We spent the summer of 2016 touring Iceland. Now we're writing a guidebook to tell you exactly what you want to know:

How to take the whole family abroad and survive the process unscathed.


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preparation

Preparation

Tips on Packing with Kids

So your trip is all planned, your hotels reserved, your itinerary all settled, but now you have to pack.  And if you are traveling with children, you’re not just talking about one backpack.  There are two concerns here:  First, you’d like the packing process to be as simple and streamlined as possible.  Second, you’d like to actually be able to make it through the airport without being crushed under a pile of luggage.  Note that this advice is not specific to Iceland travel–I’m not telling you what to bring–that will be a future post, once we’ve seen what we have and haven’t used from our packing lists. Read more

Preparation

Cash, credit cards, and PINs in Iceland

Cash register” by James Brooks  is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Questions we will answer (or attempt to answer) in this post are:

  1. Do I need to bring or get cash for my trip to Iceland?
  2. Where can I get the best exchange rate on my cash?
  3. What do I need to do to use my credit card in Iceland?
  4. Which credit card is best to use in Iceland?
  5. What about a PIN for chip and PIN in Iceland?

Do I need to bring or get cash for my trip to Iceland?

There is no need to purchase Icelandic Krona before your trip. Typically you will pay a hefty premium to purchase Krona in your home country– up to 10%. Most currency exchange places (AAA, TravelEx) don’t even offer Icelandic Krona. Read more

Preparation, Things to Do

Reykjavik? Ring Road? Planning your Iceland trip

So you’re going to Iceland, and trying to figure out how to plan your trip. The internet is full of millions of pictures of thousands of things you can see and do. How do you plan your itinerary? What should do you do, and what will you need to skip?

Here are my brief recommendations for how you should structure your trip, based on the number of days you have. Note that the categories overlap:

1-5 days: Stay in Reykjavik, and do day tours
3-8 days: Cover one or two areas, but not the whole country
7+ days: Cover the whole country. Well, more of it at least.

I think that some people will find these surprisingly conservative. Why just stay in Reykjavik for 4 days? Why not try the whole country in 6 days? Read more

Preparation

Planning your Iceland trip – Iceland With Kids

Reykjavik” by Marco Bellucci is licensed under CC BY 2.0

We’ve written many posts about planning for your trip to Iceland. Here is a summary of our best advice, at least so far.

When to go to Iceland?

There will be several obvious differences in your vacation experience based on what time of year you go:

  • Temperature. This isn’t as big as you think: Highs in the summer are in the mid 50s, while winter highs are in the mid 30s. See details in this post. Yes, there is snow in the winter, and so you’ll need to make your travel plans less aggressive.
  • Daylight. This is a bigger deal than you may think. Summer has 24 hours of usable daylight. The middle of winter may only give you 7. More details in the same post. This picture was taken at about 11:30 PM in June:

Midnight sun

Midnight Sun” by Hafsteinn Robertsson is licensed under CC BY 2.0 Read more

Preparation

7 tips for using AirBNB

A tiny seaside Airbnb cottage by Kristen Sloan is licensed under CC BY 2.0

For our trip to Iceland, I started by looking at hotels. Many were already sold out for the summer, or the rooms were too small. And getting two rooms would be prohibitively expensive.

Then I started looking for cottages and apartments to rent, and ended up at Booking.com. You can see my post about tips for using Booking.com.

But then I landed on airbnb.com, and ended up making more than half of my lodging reservations there. If you are traveling with kids, renting an entire house is very appealing. Here are some tips and tricks I learned along the way.


UPDATE June 2016: The Icelandic Government has passed a new law aimed at limiting Airbnb rentals. Homeowners in Iceland will only be able to rent out their properties for up to 90 days a year, unless they purchase a license. I believe this Icelandic article says the rules go into effect starting in 2017.

We’ll be watching to see how this impacts the market for home rentals. Presumably, though, if you find a place you like on Airbnb, you shouldn’t have any problems. But it may limit availability.


