What to Pack for a Trip to Iceland

I use a  Nikon D3300  camera and have a Columbia jacket.

I use a Nikon D3300 camera and have a Columbia jacket.

Wondering what to pack for Iceland?

One of the biggest questions I had before traveling to Iceland was, what do I even pack? I live in an area that gets pretty cold in the winters, so I am used to dressing for the cold, however, I was totally new to the idea of dressing in waterproof materials. I’m here to provide my own insight on how and what to pack for your visit to Iceland!

When are you traveling? This is very important as Iceland does have seasons, and they can vary quite greatly. The weather in Iceland changes rapidly and frequently. You may experience sunshine, rain, snow, and ice all on the same day. Layering and having the right gear is critical to enjoy Iceland to the fullest.

Layers are your best friend.

I have traveled in the Autumn and will be traveling again in the Winter. Regardless of when you will be visiting, there are essential items you will need:

  • Fleece jacket/ pullover

  • Waterproof/windproof jacket

  • Waterproof pants (I use these)

  • Sturdy and waterproof walking/hiking boots

  • Gloves

  • Scarves

  • Beanie (I really like this handmade one and this fleece lined one)

  • Swimsuit(s)!

  • Thermal underwear/ warm base layers (I love fleece leggings)

  • Warm socks like these

  • Quick-dry towel (to take with you when you visit hot springs)

  • Sunglasses (the sun reflects off the snow, too!)

  • Energy/Meal bars (linked my favorites down below)

  • Camera

  • Day Pack (carrying your traditional purse is not going to work, opt instead for a small backpack)

  • Reusable water bottle (you can fill it up in most of the running streams of water in Iceland)

  • Power adapter (they use the Europlug in Iceland)

If you are traveling in the summer, I hear it is quite pleasant and you will not need nearly as many layers. They do have the Midnight Sun in Iceland, so if you are light sensitive be sure to pack eye shades. You will still want to pack your waterproof gear, especially if you plan on seeing the waterfalls. Some are quite powerful and you WILL get wet.

Awesome flat lay from  www.fromicetospice.com

Awesome flat lay from www.fromicetospice.com

If you are traveling from October to March, you are basically traveling in the Icelandic winter. The Gulf Stream keeps temperatures pretty mild so while the wind chill can be below freezing, it is not as frigid as you might be imagining. Layering will be important, so pack base layers such as quick dry tops and bottoms, thermal or long johns, fleece jacket1s, sweaters, and of course the critical waterproof outer layer such as rain pants and a warm waterproof coat. Staying dry is one of the most important things about traveling in Iceland. I plan on packing some of those heat packs to put inside of my gloves and shoes to keep my extremities extra warm and toasty. I am also considering buying and bringing Crampons to fit onto my hiking boots so that I won’t be slipping and sliding on the ice.

Are you mainly staying and exploring in Reykjavik? You won’t need as much ‘active gear’. It is a cosmopolitan city and they dress very fashionably. You will want to pack nice shoes and nice looking pants. Try not to look like you just came in from a 15-mile hike!

Geothermal pools (or hot pots) are found all over Iceland, you definitely want to pack a swimsuit!

Geothermal pools (or hot pots) are found all over Iceland, you definitely want to pack a swimsuit!

Do not forget your swimwear! Hot pots (geothermal pools) are a major part of Icelandic culture, and one of my favorites. A swimsuit and a quick drying towel will be all you need. Trust me, you will regret it if you opt out of bringing one.

DO pack the right footwear. Don’t assume the tennis shoes you use to hike in at home are going to work for you in Iceland. Mountain rocks, black sand, ice: these are the terrains you’ll be walking on so you’d better have resistant and waterproof hiking shoes while exploring Iceland.

Do you plan on traveling Ring Road? I would highly recommend bringing one or two Tupperware containers and some travel utensils so that you can store leftovers or meals to eat along the way. This is more affordable and gives you more time to focus on exploring. Meal/protein bars are also great to have on hand as gas stations can be few and far between in the more rural parts of the country. I bought a case and packed into my checked bag. I personally love Square Bars and GoMacro

If you forget something? No worries. Reykjavik is a beautiful city full of Icelandic shops. Stores like 66 Degrees North and Icewear have all of your clothing needs. If you want to take home a piece of Icelandic culture, there are a variety of shops that sell hand-knitted wool sweaters aka a lopapeysa, socks, gloves, and hats.

Wondering if you need to bring cash? You really don’t. As long as you have a chip credit or debit card, you will find that you can buy anything that you may want or need.

Also, forget the umbrella. It’s way too windy in Iceland for an umbrella to work for long.

One last thing, ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.

