Ireland – Day 7 (Plus a Recap, a Music Video & NYC)

Today, we leave Ireland and head back to New York City.

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The Dublin Airport is such a nice airport. We decided to purchase some last minute gifts and souvenirs while it was tax free so we didn’t have to send in another tax form to get our tax refunded. The flight was longer going this direction and by the time we arrived in New York we were SO TIRED.

We should have gone straight to our hotel and taken a nap, but instead we decided to stick it out and head out on the town. BIG MISTAKE. By the time we had eaten dinner (Bubba Gump), walked around, and had dessert (Junior’s Restaurant) we could barely keep our eyes open for the Phantom of the Opera. Which leads me to some tips on travel (with a focus on travel to Ireland):

  • Think about the time differences and add up the amount of time you’ll actually be awake. Don’t count on getting sleep on the airplane.
  • Turn on the GPS setting for your photos. You’ll be thankful to know exactly where you took the photos when you get home and have 3,000,000 pictures of castles.
  • Be flexible when sticking to your itinerary. You won’t be able to do as much as you plan to do.
  • Know your non-negotiables and don’t miss them. Forgo other things if necessary, but don’t miss out on something that you absolutely HAVE to see. You may never get to go back.
  • Wear comfortable clothes. I read that wearing sneakers in Ireland was a big no-no and that you might be asked to leave certain establishments if you wore them. For this reason, I packed several pairs of shoes and thankfully my sneakers too because they were the only thing I wore the entire trip. I didn’t even wear my rain boots as the rain wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I also packed several pairs of identical leggings and long sleeved t-shirts with some pretty scarves to mix it up. I knew I’d be wearing my rain coat the majority of the trip, so my clothes underneath were really unimportant.
  • Take an umbrella, an electrical adapter, one guide book (though I didn’t use mine at all, I was primarily on Trip Advisor), a journal, and a small purse that can hold cash and receipts.

Our trip was so amazing. We would definitely recommend going the Groupon route to get a reasonably priced vacation! Here are some of our final stats and our MUSIC VIDEO!

  • 2,211 km (1,374 mi) driven
  • 107,731 steps (50.91 miles) walked
  • 418 floors climbed
  • 60 hours slept


Ireland – Day 4

Join us for our “Free Day” where we had absolutely no plans whatsoever!


Day 4 Itinerary for Tuesday, February 23, 2016:

  • Free Day!
    • Spa?
    • Afternoon Tea?
    • Explore?
  • Hotel: Kilronan Castle Hotel

This is how the day ACTUALLY unfolded:

I am a planner and I like things to have a plan, so this day was primarily for my husband so that we didn’t have every single minute of every single day accounted for by some activity. I have to admit, however, I thoroughly enjoyed our unplanned day and will definitely be adding an unplanned day into all of our itineraries going forward!

We slept in and woke up a bit grouchy and in need of coffee. The problem is we didn’t know where we were headed! So we decided to try to find Nolan’s Castle (because my husband’s name is Nolan). On Trip Advisor it says it’s near Sligo but it definitely is not where the map says it is. So we were even grumpier because we couldn’t find the castle AND we still needed coffee. Thankfully we found a nice little place in Ballisadare called the Village that advertised breakfast all day! Hooray!

At this little cafe, we had the most delicious lattes and breakfast and we met some people who knew where to find Nolan’s Castle (aka Enniscrone Castle). They also told us where to go to find sheep in the road! Apparently this is one of the more annoying parts of driving in Ireland for the locals, but it was on my bucket list to see sheep in the road!

After we finished our lattes and breakfast, we drove around for quite some time in search of anything and everything! On our roundabout way to Enniscrone, we saw some breathtakingly beautiful views, talked to a local driving a tractor whose land we were actually trespassing on (he was super nice though and told us we could park and take a walk around – we didn’t because it was quite muddy and there was a mean looking dog), a stream with waterfalls, a bog and peat drying, and… SHEEP IN THE ROAD!!!

We finally made it to Enniscrone Castle and we hiked up to see it. Nolan was super excited to see “his” castle so we took lots of photos! Enniscrone is also right on the water so we headed down to the beach to take some photos there as well.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped into two different pubs that each didn’t serve food so we ended up getting some snacks from a convenience store and then stopping to get some fast food at a place called Hot Rods. I have to say, Americans definitely do fast food burgers better than the Irish.

On Day 5 we are heading toward the Cliffs of Moher! Don’t miss it!