1. Don’t expect the same level of service with Airbnb.

First and foremost, remember that you are dealing with an individual person renting out their property to you. Property owners are referred to as “hosts.” Airbnb is just a platform that connects you to individuals who want to rent out rooms or houses to you. Read more

Preparation

Do I need a 4WD / AWD / 4X4 car in Iceland?

“Colors of Water” by Ulrich Latzenhofer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

A surprising number of tourists get themselves into trouble while driving in Iceland. They blindly follow their GPS to destinations 6 hours the wrong direction. Or they follow their outdated GPS onto closed and dangerous roads. Or they cause accidents by stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures. (Remember that in Iceland, hazard lights are for hazards!)

Hundreds of tourists are rescued every year by ICE-SAR, a group of volunteer responders.

I’m not telling you all of this to dissuade you from driving in Iceland. You just need to use some common sense. No matter what kind of car you rent, you shouldn’t think you can drive to any location any time of year.

Suppose you are in Vik, in south Iceland. And you read about a really cool hike up to the top of Sveinstindur. (The picture at the top of this post is along the route to Sveinstindur.) So you look on Google Maps and find out that it’s only about a 2 hour drive: Read more

Preparation

9 tips for using Booking.com in Iceland (or anywhere)!

Guesthouse Milli Vina in Hvitarbakka by Maedi. is licensed under CC BY 2.0
(Link to Milli Vina on Booking.com.)

(This is not a sponsored post- I have no affiliation with Booking.com.)

If you are planning a trip to Iceland this summer, you probably started looking at hotels. At least, that seems to be the default option when traveling. Hotels offer an excellent level of service, and many hotels in Iceland include breakfast. But there are a few reasons why you might want to look beyond hotel options:

  1. You want more space. When you have kids, the novelty of all being in the same single hotel room quickly wears off. You can get 2 connecting rooms, or at least 2 rooms next to each other, but that can get expensive.
  2. There aren’t many choices for families with kids.  Very few hotels in Iceland have rooms that hold more than 4 people.  When you search for a family of 5, the options all seem to have “apartment” or “guesthouse” in the name.
  3. You can hardly find any hotel rooms at all this year.  Many hotels are sold out, or selling out quickly, especially this summer. Indeed, “According to managing director of Nordic Travel, tourists to Iceland have increased so enormously that finding accommodation for them all this summer could be very difficult.   … bookings started really early and if all hotels are booked up by the summer, some people may have to cancel their flights to Iceland.” Source: Iceland Monitor

Read more

Preparation

Should I bring my child’s car seat to Iceland?

One of the struggles of travelling with children is lugging car seats everywhere you go.  So the question is, when you travel to Iceland, do you bring your own child car seats?  I think, for the most part, the answer is NO.

As you would expect, Iceland has its own rules about car seat safety.  While they are similar to what is in effect in many US states, the rules are not the same.  The Icelandic Transport Authority publishes an English-language brochure on Child Safety in Motor Cars that you may wish to read. The main difficulty is that the US organization that certifies car seats has different (not necessarily better, not necessarily worse, but different) standards than the European one.  There is no exception in Icelandic law for visitors, so car seats in Iceland are required to be approved by the European rules, not US rules.  Read more

Iceland with Parents, Preparation

Icelandic With Blaer 1: Pronunciation

If you’re planning to go to Iceland, it might be useful to learn a bit of Icelandic first! A lot of Icelanders speak English, but you’ll be able to go to more places and learn more things with at least basic knowledge of Icelandic. I don’t know much Icelandic yet, so I’m going to be learning as I post!

I have found Memrise, an online flashcard and memorization tool, to be useful for language learning (my favorite is Duolingo, which doesn’t yet offer Icelandic). I have made an account here and will hopefully be posting Icelandic flashcards as I go.

Here‘s the link to the course for this post, in case you don’t want to read the whole thing. And here are some resources if you want more information:

OmniglotMylanguages.orgielanguages.comlearn101.org

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