Iceland Essentials

Iceland seems to have exploded in popularity over recent years. After seeing some of the photos, it was becoming quite obvious why. I want to discuss how to make your planning easy. Probably the key things to consider are logistics, transportation, and lodging. I spent three days in Iceland. For such a quick trip, I felt very happy with all that I was able to experience in such a short amount of time. Being able to minimize time off work and maximize experience is so important to me. In my Iceland guides, I will share my tips on this trip and what I might do differently next time. If you are wanting to see the major highlights, three days is plenty of time. If you want to dig a little deeper, the options are really without limit. Google is such a helpful resource for planning, but I still buy travel books! I used the Rick Steve’s book as my major source of information. I also bought a Pocket Lonely Planet guide to Reykjavik and Moon Iceland.

Getting there: A little over a year ago, American Airlines started direct flights between Dallas and Reykjavik. Last I heard, this was seasonal, but it was extremely convenient. It was available during the summer months and into the first part of October. That being said, I heard rumors that American Airlines may start a nonstop all year long to Reykjavik. My airfare was around $700 for a multi-city ticket. I left from Texas and stopped in Chicago for several days on the way back. For other options, Iceland Air really seemed to be the major carrier for the country.

Our three day schedule:

Day 1: Golden Circle

Day 2: South Coast

Day 3: Reykjavik and Blue Lagoon

Transportation: We rented a car for the trip. There are plenty of tours that leave from Reykjavik and return at the end of the day. I did enjoy the freedom of having our own rental. I have a couple of recommendations when choosing a rental car company. We rented from National. National is not in the airport. There is a bus that takes you to the other car rental locations. The bus ride is not far. That being said, I would recommend going with one in the airport. Avis, Budget, and Europcar were all located in the airport. I cannot recommend National. Once we arrived at their office, it took us approximately 1.5 to 2 hours to leave the building with the car. My travel partner even has status with National that would normally allow him to skip the wait line. They did not honor it even after making a request. When we walked in, there were over 20 people waiting. They were short staffed and operated at a snail’s pace. We did not have any issues with the car, but this hold up at the airport left a very unfortunate lasting impression about this company. Those two hours made us miss one stop on the Golden Circle and get to our hotel far later than we had planned. As you will read later, this made finding the hotel difficult.

Dependent upon the time of year, you may want to consider the following for your rental car booking. Make sure that the car is a 4X4 that has winter tires with spikes. This was important for us during October. The first day driving was treacherous, and we almost slid off the road due to ice. Also, the terrain can be unpredictable so ensure that you have purchased insurance to protect you from damage such as gravel, etc.

Weather: You can see the current weather conditions online and road closures. road. is is one of the websites I used prior to leaving and from the rental car company to check conditions before setting out. It lays out how difficult the roads are to pass in real time and notates closures. The day we arrived, weather conditions were poor. It was snowing and the roads became slick. At our first stop, there was ice and significant wind making it difficult to enjoy. Summer may be the best time to visit; however, this does limit chances of seeing the Northern Lights. The average temperature when we were there was between 30-40 degrees F. After the first day, the weather improved and we did not encounter any problems.

Packing essentials: I included a photo of our Michelin 750 map of Iceland. I ordered this from Amazon prior to leaving for the trip. Personally, I thought having this map was invaluable. We did not pay for navigation in the rental. It did have a screen that allowed us to zoom in and out and we could see what road we were traveling on. This was helpful, but I felt we needed a little more. Other items that I brought were my hiking boots and layered clothing. I wore my Arcteryx hiking pants over yoga leggings both days due to the temperature and wind. I did use my waterproof jacket a couple of times as well. If you are there in winter, make sure you bring waterproof gloves in addition to a hat and scarf. I had a scarf and hood on my coat and still felt cold. A beanie or hat would have been ideal.

Before you leave the airport: If you like to enjoy a drink in the evening …. continue reading. Eating and drinking are expensive in Iceland. For this reason, we stopped at the duty free directly across from the baggage claim and made some purchases. You cannot miss it. We left with two bottles of wine and snacks for the drive. Having the bottles to enjoy in the room proved to be a great end to the evening. The price is cheaper and, of course, it is duty free. In the airport, we also used the ATM to get $100 in Icelandic Krona. This turned out to be plenty of money for us to use during our three day trip. In reality, you can absolutely get by with credit cards the entire visit. Even the parking meters take credit cards. Also of importance, there is no tipping in Iceland!

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