I’ve been putting off writing about our latest adventure for some time. Our wedding was exhausting – in the very best way – and the months following were a complete blur. Now, at midnight over a holiday break, I’ve finally found the energy to translate our wonderful experience into text – I hope you enjoy and find it useful.
How We Decided Where to Honeymoon
They say every little girl dreams of her wedding, but what about the honeymoon? This part had never quite occurred to me. So although I knew the exact details of my dream wedding (and had already coordinated most of it – oy vey), I hadn’t given much thought to the bookend trip. But, as you know, Keith and I do love to travel, so we had a general idea of what we were looking to do to celebrate: we knew we wanted to go somewhere new, relaxing and out of the ordinary (as far as honeymoons go). We bounced around quite a few ideas – Mexico, Yellowstone, Key West – and ultimately landed on Ireland. It wasn’t a ‘cliche’ honeymoon spot. Ireland can be rainy, cold, and dreary. I imagined us cuddled up in a cottage reading books after a long walk on the moors. Or driving through the bumpy countryside in a fiat with sheep blocking our path at every turn. It seemed like the perfect place to end a fairytale wedding (and also, the best place to decompress after a crazy year of planning).
While watching flights for Ireland using Hopper, I got an alert for a SUPER cheap round-trip flight to London. Keith had always wanted to go, so I booked it. And then started to think about how to connect the dots. After a lot of research (thank you, Reddit), Keith and I decided we’d travel from London to Edinburgh to Ireland and then back again through London to catch our return flight.
Here’s a look at the logistics:
- Flight: Salt Lake City, Utah to London, England
- Three nights in London
- Flight: London, England to Edinburgh, Scotland
- Two nights in Edinburgh
- Flight: Edinburgh, Scotland to Dublin, Ireland
- Two nights in Drogheda
- Two nights in Dublin
- Flight: Dublin, Ireland to London, England to Winnipeg, Minnesota to Salt Lake City, Utah
To travel between the countries, we purchased flights through RyanAir a few months in advance. I will caution you that Ryanair is much different than most other airlines. The fares are cheap, but you have to check-in online two days prior or else you’ll be charged to check-in at the airport. You’ll also want to arrive at the airport far in advance. I’ve found RyanAir to be busy and unorganized. For instance, we almost missed our flight from London to Edinburgh even though we were over an hour early because there was so much confusion at security. Lastly, don’t check a bag. After I lost mine, I found out that they don’t track checked baggage. So once it’s lost, it’s lost until found (if you’re lucky). Overall, you get what you pay for.
How I Planned Our Honeymoon
Tradition says the groom should plan the honeymoon, but Keith and I find it best when we collaborate on these sorts of things (and by collaborate, I mean he supports the planning process and then signs off on the final product — you could say he’s my best client).
To start, I created a Google Sheet with two tabs: Honeymoon Expenses and Honeymoon Itinerary. I then created a calculator on the Honeymoon Expenses tab to estimate the total cost of the trip based on our travel expenses (flights, pet sitters, lodging), food, transportation in the cities, and the experiences we wanted to partake in on this trip. I kept track of each of our payments throughout the months leading up to the trip in this sheet.
The second tab was used to plan out our itinerary based on flight schedules, lodging, and the experiences we chose. We narrowed down our planned excursions based on recommendations we received from family and friends and our own research.
I’ve recreated this spreadsheet for you here. To use, copy the sheet (it’s a view-only link) into your own Google Sheet, then adjust it for your own specifications. You can directly download it as a .csv here.
Where We Stayed on Our European Honeymoon
Booking our stay was such fun. Each time we travel I like to find boutique hotels, B&Bs and Airbnbs. I enjoy seeing the creativity and diversity of each space. Their design rejuvenates and inspires me long after I leave.
- London: The Hoxton Holborn – this open-house hotel is super lively and fun. We stayed in a ‘shoebox’ room which was perfect since we spent more time exploring the city than we did lounging on this leg of the trip. We especially loved that The Holborn stocks milk and tea in each room and wakes you up with a to-go breakfast bag. Plus, they’ve got a delightful staff and two great restaurants. It was quite busy in the lobby – it seems many local individuals treat it as a coffee shop rather than a hotel. The Holborn is part of a chain which has spread from London to Amsterdam, Paris, and Oregon. I highly recommend checking out one of the hotels if you’re in any of those areas. I bet you’ll adore the industrial, retro vibe and amusing wallpaper.
- Edinburgh: Eden Locke – I found this spot through a sweet influencer I follow on Instagram (thank you, Makenna McReynolds). I’m so glad we booked it. The aparthotel is a stunning, ‘design-led’ refuge in a bleak city. It’s community-centered with a great coffee shop on the main floor. The staff was too kind and presented us upon arrival with a kind congratulatory note and bottle of red wine. Not only that, but Eden Locke was located within walking distance of everything (although still a few blocks from The Royal Mile). Win, win!
