I'm sitting in the Chicago Airport after arriving from Shannon and already going through withdrawals. What a beautiful, amazing country with wonderful lovely people. We really did have a hundred thousand welcomes. Thanks to everyone here for your time and advice. I read through many posts and trip reports when planning this trip and feel that is the reason it went so smoothly. Thank you!! This is long, but I wanted to add some tips for first timers. I had a ton of questions and I hope this might help someone else.
Our first day we arrived in Shannon at 7 am. For those of you who have never travelled there before and had questions about the airport like I did, getting through immigration a was a breeze. We waited about 20 min for our luggage, then quickly through customs and on to Hertz for our car. I had thoroughly researched car hire and it was the smoothest transaction I could have hoped for. Our United Mileage Plus Visa recently starting including Ireland with its insurance coverage and this saved us a lot. It was no hassle at all at the desk, and I had the letter of proof of coverage. We were lucky to get an upgrade (my husband is a gold club member) to a diesel VW golf and this saved is loads on petrol. It was small but four doors were helpful with luggage. When we returned the car today it was a breeze as well, the only snag was they charged us in USD instead of euros and I should have had them change it but didn't. I was disappointed as it was a difference of $30-40 and every bit counts. Just be sure to request they charge in euros, we remembered our whole trip except for the time with the biggest charge!! Oh well. I still can definitely recommend Hertz.
After getting some euros at the ATM, (very convenient near the car hire), we freshened up and we were ready to go. Lucky for us, my husband spent 2 years in New Zealand driving a stick shift on the left, and he was an excellent driver. I would not recommend getting a manual if you are not experienced. We had no problems at all and headed to Adare and on to Killarney National Park, which turned out to be a 2 hour quiet drive on a Sunday. I had researched drive times on AA route planner and found them to be accurate, though with an inexperienced driver I would add extra time.
We did stop at a Tesco for a phone-€9.99 for the phone and €5-10 for a card. Nice to have to make calls to B&Bs for arrival times and reservations for restaurants. We didn't use it much but found it nice for emergencies. The best thing we did was to get a mobile hotspot from Hertz which allowed us to use our iPhones for data (we had trend off the cellular data) so we could use GPS, text through the wechat app and use FaceTime for calls) Another tip about Tesco is they are great for snack and restroom stops. We visited quite a few Tescos on our 11 day trip!
We had a nice quick stop in Adare, and a lovely afternoon at Muckross House and Abbey. We bought our Heritage cards there (€22) which were great to have throughout the trip. I enjoyed the tour of Muckross house, had a decent lunch there, and enjoyed exploring the Abbey. I highly recommend it. Killarney National Park is stunning!
We then drove about 90 min to Dingle, where we were welcomed at Pax House (see my review--It was outstanding!!). We had a nice dinner at An Canteen, a nice walk around town with an incredible Murphy's ice cream cone (sea salt and honeycomb caramel-yum!), and then collapsed in our delightfully comfortable beds at 10. It was a perfect first day in Ireland.