~Thankfully Exhausted

Ireland – Day 1



When my husband and I found a 7 day/6 night Castles of Ireland Groupon, we jumped right on it! Though we had never been to Ireland and Ireland probably wouldn’t have been top of mind if asked where we’d like to vacation, we had an absolutely wonderful time! This series will detail our trip in hopes that anyone who might like to visit Ireland in the future will have our experience as a reference. I know when I was planning our trip, I read innumerable blogs about packing, international travel, what to see, what to buy, etc.

I’ll start off by letting you in on a not-so-secret insight into my marriage. We LOVE to travel. In addition to travel, we LOVE to drive, especially my husband. So when we realized this trip came with a car rental, we were over the moon! Our plan was to circle the entire Island and see just about everything we possibly could!

Day 1 Itinerary for Saturday, February 20, 2016:

  • 5:00 AM: Arrive in Dublin via Dublin Airport (Aer Lingus)
  • 5:30 AM: Pick up rental car from Dan Dooley
  • 6:00 AM: Drive into Dublin & Park at Q-Park Four Courts (only €4.00 for the day on Saturdays)
  • 6:30 AM: Explore Dublin on foot & via Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus
    • Hodges Figgis Bookstore
    • Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship
    • Merrion Square/St. Stephen’s Green Park
    • National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology – Bog Bodies!
    • Trinity College/Old Library/Book of Kells
    • Kilkenny Shop
    • Grafton Street
    • St. Patrick’s Park/Cathedral
    • Dublin Castle
    • George’s Street Arcade
    • Guinness Storehouse
    • Jameson Distillery
    • Dublin Writer’s Museum
    • Temple Bar
    • Ha’Penny Bridge
    • Kilmainham Gaol
  • Hotel: Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel

Little did I know when I planned this itinerary that we would be completely exhausted from not sleeping on the airplane and it being midnight our (Iowa) time when we started the day! Oops. Oh well, you live and learn!

So here’s how the day REALLY went:

We started off by landing in the Dublin Airport which is absolutely beautiful. We had no problems retrieving our luggage (hooray for free checked bags on international flights!) and because we were a bit early landing we were even early to pick up our car at Dan Dooley. The first car we picked up wouldn’t go into third gear (my husband, Nolan, is a fabulous driver, even when everything is backwards, so I knew it was the car when he was having troubles and sure enough the rental guy tried it out and realized third gear was busted) so we got another car, a Ford Fiesta, and off we went to chase down the Dublin sunrise.

We parked at the Q Park Four Courts even though everyone told us not to drive into Dublin and park including the rental car people. They suggested we drop our car off with our bags at our hotel and take a shuttle in. I didn’t want to waste the time and I was willing to pay the €4.00 for the day of parking, so we went against their suggestions and I’m glad we did!

When we got to the parking garage it was still dark and it felt like we were the only people in the city! We realized as the sky began to turn colors that the fog was going to obliterate any chance of a sunrise we might be able to have, so instead of walking all the way down to Dublin Bay, we headed to Merrion Square to check out the beautiful Doors of Dublin!

Merrion Square Park was closed for construction purposes but we walked around it and saw the statue of Oscar Wilde through the fence which was great!


At this point, we were already exhausted and ready to pass out so we went to O’Callaghan Mont Clare Hotel and had a delicious breakfast with wonderful coffee! Overall, Ireland has amazing coffee and food! The hotel staff was incredibly helpful and understanding of our exhaustion and kept the coffee coming. They even helped us purchase our tickets for the CityScape Luxury Sightseeing (Yellow) Hop-On Hop-Off bus.

A little bit about the Hop-On Hop-Off busses: I researched and planned on purchasing tickets for the Green bus, however, it was much pricier (almost double) than the Yellow bus was so we went with the Yellow bus and it was SO worth it. Our tour guides were amazing, there were busses all over and didn’t keep us waiting long, and the open air seating on top would have been so much fun had it not been raining.

Once we finished breakfast, we walked to Trinity College and took the Book of Kells tour. It was fabulous. The Old Library is breathtaking, I wish I could bottle the smell of the old books, and the Book of Kells is an amazing sight.

When our tour was finished, we did a bit of shopping on Nassau St. There were so many cool shops but we didn’t actually purchase anything at this point since we still had several hours left in our day and we didn’t want to tote everything around with us. Luckily, we were able to flag down one of our busses on this road (apparently they don’t normally stop where they did) and Nolan was able to get some shut eye while we drove around nearly the entire hour and a half route.


When we got close to the parking garage where we had parked, we decided to go back to the car so I could sleep a bit. We probably slept about 15-20 minutes in the car, took some Tylenol for our feet, and then walked to the Guinness Storehouse in the rain. The weather was definitely getting rainier as the day went on, but we came prepared with proper shoes, jackets, hats, gloves, and an umbrella!


