November 21, 2016

How To Plan A Trip To Iceland

Iceland, in all it's amazing glory, is totally having a moment. Everyone and their granny wants to take a trip (defs recommend), but Iceland is still trying to catch up with its new-found fame, and even attempting to find a starting point for planning a trip here can be a little nauseating... So, let me help.

First things first, you need to book yourself, a preferably cheap, flight to the island. Iceland has a host of amazing destinations, but the capital city Reykjavik is the place to be and provides a central location for adventures across the island.

For our recent adventure we flew with Easyjet. At the time this was the only airline who provided flights from our local airport and thankfully I snatched up a little bargain in the process. I bagged our seats for £90 each, return. Bargaiiiinnn. I recommend using Travel SuperMarket to find the cheapest flights to Iceland. You can find direct or layover flights, if flying from the UK layover flights (in my opinion) are a waste of time, even if they are a little cheaper. Think of all the time you will lose waiting around for a cheaper flight.

Once you've pinned down dates and a way to get there, second most important step is finding somewhere to lay your head. If you decide to head to Reykjavik you are more than likely going to have to pay a considerable amount of $$$ for some shut eye. Accommodation in Iceland is, generally speaking, a little expensive, usually averaging out at over £100/£120 a night depending on the season of the year.
We bunked up in the Captain Reykjavik Guest House. Comfy bed, fantastic central location, amazing breakfast and even more amazingly friendly and helpful staff, but being the high maintenance gal I am, I didn't love sharing a bathroom with other guests. £300 for a three night stay for a room which was pretty much just a box, this left us a little frustrated. From what I could pick up, the modern and typical touristic hotel scene in Reykjavik is a little more on the outskirts of the city centre. If you want something a little more upmarket and bang in the middle of the city you will pay for it. Use to find the best hotels and guest houses, or search Air BnB. We had an amazing experience in our Air BnB in Barcelona.

Next up, hire a car or grab a tour bus?
My honest advice here is to hire a car. I personally don't think you could get the full and best experience of the island from a tour bus. If you want more info on the ins and outs of hiring a car in Iceland check out this post, it will answer all of your questions. 
If you are certain you don't or can't hire a car in Iceland, then you can book tours through online providers, just google search "Iceland Tours" - everything you need will appear before your eyes. Check out this post for my recommendations on things you NEED to do in Iceland.

Icelandic currency was a funny one for us, and here's why... When you go on your Summer hols you make a dandy trip to the bank to pick up your euros or dollars, but with Icelandic Krona our local banks didn't provide it... they couldn't even order it in for us. *sad face* Luckily Tesco Bank came to the rescue, we could order our preferred amount of money for our trip, pay for it online and it was delivered straight to my front door the next day by signed delivery. All's good. If you don't feel comfortable ordering currency online some travel agents may be able to order you Krona or you can take English notes or American Dollars with you to Iceland and the currency exchange counters in the airport can exchange this for you.
For our 4 day trip we took 30,000 Krona which (at the time) was worth £220. This money was sufficient for food, car fuel and emergency extras, like when Scott needed allergy tablets because he forgot???? he was allergic to horses, or when we realised we forgot travel adapters. (They use European plugs btw). During the four days we pretty much ate cheap from grills and takeaways. If you want something a little more fancy you will definitely pay for it, so you may need to take more money.

The time of the year you travel is VERY important when deciding on your trip to Iceland. In Northern Ireland seasons come and go, and believe me, telling the difference is difficult because I still see hailstones in July. However in Iceland, season's are extremely different from one another, and here's why:
  • Spring - A nice time to travel if you just want to see the natural beauty of Iceland, although it's still pretty cold. Try hill hikes and maybe even paragliding during these calmer months.
  • Summer - Famous for the "Midnight Sun". Yes, it is exactly what it says.. All. Day. Sun. Sounds great, but when you're dying for a good nap, not so great then, but still a pretty cool thing to experience.
  • Autumn (September/October) - Northern Lights season and things start getting (a lot) colder.
  • Winter - freezing, freezing, freezing. Glacier hikes and tours open again (closed during Summer), waterfalls starting freezing over, driving conditions get worse and some roads across the country are closed for a few months, 
This in turn can make packing a suitcase a little difficult. I found Google, travel blogs and Pinterest the most helpful place when planning what I needed to pick up for my Autumn Iceland trip. I traveled at the start of October and these were the essentials I packed and most importantly, (and kind of disgustingly) rotated for my four day trip:
  • A well insulated, thick and waterproof coat. 
  • A fluffy and well insulated fleece. (I recommend Tresspass/North Face)
  • A second well insulated fleece to layer over top. (Trust me, it's cold at the top of Gulfoss.)
  • Hiking or snow boots - I took these boots, pricey but 100% worth it. I walked through rivers and not once did I have even a drop of water on my feet. Always warm, dry and comfortable.
  • Lots of long sleeve turtle necks
  • Lots of long sleeve turtle neck jumpers for over said turtle necks
  • Waterproof gloves (Tresspass/North Face)
  • Warm and preferably insulated hat (Not just knitted hat - this won't break the wind on your ears) and scarf for warmth around your neck and face, especially at waterfalls.
  • Lots of socks to layer for warmth purposes but also for comfort during long hikes in boots. (Secret tip...Layering socks prevents blistering)
  • Waterproof trousers. I actually forgot to bring these with me and it was the worst. The rain here will drown you like a power shower in aprox. 10 seconds, so waterproofs are essential. Bring warm bottoms - layer a few pairs of fleeced leggings under jeans or tracksuit bottoms and wear waterproof trousers over the top)
  • Bathing suit for the Blue Lagoon, obvs.
The moral of this long list is that layers are essential for a winter time trip to Iceland. As many layers as possible. Layering items also means it's easier to control your temperature when going to and from places when the heat varies, you can add or take away as you please.

Iceland is an unbelievably, amazing country and I feel like the luckiest person in the world to have been able to travel here and experience it all for myself. This isn't the average holiday trip, it is tiring, kind of exhausting actually, very early mornings and late nights, long days of driving and some weird food, but the unspeakable beauty of this place was worth every. Single. Minute. I can't really put my amazement of Iceland into words, I honestly just gush and cry when people ask me about it. All I will say is do it now. Like right now. Book a flight and go visit this amazing place. Instead of that weekly night out, save £20/30 a week and put it away for your next adventure.

That rounds it up for how to plan a trip to Iceland, check out my check list of things to do in Iceland and the 101 on hiring a car in Iceland to make sure you have got your trip covered. If you have anymore questions about heading to Iceland please leave them in the comment section below.




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