10 Budget Friendly Travel Hacks: Iceland
How to travel to Iceland on slim pickin’s is a topic I had to truly experience to share. As you know we travel on a budget pretty much all the time, we use discounted airlines, airbnbs and pack a lot of our own food. Iceland was our dream honeymoon and when my husband and I got married it just wasn’t affordable for us to go there so we did a little getaway to New England instead which was also amazing but Iceland is well….ICELAND! SO I wanted to share with you a few tips and tricks to getting around this expensive country on very little and by expensive I mean the typical meal costs between $15-30 and a beer starting around $10-12. My hope is that you can travel there even though it seems out of reach, I promise it can be do able.
#1 Go off season! We always try to plan our trips during times that kids are in school or would be considered “too cold” to visit but if it’s a dream place and you’re barely scraping by then pack yourself a jacket and go anyway. Always use a flight tracker or comparing site to see your options. Our favorite is Skyscanner but Hopper is also decent. They show you the cheapest times to fly and airline to use. We booked our flights on Easy Jet for March it cost us $150 for two people round trip (London Luton to Keflavik). That’s actually the most we’ve paid for flights out here so far so definitely check them out for some cheapy flights.
#2 Plan out where you want to go. Iceland is a big country with many beautiful places to see BUT most of them are not walking distance and require a vehicle of some kind to get there. Know what you want to see and how far it is from where you are staying. Reykjavik is the capital and most often where tourists will go to which is almost all walkable and plenty to do if you aren’t interested in seeing the more natural sites Iceland has to offer.
#3 Rent a Car. We wanted to see more of the country side without having to pay the big bucks for the bus tours…again on a budget over here! We found a rental car for 4 days through Reykjavik Rentals out of the Keflavik airport where they have a shuttle from the airport to all the rental car companies. We paid $115 for 4 days which is less than some of the one day bus tours. Sure we may miss out on the fun facts but we read facts about where we wanted to go (The Golden Circle, DC-3 Plane Wrecks, Cliffs, Blue Lagoon….etc) ahead of time. This way you can take your time wherever you go, I cannot tell you how many people we saw hauling ass to get back to their tour bus on time. Also most of the car rental companies give you a little chip card that will discount your gas and even give you a free coffee with your fill up!
#4 Hit up the Grocery Store. As I mentioned before the food and drinks in Iceland are EXPENSIVE! Our first night we decided to grab a quick dinner at a cafe, after reading the local menus nearby our jaws hit the floor on the prices! So I opted for a grilled cheese and tomato soup that was great but nothing fancy and cost a whopping $17. We then found a Bonus (Grocery store) and bought sandwiches, bananas, Skyr yogurts (Icelandanic yogurt and a MUST try), chips and a few other snacks which all cost us under $20. So quadruple the food for almost the same price. We packed our food for most of our day outings and would have one meal out and about.
#5 Bring your own reusable water bottle. The water in Iceland is the best thing you’ll ever taste…I’m not kidding. We filled ours up out of the bathroom sink which growing up in Florida was disgusting NO NO so despite the concern of being told it’s ok to drink, it was amazing. Most places sell the water for a couple bucks but again, save yourself some $$ and bring your own bottle and refill it. Most places actually have a running sink or fountain nearby just for that reason because the water is so pure and accessible there.
#6 Purchase Blue Lagoon in advance. This was a tough decision for us seeing it’s $100 per person to go to but being a holistic lover I had to see what this world wonder was all about. We decided to purchase our tickets 2 months prior which was for the best so we could save back up that money for the trip. We decided to do the basic comfort package which we had read was more than enough and it really was. I definitely recommend going there and getting your moneys worth! You get a free silica face mask, unlimited towels, free drink, conditioner, soap, and body lotion which they sell in the gift shop for a LOT of money. I did that swim up face mask three times and doused my hair in conditioner (also because all the salt is bad for your hair so if you plan to get it went do yourself a favor and put the conditioner in it first!). Enjoy the steep in the hot springs with the most beautiful milky blue water you’ll ever see. I left feeling like a baby soft queen and would love to go back one day! *** Extra Hack: Buy a waterproof case for your phone or camera! You can get great pictures but you don’t want to risk dropping it or getting it wet, the water is murky so good luck finding something if you drop it! We purchased this one on amazon and it was perfect. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00YO0TA3U/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
#7 Duty Free it up! My fellow craft beer drinkers… be ready for this country’s alcohol policies! The beer here ain’t cheap and the legal limit for driving is 0.03% so basically DON’T drink and drive even though you shouldn’t anyway. Your average lager beer there is called Gull and can cost as little as $9 a pint and other beers costs as much as $14 and while that maybe be normal in Disney World the rest of the world certainly isn’t always that expensive. I definitely recommend trying as much as you can of the food and drink here because you can’t find a lot of it anywhere else. We really enjoyed the Borg Snorri and Einstok the most, but before you leave the airport SHOP DUTY FREE FOR ALCOHOL. I can’t stress that enough because it’s much cheaper to do so, they even have a 5 pack Iceland beer sampler which we picked up and loved. Iceland is really big on it’s liqueur which I couldn’t get the taste for after trying two of them but hey, it might just be your thing! If you find something you like a lot there, they pretty much shove it in your face at every stop in the airport as you go to depart so don’t worry if you don’t get any in town you’ll have a chance before you get to your gate.
#8 You won’t always see the Northern Lights or Puffins. First off I would like to say how bitter I am about not seeing the Northern Lights but also we just didn’t have the right weather for it and I accepted that early on. It’s not an every day or every place occurrence and there are plenty of websites and apps that track them so check those out when you head there and you may just get lucky! Puffins! Sweet little penguin cousins of joy and cuteness…. SEASONAL birds that are usually around from May-August. Don’t go expecting to see them any other time from what I understand, we certainly didn’t see any but I didn’t expect too.
#9 Try some weird foods. I am not one for odd delicacies but my husband sure is and it grosses me out but I know some people like that kind of thing. CJ will try the weirdest thing he can find in each country and I just kind of look away but Iceland is hub for all things in strange eating. Whale steak, puffin and fermented shark are a few of the interesting eats you can find in this beautiful country. The fermented shark was the one CJ went with this time and as it was explained they are meat from Greenland sharks which are poisonous…cue wife freak out. They ferment these sharks in salt and serve them with their own Icelandic liquor called Brennivin which is a must try in it’s own if you like liquor. According to our bartender you chew the shark 10 times for the flavor and after you swallow it you take the shot to kill the poison…BIZARRE and overall glad I didn’t try it but he said it was interesting and felt fine the rest of the day. If you have that adventurous palate then he highly recommends the experience.
#10 Pick your souvenirs wisely. We always buy a magnet, ornament and some kind of locally made art for souvenirs. We only got the magnet and ornament this time which cost us about $25 for the two which was fine since I love my little knick knacks to look back on. If you are really hurting for some dough at the end of your trip I really suggest grabbing a nice lava rock from the beaches or the Geysir along the Golden Circle. We started this when we first went on a trip in Europe and have gotten a rock or something similar from each place we visited, we write where it came from and the date and they have their own little jar until I find something more creative to do with them. Souvenirs are great but costly so decide what you want and how much you want to spend on it. There are free and cheap ways to get a little memory to take home as well like a rock, or coaster from a cool restaurant.
I hope some of these tips help you save a little money in Iceland and really enjoy the beautiful country that it is. Iceland is truly one of a kind where you can look at ice capped mountains and the rolling waves on the beach at the same time. Travel is a blessing and dream, if it’s something you have a passion for you will always make it work. I hope you have a fantastic trip if you’re planning one and if you aren’t well then it’s time to start!