Two words that can invoke fear into the hearts of parents traveling abroad with their pint-sized companions. Traveling to the grocery store down the street with your 3 year old can sometimes require colossal effort; you cannot even fathom it for your trip to Ireland coming up. Have no fear, we here at Waterlily Weddings are here to help! If you are inviting your friends and family with children or are bringing your own, there are some tricks of the trade to help ensure that everyone enjoys your dream Irish wedding trip!
First, there are two elements to consider. One, the trip and travel portion of your event and second, the actual wedding. In this post we will focus on the travel portion. What to pack, how to plan, what to do in order to make sure even your smallest travel partners are in a good mood and ready to enjoy the vacation along with you. Before you know it you’ll be in a groove and planning your trip back.
When we went to Ireland back in 2014 for our vow renewal, we had 7 kids ages 8 and under along for the ride. All 14 days of it. And we learned a lot. Which we are happy to pass along to you. So here are some Survival Mantras to help you plan your upcoming trip and wedding day in Ireland.
Keep to the code and you’ll enjoy every moment of it!
MANTRA #1: “I Will Outsmart Jet Lag.”
This is probably the biggest and most intimidating factor for clients planning their destination wedding. Many people sadly end up leaving children home, or asking their guests to leave theirs, because they are afraid of tired, fussing kids ruining their dream wedding. It’s not their faults, poor little things, but rather that of the stress of travel and jet lag. Most adults get affected by it — imagine it for the littles.
When we planned our trip I went to a trusted family friend who is a pediatrician and asked his advice. He recently traveled to France with his kids, after all, so he must know best given he’s a doctor and a father of young kids himself. His advice worked brilliantly with our kids. I pass on the knowledge to you, an acronym that you need to memorize and use fully for all of your travels: SAS.
S = Sugar. As soon as you arrive in Ireland, you need to get the kids cracked out on sugar. Constant feeding of cookies, candies, chocolate, sugary drinks — everything that is bad for them normally will be your savior this first day. The goal: to get them hyped up and out of sleepy stage, eating things they will not fight you on, in an effort to expel energy very soon. Ideally this is done in the morning, local Irish time.
A = Activity. From the very first day you need to have an impactful physical demand on the poor buggers. After you’ve fed them sugar and they are properly riled up, you must let them get out their energy: run around parks and castles, this is a great opportunity to walk about the city of Dublin, take in a lot of physical activity walking in the streets or running around somewhere. The goal: you want them to tire themselves out thoroughly. Ideally this is done in the afternoon.
S = Sleep. After a hearty dinner, the kids should be sufficiently exhausted physically that they will be asking to sleep. Retire back at the hotel early, give them all a hot shower or bath (preferably with lavender soap as a soother which helps induce sleep), a pair of comfortable trusty pj’s, and they should completely crash in their beds at a reasonable hour. The goal: to get them exhausted to the point of collapse by evening so they fall asleep without issue. Ideally this is done around 7 or 8 pm local Irish time.
With luck the kids’ internal clocks would be reset and they will take in the morning local Irish time around 7 am ready and refreshed for the day’s schedule ahead. This may take two, even 3 days for some children, but if you can hold steadfast to SAS it should work in 24 hours. We did the same thing when we came back to the US and it worked perfectly again.
Don’t be afraid of the food part. I know we’ve been conditioned to give low fat, low calorie, natural fruits and vegetable/no sugar stuff and I felt guilty as hell doing this too. But I trusted SAS and loaded them up on all sorts of nonsense. It worked. By noon lunchtime they were fiends. They ate some lunch, I shoved more sweets in them and they were practically ready to be institutionalized by 1 pm local time. After we ran them around the big central park in Dublin for a couple of hours and walked throughout the streets, by dinner they were already glassy-eyed. They didn’t fuss at all with dinner, actually craved “normal” food after all that sugar, came back to the hotel, showered, and completely passed out. They woke the next day fresh as daisies and were completely fine the rest of the trip. Even the 2 year old. I swear. To. God.
MANTRA #2: “Pack An Every Day Travel Bag.”
With all the suitcases and such you’ll bring on your trip, it’s a great idea to have a bag to travel with every day as you explore Ireland. Be it a sturdy backpack or larger more fashionable bag, you’ll want something to keep things for emergencies and to store those souvenirs as they begin to collect. Some ideas to pack in your bag:
- A quick change of clothes. Ireland is amazing and you will no doubt find yourself exploring the natural beauty. If you do plan an outing in the elements, a second outfit is a must to pack, not just for the kids, but for yourself. I distinctly remember exploring Giants Causeway up in N. Ireland and my darling boy excitedly running over to us to tell us something, then tripping and falling smack into a puddle of water and mud. The cheers quickly turned to tears as he was completely drenched from head to toe and getting cold. We’d left our things back at the hotel, and the poor bugger had to spend the rest of the afternoon in soaked clothes. Not even the gift shop had an extra pair. And it doesn’t happen to just kids. Yours truly stubbornly insisted on climbing the rocks at the Torc Waterfall only to find myself careening down into the river below. Completely soaked, I at least got to change my pants in the car as we were moving between hotels that day. So bring a quick change and just keep it in the car just in case.
