What happens on an Ireland tour group vacation?

An Ireland tour group vacation isn’t the return to her roots that your grandmother might have experienced.  Today’s tour group vacations focus on saving you time, saving you money, and making every moment of your precious vacation count.


While there are many variations of tours, from walking to riding on a large or small bus or train to biking, the most common is the bus tour.  Generally, no more than a few hours each day is spent on a bus, but this is a great question to ask when planning your trip.

Value and Cost

There are tours that meet every travelers budget.  Tours generally save a traveler about 30% as compared to them booking the same itinerary on their own.  This is partially due to their bulk purchasing, and also because the travel professionals know where to get the best value for dollars spent.  They choose accommodations and meals that are a step above the norm and eager to please to insure return business.  You’ll get to know the locals.

Galway beach

Time Savings

How many hours would you spend developing a trip itinerary and planning your needs over the internet only to find frustration when trying to use a credit card conversion chart to figure out the true cost after currency conversion.  How many times have you read a fantastic or terrible review to find the exact opposite when you arrive.  Leave the planning to someone who knows the area and the people they are dealing with.  The package price will be in US dollars and there will be no need to guess what the cost of your vacation will be.

On a preplanned itinerary, you can expect to arrive at tourist attractions with the tickets already purchased and quite often an arrangement for the entire group to skip the lines.  A guide will escort you to the highlights and offer history and cultural stories as well as answer questions.  Most times, you will still have time to wander on your own, whether you want to sit on a bench and listen to the waves crashing at the Cliffs of Moher or write your name in the sand in Galway.

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Ireland Vacation Travel Planning

Ireland vacation travel planning is fun and exciting.  There are so many options to choose from in this English speaking paradise where the people are friendly and welcoming, the value for dollars spent is very good due to a slower economy and the temperate climate is wonderful for outdoor activities.

There are several tour companies who offer group tours.  You can choose from a five day sampler to a fourteen day full country tour.  Another option is a self drive vacation for those who don’t mind keeping left and driving a stick shift.  The self drive vacations are perfect for multigenerational travel, where you’d like the option to stop for lunch on your own clock (be it still on east coast time or adjusted to European time).

Others who may enjoy the self drive would include couples who prefer to spend time alone, adventurers who want to get off the beaten path and do some hiking on the many scenic trails and those who want to drive the famous Ring of Kerry scenic route.

Ireland is easily reached from the USA with flights on Delta, Continental, Aer Lingus and USair.  There are three airports to choose from, the most popular being Dublin, Ireland’s capital city.  Shannon Airport is a good option if you prefer to tour in the southern sections of the Emerald Isle, such as for guests who have been to Dublin on previously trips and want to do some of the coastal routes.  The third airport is Belfast, which is in Northern Ireland.

However you choose to travel through this beautiful and inviting country, you will have several months of temperate weather to choose from, although the summer months are the most common due to the warmer temperatures that range from 70-80 degrees.

A travel agent can help you find the options that best suit your needs, as well as get you the best value for your vacation dollars.

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Self drive Ireland vacations

Cliffs Ireland
Arian Island Cliffs Ireland

A self drive Ireland vacation will be the perfect getaway for an independent traveler or a multigenerational family group.  This type of vacation will allow you the flexibility to stop for pub grub for a whole afternoon or just long enough for a quick pick.

Overnight accommodations might be simple bed and breakfasts, traditional hotels, or five star castles; you might enjoy a combination of all of these places.  With a bed and breakfast experience, you will meet an Irish family and get to know things about their heritage and way of life.  The most friendly and welcoming people in the world, you may even decide to spend a few nights and explore your family trees together.  After all, there are over 50 million Americans who have roots in Ireland, and nearly every Irish family has a relative in America.

While in the Emerald Island, you might drive your own car for all or part of the week while you enjoy the Irish countryside.  Other transportation options include busses, trains, and even ferries or small planes for a few specific side trips such as the Arian Islands.  If you do want a rental car, remember it will most likely have a manual transmission and you will need to keep left.

