Travel Stories: Weekend Getaway in Iceland
How to do 48 hours in Iceland on the cheap: Travel tips, must-see spots, and more!
Catch me out here booking the next cheap flight to Iceland I find after this one.
Lexxie and I were recently introduced thanks to my boyfriend’s sister, Kelsey, and I’m so glad we were! Thanks so much to Lexxie for sharing her experience in Iceland and answering all of my questions so thoughtfully. Yet another place to put on my travel wishlist, and hopefully yours, too!
For people that don’t already know: Where did you go & where did you stay while you were there?
I went to Iceland for a long weekend. I spent most of my time in Reykjavik, which is Iceland’s capital. I stayed in a hotel close to city center called Hlemmur Square. I believe that it was about $80 a night and was right next to one of their most popular bus stops, which made traveling so convenient. I also split the cost with my boyfriend, so it ended up being comparable to hostel or Airbnb prices.
Were you traveling solo or with a friend?
I traveled with my boyfriend, CJ. It’s become a little tradition for us to do a cheap getaway in lieu of gifts and a fancy dinner.
So you were able to get a round trip flight from Toronto to Reykjavik for $200- how’d you find such a great deal? Do you have any websites or apps you use to find cheap flights?
I did! I used Hopper, which is an app that tracks flights and estimates the cheapest time to take your trip. Iceland and the Northern Lights were on my bucket list, so I was tracking it on the app for a while before I booked them. It’s so convenient because Hopper will send you a notification when they think it’s the cheapest a flight will get. I also booked it on Travel Tuesday (the Tuesday after Cyber Monday) so I think that I saved money there, too. I will note that because I flew on Iceland’s budget airline, WOW Air, I did have to pay a ridiculous price just for a carry on ($50 each way!) So CJ and I split one carry on and the cost. I would recommend anyone who was traveling alone to try and just pack a backpack to avoid the cost.
Is Iceland really as expensive as everyone says it is?!
Yes and no. I did a fair bit of research before going on the trip and saw so many articles and videos about how expensive eating was going to be, so to be honest I had a moment before the trip where I was fully panicking about the cost and felt I had made a huge mistake. But, because of that preparation I was smart about food and packed Lara Bars to snack on throughout the day and on the plane and would buy Skyr – a super creamy and delicious Icelandic yogurt – to eat for breakfast. But, it’s easy for the costs to pile up. Coffees were normally $7 – 10 dollars, and it was uncommon to find a meal less that $15 per person. When we could, CJ and I would just split one dish (portions are big). Alcohol was also like $13 for a beer, so I just avoided drinking anything other than water. So yes, it is expensive, but if you plan beforehand you can be stretch your money.
What advice would you give someone that is looking to go to Iceland for the first time? What are your must-see spots?
My first bit of advice would be to just spend a day exploring the city. I had the lowest expectations for the city of Reykjavik and was most excited for the excursions like the Blue Lagoon and the Northern Lights, but honestly the city was my favorite part. They have this grand concert hall and opera house called the Harp and it’s right on the border of the ocean and you can see the mountains from its massive window panes. The architecture is gorgeous and window shopping in the gift shop was a blast. The entire city is so picturesque, I mean it’s breathtaking. So, if you can, just take it easy one day and walk around without direction.
On the more adventurous side, depending on when you go, I would recommend booking a Northern Lights tour and go hunting for them. Unfortunately, it was a full moon during our trip, so the light pollution didn’t give us a full show, but we did get a glimpse of them. There’s plenty of reasonably priced tours ($25-30) and the opportunity worthwhile to me. If you have the time and money, I also recommend the Blue Lagoon – it’s a tourist trap, it’s expensive, but it’s unlike anything else I’ve ever experienced, and, in the end, it was worth every penny.
When you’re traveling, do you like to hit up all the touristy things, or do you feel that you gravitate more to local spots?
A combination of both, I would say. I took a Travel Photography class to Naples and Southern Italy a few years ago and it really taught me to step away from the obvious touristy items and appreciate the little details – how people dress and talk, what and when they eat, the architecture of a city and what the community finds beautiful. That’s special and you can’t find that in a tourist trap. But, at the same time, I have a hefty bucket list and I want to die with very little money left and a lot of outlandish memories. So, I’ll make the time for the obligatory trip to the touristy spot but make time for the local’s favorite restaurant or to just randomly explore without a destination to take in the city for what it really is.
Having a full-time job, most of my travels are quick 48 hour or quick getaway trips too. Did you feel like you experienced any travel burnout with such a quick trip? If so, what did you do to overcome that/what advice would you give other people looking to do the same?
Haha, I definitely feel that! Working full-time means being very strategic with your PTO. I’m blessed to get an above average amount – 18 days a year – but it results in me taking quick, whirlwind getaways more often than not. I’m a big fan of overnight flights so I can catch my zzz’s (I can sleep anywhere at any time, so I’m lucky in that regard) and it makes it feel more rested. If you’re able to work from home on the first day back, that helps a lot too. It also helps to make a to do list before you leave of everything you need to get done, at home and at work, when you get back. Then, prioritize that into things into four buckets: things that are important and urgent, not important but urgent, important but not urgent, and neither important or urgent. I’m a little type A so having a plan makes things a little easier!
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Exploring the city my first day there. The sun didn’t rise until like 1:00 p.m. and we got beautiful weather when it did (well, beautiful for Iceland, which is like 25 degrees and sunny with the occasional light snowfall). It was a clear day with blue skies and you could see the mountains perfectly…I fell in love and in that simple, insignificant moment, just staring out at the landscape. And that part was completely free!
Anything you want to add/advice you want to share?
Don’t wait until you retire. Do it now. Catch the bug. Take little trips frequently. I have a weird sense of urgency, like I can die any minute and I want to focus so much on the thing that I love the most with the people I love the most. I don’t often buy new clothes (and when I do, they’re second hand) and I don’t like to spend money on “stuff”. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but I really think that (within reason) when you prioritize traveling, you find a way to make it work.
Also, try the Rye Bread Ice Cream at Café Loki. It doesn’t make sense but for the love of god it is strangely delicious.
Got a cool travel story to share or know someone that does? Let me know!
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which may result in personal financial gain.