Ask Joan: getting to the Northern Lights, a family friendly break in Ireland

Iceland or Norway for the Aurora Borealis? Two hours from Galway for a family holiday

My husband has a special birthday next spring and I’d like to surprise him with a trip to see the Northern Lights in January or February. Ideally I am looking for a three to four day package including flights and accommodation (at least on a B&B basis) at a minimum. I do not know whether it is better to go to Iceland or Norway and which one offers the best value for money. I have a maximum budget of €1,500. Is such a trip possible on this budget and if so what travel agents organise these trips from Dublin? RSD, Wicklow.

Iceland is easier to get to from Ireland with packaged tours and one flight, northern Norway would be two flights. Norway is quite pricey to get to and expensive while there, so probably outside your budget.

There are tours with the Travel Department and Wallace Travel Group, which include flights, accommodation and guided tours of the main places of interest. Expect to pay in the region of €599-€699 each for three-night trips ( and

There are now direct schedule flights from Ireland to Reykjavik on Mondays and Fridays and prices early next year will be from €175 return ( If you wanted to book it yourself you can expect to pay €300-€450 for three nights in a good quality hotel. There is more basic accommodation available for less – you can price compare on and

Tours can be booked separately and you can expect to pay about €67pp for the all-day Golden Circle Tour ( and the Blue Lagoon costs €35 in winter (

We would like to take a short break in a hotel in Ireland in September. We are a family of four – two adults, a toddler and a baby. We are looking for a break for three nights or more, including dinner, and would need a large family room. We live in Galway and are happy to travel a short distance, two or three hours. Ideally the hotel would have some facilities suitable for a toddler – such as a pool or indoor play area – and be located within walking distance of a playground and be close to other attractions in the area eg. a pet farm. ES, Galway.

In Limerick, Fitzgerald’s Woodlands House Hotel has been making families welcome for many years. The hotel was recently upgraded to a four-star and is making people even happier. It is an ideal place for a family, with lovely leisure facilities and great things to do in the area.

There is a pet farm, Bunratty Folk Park, and the city of Limerick is nearby to explore. Family rooms are from €99 per night B&B,, 061-605100.

Westport has a good variety of family-friendly hotels and also Westport House with the zoo and great children’s entertainment.

Hotel Westport is a favourite with families for the great facilities. There is a leisure centre, playground and baby-listening service. Rates are from €99 per night B&B,, 098- 25122.

The Hodson Bay Hotel outside Athlone is a very family-friendly place and has nice, big family rooms. There is a leisure centre with a kiddies’ pool and lots of do in the Athlone area.

Three-night stays in September with dinner on two evenings will cost from €518 for the family (, 090- 6442000). The Glendeer Pet Farm is 15 minutes away and open until the end o f September (

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