Tag Archives: Ireland

Visiting the Emerald Isle

In July, my wife and I went to Ireland on vacation.  It was our first time in Ireland.  Last summer, we went to London on vacation.  We tried to combine England and Ireland into one trip but decided against it.  We wanted more time to explore both countries on separate trips. We had a wonderful time on our Ireland vacation.

Naturally, I was excited about going to visit Ireland.  What made the trip a little more exciting was that it was my first attempt at travel hacking.  We were able to fly to Dublin from Newark, New Jersey for free.

Hotel

While in Dublin, we stayed at the Albany House located on Harcourt Street.  This hotel came recommended by a friend of mine who stayed there while traveling in the past.  The hotel itself was fine.  The rooms were clean and spacious.  The staff was friendly.  Every morning, the hotel provided a traditional European continental breakfast including toast, cheese, fresh fruit, and coffee or tea.

The hotel was located a block away from St Stephen’s Green.  St Stephen’s Green is a lovely park.  It is located in the heart of the financial district.  Every afternoon, the park was filled with employees from KPMG and Indeed.  They are truly fortunate to be able to take their lunch break in such a nice park.

The complaint that I have about the hotel is not the fault of the Albany House.  Across the street from the hotel is a nightclub.  Every night, from 11 pm until 5 am there was loud screaming, fighting, and broken glass?  As the result of that racket, we did not have one decent night of sound sleep.

Touring

This trip was not booked as a group tour.  We do not enjoy traveling with large groups of people.  My wife and I like to be free to plan our days and not be rushed when we travel.

However, the benefit of touring is that you have a guide to show you all of the major attractions.  For this trip, we planned 3 separate day trips with a tour company. We also had 4 days to explore the city independently.

The company that we used for our three days of touring was Paddy Wagon Tours.  They are the biggest touring company in Ireland.  The cost of the tours was reasonable.  The Tour Guides were knowledgeable and truly entertaining.  We had a great time learning about the history of Ireland and laughing at their jokes.  They were all wonderful.

The Cliffs of Moher

The first trip that we took was to The Cliffs of Moher.  The Cliffs of Moher is located on the west coast of Ireland.  When we arrived at the Cliffs, it was cloudy, but we were able to see them and get a few nice photos.  After we were there for about 20 minutes, the fog rolled in.  Because of the fog, the cliffs were no longer visible.  We are grateful that we were able to enjoy the scenery before the weather changed.

Northern Ireland  

Our second tour was to Northern Ireland.  Like most people who grew up in the 1980’s, when I think of Northern Ireland, I think about The Troubles.  There has been a period of peace in Northern Ireland since 1998.  Since the Brexit decision, tensions have been elevated in Northern Ireland.  The night before our tour there was a small political scuffle that included throwing Molotov Cocktails.

While it was scary, Belfast seemed like a nice city.  We actually toured the neighborhoods where much of the past troubles took place.  The tour guide took us to see the Bobby Sands Memorial.  Just two blocks from the Bobby Sands Memorial sands the Peace Lines that separate the Republican and Nationalist Catholic neighborhoods.

The second stop in Northern Ireland was at The Dark Hedges.  For those of you who are Game of Thrones fans, The Dark Hedges was featured in the second season.  I am a Game of Thrones fan and honestly, do not remember The Dark Hedges.  I am going to have to re-watch the series and keep my eye out for them.

Following lunch, we went to see Giant’s Causeway and the North Atlantic Coast.  Both were truly breathtaking.  The views were panoramic and unlike any coastline that I have ever been to in the past.  It will be unfortunate if these tours are no longer available in the future because of the hard border that will most likely be put in place after Brexit officially goes into effect.

Blarney Castle & Cork

Our third and final tour was to Blarney Castle and Cork.  Prior to taking this trip, my friends and colleagues kept asking me if I was going to kiss the Blarney Stone.  I said no because I do not like high places and because I heard that the locals pee on it.

My wife, on the other hand, was all about kissing the Blarney Stone.  Prior to us climbing to the top of the castle, the tour guide reiterated that the locals do not pee on the Blarney Stone and that it is cleaned throughout the day.  Even though I did watch the workers clean it, I still was not going to kiss it based on the height.

Our last stop on our final tour was to visit Cork.  We only had two hours to take in the city.  Next time, we visit Ireland, we might consider staying in Cork for a few days. It seems like another wonderful city, but we just did not have enough time to take much of it in.  Plus, at this point we were tired.

Dublin

We spent the rest of our vacation in Dublin.  The remaining days were spent leisurely walking around the city and taking in all of the major attractions.  Dublin is a nice city for walking because it is mostly flat.  It was a good thing that we brought comfortable trainers because we walked about 10 miles per day.  Some of the major attractions that we took in were Trinity University and the Book of Kells.  We went to St Patrick’s Cathedral.  We also simply enjoyed seeing some of the historic monuments including Molly Malone, Spire of Dublin, and the Hugh Lane Gallery.

Conclusion

My wife and I had a great time visiting Ireland.  I was in need of a vacation.  I have been busy at work and this blog takes up the rest of my mental energy.

