Laura and I (Peter) just got home from the March 22nd (arriving in Ireland on March 23rd) to April 3rd trip.
Sean Curran, our program director, did a wonderful job where I would need a book to give him the stars and thanks he and Denis (our coach driver) deserve for the well done job.
We only did the main trip (not pre or post); though some of the group did one, the other, or both.
Packing recommendations: While we did have 12 days of zero (0) rain (to the amazement of Sean and Denis), I would recommend packing rain gear as we are told that with 80 to 100 inches of yearly rain, you will get some every day.
Since we didn't get to experience it, I can only go by what was shared with us, that it is often not a constant down poor, but more of a mist with heavier spots here and there.
So while it can take up space, do pack a rain coat. LL Bean has good ones that can fold up tight, go down slightly past your knees, and most importantly are very light in terms of carrying them along in a messenger bag or purse.
My wife and I did our best to travel light as did most of our group (it was not coordinated that way; it just worked out that most of us tought the same). Personally, I only took 3 pair of pants including the pair I wore on the flight; and should I travel again, it will be down to 2 pair.
DO plan to dress in layers. I'm told even in August the temperatures can be mild. In my case, I wore a plain t-shirt, then a light allseason (the type that maintains temperature) long sleve shirt, and a polo. Some days I wore two coats over that set; other days just one coat. Given layers, you can always take off if you get too hot... and the plus side is that unless you sweat, you can just interchange what's the outside layer and wear the same clothes every day.
DO bring comfortable walking shoes that can handle anything from paved streets to cobble stones to walking up narrow castle steps.
If you do plan to go up to kiss (or just look at) the Blarney stone (if in good health, go up even if just for the view), the steps up are narrow. You want something slip resistant.
The food is very delicious; try different things. Of note, salads are not too commonon; and when present, thend to be lighter than in the states. If you have regularity issues, take advantage of the prunes all of the hotels serve (except for the Ballsbridge) at breakfast time.
Each hotel has free Wi-Fii. Every hotel EXCEPT for Ballsbridge has SPAM free Wi-Fi that does not invade your privacy. The Ballsbridge hotel requires you to register (i.e. privacy invasion), is a complex process to connect (some of our group members could not get Wi-Fi), and then sends out SPAM on a regular basis (the SPAM is not from the email sign up, but in your device notification area).
Money is in Euro's. I do recommend you bring a sufficient amount with you. While you can get Euro's from ATM's, there might be fees. Banks are open on non holiday's Monday through Friday from 9 AM to 4 PM (if I remember correctly).
Most items are more expensive in Ireland than in some parts of the U.S. (my wife and I are in PA), but if you shop around you can get good bargains. My wife got us two Avoca Mill made scarves for under $10 Euro each when they retail for $30 Euro.
I cannot speak for all tour directors, but Sean made it a point to encourage us to ask him questions. We learned a lot of good places to eat ecomoically as well as speciality items (my wife and I wanted to try Boxty) from Sean as well as our coach driver, Denis.
In terms of financial planning, meals range from $4 Euro (on the cheap; though you mnight get lower) to $30 or more Euro per person. A number of places have early bird specials (i.e. before 7 PM GMT) where you can get a 2 or 3 course meal from around $18 to $20 Euro.
We had no problems with crime; but do be careful in Dublin as there are gypies in the downtown area who are not above pick pocketing.
If you don't know already, Ireland's economy is based on socialism; there are no homeless, and everyone is taken care of. So anyone stating they are homeless, begging, or stating they need food for children are most likely lying.
If your program director does vicinity walks (i.e. a 15 to 45 minute walk around the area you are staying), make every effort to go on them. While you will often re-visit the area (either with the group or on your own), health reasons aside for walking, you will get a lot more out of the trip.
Everyone speaks English; and the Irish show great hospitality to their tourists especially Americans.
The country is beautiful.