Feather & Flint

Adventures in Iceland, Part III: Must-Read Travel Tips & Packing List

November 27, 2016 18 Comments 7 Photos

Iceland Packing List & Travel Tips

Reykjavik, Iceland: How to Get There

We bought our tickets last-minute because of a deal that WOW was running. WOW is a relatively new airline that flies between the United States, Europe, and Iceland—you’ll know them by their bright purple planes and uniforms. Their tickets are cheaper than other airlines because everything is à la carte, from your seat and luggage to your food and drinks. Because of this, you can build the experience you want, whether that means saving as much as possible or flying in a more comfortable setting. I was concerned that the on-flight experience would be cut-rate because of the prices; however, I ended up being totally impressed with the company’s customer service and integrity.

Ránargata, Reykjavík, Iceland travel tips

Ránargata in Reykjavík

Another bonus of booking through WOW is that you can simultaneously book all of your transportation and tours through Reykjavik Excursions. It’s not necessary to book ahead of time, but there’s no reason not to—whether you book these trips online, at the airport, or at a tourist center once you’re in the city, you’ll be paying the same prices. You’ll just need to be able to identify which drop-off or pick-up location is closest to where you’re staying (either your hotel or, in our case, the hotel closest to our Airbnb) and they’ll take you straight there. It’s pretty impressive.

Bankastræti, Reykjavík, Iceland travel tips

Bankastræti in Reykjavík

Where to Stay

We stayed in an Airbnb for the first time on this trip, and I would recommend giving it a go in Iceland if you’re game. So much of Reykjavik was built very recently, so the apartments can truly be as nice as hotels, for the same or lower cost. We stayed in an impeccable, hyper-modern one-bedroom off of Laugavegur; another couple we met ended up in the home of a former member of Of Monsters & Men. Compare the prices between hotel rooms and Airbnb and you might be pleasantly surprised!

Geysir, Haukadalsvegur, Iceland travel tips

Geysir in Haukadalsvegur

When to Go

Because we decided to visit last-minute, we didn’t put much thought into when the best time to visit Iceland might be. We were there from November 8-12, and the daylight hours were from about 9:30 to 4:30. In the summer, it’s light for a much larger portion of the day; and in late December, it’s only light for about 4 hours per day. I’m glad that we visited during a time when we had about 8 hours of daylight in which to explore; but since we were visiting outside of the normal tourist season, our plane tickets and excursions were cheaper than they would have been a few weeks earlier. This made early November a smart time to visit, but I will say that it’s now on my bucket list to return in the summer to experience a whole different side of Iceland.

Engey, Reykjavík, Iceland travel tips

The view of Engey from Reykjavík

The weather in November is a mixed bag. It can be the best time to see the northern lights; however, rain is also a strong possibility. The weather seems to behave in a cyclical manner, with 4 or 5 days of rain alternating with several clear days. The downside of this is that rainy and overcast weather may last for the duration of a short trip, as it did with ours. We got 2 overcast days with intermittent, relatively harmless rain; but on our last full day, gale-force winds and buckets of rain put a damper on our plans. It was about 40 degrees while we were there, which felt like standard December or January weather for us in Boston, so we bundled up and went about our days and nights without much discomfort.

Gullfoss, Iceland travel tips

Gullfoss

What to Pack

Here’s what I would recommend for a 4- or 5-day trip in cold & rainy weather.

To wear:

  • 4-5 heavy sweaters for the daytime (you’ll be warm AND you’ll look Scandinavian!)
  • 2-3 pairs of pants that dry quickly (jeans aren’t the best choice since they stay wet for a long time; I’d recommend pants with thinner, stretchier fabric, like leggings or jeggings)
  • 3-5 sweater dresses & thick tights for dinner (I swear they were invented for Iceland—you can stay warm AND look fancy! Bring as few as you feel comfortable with—since you’re only wearing them to dinner, you can totally rewear them)
  • 2 warm, versatile scarves (so you can wear them with every outfit)
  • 1-2 pairs of waterproof or quick-drying sneakers
  • A waterproof parka with a hood
  • 1-2 pairs of waterproof gloves & a hat
  • 1 pair of waterproof boots for very rainy days (my secret: I brought black faux leather rainboots that I wore in the rain and out to dinner!)
  • 2 pairs of socks per day if you’ll be outside a lot
  • Warm pajamas

Waterproof EVERYTHING is best for Iceland; but if you don’t have the time or money to invest in new stuff, be sure to bring 1-2 options for the pieces you’ll need every day. There’s nothing worse than having to wear a wet, freezing cold coat or shoes (trust me)!

