Welcome to our packing and preparing for an Iceland trip post, based on our recent nine-day trip to Iceland. We’re hopeful that this series of posts will assist you in the creation of your own unique Icelandic travel itinerary. This is the twelfth article in our Iceland travel guide series, detailing our tips and recommendations for packing for a Summer trip to Iceland. We’ll include some links to products we found helpful and some of our recommendations.
Below are the links to the individual articles in the series.
Flatlanders Guide To Iceland Blog Post Index
- The Family Guide To Planning A Trip To Iceland
- Our Iceland Itinerary As A Starting Point For Your Trip
- Day 1 – Reykjavik and the Golden Circle
- Day 2 – Hella to Höfn – Holy Cow!!
- Day 3 – Hofn to Neskaupstadur – Scenic cliff drives along Eastern Iceland
- Day 4 – Neskaupstadur to Akureryi via Husavik – Hikes, Hot Pots, and Harbors
- Day 5 – A day in Akureyri watching whales
- Day 6 – Akureyri to Stykkishólmur – Gravel roads, remote waterfalls, and an amazing hamburger
- Day 7 – Stykkishólmur to Reykjavik – Seal Beach, A stop in Bifrost, and exploring Reykjavik
- Day 8 – A day in Reykjavik exploring the food, culture, and shopping
- Day 9 – Spend the morning in Reykjavik and then head home to Kansas City
- Packing and Preparing For Your Iceland Trip
NOTE: To “watch” the visual story of our trip, you can review all 100 photos in our Iceland 2019 Instagram highlight. The story progresses in the order of the nine-day itinerary as listed above.
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Let’s Talk Luggage – How Much Should You Pack For Your Trip To Iceland
One of the questions we have heard from our friends and family regarding our trip was “how much did you pack”? It’s a great question and we thought we’d share our packing experience and how it impacted the trip.
First, as we mentioned in the planning post, a trip from the US to Iceland can be a bit expensive. In order to accommodate our nine day trip for a family of four and stay within budget, we needed to find ways to keep costs down. Believe it or not, how much you back has a pretty sizeable impact on the price of your vacation.
For instance, we purchased Economy Light airline tickets on Iceland Air, which means that we couldn’t check any baggage. If we had upgraded to the next level, which allowed for one bag each, we would have paid an extra $80 each way (that’s after a 20% pre-purchase discount).
For a family of 4, that adds an extra $640 on to our vacation. That’s $640 that we could have used on a whale watching tour, food, fuel, or souvenirs.
If we chose to add the luggage after we purchased our fair, the price to check a bag would have been $120 each way. That’s a whopping $960 just so we could check a bag. OUCH!
…and that’s not the only extra cost that checked baggage would have driven.
If we had all checked an additional bag, then there is no way we would have been able to fit the luggage into our trusty little VW Polo. Instead, we would have had to upgrade to a larger vehicle.
For our nine-day trip, our VW Polo cost us $538.00. As you can see from this photo, the Polo was just the right size for our backpacks and duffel bags.
To upgrade to a larger vehicle that would have fit extra checked bags would probably driven another $200 in rental car costs. And that doesn’t take into account the extra fuel costs driven by the larger vehicle and weight. Even if it only drove another $50 in fuel costs (remember that fuel in Iceland isn’t cheap) that means:
- $640 in extra costs for the four checked bags
- $200 for the larger rental car
- $50 in extra fuel for the larger car
That’s almost $1000 just so we could haul more stuff back and forth across the ocean.
While that might be okay for you and your budget, it didn’t fit in ours.
In Order To Avoid Checked Luggage, What Did We Do?
The answer is, we “thought light” and we planned accordingly.
We knew that half-way through our trip, we would have the apartment in Akureyri. This meant that we had access to a washer/dryer and could do a load of laundry or two. This meant that we only had to pack for four days of clothes. It also meant that we might have to re-wear some clothes, which we were all okay with.
For each of us we packed:
- Five pair of underwear – They roll up nice and tight, so they didn’t take up space.
- Five pair of socks – We knew there was a chance that our feet would get wet with all the waterfalls, and we wanted dry socks.
- Two pairs of pants – One pair of weatherproof hiking pants and one pair of jeans or cargo pants.
