Packing for an Ireland Tour Is Different
Normally, when you receive information on how to pack for a trip, it is a big checklist of everything you might possibly need. You may have read the title and expected something similar here. But that’s not what I want to do here. In fact, I want to do the opposite. I want to help you streamline your packing so you can go light.
You’ve doubtlessly heard this “packing light” advice before, and you may be tempted to tune this out. Before you do, however, let me stress that this trip is likely to be different than probably every other trip you’ve ever taken. Most trips only have you unpacking once upon arrival, followed only by repacking upon your return home. So you unpack and repack only once. However, seeing the Wild Atlantic Way involves a lot of movement. We are going to be changing location 6 times during our trip, so it might be different than what you are used to.
Packing Light – The Wild Atlantic Way
For this reason, big picture-wise, I recommend that you limit yourself to one medium sized suitcase and one camera bag. That isn’t a hard cap – just a recommendation. Further, if you can, leave a little room in your suitcase for things you buy in Ireland. Personally, I only bring one carry on suitcase that fits in the overhead bin of the plane, and my camera bag that fits under the seat in front of me. I have been accused of being rather extreme in that regard so, although I highly recommend that approach, I won’t insist upon it for you. With that big picture view in mind, let’s start talking about specific items. I understand that packing this way might be tricky for you. You are a photographer. You will have some photography equipment, perhaps a lot of it. At a minimum you’ll have a camera bag and a tripod. Other photographers add lights for photographing people and others bring drones. That’s all up to you, and we’ll get into those choices soon enough. For now, let’s focus on the normal stuff everyone needs.
Clothes for Your Wild Atlantic Way Trip
Here’s some good news. Your trip to the Wild Atlantic Way will necessitate only one type of clothes. Those are moderately warm, casual clothes. You won’t need shorts and t-shirts, and neither do you need to be prepared for an arctic blast. There are precious few opportunities for fancy dress up clothes on the Wild Atlantic Way, so you can leave those at home as well. What you need are pants and long sleeve shirts. You can wear these every day in every circumstance. I have some specific recommendations for you on this though. Let me just tell you exactly what I recommend, and then I will explain. Here is what I recommend:
Now let’s talk about these choices. Let’s start with pants.
For many people, when you say casual long pants, that means one thing: jeans. That was the case for me too, for many years.
It was actually a trip to Ireland that caused me to convert. I was going to climb Carrontoohil (Ireland’s tallest mountain) and some other nearby peaks with a guide, and this guide had a “no jeans” policy. He insisted on waterproof pants. I didn’t own any so I bought some. After wearing them for a while, I realized they were better than jeans in every way. After a while, I bought more waterproof pants and threw away all my jeans. I haven’t worn jeans in 3 years and don’t plan to ever again. At this point, I consider them outdated technology.
Not only are waterproof pants better in the rain and mist, which Ireland is known for, but if you get something on them, you can typically just wipe them off. Also, when you do wash them they dry in less than half the time of jeans. They typically have extra pockets, which is great for travelers and photographers carrying lots of little stuff with them. They are lighter and pack smaller. Finally, they look nicer, so you can walk into a nicer restaurant or other establishment and not look out of place. Like I said, better in every way. If you try a pair, I can almost guarantee you will agree.
Next you’ll need shirts (shocking, I know). I recommend athletic, long sleeve shirts. The reason for this is that they are light but long sleeve, so they fit Ireland’s climate. Also, they are easy to wash, and will dry much quicker than cotton. Keep in mind that if you buy things in Ireland, one thing is likely to be a shirt, so you can further limit the number you bring. Beyond that, I like to bring one button-down shirt. I can use this for nicer dinners. It can also be used as an additional layer if it is very cold. Most places now sell wrinkle-free shirts that pack well.
Cold and Wet Weather on the Wild Atlantic Way
There are things you need to work hard at limiting when it comes to packing, and there are things you don’t need to worry about so much. For example, you can bring a lot of socks, t-shirts, etc, because they don’t take up much room and they pack down a lot. But one thing that does take up a lot of room – and that you do need to spend some effort at limiting – is shoes.
I have some advice, but people bristle at it, and almost no one listens to me. My advice is to go to Ireland with only one pair of shoes and make them trail runners or lightweight hiking shoes/boots. That is all you need. They work in every circumstance. They are obviously great for when you are hiking or out on the rocks and cliffs that make up the best of Ireland’s scenery. They are great for walking around town. They are just fine to wear to dinner as well. They work for everything. Plus they are generally waterproof so you don’t have to worry about them. If you just wear them, you don’t need to bring anything else.
Most people are uncomfortable with this advice though (ok, just about everybody is). Women, particularly, want to have multiple sets of shoes with them. If that is you, then just do two things. First, like I mentioned, limit what you bring. Then, just be sure you wear the bulkiest footwear on the airplane. Shoes take up a lot of room and they don’t squish down very well in your suitcase.
In line with what I’ve written about packing so far, you’ll want to limit the size of your toiletries bag. Trial and travel size items work great. In addition, after buying many different toiletry bags, I have determined that the perfect toiletries bag is actually a ziplock bag. It weighs nothing and you can see where your stuff is without fumbling through it.
There is one thing I want to mention that is slightly peculiar to Ireland. If you are a seasoned traveler, you may have gotten used to there being small bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and soap in every hotel. In Ireland that will also be true – provided you are actually staying in a hotel. If we stay in a small B&B or a house these items might not be there for you, so you will want to bring your own. As we book accommodations, I will let you know if this appears likely.
Chargers and Adapters
Ireland uses UK-style power. That means it is a different voltage from the US (220 volt, the same as Europe) and also the plugs are different.
For the most part, you don’t have to worry about the difference in voltage anymore. In the past, you had to buy a converter, but you shouldn’t need to do that now. Most electronics these days are “dual-voltage,” which means they work no matter what voltage. Cell phones, battery charges, laptops, and other electronics all fall within this category. All you need for these is an adapter.
You can get adapters pretty cheap on Amazon and elsewhere. They are also available in Ireland at the airport and various gift stores, but they tend to cost more. So my advice is to start your trip with one or two in hand.
Another thing to get is a small, travel power strip. You can use the adapter to plug your power strip into the wall and now you can just plug all your electronics into it. Photographers tend to have a lot of things to charge and plug in, and outlets in Irish hotels and B&Bs can be pretty limited. With a power strip, you just need one plug.
There is one item for which you’ll need to make special provision, and that is hair dryers. Normal hair dryers are not dual voltage, so if you take yours to Ireland and plug it in using an adapter, you’ll fry it. You can get a converter, but a better way is to get a small travel hair dryer. These are actually dual-voltage and they are much smaller. You can get them for only about $20. I personally think a better way is just to leave the hair dryer at home, but some people are very attached to them.
. . . Or Pack Heavy If You Want
This is my recommended approach for packing for our tour of Ireland’s west coast. As is probably pretty clear, I recommend packing light. I think there are a lot of advantages to it, and it will help you enjoy your trip to Ireland more. Plus if you find you didn’t bring something you need, you can just buy it there.
With all that said, however, my main mission on this trip is to ensure that you are comfortable and have a good time. So if being comfortable and having a good time means packing heavy, then pack heavy my friend!. Ignore everything I wrote here. Bring what you want. Keep it reasonable since space in our vehicles in obviously limited, but bring what you think you will need to have the best time possible. That’s ultimately what we want here.
In this article, I covered clothes and such. Very soon, I will cover your photography equipment and electronics in a separate article.