Independent tours involve planning with your travel agent.  Together, you will decide on your destinations within Ireland, the types of overnight accommodations you are interested in, the sights you will visit and the entertainment that interests you.  It will all be mapped out for you with lots of flexibility to allow you to enjoy the moment.  After all, who knows if you’ll run into a long lost cousin at lunch on your first day.

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Southeast Asia Vacation 20 days under $1600

map of southeast asia itinerary
map of southeast asia itinerary

Southeast Asia, including Viet Nam, Cambodia and Thailand, all in one vacation is on sale for $1512 per person.  This is a 20 day guided tour with accommodations, transportation, some meals and plenty of sightseeing with an English speaking guide.  Several dates available.

See the white sand beaches, the ancient wats and the bustling cities in this vibrant and interesting hidden piece of the world.   Travel by bus train and even boat to visit these unique locations while enjoying the company of your small group on English speaking travelers.

I’ve posted several details about Bangkok recently, including the street market scene, the River of Kings, visits to temples and golden buddhas.  Once you arrive in Southeast Asia, expect friendly people who enjoy speaking English and love elephants, buddhas and their beautiful culture and beliefs.

Travel by tuk tuk on your free time and be sure to enjoy the street food and entertainment as you weave your way through the region.  Optional tours include mud baths, motorcycle touring, snorkeling and cooking classes to name a few.


This is a tour that welcomes solo guests, as well as couples, friends, families and groups. Call today for details and pricing.

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Sights and sounds of Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok Thailand offers easily a week worth of worthwhile things to do.  While experiencing the culture and antiquities, we also enjoyed walking the streets and getting to know the people of today.  The sights and sounds of Bangkok Thailand are a tourist attraction in their own rite. The tuk-tuk is an easy and affordable mode of transportation that sometimes offers a thrill and often comes with a surprise or two.The tuk-tuk is a motorized three wheel vehicle.  The motor bike in the front pulls a sort of covered chariot where the guests sit.  The tuk-tuk was named for the noise the motor makes.  It is not unusual to see a dozen or more tuk-tuks lined up on a street corner near any tourist site waiting for riders and therefore, they are always easy to hire and to negotiate pricing with.

Ronald McDonald in Bangkok
Ronald McDonald in Bangkok

While riding in the tuk-tuks, we saw elephants with riders on some of the rural roads, we routinely saw motor bikes with families of 3-4 people and bags and boxes piled up scooting along the road.  People on the motor bikes and scooters generally carry drinks with them in a plastic bag with a straw so they can easily sip while driving.  These bags hold about 10 ounces of fluid and the drink is poured directly into the bag.We passed a McDonald’s in Bangkok with a 10 foot statue of Ronald outside.  He is posed like a Buddhist with his hands held up in the traditional Buddhist greeting.  McDonald’s are popular tourist spots because of the free Wi-Fi hotspots offered.

The early morning brings busy streets, with monks roaming around asking for food.  A part of the Thai and Buddhist culture is for most people to become monks for up to a year to become closer to their beliefs.  The monks take to the streets each morning and the locals have their gifts ready for them, including food, money and anything else they may need.  It’s really a fascinating scene to see a dozen monks, all dressed in bright orange garbs walking along the busy streets at sunrise.  Street vendors are setting up their stands for the day, deliveries are made and children are running off to school or doing errands.

While the store fronts by day seem to be just that, the families who run the shops also live there.  At bedtime, the counters and chairs are pushed aside and bed rolls are set up for the family.  When it’s time for a meal, they go to the street vendors for their meal and sit outside the storefront and eat.  Without a kitchen or fridge, they buy the food just as they are ready to eat it.

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Custom made suits and clothing|Bangkok Thailand

Bangkok custom made suit

Custom suit being fitted

Bangkok, Thailand is known for it’s multitude of tailor shops, all eagerly waiting to produce custom made suits and clothing for customers in just 2 to 3 days.  While a rush job for a 24 hour suit is possible, it’s better to give them time to make the quality products they are known for company website.

In our case, we had decided to use Tom’s for our custom made suit because they were recommended by a past traveler.  We took a tuk-tuk to Tom’s from our hotel.  The tuk-tuk driver really pressured us to go to a different shop, he even offered to take us there for free and finally admitted that he would received the equivalent of $35 USD just for bringing us in.  We insisted on going to Tom’s and he wasn’t happy with us.

