This conversation happened in April 2015. My husband happens to be a huge Star Wars fan and he’d been following the Star Wars Celebration 2015 in Anaheim closely, watching livestreams of the events and forums and showing them to the kids in the evenings. He had mentioned that he would really like to go to one of these events some day, but they never seemed to happen during the school holidays, the only time that he could go. So when he started talking about the announcement of the details for Star Wars Celebration 2016, I was pretty sure where he was going with it.
“It’s in July next year! We don’t have anything planned for next July yet, do we?” Well, I had a few ideas for summer 2016, but nothing concrete. It was our 10th anniversary that year and I was vaguely thinking of re-tracing our honeymoon to the Maritimes and New England, but there was nothing definite yet. “We could probably manage to fit it in somewhere” I said, thinking that a trip to Anaheim in July wouldn’t disrupt those plans too much. “That’s great!” my husband said, “but there’s just one other thing. Next year it’s in London.”
“Wait, what?” I said. Silly me, I just assumed that if it was in Anaheim one year, it would be there again the next year. Turns out I had a lot to learn about how these things work.
But I’m always up for a travel challenge and once I started to do a bit of research, it began to look like going to a Star Wars convention in London wasn’t such a crazy idea for summer 2016 after all. The east coast idea had to go out the window, of course, but the Maritimes aren’t going anywhere. And strangely enough, it turns out that it costs less to fly to the United Kingdom from Vancouver than it costs to fly across the country. Seriously! Westjet, the main competitor to Air Canada has recently entered the transatlantic market which has driven prices from Canada way down. We were able to find fares for just over $400 Canadian per person each way, which was less than I expected to pay for our East Coast trip. So it looked like London 2016 was happening!
The next step was to figure out the itinerary. We had our Star Wars dates from July 14-17 as our anchor but we were free to plan whatever we wanted around those dates. I decided that we should plan at least a week for London so we could see something besides just the inside of a convention centre. After that the possibilities were endless. We could go anywhere else in England, perhaps as far as Scotland or Wales, or there were cheap flights to anywhere in mainland Europe from London to fill our time. But the more I looked around, the more I kept getting drawn to another favourite destination of mine; Ireland.
Ireland has always been on our family wish list. I’ve been there twice in my solo traveller days and I’ve always thought it would make a great family destination. It’s friendly, small and just an all around pleasant place. There are a few urban centres that are worth visiting, but the real draw is the small towns and rural sights. It’s full of castles, gardens and pretty little villages and there’s lots of open space for the kids to run and play. Combining a trip to the big city of London with a jaunt around rural Ireland seemed like the perfect combination for our summer trip.
So the destination was chosen and the dates were selected and a rough itinerary was made up with a week in London followed by two weeks in Ireland. After I booked our flights and locked in our dates it was time to start looking at accommodation. I found London to be a bit of challenge at first. My first thought was to book something in central London for the first four nights, followed by four nights near the Excel Centre, the site of the Star Wars convention. Unfortunately, quite a few thousand other people had similar ideas and even the cheapest hotels had sky high prices for the dates that we needed. Turns out this Star Wars thing is kind of popular right now.
So I changed strategies. The convention centre is accessible by Docklands Light Rail from central London and I was able to find a decent rate on a one bedroom apartment rental right near the Tower Gateway station. This allowed us to stay for an entire week in one spot with good access to both central London and the Excel Centre. After our one day stop in London on our Christmas Trip we also felt that having access to a kitchen would save us a lot of money with the sky high restaurant prices in the British capitol.
Ireland also had a few challenges, but I knew not to try to pack too much in over two weeks. For me, the culture and atmosphere of the small towns and countryside in Ireland is more of a draw than any one sight, so I knew that there were a lot of equally good options. Another happy coincidence was that my husbands parents were considering a trip to Ireland this summer as well. We were able to coordinate our schedules to be able to spend a week together in Ireland as a family.
I started looking for rentals in Ireland and I stumbled upon a lovely booking in a historic building in a lovely location just outside of Kilkenny in the south. We made the booking mainly for the lovely accommodations, but the more I research the area the more excited I am to be staying there. Kilkenny is a beautiful historic town, just the right size to be both cozy and interesting with a castle, a cathedral, lots of traditional pubs and local handicrafts. We do want to see a few nearby sites like the Rock of Cashel and Glendalough, but we may spend a good part of the week just hanging around near Kilkenny. Add a few nights in Dublin and a couple in Galway and I feel like we’ll get a good feel for Ireland.
And that’s our Summer 2016! London, Ireland and even a one day stop in Newfoundland on the way home! And to think, it all started with a husband who just wanted to go to a Star Wars convention.