This whole trip started because Nicole and I wanted to do something different from our normal lives and experience something new.
At the beginning of the new year, I'm talking around January 2nd, we were talking about different places to see and when to go. I suggested going somewhere before the start of September when we would have more money and time to plan. Nicole said that would be too far away and she couldn't have been more right. Since we didn't have much money at the time I was thinking "what's the cheapest place we could go to right now?" Without looking at prices, Vancouver and Iceland were on the top of my list. I was at Vancouver last year and I loved the city so I wanted to experience more. I love the outdoors and being near the mountains. After looking at flight prices though, I quickly realized that wasn't happening. At the time it was around $800 to Vancouver from Toronto (where we are). My mom had been telling me how cheap flights to Iceland were so we looked into it. Nicole suggested using this site called Student Universe to look for flights. It's a site like Travelocity that gathers information from a bunch of different travel sites and finds the cheapest price. (You have to be a student to use it but the screening process isn't very strict.) We found flights for around $400 and how could you beat that? Different country and different continent for way less than a flight to Vancouver. I'm sure everyone has seen and heard how pretty Iceland is too so the decision was made. We're going to Iceland.
With the plane tickets, the other biggest expense was renting a car. From doing a bunch of research online we saw that you pretty much NEED to rent car if you want to see Iceland (or just spend A LOT of money on tours). We planned on going at the end of February which is still winter in Iceland and this had it's pros and cons. The pros were that tourism in Iceland is REALLY popular during the summer which makes everything three times more expensive. Since we were going in the winter we didn't have to deal with that. The cons were that the weather is probably going to be bad (which it definitely was) and this meant we had to rent a vehicle that had all wheel drive. This made the rental car expensive. I used Travelocity to find us a rental car and we somehow found an amazing deal. It was around $30/day with unlimited mileage. We also looked into renting a camper van which would have been great because we wouldn't have had to pay for places to stay and just slept in the camper van but it was out of our budget. We went with a normal car. The company that Travelocity found for us was FOX Rent A Car and we chose to rent a Suzuki Jimny. We don't have this car in North America but it's pretty much like a small Jeep. At this point we have a flight and we have a rental car. The next step was to make a plan.
There's a couple things that we found out about Iceland from our research.
- Iceland is pretty much a big circle. The outside of the circle is mostly accessible using a highway called Highway 1 or the "Ring Road". The center of Iceland is mostly glaciers and only accessible during summer with big cars/ trucks on roads called "F Roads". These are unpaved, gravel roads and most rental car companies don't allow you to drive their car on these roads because they could be hazardous to drive on.
- Unless you want to go to the Blue Lagoon, or do extreme things like walk on glaciers and scuba dive, you can see all the sites in Iceland if you drive there yourself. A lot of tour services post the places they visit on their website and if you just make note of where they go you can drive there, on your own, for free.
- There's no admission charge to any of the natural sites. It's not like here in Canada where you have to pay to enter a national park. Everything is free. (That was our experience in the winter. Maybe it's not free during the summer?)
- While flying to Iceland is cheap, everything else on the island is really expensive. Gas for example was around $100 for a full tank. A plate of fish and chips at a gas station, in a small town / not a tourist area, was $32 Canadian. Groceries however were relatively the same (we found this out when we were there).
With these things in mind, we decided that we would travel around Iceland on the Ring road, seeing the sites and sleeping in an Air Bnb every other night to shower, make food and charge camera batteries. For the nights we didn't stay at an Air Bnb we would sleep in the car.
From the research we did using Google and Instagram locations we made a list places that we wanted to go, then scheduled and a mapped out the intended trip. We kept in mind how long it would take to drive to each place and added time we would spend at each site. We made this rough schedule (below) on google docs so we could both edit it before we left and refer to it during the trip.
Another thing that we needed to plan for was food. Everything was really expensive so what were we going to eat? We decided to buy a bunch of food before hand that we could cook at the Air Bnbs and foods that didn't spoil very quickly. Things like beef jerky, pepperoni, bagels and pitas are what we ate on the days when we didn't cook. It's not a very good diet but we weren't going to live like this forever. (We're young! It's okay) We went to grocery stores when we were there and bought fruits and vegetables for some variety, also.
Last thing that we planned was how to keep warm when sleeping in the car during winter. Well if you live in North America, like we do you have access to Walmart and Walmart has a great return policy... which we took advantage of. We bought sleeping bags and returned them. The idea was to wear lots of warm clothes and just hide inside a sleeping bag while trying to lay as flat as we could in the car. We also had these hand warmers that we bought on Amazon to give us some additional warmth.
This is how we planned our trip. I'm going to make a blog post every Sunday for the next couple weeks on the experiences we had day to day so if you'd like to see how the plan worked out and get some further insight into the places we saw and Iceland in general check the rest of the posts!
If you do plan on going to Iceland and booking an Air Bnb, or booking an Air Bnb for any adventure sign up with this link (www.airbnb.ca/c/craigb14041) and you'll get $50 off the price of your stay! I get some Air Bnb credit too so it's help me fund future trips.
A few pictures of what's to come below!