We weren’t really sure what to expect when we visited Iceland. It wasn’t a stop that was on our original travel itinerary but we made it so after discovering that Icelandair offers layovers for up to 7 nights at no extra airfare cost (as explained in a previous post). We decided to stop over in Iceland for three days and see what we could see. We had no expectations, just an interest in getting to know this country a little bit.
Here are some things we learned:
1. Iceland is a very expensive place to visit with a family! The cost of food is high. We are a family of six and if we were to have eaten out much, it would easily have cost $100 per meal. That’s a little steep. We recommend planning to pick up easy meal options (i.e., sandwich makings or cereal and yogurt) at a local grocery store. This helps to keep costs down. Also, it’s a good idea to pack and bring your own snacks, as able, in your check-on luggage. We had brought some granola, snack bars, and fruit strips along with us and boy were we glad to have them! When we did eat out, we chose a restaurant that served soup bread bowls which were reasonably priced, incredibly delicious and, quite importantly, very filling.
On the plane we overheard some people talking who make regular trips to Iceland. They were also recommending to another traveler that they bring along food and cooking utensils so as to eat healthier foods on the cheap when visiting. Note, too, that going out to eat in Iceland doesn’t have to break the bank, but you do have to research your options in advance of hunger pains order to keep the cost down!
2. If you want to take a tour to see something specific, ask about a private tour that will suit your families needs and schedules. You might think a private tour is outside of the budget and while it might cost a little bit extra (depending on who you book with) it is not a great deal more and its worth every penny for the flexibility. We took a bus tour with Reykjavic Excursions which we discovered didn’t suit our family as well. We also booked a private boat tour to see puffins and that was wonderful. We appreciated the ability to be able to take a tour at a time that worked well for our family and which catered to our personal needs. If you’re going to go to Iceland, make the most of your time!
3. Take the bus! Public transportation is awesome in Reykjavic. The buses run every 15 minutes, and are numbered by route to help you easily navigate to your destination and back again. They run on schedule, are clean, and used by many local families. Here is a link to the bus schedule for your convenience.
4. If you are remotely worried about not being able to communicate with the locals, don’t be. Everyone in Iceland speaks English and you’ll have no problems being able to talk to anyone you like and receiving the help that you need. We found the people to be generally friendly and willing to answer questions as related to the giving of directions. They are busy about their business, and you shouldn’t expect a long conversation, but we never met a single person who wasn’t willing to help when we found ourselves in need of some assistance.
5. Dress in layers. We would strongly recommend leaving the shorts at home and bringing along – at the very least – a light, hooded jacket. Although we packed a mixture of short and long sleeved shirts, we found the long-sleeved ones to be preferred, even in the middle of August. The locals also seemed to be quite warm with their wool scarves and fleece jackets.
6. Don’t be afraid to go on an outdoor adventure with your kids, but do observe age recommendations from the local tour guides. They know what they are talking about. As Americans, we’re used to businesses lowballing estimations on what a kid can or cannot do based on age or height. Most of the concerns in America revolve around safety and lawsuits. Icelanders seem to have a more reasonable approach to understanding what kids can do and they aren’t going to stop them from exploring, jumping or running. However, if they say, for example, that you need to be at least 12 years old to take the tour to the inside of the volcano, then your kid needs to be 12 years old. Trust their age limits. We found them to be quite reasonable in every instance.
7. Americans, in particular, should take note of the fact that it costs money to use the pubic toilets in Iceland. If you’re traveling with young children, take heart! In many public restrooms we discovered that they do allow children to use the facilities at no charge. However, if you are traveling with young children, make sure to carry coins in your pockets for any surprise and urgent needs. Also, whenever you find yourselves around a bathroom which you can use for free, have everyone “try” so that you aren’t hunting down a bathroom later on.
8. Enjoy! Can or should you take young children to Iceland? Yes, you can. You won’t be able to explore as much or do as many crazy things as you might like (i.e., travel into that volcano!) but there are still plenty of things to see and do as a family. Our trip was a short stop and we thought it was decent in length for having small children (four kids, age 8 and under). We’d love to go back but we think we’ll wait until our youngest is 6 or 8 because we’ll be able to go further and do more. Basically the older your kids are, the more Iceland opens up to you. However, there is nothing to prevent a trip with younger kids. There is stuff for them to do and to see aplenty. Plan well and you’ll have an incredible trip!