uncontrollable debauchery, this is not the case in Ireland. Yes, you’ll have a drink, yes, you’ll go from pub to pub, but that’s where the similarities end. Pub crawls showcase, music, storytelling, dance, literature, history and more. They are a super fun way to get your bearings on the town and enjoy all aspects of culture.

assorted liquor bottles
Photo by Lucian Petronel Potlog on
  • Verdict: Certainly! Isn’t this why you came to Ireland anyway? Find a pub crawl to match your interests. If you can think it up, it probably exists!

Dublin Castle

The castle on Dame St. is a conference center, an administrative government building and a tourist attraction. With ornate English state rooms, there is a bit to see with the required tour guides. At 700 years old, there’s no doubt the castle has tons of stories and I’m all for that!

administration architecture building castle
Photo by Skitterphoto on
  • Verdict: Pass, Ireland is full of lots of castles, is this really the one you want to see? Wait for Kilkenny Castle and Blarney Castle. Then stay the night at a private castle found in many places including Air B and B. Better yet, try out fancy schmancy Ashford Castle from the Guinness Family.

O’Connell and Grafton Streets

The two major streets of Dublin, each has quite a distinct purpose. Look towards O’Connell Street to give you a sense of history and Grafton Street to get your shop on. You are bound to wind up here for a bevy of reasons, just enjoy!

The charming streets of Dublin
  • Verdict: Sure! You’ll enjoy both in equal measure.

Croke Park and Aviva Stadium

It’s time to get your sport on! Choose a stripy scarf and join in the team spirit. It really doesn’t matter what side you root for, just enjoy the fun like a temporary local. If there is no game scheduled, take advantage of the stadium tours which wind up being far more interesting than first meets the eye.

man in blue and white striped soccer jersey playing rugby
Photo by Patrick Case on
  • Verdict: Have some fun! Cheer along with modern Ireland.

Arlington Hotel’s Celtic Nights

Kitchy? Yup. Full of tourists? Uh-huh. So-so dinner? True. Go anyway! This is a great, old school first night stop. Get a table close to the stage so your mashed potatoes clatter in time to the dancer’s feet.

Irish musicians
  • Verdict: Yes, only if you have a sense of humor and you’re looking to unwind a little. It’s a great stop to help get rid of your jet lag. Otherwise pass for one of the more serious options above.

St. Michan’s Church

I love Irish humor. And this might have been one of the funniest stops I’ve ever made. St. Michan’s is an active church with a little bit of a skeleton in the closet. Each day, visitors can take a look down in the crypt at the amazingly preserved residents. What makes it so much fun? The guy taking you on the tour has a great Scooby-doo quality that just can’t be ignored.

low angle grayscale photo of empty brick stairs
Photo by Ravi Kant on
  • Verdict: Enjoy the storytelling with no crowds then hit the pub afterwards to reflect on the surreal experience! It’s a quick stop to fit in.

Viking Boat Tour

Dublin, above all else, is a working city. With the River Liffey running through it to create north and south banks, getting out on the water may seem like a fun time. but make no mistake, the banks are not filled with charming sites or historical buildings. Instead, you get a great look at the back side of the studio space U2 use to record some music.

bridge under the blue sky
Photo by Lucian Petronel Potlog on
  • Verdict: Pass. The WWII duck boats are unique but it’s not worth the time to make the splash.

Leprechaun Museum

There’s no doubt that Ireland is connected to the grumpy little fellows along with fairies and banshees. This lo tech stop will have the kids finding that ever important storytelling aspect of Irish culture. Make no mistake though, Americans link leprechauns to the Irish far more than the Irish do! (The same goes for green beer and 4 leaf clovers.)

green and brown floral ceramic vase
Photo by Lucian Petronel Potlog on
  • Verdict: Take the kids, pass with the teens, get a pint with the adults.

When all is said and done…

Dublin is a dynamic springboard to a country full of unbelievable things! Northern Ireland, The Wild Atlantic Way, and Southern Counties await you. Be sure to balance your time and not put all of your eggs in one Dublin basket. Enjoy with balance. Dublin can be enjoyed in about 3 to 4 days.

Use these apps to hear stories about all of the different public art throughout town. Try, also, the 1916 historical walking tour.