- One pair of shorts or sweatpants – For lounging around in the evenings
- Four shirts – We weren’t planning on anything fancy, so we all packed t-shirts
- One pullover or hoodie – Layering is important in Iceland. The weather changes throughout the day, so a hoodie can come on/off based on the conditions.
- A weatherproof shell – Between the wind and the rain, you are going to want a weatherproof jacket with a hood
- A hat – Deb packed a stocking cap, I packed a baseball cap.
- Hiking boots – These are a MUST in Iceland. Whether you’re walking around the beaches, exploring fjords, or hiking around glaciers, you are going to need waterproof hiking boots, both for traction and to keep your feet dry.
- Swimsuit – If you’re going to enjoy the mineral baths (also known as hot pots) you will need a swim suit. For ladies, tops are optional, but for everyone bottoms are mandatory.
- Travel towel – This is great because waterfalls are wet and you’ll need a towel after the mineral baths.
- Your toiletries – Pack light. Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, travel soap, travel brush/comb. Hair ties/scrunchies are a good idea for those with long hair since the wind can really whip in Iceland.
Those were the bare essentials that we all packed…and we survived just fine.
Each of us also brought some extras like our phones, headphones, camera gear, etc…but the items above all fit in our carry-on sized bags.
TIP: If you under-pack and find yourself running low on underwear or socks, just wash them in the sink at the hotel and dry them over the shower rack. Quite a few hotels that we stayed at had heated towel racks, so any wet items would dry really quickly if they were washed in the sink and then placed on the heated rack.
I know it sounds “rustic” to wash your clothes in the sink, but to save $1000, it’s worth it.
To carry our gear, Deb and I both packed our Osprey travel backpacks. Mine is a Farpoint 40l and Deb’s is a Porter 30l and they were perfect for our gear. My Farpoint even carried my camera gear and a travel tripod perfectly.
For the kids, each of them packed a 20l duffel bag and were able to easily carry all their gear.
Because I’m always working, I also carried my laptop in a second travel backpack but I honestly could have fit that in my Farpoint just fine. Next time, I will likely do that in order to cut down on bags that we’re hauling around.
I know that sounds like we packed a lot into small spaces, but that was kind of the point. We all wanted to pack really light and it worked just fine.
NOTE: As a photography hobbyist, I sometimes get caught in the conundrum of overpacking camera gear. What if I need this lens? What if I need that lens? What if I need extra batteries or a gimbal, or a flash….what if.
To avoid camera over-packing for this trip, I limited myself to two lenses and the gear that would fit in this small camera bag. The self-imposed limitation worked great. Sure, there were a few times that I wished I had my longer lens or had some other piece of equipment, but I did just fine and took a ton of photos.
The other nice thing about limiting myself is the back fit perfectly in the bottom of my backpack, so I was able to pack all of my clothes, my travel tripod, and my camera gear in a 40l Osprey pack.
After Deb packed her gear, she even had a little room left, which we filled with a few souvenirs from Iceland.
BTW, if you don’t know about the trip of rolling your clothes when you pack them to save space…learn it and love it. Here’s a video that can really save you some space.
Electronics in Iceland
There are a few things you need to know about using electronics in Iceland in order to ensure you are able to communicate with your family and snap/share all of those amazing photographs.
The power outlets in Iceland use a Type E/F plug
If you traveling from the US, then you need to be sure that you have an adapter for your electronics. We have two of these Type E/F adapters that they worked perfectly. The reason they are great is because they have the traditional single-device plug, but also two USB ports on the bottom.
That means I could plug my laptop in and Deb and I could both charge our mobile devices at the same time. We used one in our room and gave the other one to the kids to share. Both adapters worked everywhere we went.
Cell Service Is Relatively Strong On The Island
With respect to cell service and mobile data, our service provider (Sprint) had a pretty good offering. Through their partnership with SIMINN, Iceland’s biggest telecom provider, we were able to access the phone, text, and mobile data network with no changes to our devices or SIM cards.
We let Sprint know that we were traveling to Iceland and they ensured our international roaming was already activated and configured. When we landed in Iceland, we simply restarted our phones and they picked up the SIMINN network. Through Sprint, we were offered unlimited voice/text and unlimited 2G data. Yes…2G.