Traveling as a Vegan in Iceland

Íslenska Flatbakan

Íslenska Flatbakan

Do you feel like everyone you know is making a trip to Iceland? Iceland is definitely experiencing a boom in their tourism sector, and for good reason. When I first met Danny, he had a trip to Iceland planned. He invited me along in passing, and sent over his flight itinerary. WOW Air has SUCH amazing offers to fly directly into Reykjavik – how could I say no? I booked my flight. (And the rest is history)

Fast forward to September, and we were boarding the plane headed for Reykjavik. I had anticipated that eating vegan in Iceland would be tough, as I had read blogs and seen posts about the Icelandic diet which consists of dairy and meat. Icelandic climate was not really made for the ability to grow vegetables and fruit, and the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables is steep. I had done my research and knew to shop at Budget, which is a comparable grocery chain to Aldi. I had anticipated the need for snacks so prior to the trip I had purchased 2 boxes of GoMacro bars, Go Green Nuzest bars and a large tub of PB2 that I had packed up in our checked bags.

I was grateful for the forethought to pack snacks because we rented a car and were traveling a lot on the highway in the countryside of Iceland, and there were few food options. Also, food in Iceland is fucking expensive. If you are on any kind of budget, food is where you will need to be the most frugal. Shopping at Budget is definitely my recommendation especially if you are staying at an Airbnb or a hostel that has access to a kitchen. My other suggestion would be to absolutely take advantage of your duty free allowance on alcohol. Other than that, though, there was really no reason at all for me to be concerned with food options as a vegan in Iceland. The Icelandic word for vegan is vegan – so just tell your wait staff that you need your option to be vegan. They will let you know if it is possible, or not.

Below, I am going to share restaurants that we visited and tips for traveling Iceland as a vegan.


Pasta with red sauce and vegan crumbles, all found at a Bonus! 

Pasta with red sauce and vegan crumbles, all found at a Bonus! 

Bonus (grocery store) – Here you will find all of the usual food and pantry items as any other grocery chain. I would recommend pasta, red sauce sauce, the vegan beef crumbles, vegan jelly, oatmeal, frozen veggies and couscous. Be careful with the breads – I had to google Icelandic word for milk (mjólk). You can also find soy yogurt in the refrigerated section. 

icelandfood2.jpg
icelandfood1.jpg

Gló (restaurant) – Pictured above, this is an awesome spot for vegan options, we ate here twice at two different locations. They have a great lunch special where you can get an option with 3 of their salad sides. The lasagna is amazing!

icelandfood4.jpg

Nordic Restaurant in Seyðisfjordur in the Eastern fjords – a few restaurants had closed for the off-season in Seyðisfjordur already but thankfully Nordic had a delicious in-house beet veggie patty and some falafel with fresh greens. They even have vegan avocado mouse on their summer menu – we were sad we missed it!

icelandfood6.jpg

Havarí (restaurant and music venue) - Awesome spot off the beaten path. They started as an organic farm and quickly transformed one of the barns into an eatery and music venue. They host music festivals in the summertime, and have a friendly and adorable dog. They make their own vegan sausages which I would highly recommend trying and even buying to take with you on your journey. Very simple menu with lots of root vegetables, obviously, but very delicious. Great coffee, too!

icelandfood7.jpg

Vínyl Kaffi (restaurant) – the one and only 100% vegan restaurant in Iceland. Amazing atmosphere, very fun on a weekend. They have a DJ spinning vinyl and amazing food, beer and dessert options. We both got sandwiches, very delicious and really big portions. A bit on the expensive side, but so if every restaurant in Iceland.

icelandfood9.jpg

Gott (restaurant) – We took a day trip to the Westman Islands which I would highly recommend to make time for! We went to a restaurant and just asked for one of their menu options as “vegan”. They changed it up for us and it was healthy and delicious. A lot of breads in Iceland are not vegan, so most vegetarian options will have to lose the bun or bread. In this case, we got the veggie burgers and they did away with the bun but added steamed sweet potatoes and rice. 

icelandfood10.jpg

Íslenska Flatbakan (restaurant) – BEHOLD! The first time I have been able to have cheese bread sticks since I have gone vegan. This is a small chain pizza restaurant that serve up craft pizzas and beer. Danny and I both would absolutely recommend you stop in, especially if you are a pizza lover. They have 4 vegan options to choose from, as well as the vegan cheese sticks. They have a pretty decent selection of beer as well. We still dream about this place.

Passion Reykjavík (bakery and coffee shop) - I don't have any photos from the inside of Passion, but take my word for it that it is worth stopping by if you have a sweet tooth. They have a small selection of vegan pastries but I would highly suggest that you stop in to sample one of each. It was quite busy with locals stopping in for their morning pastry and coffee, but the wait time was not bad. It is decorated quite elegantly and the pastries speak for themselves.  


