Guide to planning an Iceland Road Trip in Winter

My Fiancee and I decided to travel to Iceland this Christmas instead of doing the usual family gatherings.  We had spent a lot of time with my parents for thanksgiving, and traveling to Florida for Christmas from San Diego (where we live) was more expensive than trips out of the country!

A few pre-planning items:

  • Flights
    • We booked our flights on Wow airlines, for super cheap!  We bought basic economy flights (no food or luggage included).  We paid for one bag and packed together (oops, it was overweight and WOW charges $15 per kg), and brought some food on the plane.  We also ordered food on the plane for actually quite reasonable prices (soup $5, beer $6US).
  • Where to stay
    • This one was all Steve.  He had been to Iceland before and knows if you want to get out and explore you need a car.  And a place to stay that isn’t a hotel.  Many hotels are hard to book, are closed, or only open during regular hours for check in.  We went between Christmas and New Years 2017 and the prices were pretty expensive.
    • We got a camper!
      • We used kuku campers and ended up renting a Land Rover defender.  I will give it about three stars as far as campers go.  The doors didn’t close well on the car, and there was very little space.  Five stars for handling the weather and driving conditions as we never got stuck, when we found ourselves in locations where getting stuck could happen to anyone
    • When in Reykjavik, we stayed at the Icelandair Hotel Marina the day we landed and day before we flew out.  I would certainly recommend this spot.  It had a great breakfast buffet (around $35 US per person if you don’t pay for the breakfast included option), was close to some walkable spots includingSólfarið – Sun Voyager, the Hallgrimskirkja church, the Northern Lights Museum, and about 8 cool spots for food and drinks.  The Hotel bar Slippbarrin is actually one of the cooler spots for a trendy cocktail as well.
  • Travel preparation
    • I spent a lot of time reading blogs (this one was my fav) to figure out what it was I wanted to do
    • We decided ahead of time we would try to go to the store and cook all of our meals to save money.  We bought a box of wine and a bottle of champagne at the Duty free and saved a bunch of money that way!
    • Download an offline map of Iceland on Google maps.  Here’s how to do it for an Android Device.  You can really only download portions of the map, but make sure to do a seamless download so when you are there you aren’t missing some small sections.
    • Star the places you want to go!  This helped guide us when we were making our plans for the day when actually in Iceland.  We didn’t really map out where we would go and wanted to save some room for spontaneity so it was nice to have our options handy without having to stop and do research.  The only setback is that if I downloaded a map and we didn’t have WiFi I would have to remember what that star was on the map.  Why did I star Seljavallalaug again?  I would recommend to keep a running list of why you want to go each place (or just have a killer memory).
    • BUY CRAMPONS.  For us, this was a lifesaver.  Everywhere is covered in ice, and you don’t want to be the one falling on your butt!  Most of the stops will have signs posted advising the use of crampons.  Gift shops will sell them for around $80 ea or you can spend around $20 on Amazon.
    • We also took a photography class prior to going which was awesome!  We found a great class on Groupon that helped us figure out how to adjust some of the settings and shoot in Manual.
  • Packing
    • We each brought our warmest gear.  What I brought for an 8 day trip:
      • 4 wool layers, long sleeve, various thicknesses
      • 6 pairs wool socks, thick
      • Down jacket rated to zero degrees, and snowboarding pants, zero degree rating. (NorthFace)
      • My Patagonia gear: long sleeve thick fleece and vest
      • Thick scarves x 3
      • Down feather snow gloves
      • Sunglasses
      • underwear/bras
      • Onesie fleece pajamas 🙂
      • 3 pairs leggings, 2 pairs jeans.  Honestly I resorted to wearing my snowboarding pants every day because it was so cold.  I only wore the jeans in the city.
      • 3 bathing suits
      • Shammy towel for all our Hot Springs adventures
      • One pair sandals
    • I bought these boots for him and myself as well as some beanies and crampons as Christmas gifts on Amazon.
    • Bring your camera gear!  This meant an extra memory card, extra camera batteries, tripod, lenses, lens cleaning supplies, and charging cables.  We brought a dual port car USB charger and were able to charge everything in the car as we drove which really helps when you are camping in the car!



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