Travel Preparations for Iceland

Three years
ago we were ready to start booking a fabulous vacation - Iceland and the UK. Unfortunately, although we were ready, the world wasn't. COVID shut it down.  I wasn't sure until January if we would ever manage to pick up this dream again, but in 2023 it all came together. 

Icelandair offers flights to many major cities, with a touch down in Reykjavik both going or returning.  This allows customers the option of taking a one to seven day stopover in Iceland with no additional airfare.  Where your final destination is, is up to you. We are heading on to London after our stop, but many other destinations are available including Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen. 

What time of year you visit needs careful consideration.  We chose to go at the end May and stay for a week before continuing on to London.  This puts us there during the longest days of the year - great for exploring.  In fact, at this time of year, Iceland never gets fully dark. It only has a twilight period.  If you need it really dark to sleep, you might consider using a sleep mask.  Also, if you want to see the Northern Lights, then you need to go in the fall or winter, probably no earlier than October. The days are shorter, and the weather colder, though, so it's a trade off. 

 Gullfoss—meaning “Golden Falls”

No matter when you visit Iceland, the weather will most likely include rain at some point.  This is a country known for it's incredible landscapespuffin watching, ice floes, geysers, tunnel tours, zodiac rides, horseback riding and hiking. To see it, you need to let go of the need for only sunny days and just embrace whatever nature offers.  A waterproof or water resistant coat and pieces of clothing that layer over each other so you can adjust to that day's weather conditions are a good choice. Some tourist activities provide warm coveralls and gloves, others don't. Be sure you know ahead of time.

Glen and I prefer to be in control when we travel rather than being stuck to an organized tour schedule.  For Iceland that meant choosing a self-drive tour.  There are several companies that offer this option, with a range of schedules, pricing and car types to choose from. The one we chose to go with is Iceland Tours. It's a local company, their prices were lower, and we pick up and drop off our rental car at the airport instead of in town which we find way is less complicated. As we arrive at 6 in the morning, it also means we can do some exploring before we head into the capital. Since we can't check into our hotel at that time of day, it's a great option. Our tour company suggested a great option.

The exact tour
we wanted (6 days, 5 nights) wasn't available on the dates we are there, so we picked a slightly shorter one (5 days, 4 nights) and added 2 blank days at the end. Those extra days will allow us to see anything we might have missed, or to just relax before we head to London. The one big mistake I made was choosing a tour, but not checking the dates it was offered. I didn't realize until after I booked our flights that it was a no-go. At the time we are there the snow melt will have made some of the roads on the tour we wanted unpassable. I highly suggest you plug in your travel dates when selecting a tour to avoid this mistake. OR you can choose your travel dates around the tour you want to take.

When you opt for a self-driving tour, the booking includes a car with wifi, a set travel route, your lodgings each night and I think most offer breakfast), an extensive itinerary with detailed driving instructions, what you can see along the way each day, several must know facts to help your visit go smoothly, and they usually include at least one paid tour which you can opt out of.  There are many paid experiences to choose from that you can book yourself, too. We decided to take a boat ride to view the puffins for one of our free days, and I am considering a two hour horseback tour for the other. You can also go through a tunnel, go inside a glacier, take a boat ride out to an island, soak in a hot spring, and more. 

As the car and lodgings will have Wi-Fi, we aren't going to get a local sim card while there. We can use our cell phones as they are if an emergency arises and only pay a one day fee with our regular phone company. We're hoping that won't be needed. The other tip we received was it's a good idea to make reservations for restaurants as they are very busy. Since we are changing towns most days and not sure where we will be stopping for lunch along the way,  this might be challenging.  

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am after three years of delay to be heading off soon on this holiday.  I am hoping we get lucky and the weather doesn't hold us back in any way, but I am determined to take each day as it arises.  Capturing great photos will be harder in the rain, but still do-able.  I will also be writing a travel re-cap after I am back home on how it went, with tips in case you want to go. 

Here's hoping the plane travel portion of our trip, which is out of our control, goes smoothly. 

Travel tips blog that has a good overview HERE!