Laugavegur, Reykjavík, Iceland travel tips

Laugavegur in Reykjavík

Other things to bring:

  • A waterproof backpack
  • A credit card with a chip (Europe has had these for much longer than we have, so they’re the standard and will make your life infinitely easier. We didn’t bother converting any cash to króna, we were able to use our card everywhere we went)
  • Band-aids in case of blisters (you’ll be doing a lot of walking, so you want to be comfortable)
  • Melatonin or another sleep aid to help you adjust to the 4- to 5-hour time difference (depending on the season due to daylight savings)
  • Your best, most rugged camera (I alternated between my DSLR and iPhone 7+ depending on how bad the rain was, and I’m so glad I had both with me! Also, trust me: You’ll want the option to take videos when you visit the waterfalls, geysers & hot springs)
  • A reusable water bottle (you’ll hear this often, but in Iceland, bottled water is for clueless tourists—don’t buy it if you can avoid it!)
  • A hair dryer (your hotel or Airbnb might have one, but make sure—you’ll need it to dry your clothes!)
  • A sturdy umbrella with a warranty… and a back-up (Iceland ate my cheap umbrella for breakfast!)

For more photos, stories & advice from my trip to Iceland, check out Adventures in Iceland: Part I. For tips on where to eat, read Adventures in Iceland: Part II.

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18 Comments

  1. Reply

    Stephanie

    December 1, 2016

    Great post! I barely know anything about Iceland, but after reading this I want to investigate some more! It’s on the list!
    Stephanie xx

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 2, 2016

      Thank you so much, Stephanie! I found out about Iceland from social media too, and I’m SO glad I did–I hope you get to see it someday!

  2. Reply

    Kathryn

    December 2, 2016

    wow! beautiful pictures. i have never had a strong desire to visit iceland before, but now it is on my list!!

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 2, 2016

      Thanks, Kathryn! It wasn’t on my radar either before I saw the stunning pictures other people were posting from Iceland–and little did I know that the food was amazing, too 😉

  3. Reply

    Abbey

    December 2, 2016

    I really liked your packing list! 🙂 For a trip like this, I wouldn’t know what all to pack, so that is so handy!

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 2, 2016

      Thanks, Abbey–so happy it’s helpful! I wanted to write this post because I couldn’t find any resources for visiting Iceland at the time of year that I went, or doing the excursions that I did–had no idea what to expect, so I packed WAY too many unnecessary things!

  4. Reply

    Niki @ Toot's Mom is Tired

    December 2, 2016

    I’ve always wanted to go to Iceland. My friend went last year and absolutely loved it. I’m hoping to make a trip there sometime in my life!

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 2, 2016

      Thank you, Niki! Absolutely go if you get the chance–it’s truly breathtaking!

  5. Reply

    Julia

    December 3, 2016

    Yes to all the waterproof stuff! Did you buy any sweaters while you were there? My Icelandic sweater is one of my favorite things 🙂

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 3, 2016

      I actually didn’t buy anything while I was there because I had such sticker shock and wanted to spend all of my money on food 😉 But I was tempted by some gorgeous wool blankets & sweaters!!

  6. Reply

    Laura @ Our Next Adventure

    December 3, 2016

    Great tips! I’ve heard lots of great things about WOW Air and would love to try for a trip to Iceland. Also, do you have a link to your faux leather rainboots?? I’m intrigued. 🙂

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 3, 2016

      Thank you, Laura! Definitely give WOW a go – I was suspicious at first but had a great experience with them! (Especially because we mixed up the time difference and thought we were getting on an 8.5 hour flight and found out that it was only 4.5, hahaha!) The boots are by Pajar, I bought them at DSW for $80 about 6 years ago and they were an amazing purchase – they’ve come in handy so many times!!

      • Reply

        Laura @ Our Next Adventure

        December 3, 2016

        Awesome, thanks! Looks like they have a ton a cute styles on Amazon. I always love a good recommendation for travel shoes! 😉

  7. Reply

    Danielle Carrier

    December 3, 2016

    Love the pictures, so dreamy! If you don’t mind me asking, how much did you budget/spend on your trip? We want to go in the next couple of years but want to know ballpark what we should save.

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 3, 2016

      Thank you!! My husband & I just added up the numbers for our 5-day trip and this is what we worked out: $400 for Airbnb for 4 nights, $900 for airfare for 2 roundtrip tickets with WOW, $250 for 3 days’ worth of tours for 2 people, and then aim to spend several hundred dollars on food because food’s so expensive there. So I’d budget about $2000 for 5 days. Happy to answer any other questions you have, I want everyone to go to Iceland, hahaha!

  8. Reply

    Anonymous

    December 3, 2016

    Great advice – makes me want a book a flight to Iceland now

    • Reply

      robin@featherflint.com

      December 3, 2016

      Thank you!! Honestly, that’s exactly how we ended up going–booking a flight on a whim when I got 2 unexpected weeks off! And it’s all decorated for Christmas right now, too… adorable 😉

  9. Reply

    Janie

    April 21, 2017

    Great tips! I always underestimate the weather, so your packing tips are well on point! (I’ll be going around that same time of year). Thanks!!! 🙂

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