Last June, Ben and I used an online vacation service to book our honeymoon to Italy. We decided after paying nearly $7000 that it would be the last time we ever did such a thing. Yes, our flights were found for us, we did not have to sift through hundreds of hotels to find what we like, we did not have to search for activities or restaurants near our accommodation, and our rental car was automatically upgraded – BUT, while convenient, $3500 per person is just way too much, in my opinion. So, when we decided back in August that we would be going on a trip in the coming spring, we agreed that we would be doing all of the meticulous planning on our own.
With Ben’s spring break falling in late March, and no desire to go to a hot and crowded destination…we chose Iceland! Side note: February-March are the best months to visit if you hope to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and/or Orca whales, it is also considered the “low” season.
Next, we needed to figure out how we were going to get to Reykjavik. Flights from Cleveland were looking to be about $1300 per person. Ouch. We kept shopping around and found round-trip non-stop flights from Toronto to Reykjavik for $400 – score! We then had to factor in parking our car at the Toronto airport – $100/week, plus four extra hours of travel time to drive to Toronto.
Once in Iceland, we would need transportation. We used Cheap Car Rental Iceland to find an amazing deal – a new Toyota Rav4 with premium insurance running us about $420 for the week. We would also need a place to stay. Many of the hotels we looked at were very pricey and did not have guaranteed free parking available (necessary considering the rental car). The airbnbs we explored did not have sufficient breakfast options and had outrageous service fees. Eventually, though, we found Sunna Guesthouse which includes a daily breakfast, has nearby public parking, and is located in central Reykjavik right across from the landmark Hallgrimskirkja! We chose the 2 bedroom apartment option (as we are traveling with my parents) so that we could all share a common space and also maintain some privacy – this came to $1440 for the week.
Multiple people have asked me, “What are you going to do in Iceland???”…My answer is – some very quintessential Icelandic things, and some very unique things! We made reservations for the Blue Lagoon on our first morning ($100/person). We also looked into several different tours but quickly realized paying a couple hundred dollars per person to basically be driven around in a tour bus all day was silly. We will have an AWD rental vehicle, and we are from northern Ohio…we can drive in the snow! So we have planned a couple days of driving around the country seeing different waterfalls and hiking in the National Parks. We also have a snowmobiling/ice cave excursion planned ($310/person), as well as a snorkeling experience ($120/person) – more on those activities later.
All in all, I would say I have spent about 24-30 hours planning this week-long vacation to Iceland for four people. With flights, accommodation, rental car, and activities throughout the trip it will cost each of us about $1500 (plus food and souvenirs). You can put together a vacation package here to compare the expenses of a pre-planned trip to the land of fire and ice. Taking on planning an international trip from scratch can be overwhelming (personally, I LOVE it)…but it can also save hundreds, or potentially thousands of dollars!
Stay tuned for a review of the trip and how all of the self-planning pans out!
“I can’t think of anything that excites a great sense of childlike wonder other than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.” -Bill Bryson