Jared ordered and was fitted for his custom suit that morning; this was one of the main attractions that brought him to Thailand in the first place.  It was a really interesting experience.  We went early in the morning to choose the fabrics and have sizing done.  At 5 PM the next day, we went back to the store for a fitting.  He tried the pants and shirt and they made a few minor adjustments; already he looked great.

We waited around for the tailor to arrive by bicycle with his messenger bag.  Inside was the shell of the suit jacket, rolled neatly.  They put that on Jared and three guys went to work pinning and marking his jacket like they had done with his pants earlier.  They added the sleeves when they were done and pinned them.  We were told “the suit will be ready tomorrow night and delivered to our hotel”.  Just crazy.  He is going to look good for prom this year.  Our itinerary was very full for our week in Bangkok, but we were glad we fit the tailor in early.

The suit, along with two dress shirts and ties, that were also custom made from his choice of fabrics and colors, was delivered as promised and fit to perfection.  The suit bag was sturdy enough to travel for another 3 weeks and to be used for future travels.  While there are several reputable and professional tailors to choose from, we were very happy with Tom’s.

This fabric and workmanship are a better quality than anything off the shelf in the USA.  The cut and fit are impeccable and the price was fantastic, at under $200 USD for the entire package.  The next time over, I may have some dresses or suits made for myself.

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Street vendors selling food in Bangkok Thailand

Street vendor selling rice in bamboo stick
Street vendor selling rice in bamboo stick

We arrived in Bangkok after midnight on Friday night, but it might just as well have been 5 PM on a work day for the number of people in and outside of the airport.  All of the restaurants were open, the “night market” where people go to stroll and buy souvenirs from the street vendors selling food and goods  was open until 3 AM.  We went to our hotel and slept, looking forward to experience the city refreshed.

The next morning we went to the “weekend market” and enjoyed the bargains almost as much as the people watching.  The smells were just over whelming, with food stalls mixed in with spice shops, clothing stalls, music, you name it.  There are over 5,000 stalls selling absolutely everything here.  The bargains were just incredible; we saw tourists who were buying US name brand socks and underwear because of the deals.  We stuck to tourist T shirts, genie pants and other items we couldn’t get at home.  We also stopped at several food stands and ate.

About the street food: before we arrived, I had decided not to eat on the street because I have a weak stomach.  I threw that thought right out the window.  This food is fresher than anything I’ve ever eaten at home.  The chicken was clucking this morning, the fruits and veggies, still in the fields.  Since the country has little or no refrigeration, the meat is cooked as soon as it is available.  The residents of the city generally don’t have kitchens, they take their meals from the street vendors.

Street vendors Bangkok Thailand
Street vendors Bangkok Thailand

The first morning we left the hotel at about 10 am to take a walk.  Right outside, we saw a street vender with about two hundred small roasted chickens in his cooking stand.  We laughed saying they would be sitting all day in the hot sun.  We walked back an hour later and the whole batch had been sold and was gone.  The man was cooking more that would sell just as quickly.

My favorite stop each day became a stand that sold pineapple in a bag.  He had bins full of fresh pineapple stacked, when I indicated I wanted some, the vendor took the fruit and within 90 seconds he had cored and cut.  Continue to next blog.

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How children live along the Amazon River

Children caring for children in Las Palmas village along the Amazon River
Children caring for children in Las Palmas village along the Amazon River

On our Amazon River Cruise, we sometime stopped in villages to learn about their culture and life styles. The children spend their time much differently than American kids.  It never seized to amaze me how responsible the children of the Amazon River were for their younger siblings.  They were gentle at all times and seemed to be happy to be together.  The boy in this picture carried his little brother around on his shoulders for hours.  When he tired, another kid took the little guy and carried him everywhere.

These families don’t have the pleasure of a “child safe” area that will allow Mom to get any of her work done.  Both parents are busy during the day with basic chores like fishing, hunting or working the fields.  The kids take on the caregiver role during the day.

