When we decided that we wanted to do something out of the ordinary – breaking out of our usual mould of chasing the sun – Iceland stood out from the rest.
Not only have I read so much about the country’s spectacular natural landscape and breathtaking wonders, but to everyone I’ve mentioned about our trip, the stock reply has been along similar lines: “Oh, I loved Iceland, it’s my favourite place in the whole world…”
High praise indeed. With Reykjavík being hailed as the number one city to visit according to the Rough Guide, I was expecting greatness. And, for once, I wasn’t disappointed with our trip to Iceland (read here for the reasons to visit Iceland with kids).
Planning A Trip To Iceland With Family
However, even though I was super excited about our week-long stay, there was a lot more planning involved than the usual family vacation. There is so much to do in Iceland, it was vital to narrow down our options, and research not only where we should spend our time, but how we should spend our money. There is one thing that all are agreed on, Iceland isn’t cheap – but don’t let that put you off.
Where to stay in Iceland?
We spent several days in Reykjavík staying in an Airbnb apartment and explored the city and outskirts, went whale watching and swum in the Blue Lagoon (read here about our day there). We also hired a car and hit the road to explore the infamous Golden Circle and before heading further afield to drive around the South. We didn’t venture onto the Ring Road and make our way North, because of time constraints and possible treacherous weather conditions.
Our base during our self-drive tour was in a farmhouse located outside a small town of Hella. There is no light pollution – we were in the middle of nowhere – and we were lucky enough to be able to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) on several occasions.
Our main concern is how cold it’s going to be. While the summer is a popular time to visit Iceland, we wanted to avoid the crowds. But this means we may be facing temperatures as low as -10°c and sudden snow storms.
There are other factors to consider which I discovered while travel planning our trip to Iceland, and these included:
Visiting Iceland in winter? Have the right clothing…
Would you believe this has been the most stressful and priciest part of our Iceland travel planning. Because hubby and I are more inclined to go to the hot countries, we don’t own any cold-climate gear. And, more importantly, we want to make sure Monkey will be snug and warm. With temperatures ranging from 5°c to -10°c, we have to make sure we cover all our bases. Luckily, we have good friends who have lent us the essentials and we’re going well prepared with lots of base layers and thermals.
This is more essential in the Summer when accommodation and excursions get booked up well in advance. However, because we only have a few days to play within Reykjavík, I’ve had to lock in days and times for all our excursions out of the city. It’s also advisable to book your transfers to and from Keflavík airport in advance too. There are several bus companies including Flybus where you can book online.
Iceland route planning and diversions
You can drive the Golden Circle route which consists of Þingvellir National Park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir in around four hours. But factor in the stops and photo taking, as well as all the other areas we want to see outside of the main circuit, there’s going to be so much to see. So I’ve already highlighted the main areas that I want us to drive to. I am aware, though, with only three full days on the road, we will be lucky to get to them all.
Route planning is a good gauge of where we’d like to get to, but if we don’t then I’m sure it won’t be the end of the world. I also don’t want Monkey to have to sit too long in the car.
Not getting our hopes up
We have a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, and we also have a good chance of not seeing them, too. So, with that in mind, I’m not going to rest the whole trip on sighting this natural phenomenon. If we see them, it will be a great bonus to what, I am sure, will be an amazing trip.
While it’s always a good idea to have some cash on you when you go abroad, Iceland is known for being very card friendly. So no need to find ATMs while out on the road, your plastic friend will do nicely. And after hunting high and low for a good rate, I’ve actually ordered a pre-paid credit card which has no transaction fees. So no need to carry wads of kroners, and I’m able to keep a close eye on our budget.
So, as prepared as I can be for our family trip to Iceland, I don’t think I will be prepared for the immense beauty we are going to encounter while we are there. After all, there are some things you just can’t plan for.
Have you been to Iceland? What planning tips to Iceland do you have?