Our first, “real trip” with a kid in tow was to Iceland in 2011. Calais was 10 months old.
(We did bring Calais to San Fransisco when she was 2 months old, however that one didn’t really count!).
To be honest, we never really thought about the fact that we were dragging our 10 month old across (almost) the Atlantic Ocean for a 2 week adventure with essentially no plans other than a car rental and our last 3 nights in Reykjavik. Most people didn’t even question us about travelling with a baby, they were more concerned about why on earth we were going to Iceland! This was before going to Iceland was “a thing”, before Icelandair increased it’s service to North America, and before great Iceland itineraries were readily available online.
It sounded like an interesting, off the beaten path experience. So off we went!
This trip was the beginning for us…
Iceland Road Trip
We spent 10 days on a road trip around Iceland with a rental car. Car rentals were astronomically expensive, so we ended up with a 10year old Rav 4 because it was the cheapest thing I could find! Many people recommended renting a 4-wheel drive, but with a baby we knew we wouldn’t be doing much off-roading, so a regular car was enough for us. Someone from the rental company met us at the airport to hand over the keys to our vehicle and we were free!
Once we loaded up the vehicle we set off along Iceland’s famous ring road. If you don’t know, Iceland has essentially one main road that travels the circumference of the entire country. This is incredibly handy and makes it next to impossible to get lost! It was a great option for our first overseas road trip!
(Our Rav4 rental being carried across a washout).
We spent our days following the recommendations in our guide book, and found as many hot springs as we possibly could! I was grateful Calais was okay in the shower because we had to rinse off prior to entering all of the hot spring. It was surprising how many of the local change rooms had a baby-chair that I could strap her into while I showered. It was a great reminder that kids live anywhere so there’s really no reason not to travel with them!
When we weren’t soaking in the luxurious thermal waters we were hiking in the countryside or watching the country go by out the window of our rental. There was so much to see we were never bored.
Tenting in Iceland
I’m typically a pretty type-A person and like to have everything planned long before we get anywhere. This is something I had wanted to “loosen up” with, and Iceland seemed like a great place to try and wing it for the first time. Overall it was pretty successful, but we did bring a back up tent just incase.
As we travelled we just found our lodging along the way. This did get us in trouble once, when we tried to stop at a few of the small towns in North Eastern Iceland but there was no accommodation. We ended up driving 200km MORE than expected, all the way to Husavik, because nothing was available. When we arrived in Husavik we stopped at one of the accommodation options in our Lonely Planet Guidebook (our only option since local SIM’s weren’t a thing). They didn’t have room, but their friend had an apartment that they thought might be empty. This lovely lady called her friend and 10min later we were settled into the last available accommodation in Husavik!
We did end up using our tent twice, because there was simply no other place to stay!
I just want to clarify – we were there in July. At home it seemed like a perfectly reasonable idea to bring a tent with us for the “just in case”. Anyone who has been to Iceland in July will know that it is MUCH colder, even compared to northern Alberta! We ended up wearing all of our warm clothes to sleep in the tent, and we definitely hadn’t brought adequate clothing! At least it was better than sleeping in the mini Rav4 we had rented, and I was sure glad to use the tent since we hauled it all the way across the Atlantic!!
The normal summer temperatures in Iceland aren’t warm, but they tend not to be too cold either. The thing I forgot was that Iceland is an island (duh), surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean…which has a cold breeze and lots of humidity! Our Northern Canadian summers are dry, so although it doesn’t often get too warm it never feels too cold. Iceland is different!
We definitely didn’t pack enough warm clothing, and ended up having to spend some money on clothes. We bought Icelandic wool toques (which Randy & I are still wearing 10+ years later), and a second hand winter jacket & toque for Calais.
Prior to visiting we should have done a bit more research about what to wear in Iceland, we would have been much better prepared and saved ourselves some money!
(Randy & Calais wearing their newly purchased winter gear…thankfully we live somewhere that these could be used at home too!)
What We Learned On Our First Family Trip
Even with a few road-blocks, this trip was travel-changing for us. We had a wonderful time and really felt like we got off the tourist trail (unlikely now in Iceland, but in 2011 it wasn’t too busy). It was the first time we really felt like “Travellers”. The lack of itinerary was wonderfully relaxing for us and it has shaped our travel since. It also helped us realize that travel is doable with kids.
Yes, we did have to do things differently travelling with kids, but I would rather travel differently than not travel at all!
There’s so much more I’d love to do in Iceland, like horseback riding, and a food tour in Reykjavik. I’m sure I’ll get the chance because I know we’ll be back!
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