On a visit to a school house, the teacher asked all the children to sit on the desks that were lined up along the wall.  Immediately, the older kids, who were 8-12 took the younger ones to their places.  Some were lifted to the desks to sit with the older kids, and the little ones just naturally took their seats at the other kids feet.

When one kid fell, his older brother came and picked him up and took him outside.  One of my fellow passengers felt bad for the little kid, so he gave him a t-shirt on his way out.  The kid took it and wiped his tears with it; I guess it never occurred to him that he was receiving a gift.

I felt the loss of community life in our world as I watched these kids interact with each other.  They shared everything, not that they had much and they took care of each other.  Kids came and went from different family huts without a thought or invitation.

After school was out, the kids all went into the field to play soccer, their favorite pastime.  Kids as small at 3 were out there and everyone who ran on the field just played.  No one worried about team jerseys or referees they just played the game.

For a while, some of us went on the “field” to play with the kids.  This field was just a spot where the weeds were a bit shorter than other places.  It was probably shorter because the kids play there each afternoon.  Somehow, in this world of villagers who work so hard just to survive, they find time to have inter village games each Sunday on these fields.

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Visit Myanmar (Burma) on Amawaterways River Cruise to Cambodia and Viet Nam

AmaPura will sail down the Ayeyawady River on 14-16 day cruises through Myanmar in 2014.
AmaPura will sail down the Ayeyawady River on 14-16 day cruises through Myanmar in 2014.

Visit Myanmar on Amawaterways river cruise.  AmaWaterways added Myanmar (Burma) itinerary to its destination choices for 2014 river cruising.  Live, eat and sleep in the comfort of the AmaPura (2014), Amawaterway’s 56 passenger custom designed all suite ship featuring a private French balcony, a  step out full balcony or twin balconies.  Stateroom category sizes range from 285 to 435 square feet.

Myanmar is located north of Thailand and west of Cambodia, all are considered emerging markets in the travel and tourism arena.  Embarking in Mandaly or Pyay, this river cruise along the Ayeyarwady River will engage guests in the cultural and natural beauties of this mystical land of stupas, temples and pagoadas.  Take in the stunning view from Mt. Popa and visit the golden city of Mandalay.  Leave the ship each day to learn about the cultures and lifestyles of the people who live nearby.  Wake to the beauty of the sunrise while you watch local fishermen take their catch of the day to shore for meals.  Visit local villages, markets, monasteries and  workshops with expert English speaking local guides who will share the history and traditions of the people of Myanmar.  This is the perfect addition to the AmaWaterways fleet.

Viking River Cruises will also add Myanmar to their extensive offerings this year, with an extension to Bangkok offered.  This is an emerging market with offerings changing and expanding weekly.

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Fishing for Catfish on the Amazon River

This is one of the many fishermen who paddles the Amazon River each morning in search of catfish.  Villagers are dependent on fishing for their livelihood.
This is one of the many fishermen who paddles the Amazon River each morning in search of catfish. Villagers are dependent on fishing for their livelihood.

In December, Eric and I went on an Amazon River Cruise.  On one of our excursions in a skiff, we came upon some local fishermen who had a stuck net.  They were in a dug out canoe, about 4 guys, and we stopped and watched as they tried about everything to get their catch out of the water.

At one point, another dug out canoe, this one with a bigger motor, tied up and tried to help get this massive net out of the water. Another guy jumped in the water and tried to free the net. They all worked tirelessly to bring in the catch.

Eventually, they asked us our native guide we could help them out with our powerful boat.  We tied up to their canoe and pulled them this way and that until the net came loose, netting them hundreds of catfish into their tiny canoe.

We passed them all bottles of cold water from our cooler before setting off in search of more excitement.

This catfish was caught with a spear from a canoe that paddles along the river's edge.
This catfish was caught with a spear from a canoe that paddles along the river’s edge.

A short time later, we saw someone fishing for catfish with a spear.  That man let me hold one of his fish for this picture.  The other passengers got such a laugh over the catfish that the fisherman passed his spear in for me to pose with too.

In the Amazon villages, catfish is one of the main sources of food.  It only made sense for us to experience the local dishes, so catfish was served almost every day as one of many options on the buffet. It was cooked up differently each time and each distinct flavor was exciting to try.


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