We were only in Ireland for seven days and were able to cover a good portion of the country.  We would have liked to visit Galway but ran out of time.  Next time we visit we might spend half the trip in Cork and the remainder of our time in Galway.

I highly recommend taking a trip to Ireland.  It is a lush county that is full of rich history.  It might not be for a few years because we are planning on visiting other locations, but we will defiantly be back to see the rest of the Emerald Isle.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.

 

Travel Hacking: Round One

Until recently, I have never tried travel hacking.  As a member of the financial independence community, I have not looked favorably at credit cards.  I saw them as a way for undisciplined people to spend more than they earn.  In my opinion, I saw them as tools that banks use to hack high fees and interest payments out of people who have fallen victim to materialism.

My view on credit was to only borrow when it was a must and to pay it back as quickly as possible.  Since I started working full-time, I only used credit when I needed it.  However, I knew that having a high credit score was important.

My wife and I both have high credit scores but have not borrowed much.  I once had a car loan that I paid off in my early 20’s.  When I went to college, I paid cash for my first two years and took out student loans for my Junior and Senior years.  My wife and I also took out a home equity loan to remodel our house.  That is currently our only debt.

For years, my wife and I only had one credit card.  We used it for travel, shopping on Amazon, and for other purchases when a credit card was more convenient than cash.  We have always just used a basic bank card that paid 1% cash back.

I did not know if 1% was good or not.  I was more interested in using the card when it was required and just paid off the balance every month.  At the end of the year, I would get $500 back and just use the rewards money for holiday bills.

The focus of my personal finance management and writing has been saving and investing.  My approach has been to focus on career growth, saving as much as possible, and capture average market returns by investing in index funds.  Hacking has not been on my radar.

Over the past year, I have started reading more and more blogs about people who are taking two or more vacations per year for free.  Since some of the most trusted bloggers promote it, I decided to read more about it.  It was not until I attended a meet-up in New York City where a group of bloggers from Rockstar Finance got together.  At this event, I got turned on to travel hacking and decided to give it a shot.

The idea of taking a vacation or two per year for free excited me.  We travel anyway, so why not enjoy our trips for free.  I started to do some research.  I also took the Travel Miles 101 online course.  Travel Miles 101 is a comprehensive course that explains all that a person needs to start travel hacking.  I recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about travel hacking.

After taking the travel miles 101 class and reading many other blogs, the consensus card to start with is the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred card has a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year.  The annual fee after that is $95 per year, but as part of the hack, you set it up to never pay that fee.

So, what do you get with the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card?  If you spend $4,000 in 3 months, you earn 50,000 bonus points.  Those 50,000 bonus points add up to some nice rewards. The redemption value is worth $625 in airfare, $625 towards hotels, or $300 in cash.

There are other nice benefits With the Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  A cardholder will receive 2X points on travel purchases.  When you dine out, a cardholder receives 2X points on restaurant purchases worldwide.  Every other purchase equals 1 point per $1 spent.

Based on all of the suggestions, I opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.   In order to hit the target of $4,000 to earn the points, I set up all of our monthly household bills to be charged to this card. Since it was November, it did not take long to hit the $4,000 with all of the extra holiday spending.

After I reached the $4,000, my wife opened a Chase Sapphire Preferred credit card.  We followed the same plan and used the card for all of our bills and spending.  It took us less than two months for us to hit $4,000 on her card.

Now for the fun stuff.  It was time to redeem our points.  We decided that we wanted to visit Dublin, Ireland this summer.  To redeem the points, there is a portal to access the travel section on the Chase Dashboard.  It is as easy as booking a flight on any other travel website.

We decided to fly out of Philadelphia (PHL) and wanted a non-stop flight.  Based on the value of our points, these tickets were going to only cost us about $150 in out of pocket expenses.  Before we booked our flight, I decided to check if there was a cheaper flight out of the Newark Airport (EWR).  I typed in our travel dates and a round-trip ticket from Newark to Dublin on Air Lingus was only $605 per ticket.  We booked our flights and had points to spare.  It was that easy.

I do not know if travel hacking is for everyone.  If you are not good at paying your bills every month, travel hacking might not be for you.  If you end up with a balance and have to pay the high interest, the credit card company is actually hacking you.  You also need to have the required spend to earn the points.  If you do not spend enough to qualify, you should not just spend money you otherwise would not spend to just earn points.

Does travel hacking hurt your credit score?  I have only opened two cards, so I do not have any personal evidence to share with you.  Based on many other blogs, there is minimal change and most credit scores increase over time.  The most important thing is paying your balance every month.

If you are responsible for paying your monthly bills and enjoy traveling, you should look into travel hacking.  Travel hacking also requires a person to be structured and to know when to close a card before the annual fees will be charged.  There are many great travel websites and points tracking tools like awards wallet to make the process easier.

I hope you found this post useful.  Moving forward, I will share our experience with every new card we open and hack.  Please keep your eye out for round two in the next few months.

This post might contain affiliate links.

Please be sure to read the Disclaimer page.