- Drogheda: Victoria Drummond Tower/Castle (AirBnB) – my husband’s one request for this trip was that we stay in a legit castle. I was pretty proud of myself when I found one at an affordable rate. This Victorian-era ‘castle’ (it’s more of a tower) is located on a private drive covered in trees and brush. After entering through an electric gate, we were greeted by farm dogs who ran alongside the car to the tower at the far end of the property. The four-story tower was recently renovated but still has a medieval vibe. Arguably one of the best parts is the view of the valley from the very top. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay here. However, I am a bit of a baby and didn’t like staying in the tower when it was pitch black and stormy out… too creepy!
- Dublin: Schoolhouse Hotel – this was the perfect hotel to end our travels. The hotel was originally an 1859 schoolhouse which has since been renovated and restored. All of the uniquely-designed thirty-one rooms are named after an influential Irish historical figure and features cush, canopy beds with beautiful wallpaper. The hotel also features a delicious dining experience with local, fresh options.
Our Honeymoon Itinerary
- Day 1, Salt Lake City to London
- Day 2, London
I fell asleep the moment we checked into our room at the Hoxton Holborn. But Keith fought jetlag and instead went for a stroll around the block to grab escargot. After I woke up and he returned, we walked to Gordons Wine Bar – the oldest wine bar in London (established in 1890) to enjoy wine and a cheese plate in the underground cave. I was amazed at how many individuals frequent the pubs on the weekdays. It was thriving with young professionals. On our way back to the hotel, we grabbed Laudree macaroons and ate all eight of them before promptly passing out.
- Day 3, London
We woke up pretty early (thanks again, jetlag) and walked through St. Jame’s park to the Churchill War Rooms. We wanted to maximize the time at the museum (it’s so large and fascinating), so we decided to take an Uber from there to our noon appointment at Harrod’s Tea Room. Bad idea. It’s practically impossible to move in a London Uber. We ended up ditching the ride, requesting a later reservation at Harrod’s, and then walking the two miles to the department store.
Once there, we climbed to the top of Harrod’s for the most exquisite tea service: champagne, tea, finger sandwiches (Keith asked for seconds), and scones with jam. I’m practically drooling thinking of how delicious it all was. And the tea room was absolutely spectacular in design – which isn’t surprising considering Harrod’s is a dream.
After a brief nap, we walked from our hotel to grab fish and chips at The Pig & Whistle.
I can’t tell you what a great decision this was! Fish, chips, peas, and beer – the perfect dinner before seeing Othello at The Globe Theater. I had previously ordered ‘pleb’ seating at Shakespeare’s Globe to save money (it’s five euro instead of twenty or more) which meant we were standing for two hours – which wasn’t too bad since we thoroughly enjoyed the play and also had plenty of beer to keep us buzzed.
Keith and I ended our second day with a nightcap at Hubbard & Bell, located in the lobby of The Hoxton.
- Day 4, London
Breakfast was spent at the Regency Cafe – one of the fifth best restaurants in London. This was another one of Keith’s requests since his friend, Todd, had highly recommended it to him. The spot did not disappoint for a traditional English breakfast. Plus, it was close to Westminster Abbey and Big Ben which were both under renovation) and only a short tube ride away from our final London destination, the Tower of London.
I had visited the Tower of London once before as a child, and it was just as fascinating seeing it once more as an adult. Plus, it was so fun to see it through Keith’s eyes. I knew he would love it since he is such a huge fan of medieval-themed fiction like Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings. In fact, Keith loved it so much that we almost missed our flight from London to Edinburgh.
- Day 5, Edinburgh
RyanAir lost my suitcase when we flew from London to Edinburgh, so we spent our morning at H&M so I could grab some essentials. After changing out of my night clothes, we walked in the rain to The Royal Mile and then on through Edinburgh Castle for a self-guided tour.
The Elephant House was the highest spot on my list for Edinburgh. I’ve always loved J.K. Rowling’s work (still sad I didn’t get an OWL at 11), so I knew we had to have tea at this cute cafe if we were traveling through Edinburgh. It did not disappoint. There are tributes to her and her work throughout the building, and as a bonus, you get a spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle from within the cafe.
Thankfully, we discovered that my suitcase was delivered to our hotel room while we were away. So after another quick change and a brief nap, we headed over to Fisher’s in the City for the Hot Shellfish Platter. Then, with full bellies, we joined a tour of the Real Mary King’s Close.
Of course, after all this walking, we were exhausted. But Keith had heard of a great speakeasy near our hotel so he talked me into staying up. It’s called Panda and Sons and it’s the most magical spot I’ve ever been to. You absolutely must go!
- Day 6, Drogheda
Our quick flight to Dublin left early and arrived before noon. After touching down, we picked up a manual car at the airport and drove to Drogheda for breakfast at Moorland Cafe (have you noticed yet that our travel largely revolves around food?). Keith had no issue driving a manual on the left side of the road for the first time – even with so many more roundabouts.
After all this travel, we were pretty tired, but we couldn’t check into the Castle until 2:30 PM. We had nowhere to go, so we found a movie theater and bought tickets to see ‘Winnie the Pooh’. Neither of us remembers the movie – we slept through it.
