How to holiday in Ireland: these apps will do most of the work
Technology can help you to plan the perfect Irish holiday
Planning a staycation? There's an app for that. Photograph: iStock Photo
The recently departed heatwave may have outstayed its welcome a little, but it served a useful purpose: reminding us what Ireland looks like in the sun, and the fact that it’s not a bad little country after all. Now that normal service has resumed, you might be regretting the fit of hubris that saw you book a holiday at home this year - but there are still plenty of reasons why you should consider a “staycation”.
And helpfully, there’s an app for (amost all of) that.
How organised are you when it comes to researching your holidays? Are you the type that spends weeks of exhaustive research trying to find the best hotel and the best deals on offer? Or would you rather let someone else do all the heavy lifting? Kayak searches hundreds of travel sites, hunting down the deals and presenting them to you, with options from some of the main booking sites such as booking.com, Ebookers and Expedia. Much easier and far less stressful.
No matter where you’re heading in Ireland you’ll need to know how to get there. Don’t drive, or simply don’t want to? Then you’ll need a good idea about the state of public transport. Transport For Ireland has two apps: a journey planning app and a real time transport one. It might make more sense to roll them into a single app, but both do the job they are supposed to. The planning app will tell you how to get to your chosen destination and how long it will take; the real time app tells you how long you’ll be waiting around for your bus or train.
If you are getting taxis or hackneys anywhere, the Driver Check app should also find a home on your phone. It allows you to check the licence details of the car services, to make sure everything matches up.
Travel brochures and their online ilk have one goal in mind: to sell you a holiday. So the photographs are the best possible shots, the weather always looks amazing and accommodation is of the highest standard. Sometimes reality doesn’t live up to these promises. Do you know, for example, if your apartment is likely to overlook a busy road? Or if your “tranquil hideaway” actually means you’ll need a car to get to the nearest shop for a carton of milk because walking involves navigating roads with no paths and little to no street lighting? Previous guests will, and some are only too keen to talk about it.
Regardless of whether you plan months in advance or book from the last minute section of your chosen travel agent, you should take five minutes to check out your planned stay with online review sites. Yes, reviews can be fakes, although companies such as TripAdvisor say they try to weed out the offenders, but you can use your best judgment on that. Watch out for things like a tendency to go over the top, regardless of whether it is praise or criticism, unnatural language and complaining over things the hotel has no control over - such as the weather. And check a few sources, don’t just rely on TripAdvisor, Yelp and the like.
You could use Accuweather to get your temperature forecasts and rain warnings, but it just seems so dry in comparison to the attitude of What the Forecast. Who cares about “Real Feel” temperatures and wind direction when you can have your weather app give you a brief but expletive laden outlook? At least if it’s raining, you’ll have a sense of humour about it. You can also torture yourself with the weather you would have got if you had spent a little more to get a package deal to Spain.
The summer heatwave might be a fading memory, but Ireland does occasionally get sunny days. And nothing puts a dampner on your holiday faster than ending up with every exposed inch of skin turning a scalded red. UV Lens uses your location to give you an approximate indication of the UV level, giving you a handy visual warning. Sign up for a free account and you can get more personalised recommendations by handing over a bit of information on your skin type and tanning ability. You’ll get an idea of how long it will take you to burn, and what level of protection you need. Plus you can set up the sunscreen reapplication reminder to prompt you when you need to reapply it, depending on the type of activity you’re doing.