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Before you go: Iceland

Hello! Zach and Allie here, ready to bring you the "know before you go" information for Iceland. 

We will be leaving for Iceland in a matter of days. We have had just less than four months to find reasonably priced plane tickets, book all lodging, a rental car, map out our desired route, and choose activities. Oh yes, we've also been planning for our Icelandic wedding and honeymoon. I'm sure you can picture two twenty-two year old Americans with no checked luggage, gallivanting around Iceland for eight days. Chaos aside, we have put together a few tips, tricks, and things to consider before you go to Iceland. Stay tuned for our following posts, "Just Landed", "Settling In", and "Just Returned" to aid an enjoyable trip to Iceland!  

 

*Budgeting : What should you consider?

Similarly to the rest of the Scandinavian countries, Iceland is pricey.  Many goods are imported, and a huge draw (especially in the summer months) is tourism / adventure travel. However, the budgeting for Iceland is based around the basic factors that any vacation would require; plane tickets, lodging, transportation, food, and activities. Going in with a plan will inevitably save you money, but that's a no-brainer.  I would suggest saving up a few thousand USD before trying to take this trip (depending on the number of people who will be joining you)! The plane tickets alone, depending on the month you're traveling, can put a dent in your trip funds. As far as the other factors go, we will discuss them in depth in the following sections.

 

*Transportation: Airfare - Things to know.

So you’ve decided that Iceland is definitely the place to visit. The first order of business is buying a plane ticket. There are travel myths that revolve around the best days to buy tickets, to the number of days you should buy a ticket prior to your flight, or even which airline has the least travel delays. Honestly, I think that waiting to find the “best deal” is useless; if you wait too long, you’ll risk having weird flight times, higher prices, fuller flights, or other complications. Maybe that works for some people, but not us. We actually bought our tickets three months in advance and paid a few hundred USD per person. But don’t put too much time into one aspect of your vacation planning- there are other things to do! Services likewww.airfarewatchdog.com will help sort when the least expensive flights are for your destination. If you don’t have flexible departure dates,www.skyscanner.com is usually a pretty helpful resource. Outside resources aside, where you are departing from will make a huge difference in ticket prices. Even if you live near an international airport, it is very likely you will have a connecting flight out of New York (JFK). In our case, we will be flying out of Nashville (BNA) to New York (LGA) and then changing airports to make our final departure from JFK.

 

*Lodging: What are your options?

Regardless of your travel style, there are plenty of options to choose from while visiting Iceland. A few of my personal favorite services to use when traveling on a budget are: 1) www.Airbnb.com 2) www.TripAdvisor.com 3) www.laterooms.com 4) www.hostelbook.com 5) www.booking.com . From my experiences with these services, payment is secure, reviews are fairly accurate, options are endless, and the amount of information provided is extremely helpful. Not to mention all of these websites offer mobile apps that are user-friendly. As far as luxury travel goes, there aren’t a ton of hotels in Iceland. Lucky for you, there is a website that lists them (along with their star ratings) here: www.hotel.is

For the travelers that always stay in hotels; be aware that many do not include breakfast, but they will provide a wake-up call if the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) make an appearance! Our trip lodging as heavily relied onwww.airbnb.com , www.booking.com , and lastly, www.bungalow.com . We will be staying in one bedroom apartments and cottages during our trip. We’ll let you know how that works out.

 

*Transportation: Cars - Available rentals, add-ons, and things to know.

As of January 2013, the population of Iceland is just over 300,000. Out of these 300,000 people, approximately 170,000 (60%) live in (or very close to) the capital city of Reykjavik (www.iclei-europe.org). The rest of Iceland has inhabitants scattered throughout the regions, and one of the best ways to visit the towns and lands outside of the capital region is by car. Although there are bus tours that go just about everywhere in the summer months (June-August), they are quite slow and hold a lot of other visitors. Renting a car will allow you to travel at your own pace, and without the crowds; which seems to be a more attractive option in my opinion. Since this is the obvious choice for many travelers, car rentals are not inexpensive. A few of the options I came across are listed below:

There is no shortage of car rental companies in Iceland, as you can see.  However, before you go ahead and pick the type of car you would probably drive on a typical vacation; there are a few things to take into consideration. Iceland isn’t all paved roads; some roads may be part gravel, completely dirt, or you may end up off-roading completely! If you end up having to cross a river, wouldn’t you rather have a vehicle with 4wheel drive? Of course these circumstances would be based on the sort of places you would like to visit. If the Ring Road trip is basically your Iceland vacation, there really is no need for you to get anything but a 2wheel drive. For the jack-of-all-trades out there, who can commandeer 2wheel drive, 4wheel drive, manual, or automatic, keep in mind that 2wheel drive manual selections tend to be less expensive.