The Guinness Storehouse was absolutely flooded with people and we had to stand outside in a line that wove its way around the building for about 30 minutes. I was actually surprised with how quickly the line moved! The tour was fabulous and well worth the money spent to take it. The only part that was a bit of a letdown was the Gravity Bar at the top of the building that boasts the best views of Dublin. I’m sure that’s true when they don’t have ten thousand people packed into the room and nowhere to take a picture from. We quickly exited back down the many flights of stairs.


My attempt at taking a photo from the Gravity Bar windows.

Outside we waited for a Yellow bus to stop and it took us back close to where our car was parked. From there, we drove to our hotel, the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. I have nothing but positive to say about the Fitzpatrick Castle Hotel. We had a slight error in our booking, we had paid for breakfast but it didn’t come across, and the hotel staff took it upon themselves to contact our travel agent to confirm. Not only was the staff excellent, the food was wonderful both in the Dungeon Bar (where Nolan fell asleep sitting up at dinner) and the morning breakfast. Our room was elegantly decorated, had a beautiful bathroom, and a gorgeous view of Dublin Bay/the Irish Sea.

This ends our first day. It was a wonderful way to start our trip. We didn’t get to do everything we planned on doing but we wholeheartedly enjoyed Dublin. The only thing I wish we could have seen was the Archaeology Museum’s bog bodies. Before I travelled to Ireland, I was given the name of an author that writes mysteries that center around these bog bodies. Her name is Erin Hart and I would HIGHLY recommend reading Haunted Ground and Lake of Sorrows before you travel to Ireland. They are fantastic and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series!

~Thankfully Exhausted


Plan a Birthday Party Without Going Broke

Twice a year about a month before my daughters’ birthdays, I ask myself a multitude of questions: 

  1. What kind of party should I plan?
  2. How many of her classmates should I invite?
  3. How will I make this year top last year.
  4. How will I afford this? 

The final question is the one that hits me hardest and determines the answers to the previous questions. 

Cost Saving Tips


  • Local Parks – They’re free. They often have pavilions for inclement weather. No clean up at home. 
  • Nature Centers – If you have a local nature center, call them. We have one in Aurora that has amazing staff and fantastic programs. 
  • Somewhere that has an entry per vehicle such as a State Park, City Park, or National Park – Bring mini vans full of kids and you have yourself a cheap venue. 
  • Discounted Theaters – We have the Elvis Cinema theater here. The kids can see a movie that they may or may not have already seen for a cheaper price. 
  • Places that have all inclusive pricing – party packages = super easy. 
  • Local government buildings with meeting rooms. Kids don’t care where it is, they just care if they get cake and play games. 
  • For the adventurous – go camping, hiking, biking. 
  • At home – not ideal but definitely cheap. Basements, back yards, sleepovers. 

Invitations, Cake, Decorations, Goody Bags:  

  • I have, on occasion, spent a lot of time and effort on making (yes, making) invitations. Though they are super cute and make me feel better about my Pinterest obsessions, they also take a lot of time, effort, and money – they’re actually more expensive than buying pre-made invites. 
  • Tiered cakes are nice for weddings. Sheet cakes are perfectly acceptable for birthday parties and King Soopers has a great selection of cakes and cupcakes. I spent hours on extravagant cake pops for my daughter’s 6th birthday. They were cute, yes, but much more expensive and time consuming than a sheet cake would have been.
  • Decorations are nice but aside from balloons… Kids. Don’t. Care.
  • Goody bags. Two words. Dollar Store. 


Handmade Tutus for Every Child (12 total) at Daughter’s 6th Birthday


Lorax Cake Pops


Lorax Bear Cake Pops


Lorax Truffula Tree Cake Pops

What to spend money on: 

  • Activities – whatever the kids are going to be doing. 
  • Helpers – if you don’t have a husband or mother that’s willing to help, bring in helpers especially if there are going to be more than 10 kids under 10. 
  • A bottle of wine – you need something to celebrate your success after the party.  


  • You don’t have to compete with classmates’ birthday parties. You know your child and what they would like. Don’t go overboard just to keep up with the Joneses. 
  • Though your kids will seem like they don’t care and may ignore you, your presence at their party – smiling, taking pictures, etc – is way more important than everything else. 
  • Encourage people to RSVP but be prepared for additional kids to show up. RSVP’s don’t work well with kids’ parties for some reason. 
  • Make a budget and stick to it. 
  • Keep your eyes open for deals. Groupon, Living Social, Etc. 

Good luck in your party planning endeavors! 

~ Thankfully Exhausted