For an additional $10 for 7 days, we had access to 4G speeds.
We paid for the extra access, mostly because Deb and I wanted to have access to Google maps on our phones and the kids wanted to stream music/YouTube in the car in between stops.
TIP: In addition to making sure that you have the International roaming service enabled with your cell service provider, be sure that your phone settings are properly configured. On Android devices, there is a setting to turn off mobile voice and data roaming. If those settings are configured to be disabled while roaming, your device won’t even look for service while out of your home network.
Make sure that mobile data and voice roaming are enabled before you call to complain to your service provider that your international roaming isn’t working
For the most part, we had great coverage. It was only when we were out in the boonies that we lost coverage, but that happens in Kansas, too.
Preparing For The Icelandic Weather
Summer in Iceland is pretty mild.
Daily temps fluctuated between lower 40 degree F in the morning to lower 60s F in the afternoons. On the day we went whale watching, we were lucky to see 70s F.
If you’re planning a Summer visit, though, you need to be prepared for all kinds of weather. You’ll need:
- Rain Gear – It will likely rain during your trip, so make sure you have good waterproof jacket and pants. You will also likely use this same gear when you visit waterfalls because the spray from the waterfalls WILL Get you wet.
- Light Gloves and a hat – Despite it being Summer, the winds on the coast can be quite brisk. It’s a good idea to keep a light pair of gloves and a stocking cap handy in case you need it.
- Good hiking boots – If you are exploring outside of the big cities, you will need a good pair of hiking boots. If you are walking defined paths, like the one in the photo above you can get way with a good pair of waterproof trail shoes. If you are going to get into some rougher territory, be sure to wear full hiking boots that have ankle support. Either way, be sure they are waterproof. Nothing ruins a hike faster than cold, wet feet.
- Warm socks – To that point, make sure you’re wearing warm socks that don’t chafe. Iceland is a walker/hikers paradise, so be sure your feet are warm and comfy.
- Layers – While not exactly something you pack…it’s a way of dressing. The weather in Iceland changes quickly. One moment it might be sunny and calm and in 20 minutes time, a storm can roll in and change to rain and wind. Be prepared to layer up or layer down quickly.
- Protection for your camera gear – Iceland is a photographer’s paradise, even when it’s raining. Be sure that your electronics are protected and you have the appropriate coverings to keep water out of your DSLR body or your GoPro. I used a protective waterproof case that allowed my son and I to walk to the edge of the plunge pool at the Skogafoss waterfall. Check it out!
TIP: Throughout our nine-day trip, we pretty much wore hiking pants that are water resistant. The nice thing about them is they are lightweight, easy to clean, comfortable, pack tightly, and don’t retain water like jeans do.
If you are planning on being around waterfalls or somewhere where you are going to get wet, I would highly recommend against wearing jeans. The cotton in jeans absorbs and retains water, so your jeans will get wet and stay wet. Because of that, they will feel heavier and will chill your body over time.
If you’re going to explore the amazing water features that Iceland has to offer, we’d highly recommend picking up a couple pairs of hiking pants. Here’s a link to the hiking pants Deb prefers and the hiking pants Sean prefers.
Reflections On Packing For Our Nine-Day Icelandic Trip
So, that’s a bit about how we packed and prepared for our Icelandic trip. Based on that, here are just a couple more nuggets from Deb and I:
From Deb – Bring snacks. If you’re going to leave the big cities and explore, there aren’t a lot of places to stop and pick up snacks in the remote areas. We found that individually-sized trail mix, “fun-sized” M&Ms, and animal crackers were perfect. They fit in our packs and were there when we needed a little energy boost.
From Sean – Don’t be afraid to pack light. As Americans, we tend to over-pack, fearing that we won’t have the thing we need when we arrive at our destination. Resist that temptation and go light. Once you do it, you’ll likely start thinking about how you can pack lighter and lighter for each adventure.
There you have it…our suggestions for packing for a nine-day Summer itinerary in Iceland. We hope this helps you in the planning of your trip and gives you some ideas as to what to explore.
See you on the road!