Now let’s discuss the add-ons. No one wants to be bombarded by a car rental employee to purchase additional insurance, but I’m here to tell you that sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry. We purchased the sand, ash, and gravel protection, along with a local GPS, for our rental. With the natural disasters occurring left and right (volcano eruptions, post-tropical storms, etc.), having the extra cushion if any damage does occur is really nice to have. Instead of worrying about every knick and scratch we may or may not have caused, we can just enjoy our trip. The most inexpensive option may seem appealing when a week-long rental totals out over $1,000USD, but damages, breakdowns, rescues, and so forth are not worth saving a few bucks. The smartest way to go about finding the best bang for your buck is to read the reviews, make reservations with plenty of advance notice, and compare the prices across the board.

 

*Food: Dining out vs cooking; is one superior? 

We all want to enjoy a good local dish when we travel, so why skimp in Iceland? Well, there are a few reasons. Some of the readily available meal options include lamb, fish, puffin, whale, and shark. These might not be particularly appealing to everyone, so a pricey night out on the town might not be worth it. I have heard, the hotdogs and pizza in Iceland are delicious, but again, we’ll have to let you know in later posts. Speaking of a night out on the town, alcohol is extremely expensive, and the laws regarding driving under the influence are bizarrely strict.

 

*Activities:  What is available, and when?

If the scenery isn’t enough to get you excited about Iceland, maybe some of the activities you can partake in will! This list isn’t conclusive, but it will definitely give you an idea of what type of adrenaline-pumping day tours or activities are available.

  • Mountain Climbing
  • Ice Climbing
  • Snorkeling / Diving
  • Glacier Walking / Hiking
  • Caving
  • Horseback Riding
  • Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Boat / Bike / Super Jeep Tours
  • Bird / Whale Watching
  • Northern Lights Tours

We will be able to talk more in-depth about some of these experiences after we try them out next week. Reviews of the company, ease of booking process, and overall experience will be included.

 

*Weather: Natural disasters / seasons.

One of the largest factors in traveling that cannot be controlled is the weather. We can keep our fingers crossed for perfect weather each day of our trips, but we’re bound to experience a few bumps along the way. Amidst our planning, we have been faced with earthquakes, the continued eruption of Bárðarbunga, and the post-tropical storm created from hurricane Cristobal. The best way to combat these obstacles is to stay informed, pack accordingly, and go with the flow. Don’t let a little rain or wind stop you from having a great trip! Plus, the weather in Iceland is known to be very unpredictable; if you don’t like the current situation, just wait it out!

 

*What to bring: Clothing, gear, accessories, and more.

Packing for all weather conditions might seem tedious, but with the right attire, it isn’t too hard at all! To give you an idea of what the “right” attire may be, we have emptied our bags to show you what we bringing for our trip.

Before you go to IcelandAllie:

  • 1 pair of Fila sport pants
  • 2 pairs of skinny jeans
  • 4 long-sleeve layering shirts that are wicking material
  • 4 lightweight sweaters
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 Patagonia Hoody Jacket
  • 1 Eddie Bauer Hardshell Jacket
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 2 pairs of Smartwool socks
  • 4 pairs of long socks
  • 1 pair of good hiking boots
  • 1 pair of “other” shoes. Heels, flats, boots- whatever you prefer. Boots are a great option because they can double as nice shoes.
  • 1 bathing suit!

Before you go to IcelandZach:

  • 1 pair of black jeans
  • 2 pairs of 511 Levi's
  • 6 50/50 polyester/cotton t-shirts
  • 4 lightweight sweaters
  • 1 chimney collar hoodie
  • 1 Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 2 pairs of Smartwool socks
  • 4 pairs of regular socks
  • 1 pair of trail shoes
  • 1 pair of quality (non-hiking) boots
  • 1 bathing suit

**Not Pictured**

  • Underwear. This is for obvious reasons.
  • Toiletries. Do NOT forget to pack travel-size conditioner. The sulfur found in Iceland’s water can be hard on your hair.

 

Gear:

This section entirely depends on what is important to you. We wanted to capture our trip through videos and pictures; so much of our “gear” revolves around our cameras. Take these suggestions with a grain of salt!

  • Canon EOS 70D
  • EF-S 18-55mm Lens
  • Tri-pod
  • Ona camera bag
  • Extra battery
  • Camera Charger
  • GoPro Hero 3
  • GoPro Hero3+
  • GoPole
  • GoPro Chest Strap
  • GoPro Head Strap
  • Extra battery
  • Camera Charger
  • MacBook Pro
  • Computer Charger
  • Iphones
  • Iphone Charger
  • Adapter
  • Converter

 

Before you take off

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