Almost six years ago, TM101 graduate Dan Whitcomb took his first trip to Ireland. The country captured his imagination and he has dreamed of it ever since.
“I’ve gone back to Ireland every year since 2011,” Dan said. “I start making plans in February so I have something to look forward to until summer.”
Since learning about Travel Miles 101 and picking up some new tips and tricks, Dan’s trip planning includes accruing points to fund his business class flights from his home airport of Lexington, Kentucky to Dublin, Ireland.
The round-trip flight costs around 100,000 miles (plus $167 in taxes) on Dan’s preferred carrier of American Airlines. List price for this flight is around $3,750 – saving Dan a bundle.
“I had quite a few AA miles already from all those years I flew to Ireland and paid cash. After I learned about using miles, I picked up the American Airlines Red Aviator Card which earned me 50,000 points for a really low spend of $1,000.”
While it costs a bundle of points for that business class seat, Dan said it’s worth every single one. “It’s about a seven hour flight, so the experience is so much better when you can lie down flat and never have to wait in line for the restroom.”
Like many TM101 graduates, Dan has taken a moderate approach to his miles and points game. “I try to be conservative with my credit cards. I’m not an adrenaline junky,” Dan said with a laugh. “I’m not collecting points for the fun of it, I want to earn them and use them.”
And since Ireland is his favorite destination, most of those points find their way to the Emerald Isle.
Instead of exploring popular Irish cities like Dublin or Limerick, Dan lands in the capital city and escapes the traffic and people as fast as he can.
“I don’t care much for big cities, so I’ve been concentrating on the Northwestern parts of Ireland for several years now. I land in Dublin in the morning and head right out to County Donegal to Tory Island. I’ve visited so many times I have my own personal taxi driver who picks me up every time.”
Tory Island is Ireland’s most remote island, Dan reported, located about 9 miles off the Northwest coast of Ireland. A passenger ferry (no cars allowed!) shuttles visitors across the choppy waters of the Atlantic just three times a day during Summer. Upon docking at Tory Island, visitors are greeted by the island’s ruler – King Patsy Dan Rodgers.
The King was appointed to the post by his fellow islanders over 20 years ago. In addition to his duties as unofficial tourism ambassador, King Patsy Dan is an artist in the long tradition of Primitive island artists like James Dixon. Of the 150 island residents, nearly a dozen work as artists.
“I’ve made such good friends in this place. Traveling is more meaningful when you know the locals and spend time in their homes.”
Dan struck up a friendship with a Tory Island native several years ago, and the two are still pen pals, writing letters from halfway across the world and meeting up for tea when Dan visits Tory Island.
Upon landing on Tory last summer, Dan took his usual trek to the island’s only hotel – The Harbor View Hotel, boasting 14 rooms, a restaurant and a pub. “Nothing fancy, but it’s clean and right on the water, the beds are comfortable, the blankets are cozy and there’s always plenty of hot water.”
And at 40 euros a night, it’s hard to beat the price.
“The Northwest part of Ireland is amazing and I’ve found it much less expensive than the rest of the country. I don’t drink alcohol so I always get asked why I like Ireland so much. This is one of the reasons – it’s a great experience for not much money.”
In addition to his time on Tory Island, Dan enjoys Inishbofin Island and Dingle – all located along the western coast of the country.
The hotel on Tory Island offers guests the option of a lobster dinner, which Dan enjoyed on his summer trip. “If you tell them the night before, they’ll send someone out to catch the lobster, and for 25 euros you get a whole fresh lobster and all the sides.”
In addition to the legendary seafood on the island, Dan said the scones with clotted cream and jam are heavenly, along with the Chicken Kiev and garlic potatoes at the hotel’s restaurant, courtesy of Liz, their classically trained chef.
So for about a week every year, Dan wanders the island and visits with his Irish friends and fellow travelers. With just 150 residents on Tory, he calls it the “perfect place to relax.” In addition to reading and relaxing, Dan hits some of the island’s popular sites like the lighthouse, Derek Hills’ artist hut, and the island’s historic Bell Tower.
“People wonder how I can afford to travel internationally for two weeks every year. I may pay more for a comfortable flying experience, but my travels are always very reasonable when it comes to lodging. I travel frugally and earn my points strategically. That’s my secret.”
Your turn! What’s your favorite remote vacation spot? Comment below to share your favorite R&R location with your fellow TM101 travelers!