Tour Group –
PROS – If you take a tour, once you choose an itinerary and pay, everything is planned for you. Your hotels are chosen and booked for you, most of your meals will be prearranged, your admission to the various sites is organized and your transportation taken care of. You will also have a guide who will have information that you wouldn’t get from touring on your own and you will also have a chance to see more and cover a lot more ground than if you tried to get around on your own. Your costs are presented ahead of time and this is generally the cheapest way to take a trip to Ireland outside of backpacking and hostels.
CONS – Taking a tour means you will be following a tight schedule and you won’t have much time to do your own thing. Most tour schedules start early in the morning and stay in a new town every night or two so you will be packing and unpacking a lot. Additionally, while you don’t have to plan anything, you also can’t choose your hotels or most of your restaurants. During the summer, there are tour groups everywhere and the main tourist spot parking lots are packed with large buses and huge groups of people heading into the sites at one time. Keep in mind that you will be on the bus with a big group of people for several days in a row (and that there is a chance at least one of those people may be annoying…).
Small Group Tours– There are some smaller tour groups where you would be in a smaller vehicle and a group of fewer than 20 people, these lessen some of the big tour issues and create a more intimate setting but you still must follow the strict schedule and the cost would be higher than the large tour groups.
PROS – Renting a car and driving though Ireland gives you the most freedom to spend your time as you please. Sleep in one day or get out and about early – spend some extra time in a place you love and choose a special hotel you were dying to stay in. You can decide to splurge on one hotel and skimp on another to stay on budget. This is how we did our family trip through Ireland and how we would do it on a return trip, we prefer to follow our own schedule!
Public Transportation –
I am not all that familiar with Public transportation since it is not a very convenient choice for a family of 6. That being said, I understand that that Ireland has great public transportation options in and connecting the larger cities, but that if you hope to visit the countryside the options are slim or nonexistent.
If you are seriously considering a trip to Ireland consider what is most important to you – cost and budgeting, flexibility and choice and if you are willing to drive or be part of a group trip. Give me a call and I can help walk you through the options!