Tips:

  • There are cookies in the gas station that say “Veganesti” these are NOT vegan. I learned this from another traveling vegan who made the mistake of assuming.
  • A more expensive grocery chain, Nettó, is an excellent vegan resource. We found endless amounts of vegan options.
  • Really take advantage of Bonus, there are lots of frozen food options but plenty of staple pantry items that are simple and easy to cook up. They have a health section which even includes nutritional yeast. Don’t be afraid to look around and take time looking through ingredient lists.
  • If you will be cooking, pack a couple of Tupperware with you in your checked bag or carry on. We had to get really creative with our leftover food storage. 

The problem with driving around Iceland is that you’re basically confronted by a new soul-enriching, breath-taking, life-affirming natural sight every five goddamn minutes. It’s totally exhausting.
— Stephen Markley

Travel with confidence knowing that there are plentiful amounts of options for you as a vegan in Iceland. Look for my next blog post about Iceland where I will discuss the sights we saw, the route we took and all of our itinerary suggestions for your next trip! 

 

Why I Don't Stay at Hotels Anymore...And Why You Shouldn't Either

Tiny home on wheels in Marietta, OH

Tiny home on wheels in Marietta, OH

Greetings!

If you have ever had more than one conversation with me, you have most likely heard me talk about Airbnb. I am from West Virginia which is characteristically a very slow moving area; pop culture just takes longer to reach us here. I first used Airbnb in January of this year and have since stayed at least once per month for the last 8 months! I am in no way affiliated with Airbnb (although I wish I was) and just wanted to give an honest account of why I think Airbnb is the clear winner over traditional accommodations. I will include a link at the end that will prompt you to sign up with them if you haven’t already, it also works as a coupon and when you sign up and use your coupon, I also get my own coupon.

  1. You get to connect with real humans (not just the face of a company) I always feel like I am supporting small business when I book with Airbnb and that is super important to me. You are not just a customer or a number to these people, they genuinely want you to enjoy your stay and to enjoy the time you spend in their home. They are friendly and accommodating (or they wouldn’t list their property on the site!) and you definitely don’t have to worry about safety because it is all review based, just make sure you read through the reviews before you book and you cannot go wrong. AND you don’t have to stay in a home with the host, you have the option to rent the entire space for yourself. Some people list properties that they don’t live in full time, and those have a more hotel-like feel rather than a home feel.

  2. Which brings me to my next point: options! You have so many options of really cool places to stay. So far this year I have stayed in a tiny home, a tree house, a basement with a laser show shower, whole homes and a room inside an upscale home. Most recently I stayed (very affordable) in Arlington while visiting DC and we stayed in an apartment over a garage that was very modern. You get to decide what kind of place you want to stay in and the options are truly endless. There are lots of amenities to choose from like pet friendly, centrally located, free parking, and number of bedrooms. You almost always have access to a kitchen, and this is one of my favorite parts. As a vegan, I don’t always get to travel to veg-friendly locations and it is so comforting to know that I can bring along food or go to the grocery and be set for my trip.

  3. You get to live like a local (and have a local’s insider tips) The properties listed on Airbnb are immersed in the location of your choosing. You can stay along canals, downtown, uptown, in the suburbs. There is a certain local pride that comes from staying in someone’s home in a place that you are visiting. It becomes personal. You get to live like a local when you are there and it just becomes a more immersive cultural experience than it would be if I was staying in a sterile hotel room that looks identical to 5,000 other sterile hotel rooms. Host and hostesses are always very forthcoming with tips for their town as well. They will offer their suggestions for restaurants, coffee shops, bars, activities and they also will tell you what parts of town to steer clear of. They aren’t making any money off of their suggestions or opinions, they just want you to enjoy your time!

  4. Flexibility. Have you ever gotten into town earlier than check in and just wanted to drop off your bags and freshen up…but you couldn’t because the hotel has a strict check-in and check-out policy? Yeah, not usually the case with Airbnb. They are very accommodating. I have checked in early multiple times without issue. Each host or hostess sets their own cancellation policy, some of which can be cancelled right up until the day before without penalty.

  5. Cheaper. I save so much money. Now, there are plenty of costly Airbnb’s listed and there are plenty of affordable motels. I would prefer to stay in a very nice Airbnb for the cost of a motel. I know that it is clean and well-kept and in a great area. I don’t have to worry about what the room next to me may or may not be up to. I have never felt unsafe while staying at an Airbnb.

If you have never stayed at an Airbnb before, I hope I have inspired you to try it out. Or if you have an extra bedroom or living space, sign up to be a host! What a fun and simple way to make extra money, right? I would come stay! I am staying at 2 separate Airbnb’s in the month of August. A condo in Pittsburgh for my friend’s bachelorette weekend and a large home in Fayetteville, WV with a group of internet friends! In September, I am traveling to Iceland and booked exclusively through Airbnb. It saved us so much money and we get the opportunity to connect with locals who have already given us great suggestions on what to pack and what type of vehicle to rent. If you have never signed up and want to save some dollars, use this link: www.airbnb.com/c/kaitlynr312

Happy travels my friends!