We’re back! We landed back at home from Iceland on Wednesday night and have since been recovering from jet lag and hanging around home before going back to work on Monday. We were all sick over Christmas and the cold lingered for the start of our trip, but we otherwise had a fabulous time.
We spent eleven days and ten nights in Iceland, and we’re now already talking about wanting to go back again for a summertime trip, as it would be a completely different experience. No matter what, it is definitely a country we would like to return to someday.
Thanks to the queue of blog posts I had ready before Christmas, this is my first full one I’ve written since a few days before the holiday. I have to say, taking a winter break from the blog was really nice, and I think I will make an annual tradition of it. I adore this blog and I do love writing regularly, but taking a few weeks of break was more needed than I realized. Even if half of it wasn’t spent sick and/or traveling, it will allow me to lean in to the holidays in a way that regular blogging doesn’t leave time for.
That said, it feels good to be back and writing down my thoughts once again. I plan to write a full post later with more details on the trip (as well as costs, once I’ve finished rallying them up), but for now, here are the Friday’s Frugal Five: Iceland Edition.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure for more info.
Friday’s Frugal Five
1. My husband and our roommate checked one suitcase each, but the kiddo, Bob, and I traveled with carry on luggage only. Icelandair has a particularly steep cost for checked bags – close to $100 each, round trip – so we decided to make it work without.
They also have extra small carry on size restrictions, but the kiddo and I were able to borrow two pieces of luggage from my mom that fit the smaller size. Otherwise, we each brought a small day pack as our personal item to fit under the airplane seat. Boots and jackets were worn, as they were the largest items we brought along.
I did laundry throughout the trip, either in the washer that we had at our first Airbnb and in the sink at the later places we stayed. Accepting that we would do laundry a few times throughout the trip meant we could pack lightly, and it wasn’t a big deal to hang clothes to dry after washing (Iceland is generally heated by hot water radiant heaters on the walls, and they make excellent drying racks).
2. We stocked up on drinks at airport duty free store, as we were told that it was the cheapest place in the country to buy alcohol. Watching prices, that was absolutely the case by a good half. They do limit the amount you can buy per person, and we still had to walk to our Airbnb once getting off the bus, so we didn’t buy as much as we could have. 20/20 hindsight, the prices were so much cheaper we likely should have bought our limit.
We did buy a few drinks out (and happy hour when it was available), but for the most part, we shopped at the state-run liquor stores and enjoyed our drinks back at the Airbnb for a fraction of the price. And of course, we had to try the local beer while we had the chance. Much of it was very good.
3. We didn’t rent a car for the days while we were in Reykjavik, as we’d booked an Airbnb near the city center. It is an extremely walkable city, and we lucked out with weather in the 30s to low 40s over our days there, so we explored the city entirely on foot (it got a lot colder for the rest of the trip). We’d expected to take the bus some, but found that we didn’t need it at all because we were staying so centrally.
My husband and I did end up taking the city bus back to the airport to pick up the car for the rest of the trip, which saved quite a bit of money over the special airport shuttle bus. The standard city bus itself, while more expensive to get out to the airport than around town, was also a very nice long range type bus and very comfortable.
We then picked up the rest of our group and headed on to a cabin outside of Reykholt, then a ferry to Vestmannaeyjar (The Westman Islands), and then to Keflavík to finish out our last few days in Iceland near to the airport.
4. Over the week and a half we were in Iceland, we cooked and ate about two thirds of our meals at the places we were staying. For the most part, we did our grocery shopping at Bónus, one of the country’s budget grocery store chains. We actually love checking out new grocery stores while we travel, so it was fun getting to do the shopping for our meals.
We made ourselves a big New Year’s Eve meal of schnitzel, pasta, red cabbage, blood sausage, and plokkfiskur, all purchased from the local grocery store and fish market and then prepared at our Airbnb before heading out to watch the fireworks at midnight.
Reykjavik does the New Year right, with fireworks all day long and then well into the night. We ended up walking along the harbor and joining a large bonfire manned bsome local guy and otherwise had a heck of a night, capping it off with a champagne toast once we got back to the condo just before 1AM.
5. Our last three nights in Iceland were spent in Guesthouses (hostels where we booked “family” rooms – one bedroom with a bunch of beds for the five of us and shared space otherwise), one on Vestmannaeyjar and one in Keflavík. Thanks to the very off season we were traveling in, we had the first cottage to ourselves the whole time and the second to ourselves for our last night there.
We were still able to cook and prepare meals there and hang out in the central living area, but ultimately we had chosen those places to help keep the cost down and stretch our dollars – and credit card points. Since our goal was not to sit inside for most of the time, we cared less about the place we were headed to sleep as long as it was clean and safe.
Even so, the Guesthouse in Vestmannaeyjar had an absolutely stunning view and was a short walk from downtown. The one in Keflavík was more basic, but worked well for our purposes. Instead of spending a ton of money on transportation and lodging (thanks to travel hacking, we saving it to spend on food, which was well worth it (with moderation and lots of cooking for ourselves).
This was definitely not our most frugal of vacations, but for a tenth anniversary in an expensive country, it still was fairly cheap, and 100% worth it. We moderated the costs where we could, but I don’t feel that we skimped or skipped on anything due solely to the price.
If you haven’t stayed in an Airbnb before, I would highly recommend it. We love the flexibility it gives us while traveling as a family – full kitchen, laundry, and extra bathrooms, and it’s usually considerably cheaper than a hotel, especially when you travel as a group. If you’re new to Airbnb, here’s a link for$40 off your first stay
We did a ton of walking on this trip, even in the snow and wind when it arrived. Thanks to the cold (especially the cough that went with it), I didn’t go running until almost a week into the trip, but I did manage two runs in the snow at the cabin near Reykholt, which were totally fun. Thanks to all the walking, I had my highest step count last week since the beginning of September.
Have you ever been to Iceland? Is it on your list?