- A small first aid kit. Be it blisters from new shoes (raises hand) or a little fall on the street, a little package of Band-Aids, Neosporin, and Tylenol/Advil for pain will help you get relief faster. With plenty of drugstores throughout Ireland you can stop and find plenty of supplies, but having some quick on hand can help out a little traveler who maybe took a tumble.
- Water bottle and snacks. As you venture out just make sure to have some light snacks on hand just in case someone gets a little hangry. They kids may want some too.
We love this line of bags by JuJuBe. Whether big or small, the bags and backpacks are neatly compartmentalized, well colored to make your items easy to find (avoiding the Purse Abyss). The material is stain, soil, scratch resistant making it perfect to travel with. Even if you’re out of the diaper stage, the bags will take you through travels and busy weekends for a very long time. And the fun colors and patterns make it an easy bag to find at the airport and throughout traveling. The Super Be sized bags are the perfect lighter carryon bag for all of your personal needs.
MANTRA #3: “It’s Lovey’s Trip Too.”
Many kids, especially littler ones, sleep with a stuffed animal or blankie. A “lovey,” I call it. A security item that goes with them everywhere, that is a constant companion and requirement for respite. Try as you may to convince them to leave it at home, they will win this battle. The reality is, “Bunny” is coming with us. Times three. Now what to do?! The last thing you need is three more extremely important, cannot-lose-these-on-the-trip items to worry about (on top of multiple passports, credit cards, a wedding dress…)!
When we did out trip I made ribbon leashes for the kids’ stuffies. We had one bunny and two stuff dogs to content with. My solution? Upon leaving for the airport, I had each kid line up at the front door to receive their Super Exciting Traveling Presents:
- Each kid had their own backpack (small enough to travel with easily, they could wear on their backs easily and comfortably) and allotment of new personal items inside.
- I included in these: 1 coloring book, a little bag of crayons or markers, 1 (replaceable) reading book, and a leash tied securely inside the backpack with ribbon.
- Each stuffy was given a special collar to which the ribbon could be attached should they choose to stuff Lovey in the backpack.
- Each child was given a rubber bracelet to wear on which ribbon could be attached should they choose to hold Lovey.
This way, they can bring their most treasured companion with them and he/she/it can be secured at all times either in the bag or on the person. Every morning we did Inspection Time where each kid had to stuff their backpacks with their personal items and my husband or I would check to make sure Lovey was present and accounted for. We survived. And Bunny, Ro-Ro, and Blue had a great vacation and now reside comfortably back in Seattle with us.
MANTRA #4: “I Will Plan Amazing Activities For Them To Look Forward To.”
Don’t be afraid of the terrain and weather of Ireland for your little ones. Rather, turn it into an advantage. With the sprawling grounds and rolling hills, hidden forests and gorgeous lakes, there are a ton of incredible once-in-a-lifetime activities that you can plan for the children to also take part in that will keep them engaged and invested throughout your wedding trip. I guarantee they will love every second of it. Here are some ideas to get your started.
- Carriage Rides — Many villages throughout the countryside have local horse-drawn carriage rides operated by locals. They will load you up into a buggy, give you a blanket, then take you around the beautiful scenery, stopping at a local brook or charming forest for a little snack. The kids will love taking the ride. Some will even let your kid ride up front and take the reins for a bit. When we visited two years ago for our vow renewal we took a horse-drawn carriage through the Gap of Dunloe. I rode a horse on my own up in front of the carriage. We got to stop alongside the river, ruins, and bridge. It was the most spectacular scenery, and the kids were in awe. Our then 7 year old got to ride the horse for a bit as well on our way back down to the cottage. Two years later and the kids still talk about that day.
- Horse Riding — Ireland is a destination for all equestrian lovers. Even if you haven’t done it before, horse riding must be on your list of things to do. Be it through the forests or along the beaches, many equestrian clubs and privately owned barns can be hired for guided tours for riders of all ages and levels. Our children adored this activity on our trip, and our adult friends as well!
- Boats and Fishing — Ireland is home to many beautiful lakes, large and small. In fact, you may have to cross one or two to get to a destination for sight-seeing. Many locals are available for private hire for the half day or full day to take you and your party around to see all of the sights. More elaborate and exciting coastal expeditions, including fishing if it’s the season, can happen at sea. The kids will love the boat rides, row boats, or faster fishing boats.
- Falconry — By far one of the best activities for children in Ireland, if you can schedule a falconry activity they will never forget it. When we went we stayed at the amazing Sheen Falls Lodge in Kenmare. We had 7 children (3 of which were hours) for our vow renewal weekend, ranging in ages from 4 months old to 7. I scheduled a falconry activity in the afternoon for the children. They all met with the falconer who let them pet and meet up close and personal Maverick, I believe was his name. Then took turns learning to command and watching Mav soar through the sky. Our video of the squeals and delight are priceless. The kids were so excited and loved every second of it.
