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Vacationing in Iceland with Kids

Our family recently visited Iceland for our 30 year wedding anniversary and it felt like a dream come true. I could not have wished for a more dreamy vacation. Many of you wanted to know more of the details, so I am happy to share them with you, but there are a few things you should know:

  • I have older kids (16, 19, 22) who are athletic and adventurous and love all things geeky science, (my daughter wanted to be a paleontologist/geologist/ninja/cowgirl when she was little) so that is how we plan our activities, based on their interests. I know this isn't for everyone.
  • We are not big spenders. We are conscious of the cost of things like flights / hotels / restaurants / shopping, but on vacations we do splurge on good food and comfortable bedrooms / bathrooms for everyone. This isn't the cheapest way to do Iceland. . . but somewhere in the middle.
  • Everything in Iceland is dependent on the time of year and the temperature. We went in the summer (August) which only gets up to 55 degrees there during their warmest months. And it is cloudy and rains A LOT. (we don't mind the rain since our years in Seattle taught us there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation for the weather.)
  • Food is a big deal to us and a big part of our vacation. It is also pricey in Iceland. If you want to save money, there is a Costco on the drive from the airport into Reykjavik, you could shop at the beginning of your trip because even the grocery store is expensive. (half gallon of milk $7 ish)
  • Brush up on your ability to drive a manual transmission automobile. The rental cars are mostly manuals. Both my husband and I are proficient in driving manuals, but their automobiles are different than American made models, so familiarize yourself with the metric system, (kilometers versus miles) and practice driving a manual transmission before you go.
  • Check your mobile phone availability before you go. Our provider (T-Mobile) said on the website we would have service in most areas. But when we arrived, we didn't have any service the whole duration of our trip. We relied on whether wifi was available or not. If we did it again, we would buy burner phones so we could communicate easily when splitting up.
  • I personally would NOT take young children to Iceland and spend the money. I would wait until the kids are older. The long flight, enduring the time change and jet lag, and the driving to scenic places requires a lot of patience. If you just want a beach and beautiful scenery, maybe go to the Oregon Coast. There are a lot of beautiful places to go that are cheaper and closer for me. Iceland is for exploring. But if you have money, patience, and a sense of adventure, it is a beautiful place to be regardless of age.

General Advice


This book is helpful to read before you travel. It gave me a ton of information on what to consider our day trips around, as well as ideas with food and suggestions for parking. There is a LOT to see in Iceland, so you're going to want to do some research before you go and narrow down your choices. Order here on Amazon.


For packing, I recommend a combo water/hike combination shoe that you can also wear with socks. I wore my Teva water sandals the entire trip, sometimes with wool socks.

Pack clothing with layers in mind. We hiked to the recent Meradalir volcano eruption and were glad we had a base layer moisture wicking undergarment, along with our favorite hoodies and waterproof parkas for the hike. 

ALSO - make sure your fitness is on point so you can do a hike like this! The total hike to the eruption site is around 12 km (3-4 hours) long and challenging. I am pretty fit and thought the terrain was difficult, but worth it! We were so lucky to experience a recently erupted volcano, this is one for the books! During our guided  tour with a volcanologist, we were able to see the newly formed lava field from the recent eruption.


We stayed in downtown Reykjavik in an Airbnb loft apartment on the main street called Skolavordustigur and loved it. The pros; we got a great deal, it was reasonably priced, central to shopping and restaurants, cafes, and bookstores.

The downside: parking was tricky, it is touristy and busy, and some of the locals in the shops seemed bothered by tourists. Overall, we were still happy about our choice.

Here is a photo of the view right outside our Airbnb apartment. At the top of the street, you'll see Hallgrimskirkja, a cathedral with a beautiful bell tower located in the heart of Reykjavik.



We planned one excursion each day. With teenagers, it works best for us to have one family adventure together a day, and then head back to our apartment for free time and down time. Our teens loved this pace so they could go hang out in a cafe, spend hours in book stores, get food or go exploring Reykjavik together.


Golden Circle Day Trip: This is one that you'll want to pack a lunch and snacks for. We took our time and enjoyed a picnic all to ourselves on a random pullout along the drive overlooking some horse stables, barns and farm country.

The Golden Circle is a tourist route in southern Iceland, covering about 300 kilometres looping from Reykjavík into the southern uplands of Iceland and back. We saw gorgeous waterfalls, and some of the most popular natural attractions: Thingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and Gullfoss waterfall.



Black Sand Beaches of Vik:  We are big Star Wars enthusiasts, so seeing the area where the film Rogue One was filmed was a must for us. Vik is also where Game of Thrones was filmed. So fun! It is a bit of a drive from Reykjavik, so get a good start earlier in the day if you are staying in Reykjavik. 


Random picnic at a nameless waterfall on the way to Vik: Sometimes it's the unplanned experiences that are most impactful. For us, we had a magical moment at this waterfall eating our sandwiches and soaking in the sunshine. Since we've been home, this moment is still talked about as the highlight of our trip. 


We really enjoyed the restaurants for dinner in Reykjavik. Be prepared to spend money on food. One of the best dinners we have ever eaten was at Reykjavik Fish House. My daughter and I had the Char Fish Special with iron skillet mixed vegetables, and my son and husband had the cod fish and chips. We also shared the creme chocolate cake for desert and were in heaven.

When we were on the road, we had fun stopping along the way to pick up food at the grocery stores. The grocery stores there have a delicious variety of cheap, and usually healthy ways to eat lunch on the go. We bought pre-made sandwiches, Iceland candy bars called lava bars, and snacks unique to Iceland. It was fun for the kids to explore the aisles and see the European brands of foods.



We only had four days in country. The first day was spent in Reykjavik exploring and recovering from jet lag. When we go back and take our middle son who is currently serving a two year mission for our church (and therefor didn't get to go,) we will also include doing the following: Glacier Blue Ice Cave Tour, more time in Vik and do the Viking Horse black sand beach tour, and the Blue Lagoon world famous geo-thermal pool and spa experience for a day.

For those who have been to Iceland with their kids, what did I miss or what needs to be shared when planning a family vacation? Please share!!

I hope you enjoyed this little peak into one of the funnest family vacations we've taken so far.



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