Years ago, we had some friends that mentioned that they wanted to go to Iceland. I had only been recently bitten by the travel bug and never would’ve thought to go to there. I mean, besides geography class in grade school, I don’t think I had ever heard anyone bring up the country in conversation until then. It really struck my curiosity, and I ended up doing a Google search that day. I was instantly in awe of the country. Right then and there, Iceland went on the bucket list of places to go.
I bet you that it’s had that effect on you too.
Fast forward a few years, and now we have a toddler. Not only was Iceland still on our radar, but it has also become a more popular place to visit making flights easy to find and more affordable making it that much more enticing. Despite having a little one, we decided it was time. We booked our flights and started preparing. Are you in the same boat? Because we just got back recently, and I have to admit that having our son along for the trip made the experience so much better.
Iceland is the kind of place that gives as much as you put into it. That said, preparation is key to make the most of your trip. We spent a week there and got to explore Reykjavik and the southern coast. One day, we hope to go back and discover the whole island. Until then, here’s 9 pieces of advice to have an amazing time in Iceland if you’re planning to go with your little one…
1. Be Prepared to Drive
I don’t advise on booking tours with little ones because you can easily miss out on landmarks due to their nap schedules and potential uneasiness on buses. If you rent a car, you can go at your pace, enjoy each landmark as long as you want, and allow them to nap when they need to. The drives are long, so this makes for a more pleasant adventure for everyone! That said…
2. Bring Your Own Car seat and Some of Your Favorite Family Tunes
Bringing our own carseat was helpful because our son was familiar with it, so when it came time to buckle him in, he felt right at home. Often times when we travel, we try to make sure to surround him with things he’s familiar with to help make the transition more comfortable. That’s also where the music comes in. You can make CDs or fill your iPods with music they love to make the drives enjoyable. We had many “carpool karaoke” moments.
3. Mentally Prepare Yourself with the Idea that You Might Not Be Able to See Everything Together
When we found Silfra, the place where the Eurasian and North American plates divided, our son fell asleep on the drive. Instead of skipping it altogether, my husband and I took turns soaking in the views and appreciating the landmark separately. We had a feeling this would happen, so it helped that we already had that in mind.
4. Bring Familiar Snacks, but Mix It Up with Some New Ones
As I mentioned earlier, bringing familiar things helps your tots adjust so we always try to bring his favorite goodies anywhere we go – including on the car rides. We also went to the market to buy things we thought he’d like to introduce him to new foods too, so it was fun to be able to switch it up for him. He fell in love with Skyr – an Icelandic yogurt.
5. Stay at a Place with a Kitchenette
As you know, switching time zones can throw everyone in for a loop. If you head to Iceland in the summer like we did, 20 hours of sunshine is also no joke. How do you adjust? Honestly, we didn’t really adjust much. We went with the flow and having a kitchen readily available to us helped us make sure that if our boy got hungry at odd hours, we would have sandwiches to eat in the fridge or something quick to put together on the stove. Not to mention, it saves a ton of money because eating out in Iceland will quickly get expensive.
6. Blue Lagoon is Worth It!
If you’re going to Iceland, I’m pretty sure the Blue Lagoon is on your to-visit list. It’s very family-friendly, and you can borrow floaties for your kids as part of your entry. Because our son is a bit smaller, we brought our own, but note that if your child is 8 or younger, they must wear floaties in the water. I do have to mention, you will notice some people say that it’s not worth it and “too touristy.” I admit that it is to some degree, but it is an iconic place in Iceland, so if you don’t plan on visiting the country again anytime soon, I say it’s worth the trip. Our son had a blast, and it was a relaxing spa-like experience for us.
7. Be Aware that the Weather is Very Unpredictable
You are likely going to see the weather change with every 10-20 minutes of driving. You will go from sunshine, to snow, to rain, to wind through one day’s drive, so pack stuff to keep warm and to keep yourself dry. We would wear a fall-appropriate outfit then pack a thicker jacket along with any accessories each day so we could layer on as needed. To give you a taste, we experienced fog in Vik, strong winds at Gulfoss, sunshine at the tongues of glaciers, and rain at Skogafoss. Be prepared for these changes, and you’ll be able to take each stop in stride.
8. Take your Time
Trust me, there’s an endless list of things to see and do, but the best way to enjoy Iceland is to take your time to soak in every spot you make it to. List the places you want to see and prioritize. If time allows it, then see more things, but the key is to let your child explore a little. Be flexible with your plans. It’s not often children will get to see places like this. I guess what I’m trying to say is, know that you won’t be able to see every single landmark that you intend to, but make every landmark you do make it to worthwhile.
And last, but not least…
9. Know that You’re Going to Have the Most Amazing Experience Together
Iceland is the kind of place that will spark your imagination, and it will light up the eyes of your child. Natural wonders tend to do that to the human spirit, and I definitely saw that come to life in our son. Even though the drives were long, at every stop as we put our jackets on, my son would ask “Go exploring?!” That’s when I knew this trip was enriching for every single one of us. As cliche as it may be, there’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of a child.
This place is exactly what you’ll imagine it to be, and then some. The people are wonderful, and everywhere felt accommodating to families. You will not feel out of place. If anything, you might just feel right at home in a country you never even considered could be home.
Vy blogs about parenting, life and family travels -check out her blog
Have you been to Iceland. Tell us about it in the comments.
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