This piece is authored by Johnathon Gallagher
A trip to Scotland or Ireland doesn’t require the same amount of preparation as exotic locales like, say, Africa(no big Merly Streep hats needed) or the Galapagos (no g-strings and snorkel masks), but they’re still foreign countries, and a little bit of pre-departure groundwork can definitely make your trip smoother and more enjoyable.
The British explorer Ranulph Fiennes once said (clearly speaking to a gay audience): “There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.”
The weather in both Ireland and Scotland is varied, to say the least; and it’s not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day, even in the summer months. It’s a good thing those Celtic people are a hardy breed, since they love a kilt (and really, who doesn’t?). If you’re not so hardy, there are ample open fires to sit beside and soak up the warmth with a nice Scotch.
Don’t forget to carry sunblock – those clouds can still burn!
CLOTHING & CELTIC TRAVEL ESSENTIALS
Let’s start at the bottom!
This is not the time to let yourself loose on a kitten heel. Both countries feature lots of rough terrain, and a good sturdy pair of waterproof walking shoes or boots are essential, as you will be walking on grassland, paths, hills and mountain trails, as well as the odd cobbled street. Ensure that you have broken them in before the trip to avoid blisters. Good quality wool socks will work well to insulate your feet and will dry easily if they should get wet.
If you’re traveling in the summer month (August), a couple pairs of lightweight walking pants should suffice, but bringing a pair of lightweight waterproof pants is also a good idea. Because the daily temperature can vary, pants that can zip off into shorts will come in handy. Layers are the key to comfort. Short-sleeved shirts with a warmer fleece layer, topped off by a good quality rain jacket with a hood will keep you cozy. Make sure it has a warm inner layer for the colder months. It is always advisable to bring an umbrella, although – since the wind can be fierce – maybe don’t bring that $200 Prada one. You’ve seen many a picture of Queen Elizabeth in her head scarf, so make sure you have a cap or hood.
An FYI for those traveling on Brand g’s Scotland trip: you will be fitted in a full formal Highland kilt for the gala reception. However, the Celts among us may want to bring their own to sashy around in.
If your itinerary includes walks through long grass or forest areas, bring an insect repellant to avoid tick bites (ticks are common in both countries). Midges can be a problem from June to August, especially in the highlands of Scotland. If you see the locals walking wound with black netting covering their face, do not offer your condolences, as they are not in mourning, they’re simply protecting themselves from these tiny flying insects. Products like Skin So Soft or other oil-based lotions will help prevent bites on uncovered skin. Sawyer also makes an excellent insect repellant that can be sprayed onto your clothing.
Finally, since you may often be out touring for much of the day, a small backpack or other daypack to hold these essentials will come in very handy.
Google “international partner banks” along with your home bank’s name (or search your bank’s website for the same) to find out what European bank your home bank has a relationship with. Getting your ATM withdrawls from that bank will save you the ATM fee (about $5 per transaction).
If you’re of any kind of “elite” level with your bank, you can probably get Pounds or Euros (or any other currency) from them for the same rate as you’ll get it in a foreign ATM, and they’ll FedEx it to your door for free. Especially since many of us tend to get currency from an ATM at the foreign airport (so we have walking around money), where the rates are a bit usurious, this is a great way to get some starter currency for an excellent rate, with total convenience.
If you’re leaving from or connecting through Dublin, you can actually clear U.S. customs there, which is highly recommended if you’re returning to a major U.S. city where customs can be a cluster-you-know-what. (This does not apply to those who have Global Entry, since customs – even in big airports like LAX and JFK – is a relative breeze since Global Entry folk don’t have to stand in line.)
FLIGHT CONNECTIONS AND PRICES
Flight prices – in coach and business – are generally much better via Amsterdam or Copenhagen than London. Sure, that may mean a slight bit of backtracking, but it can be worth the time, because Heathrow’s high taxes mean an extra $100-200 roundtrip per ticket (even more than that if you’re using British Airways on an award ticket – they gouge).
If you’re flying one of the low-cost airlines like Norwegian, consider flying into Manchester, U.K. or – if you don’t mind the backtracking – Oslo and connecting on.
And if you have the time and are up for it, price out flying into these connecting cities, and then adding on a separate fare to your final destination.
If your flight home is delayed or cancelled, check out this website:
The EU mandates that passengers be compensated according to the schedule you can find there. While this only applies to flights from the EU, it applies to everyone – not just EU citizens – so you can score considerable cash if you’re hours late taking off or they decide to cancel your flight due to the pilot’s bad hair day.
Now, you’re properly prepared and ready to go! And all that’s left to do is post hourly updates of your glamorous upcoming trip on Facebook and Instagram.
Because, you know, people love that.