Art Trax


Travel Lifestyle

15 Easy Travel Tips For First Time Travelers

I’m in the middle of planning my Summer trips and thinking about all of the different details that it takes to pin down each location and ensure that I’ve smoothed out all the potential bumps in my travel road. As always, I divide my planning into three distinct stages: plane tickets, lodging and transport, and lastly, sight seeing needs. I do this for two reasons. First, it allows me to extend my budget over a couple of months and second, it gives me a chance to research and know that I’m doing exactly what I set out to experience. So, what have I learned over years of planning? Here are a few well worn travel tips!

As I piece my travel puzzle together, it certainly brings to mind the ebb and flow that’s needed to make any trip a success. How do I choose the most convenient and economical hotels? What if my kids have jetlag? What if I choose sights that are boring to some of my travel partners? It can drive any trip planner a little nutty! Whether you are traveling with kids or friends, a little sage advice can make or break your trip. So, let’s break down each of these steps and ease the pressure with a few well worn tips!

Stage One: Planning plane travel

By far, your biggest single expense you will deal with on any trip are your tickets to get you to your destination! How do you choose wisely? Well, there’s more to consider than just price.

1. Choose a family friendly hub.

Most airlines like to route travelers from smaller airports to designated hubs that allows for easy transfer to international flights. When deciding which tickets to purchase, take into consideration that hub and whether or not it’s convenient for your whole group to meet at or simply pass through. For example, Atlanta has a lot to keep kids entertained while you wait for your flight while Newark- not so much! Palm Beach has a little putting course and playground after the TSA check while Miami has a row of bars. Choose accordingly! In addition to your wait time, you may have others, like grandma and grandpa, joining you on your trip to, say, Europe. Consider having them meet you at you hub so you can all fly to your final destination together. This gives you more adult hands on the longest leg of your trip.

2. Share your trip wisely.

Whether I’m traveling on my own or with a group, I use the TripIt app to keep my itenerary straight. This app imports your email details into an easy to use timeline that helps you ensure that all of your reservations are taken care of and not overlapping. This includes flights, lodging, sites and transportation. Once you have a trip started, you can share it with all of the travelers in your group and interested parties who need to know where you are. Everyone in your group can keep up with the planning progress and share in the excitement. This works particularly well with small groups like moms and daughters.

3. Plan your luggage needs.

When buying your tickets, check into the luggage policies. Will the amount of bags you are taking be covered? What are the stroller and car seat policies? Can you choose your seats ahead of times? What are the carry-on requirements? Packing for a trip is dicey. You want to take everything you will need but you don’t want to lug it all around. Research the best advice out there and keep it to a minimum. For example, your airbandb may be able to provide you with a pack and play and a stroller and your hotel may be right next to a pharmacy. Checking for good laundry options will also help you pair down your packing. All in all, pre-pay for what you need so you don’t have to deal with it at the counter.

4. Choose an alternative airport.

You are headed to London and the tickets are expensive. However, there’s a $500.00 difference from home to Paris. Okay, get to Paris and take the train straight into Victoria Station. You just saved about $1000.00! Consider other airport alternatives: Shannon and Dublin, Warsaw and Krakow, Glasgow and Edinburgh, the list goes on. You may find that you have the opportunity for an adventure you never even considered.

5. Download the state department’s Mobile Pass app.

Skip the global entry fees and use this quick kiosk to get through customs and immigration just as fast. I once raced my Global Entry carrying mom through immigration and we tied. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. This is also a good time to check on customs policies for your destination. For example, travelers go through customs before boarding flights in Dublin. Know what to expect.

Finding a place to rest your head

The next biggest chunk of money you will spend is on lodging and ground transportation. I use the word lodging because there are quite a few options out there.

1. Shop around.

There are more than just hotels available for your stay. Bed and Breakfasts, airbandb’ s, pensions, boutique hotels, and major chains await your stay. Look around and have a firm hold on all of your choices before you commit. Look them up on websites and apps, hunt them down in guidebooks and blogs and see exactly where they are located on google maps. Are your choices in good neighborhoods and close to what you want to do and see? Do they have rooms and amenities that fit your needs and budget? One last tip on this: the best smaller places go fast and you’ll need to book these early (especially the best airbandb’ s).

2. Location, Location, Location.

Take a moment and think about your trip. Is it a one city stay or are you planning to town hop? If you are planning to explore just one area, it may be more reasonable to rent a place with a kitchen, close to a train, as a launching pad for all of your adventures. Conversely, if you plan on town hopping, perhaps a mix of city centers and sleepy hamlets will be a better choice.

