Iceland – Budget Travel, But Like How?
It’s true, Iceland is not exactly an inexpensive place to vacation/holiday, but Iceland budget travel is not impossible! (Did you follow all those double negatives? lol!) Perhaps it’s comparable to the California prices I encounter day to day. BUT with a little planning, you can experience Iceland affordably by making wise decisions when it comes to your biggest (and non-negotiable) expenses: airfare, accommodations, and food. Here are my thoughts.
Don’t be a diva, try flying a budget airline! Wow Air is now flying from so many US cities, I’ve lost track. If you have a lot of lead time, sign up for their mailing list! Wow Air has sales semi-regularly, so when a deal comes up, you can jump on it. And if tempted to jump, do so immediately. Look up their baggage/seating/food prices in advance, so you don’t get delayed during the booking process! If you know the rules, you can play their game to make Iceland budget travel possible.
On one fantastic deal, I dawdled just a bit, thinking that I had until the time they listed on the email. Turns out the deal expired more than 6 hours before the time they listed. I called their customer service and the nice Icelandic gentleman basically over-the-phone shrugged and said they had an overwhelming response that they shut down the deal early.Luckily a couple weeks later they had another promotion.
Boyfriend and I got a flight direct LAX to REK for $378/per person. This included one personal item (backpack) per person and one checked piece of luggage. I did not purchase seat locations, but did purchase the tickets together, so perhaps that is why we were seated next to each other in both directions. For food, it’s true, they do not serve anything for free. The prices were reasonable, but we prepared and brought so many snacks.
No food-service thoughts: instead of regular interruptions and anticipation of being fed or worrying about not get fed, there was a constant crinkle buzz of people eating their personal snacks. I didn’t mind. The seats themselves are not exactly comfortable, but are any economy seats? We planned appropriately (even refilled our water-bottles in LAX), so I enjoyed the flight, slept well enough, saw a tiny peak of the northern lights, and arrived a half hour early! I’ll be flying Wow again.
ACCOMMODATIONS + FOOD
The design-focused mentality of Iceland had me drooling when looking into accommodation options. There are some truly stunning hotel… but sadly that would not be Iceland budget travel all tall. I recommend looking Airbnb and other rental options. I found adorable, well-designed, individual cottages in the places we stayed. Many times, I had to decide between these adorbs cottages or low-tier run down hotels – no brainer! The cottages were often more remotely located, which exactly what I wanted for aurora hunting. See below for images of the places we snagged off Airbnb.
I’ve included food into the accommodations section because eating can get SUPER expensive over time. We ate at mainly vegan/vegetarian restaurants and our meals usually were around $40-50 for two people (even for lunch). So to reduce costs, we cooked at our Airbnbs. Yes, this means more research to make sure your Airbnb has a kitchen, more work grocery shopping, and more work cooking. At the same time, I think it’s worthwhile to wake up to coffee and warm breakfast as you watch the sun rise over snow-covered field with Icelandic ponies frolicking in the orange morning light. True story. I also LOVE seeing the fun foods that other countries carry in their stores and how locals shop. Check my vegan eats post for suggestions about where to shop on a budget. Recommendations of a few cooking-at-home items are listed in the vegan eats article too!
Instead of any bus tours, we choose to get a rental car. Although expensive, this was all the entertainment we needed for our trip. We didn’t even do any hikes while in Iceland and had plenty to do. There are hot springs/hot pots, waterfalls, view points, and beautiful drives to take up your time. A friend of mine also went to Iceland recently and her group stayed at a ranch, where they got to interact with the ponies! Think about what is the MOST important thing for you and spend your excursion money on what matters most. See posts about visiting Akureyri and driving the Southwest portion of the ring-road.
Le sigh, although they carefully hand-knit sweaters, I couldn’t allow myself that big of a splurge this trip to Iceland. Shopping can be painful in Iceland. I was able to find a few thrift shops while researching for our trip, but we never ended up passing by when we had time on our hands. My advice: do your weather research, pack appropriately, and know that this is not the trip to bring back every person in the office a souvenir. Wait for the time you go to Mexico or other country with artisan markets to be super generous.
What are your tips to saving money when traveling to pricier destinations?