- Clay Pigeon Shooting — The older boys (ages 6 and 7) got to participate in clay pigeon shooting while at Sheen. They enjoyed some hot chocolate in the morning while the men enjoyed their Irish Coffees, and they set out into the woods for some instruction and shooting. They took turns holding and shooting the guns (under the constant guidance of professionals) and had a blast (pun intended). This is wonderful activity for older kids, ages 6 and above.
- Woodland Picnics and Fairy Hunting — Ireland is known by many names, one of which is Land of the Fairies. My girls were super into fairies (still are!) so I organized a picnic/fairy expedition during our stay. I packed with us small butterfly nets and on the morning of, packed some light lunches in paper sacks. We ventured off into the wilderness of our villa’s gardens, among the brook and wildflowers, in desperate search for any sign of fairies. We did find a fairy hole and left a few crumbs of scone and jam for them to enjoy, then basked in the sunlight while sprawled in the tall, tender grass after enjoying our lunch. The girls still talk about it and want to go back. The next morning we visited again to find the crumbs gone, only a few sparkles of glitter remaining (thank you Brian for helping with that).
These are but a fraction of the options available. The idea here is using Ireland’s atmosphere and terrain to your advantage. Don’t be intimidated about cobble stones and nature; rather go for it and use it as a chance to explore with the kids.
MANTRA #5: “‘Exploration’ Is The Operative Word.”
Ireland is full of incredible sights to see. And many of them are quite open to children, be it castle ruins or manicured estate and museums. My usual Mommy Mode has me reprimanding my kids touching things without permission, their hand recoiling in response to my harsh verbal warnings save we break something of immense value. I was in the middle of such a session at a castle in Ireland when the cashier told me it was fine. He must have seen the shock on my face, as he gave me a lovely gentle smile. He stooped down to my kids’ level and with excited eyes as big as saucers asked them if they wanted to play with the helmets and swords. Resounding squeals echoed in the castle walls and before I could say a word the four of them were off around the corner. Helmets, swords (unsharpened), chains, chain mail were all brought down and handed into eager, grubby hands. They played and fought for king and country while the patrons all shopped. And when it was time to go, no pressure to purchase the items, but rather a promise elicited to come back and visit again soon for a rematch. We traversed around the country, exploring one ruin to another. Castle walls were climbed with abandon, bright flowers were picked for an impromptu bouquet. The kids were encouraged to run about, explore, imagine, touch everything, taking in the history and energy of this place with all senses possible. It was a wonderful experience to see them be free. To play with the geese, to jump off the castle stairs, to sit in the 400 year old chair and touch the 600 year old stained glass window. By the third day of our epic 13 day tour, the kids were excited at breakfast, scarfing down whatever nutrition laid before them with no complaint in order to begin the day’s explorations.
One of the many gifts of the Irish is their incomparable hospitality, a result being that Ireland is an extremely kid-friendly country. The people are very welcoming, very sweet, and big fans of children of all ages. Even the fancier, more posh places will welcome younger children with open arms and make them feel at home. Most restaurants have high chairs for younger children, offer children’s menus (or are willing to cook specially for your child’s tastes and allergies even if a kid menu is not presented), and will be very friendly towards them, often inviting them to explore about the place or play audience to a lovely story from the proprietor. One pub I remember around the Cliffs we stopped in for lunch, and the kids were getting a bit squirrely. The owners wife behind the bar came out to greet us, and gently ushered the kids away to a separate table near us but a little ways off. She gave them all papers and crayons, fancy drinks of sparkling cider and hot chocolate piled high with whipped cream and entertained them with stories while us adults were invited to sit by the fire and enjoy a pint in peace. She stayed with them throughout the lunch, gently nudging our finicky 2 year old to eat her food while we ate our fish n chips in blissful peace.
This wasn’t the only example. We found quite unexpectedly, as morose Americans, that this was more the rule rather than the exception throughout Ireland. And were quite spoiled along our trip by the generosity and kindness of our hosts and proprietors. The effect on the kids was astounding. The fact they were not treated as “kids” per se, but rather as people with feelings and preferences made all the different in making them feel at home. Be it a kind ear listening to a seven-year-old’s opinion or an older fisherman eagerly regaling our kids of stories of Brian Boru and the Lady of the Lake, the kids looked forward to each day and who they’d meet and what adventures they’d participate in.
Let them be free. Plan things to explore. Let them take it all in and make memories. Let them connect with the place and the people.
Traveling with kids isn’t always easy. It’s tough. Add to that jet lag, things to keep track of, and personalities and it can be daunting. But following these mantras should get you through with no problems, allowing you to enjoy the vacation part of your trip and to focus on your wedding or vow renewal day.
Waterlily Weddings is most happy to help you plan kid-friendly activities for your wedding weekend, suitable for all ages and locations. Don’t hesitate to ask us! We’re here to help ensure all of your guests enjoy your Irish celebration!