Personally, I am always looking for lodging that allows me to be car free. I like to be able to stay right in the city center and walk. Think about your fellow travelers. What’s the best mix for you? One last note, sometimes we like to travel sans kids and if you are looking for a hotel that has fewer kids (I’m a teacher and like to travel kid free every now and then) check out the business hotel options. They usually have less family friendly amenities and a quieter feel.

3. To rent a car or not to rent a car?

That is definitely an important question. Let me keep this simple, if you are staying in a city center and you don’t plan to leave it, skip the rental. If you are town hopping with more than two people or any sort of car seat, get a car. If you plan on going to the British Isles, the Black Forest, Northern Italy or Normandy, rent the car. Public transport in most of Europe is spot on and used more commonly than in the States. However, if you have a large group, it can be less economical. Keep this last thought in mind: standards are cheaper to rent than automatics. Practice before you go!

4. Book as directly as possible.

We are all fans of sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia but before you click the “check out” button, google the hotel and check their rates directly. If the website isn’t in English, just look around the screen for a flag, and click on it for language options, easy peasy. If the rate is the same or better, put the money directly into your service provider’s hands- no middle man needs to hold on to your private information without a reason! You can also simply click on your hotel of choice on google maps to access their site. If you can’t find the website, think twice! This may be an excellent time to use a booking service and buy the insurance for a small add-on fee.

5. Breakfast plans, anyone?

There are a few things you need while you travel and one of the most important is breakfast! You won’t enjoy your jam packed day if you don’t have any fuel. I consider two main choices. Some lodgings include your morning meal and others don’t. If it’s included at no extra charge, great! If not, check into how much you are being charged. You may find out that the price of one in house meal can cover your whole group at a local place that offers more local flavors. Consider finding a local bakery or deli to get your morning started.

Stage Three: Planning Activities

It’s the reason you have done all this planning. The reason you are willing to endure an uncomfortable airline seat for 7 plus hours. The fun stuff! There are so many choices to enjoy and it’s hard to know where to even start.

1. Research.

Know what you want to do and how you should go about doing it. As you put together your list of must do’s, take into account not only the time to do something but also the time to get there. Additionally, help kids out by not making everything a surprise. If you are going to Paris, let them read about the Eiffel Tower. If you are off to Japan, cherry blossom information is a must. The more kids know, the more they will enjoy the experience. This includes food! Allow kids to get used to the menu of your destination so that they are looking forward to all the local eats.

2. Journal.

It doesn’t matter how you journal just do it. You can simply post to Facebook or get a new fancy leather book. Somehow, someway, journal. Seriously. I have never met a traveler who has looked back at a trip and said, “gee, I wish I hadn’t spent all that time writing or posting about all the cool things I did”. If anyone on your trip needs to journal, it the kids. Let them learn about where they are going and let them collect all the pamphlets and pictures they can. Let them become the trip expert. Put a small pair of kid scissors and tape in your bag so that they can cut a tape things into their journal along the way.

3. Find a playground.

That means you too, adult. Find a few places along the way to take a break. Rent some bikes (very easily done in most cities) and ride along the river for an hour. Go to an iconic park and take in the gardens. Take the kids to a neighborhood playground and let them make friends. (Language is no barrier for kids.)

4. Book some downtime.

Let’s face it, we all get tired out on our travels. It first starts with that nasty jet lag we have to shake and then it hits us again about 6 or 7 days in when we have traipsed all around taking in as much as we can. It’s at this point, in mid vacation, that I schedule something different. If I’m in Athens, a day Hydra or a day to just enjoy a stroll, to sleep in a bit, or simply enjoy all of the hotel’s amenities that we are paying for! Double or triple that downtime when traveling with kids.

5. Be your trip’ s editor.

Face it. There is never enough time in any trip to see everything on your list. You have some tough decisions to make. Be prudent on what you include on your itenerary. Include a few bucket list icons, some experiences, some out of the way spots. Consider your much needed downtime and chances to eat at different locations.

Over plan to your heart’s content and then acknowledge that you will not get to do everything on your list. It just won’t happen and that’s just fine. It only means that you have a good reason to go back! One last tip: pre-book tickets and reservations for high volume sights so that you can skip the ticket lines and ensure that you have a guaranteed entry. I once walked right past 300 people standing in line in Giverny and used my tickets to breeze through a back gate.