TRIP REPORT INDEX
When award space opened up for New York City to Dublin, I booked it right away. We had been wanting to go to Poland but tickets to Europe in the summer often cost around $1,000 (for coach). Once in Europe, flights to other countries are short and cheap. Neither of us had been to Ireland yet so this was perfect. We decided a week in each country would give us a reasonable amount of time for exploring and spending time with family… and to drive my wife nuts running all over the place looking for the best pierogi.
Stay tuned for the rest of this trip report.
ITINERARY – IRELAND & POLAND
|1||None||None / Late flight|
|2||Ireland – Athlone||SHERATON ATHLONE HOTEL|
|3-4||Ireland – Galway||Airbnb: city center apt|
|5||Ireland – Doolin||Cahermaclanchy House B&B|
|6||Ireland – Athlone||Hilton Dublin|
|7-8||Small village||Stay with family|
|9-10||Poland – Poznan||Sheraton Poznan|
|11-13||Small village||Stay with family|
BEST TIME TO GO
We went in late June and the weather was very good most of the time in both Ireland and Poland. Some locals said July & August are peak season though weather is really hard to predict in Ireland. I probably would not suggest going to Poland before June or after October as sightseeing isn't fun when its too cold. Read more here: Frommer's Ireland or Frommer's Poland
MUST-DO's & ITINERARY ADJUSTMENTS
Even though Ireland is not very large, a couple extra days would have allowed us to explore almost all of the main sites including the Ring of Kerry and Cork. It's easy to cover a lot of ground since you can drive from the east coast to the west coast in about 2.5 to 3 hours. We tend to always be on the go so keep in mind our pace may seem hurried for many. After a while, the Irish countryside starts looking similar, so while I would have liked a few extra days, I'm satisfied with the itinerary.
Ireland: Looking back, we would spend one more day in Doolin and one less in Galway. With the extra day, we would hike the Wild Atlantic Way from Doolin to The Cliffs of Moher (maybe farther). One day in the Doolin area is not enough.
Poland: Our itinerary was focused on family gatherings. With a couple extra days, we would have loved to get up to Gdansk (how much can one person sit and eat?).
We flew a very simple itinerary this time: JFK – DUB – SXF – DUB – JFK.
HOW I BOOKED THE ITINERARY
The flights to Dublin were booked with British Airways Avios – an amazing award currency! Flying from Boston would have been significantly cheaper using Avios, but it would also add a connection and hassle. We used 40,000 Avios each way per person to fly business class (coach was only 20,000 Avios) for a total of 160,000 Avios. The flights to Poland were booked with cash on Ryan Air (a BIG mistake!) and from Poland on Aer Lingus (which I should have booked both ways).
HOW TO GET MILES
How did I get all those Avios? I had a 100,000 Amex credit card sign up bonus last year which I transferred to Avios when they were offering a 40% bonus last December (plus some extra Amex points I had). Check out the latest credit card offers for travel rewards here.
I've got my fingers crossed for another Avios transfer bonus soon as I would love to transfer another 100k I got from an Amex Platinum card and 100k points I got from a Amex Gold card earlier this year. Time is not on my side as a Amex devaluation goes into effect on Oct 1, 2015. Currently 1,000 Amex point = 1,000 Avios.
After Oct 1, 2015, 1,000 Amex points will only get you 800 Avios! 20% less than now (as stated in the Amex paper statement I received: “250 Amex points will transfer to 200 Avios”). Disappointing… maybe British Airways will offer another 100k Bonus Avios credit card bonus as they have in the past.
We paid 80,000 Avios round trip per person + $114 cash for taxes and fees. A business class flight would have cost $4,222 USD… a price I would never pay. That means we got about $0.051 value per Avios point. Coach tickets in the summer often cost around $1k — also a price I refuse to pay. *NOTE: This does not include the 45 Euro per person that Ryan Air charged me after their website would not allow me to check in online. 45 EURO if you don't check in (only 15 EURO if you don't print your boarding pass)…doesn't matter if their website works or not. I regret flying Ryan Air. Aer Lingus was the same price but the time was not as convenient.
|#||Flight||Airline||Actual Cash Paid (pp)||Points Paid||Reg Price|
|1||JFK-DUB 21:00 (9pm)-8:40a +1 day||Aer Lingus||$114||80,000||$4,222|
|2||DUB-SXF 2:05pm-5:35pm||Ryan Air||$114||$114|
|3||SXF-DUB 10:05pm-11:20pm||Aer Lingus||$100||$100|
|4||DUB-JFK 10:50a-13:20(1:20p)||Aer Lingus (Using BA Avios)||included||included|
|Total (per person)||$328||80,000||$4,436|
Unfortunately, I was not able to book many hotels using points. Ireland has only 2 Starwood Hotels (Sheraton Athlone and Westin Dublin). There are plenty of options to use points in Dublin, however, once you leave the city, most of the options are small bed and breakfast operations. In addition, Starwood offered me a promotion where I would get double elite stay credit for any paid stays. As a result, I paid cash for 2 nights instead of points which helps me reach Platinum status again.
Book your hotels at Booking.com, Hilton.com, or SPG.com (keep in mind that if you need elite stay credit, you need to book directly with the hotel, and not a third party website like Booking.com, Kayak.com etc.). Some of these are affiliate links and I may receive a commission if use these links — many thanks in advance if you do!!
|Day||Hotel||Chain/Site||Actual Cash Pd||Points Pd||Reg Price||Point Value|
|4||Cahermaclanchy House B&B||Booking.com||$80|
|6-7||Stay with family|
|10-12||Stay with family|