We still had a bit of time before check-in, so we drove around the countryside where we happened upon Collon Animal Sanctuary. Keith and I are both huge animal lovers so we couldn’t think of a better way to spend the rest of the afternoon than with the rescued cats, dogs and chickens.
Finally, it was time to check-in to Drummond Tower. We drove up the private, tree-lined lane, parked our car beside the tower, and used the old brass key to turn the lock into the ‘castle’. To enter the tower, you had to walk through the kitchen on the first story and then climb the stairwell to reach the library, bedroom, and rooftop. It reminded me of Rapunzel.
- Day 7, Drogheda
The Cliffs of Moher lived up to all of our expectations and was worth the full-day road trip from Drogheda to Lahinch. We spent hours walking along the trails, taking photos of the gorgeous views, and marveling at the cute puffins flying in and out of the cliffs. We were especially thankful that the weather was so spectacular while we were there.
- Day 8, Dublin
After dropping the car back off at the airport, we checked into The Schoolhouse Hotel and walked to The Guinness Storehouse. Honestly, I didn’t think it would be that fun (I’m not a beer drinker), but we had a blast walking around the Guinness Storehouse with our engraved glasses.
If you’re a marketer like me, you’ll especially like the Advertising floor which was designed by Love. The entire floor features different ads from throughout the history of Guinness.
The Cellar Bar was our choice for dinner that evening. And since our theme for the food on this trip appeared to be seafood, we split the Seafood Tower. But even better than the food was the company. We had the sweetest waitress who surprised us with dessert and a tour of The Merrion afterward.
- Day 9, Dublin
The final full day of our honeymoon started off with a walk through Trinity College and a visit to see the library hosting ‘The Book of Kells‘. Keith and I loved the energy of the college. All the students were on the lawn and the weather was beautiful. It was a perfect day.
After the college visit, we picked up souvenirs on Temple Bar, walked through the grounds of Dublin Castle, visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and grabbed lunch at a pub sporting live Irish music. Our last dinner in Dublin was spent at the Ballsbridge Restaurant within The Schoolhouse Hotel.
- Day 10, Dublin to London to Minnesota to Salt Lake City
What We Packed for Our European Honeymoon
This particular trip was a toughie to pack for. Not only did it require lots of layers (hello, September in Europe), but we also had to make room for both formal and casual attire. Therefore, we packed more than we typically do. As a result, my husband learned his first lesson of marriage on this trip: don’t allow your wife to pack a suitcase without wheels if you’re gallivanting through Europe. My chivalrous man kindly carried my heavy Longchamp through each airport we visited – and back again. (He only swore under his breath half of the time too – I honestly don’t blame him, the bag was the size of an obese toddler and I wasn’t going to carry it…edit: he says it weighed even more than that).
Here’s a nice overview of what we set out with:
- Passports and IDs
- Spending money (pounds for England and Scotland, euros Ireland) – we always exchange our cash at the bank to save the cost in conversion.
- Keith’s Cotopaxi Cusco 26L Daypack
- My Longchamp travel bag
- Kate Spade Backpack – perfect for walking around the cities
- Bose QuietComfort 35 Headphones – Keith swears by these because they drown out all of the noise.
- BeoPlay H4 Headphones – my favorite headphones for long flights.
- Amazon Kindle Fire – we loaded each of ours up with shows and movies for the multiple flights. They especially came in handy on the quick RyanAir flights that didn’t have televisions.
- Otter Box – the best way to protect your phone device.
- Sunglasses – we don’t go anywhere without our Raybans.
- Sweaters – one for each of us.
- Hunter rain boots – I couldn’t go to Ireland without these.
- Rainjacket – another must for the rainy climate.
- Walking shoes – white keds and brown boots for me, Clarks for Keith
- Pants – a pair of jeans and leggings for me, jeans and joggers for Keith
- Old Navy Romper – perfect for hot days or for layering under sweaters on warmer days.
- Madewell Jumper – cute enough for tea at Harrod’s.
- Scarf – dresses up a white tea shirt or a ponytail.
- Extra contacts, contact solution, glasses
Transportation in London, Edinburgh, Drogheda, and Dublin
Transportation in each of these cities is not created equal. We found it easiest to get around London by walking or taking the London Underground, or as locals call it, the Tube. Edinburgh is so small that we walked everywhere and only needed a taxi to travel back and forth from the airport. We rented a car for Drogheda but walked throughout Dublin.
After returning from our honeymoon, I printed images from our trip for our family and made a coffee table book to commemorate it for us. This took no more than thirty minutes thanks to my favorite printing shop, Social Print Studio.
Our trip was absolutely magical and we’re incredibly grateful both to our sponsors (hi, grandpa and grandma) for spoiling us, our companies for allowing us time off for this special occasion, and our friends for watching our animals while we were abroad. Keith and I are thankful for the opportunity we had to celebrate this wonderful moment in our lives with another grand adventure.
Thank you for reading about our journey! Please comment below if you have any questions while planning your European honeymoon or more ideas for others who will be visiting London, Edinburgh, and Dublin in the near future.