We just finished a fabulous 16 day road-trip in Iceland. We navigated the ring road, and jaunted out to the Westfjords and Snaefellsness penninsula (say that three times fast) with Freya (6 months) and Max (27 months). Oh yah. And we were camping. Not fancy motorhome camping. Tent camping. It was a fabulous adventure in a stunningly gorgeous, exciting and surprisingly very kid friendly country. If you’re planning an iceland camping adventure with your little ones, here are some things you might like to know.
Before I start dishing out advice though I thought I’d give you some straight out facts that might make you question your sanity (or at least your trip plans).
Iceland’s weather is unpredictable, and even in the summer months it can be bitterly cold, windy and rainy. We had some gorgeous days where the sun shone, and the thermometer hit highs of 18 degrees, but we had many days where the wind blew (and I mean throwing the tent up in the air, and motorhomes being blown off the road) blew, the rain pelted down, and the temperature dipped below 0. If you are well prepared, this can be tolerable even with little ones. If you’re not, you may be in for a challenging and miserable misadventure.
Other than the weather, the one downside about traveling in Iceland are the costs. If you are traveling with a family, renting a car (or bringing your own from Europe via ferry) are really your only viable options. In the summer rentals are expensive. The rest of the year the prices drop, but so do the temperatures. Shop around, and book ahead. Also note that most of the interior roads (F-Roads) are only for 4X4s which will definitely cost you a small fortune. Food can be pricey, but when you factor in the fact that there is no tipping, and taxes are included in prices, it makes it not so bad.
On to the good stuff…..
Iceland’s restaurants are incredibly kid friendly. Even the swankiest establishments were quick to bring out crayons and colouring books. All had high chairs (really cool ones that could be flipped around and turned into rocking/race car), and most had changing facilities. Most of the ones we visited had a good toy stash that kept Max entertained the whole meal through. Often the choices were very limited (but delicious) so picky eaters beware. Vegetarians might have some challenges outside of the capital, but, the fish and lamb are scrumptious. Often kids could get grilled cheese or pasta, as well as more Icelandic choices such as lamb and fish.
Since we are delicious food addicts, and the weather wasn’t always conducive to eating outside, we ate at a lot of our meals at restaurants (good food + toys + warmth = happy family). We did have a lot of snacks on the road and one of the best was skyr, a yoghurt like, protein rich snack that we all loved. Fruits and veggies were often of not great quality and pricey, but if you go local you won’t be disappointed. There are some great local vegetables that are grown in geo-thermal heated greenhouses!
Some of the campgrounds (especially the one in Grindavik) had great kitchen areas where campers could prepare there own meals. Many of the kitchenettes came equipped with stoves, cutlery, pots and pans. Awesome for do it yourselfers.
Most restaurants, bathrooms, campgrounds, and tourist sites had impeccably clean changing rooms. Often changing tables were located in the wheelchair bathrooms, or the women’s bathrooms. They were less likely to be found in the men’s facilities.
Breastfeeding in Public:
I felt 100% comfortable feeding in public and saw other women doing the same. This isn’t surprising given the fact that Iceland is often listed as “the best place in the world to be a woman”.
Dress for Success:
If you decide to brave the elements, and forgot something at home there is a sweet Icelandic gear company called 66 North that you can check out. Otherwise, if you are planning to camp, or even travel around Iceland, you should always have clothing for rain and cold close by. Three of us had down sleeping bags, and Freya slept in her down snowsuit most nights. It still got chilly!
The Land of the Midnight Sun:
Iceland kisses the Arctic circle, so in early summer it is indeed land of the midnight sun which wreaks havoc on a little one’s sleep schedule. There is nothing to really do, but hope all of the fresh air knocks the kids out.
Availability of necessities:
We had no problem finding diapers, wipes and good quality baby food. North American brand diapers were more pricey, but there were some good European alternatives that did the trick. I fell in love (and so did Freya) with Ella’s Kitchen organic baby food squeezable containers.
Staying Healthy and Safe
The tap water in Iceland is probably the purest, and I’d say most delicious i’ve ever tasted, so there are no worries about getting sick from the water. There are no mosquitos in Iceland which is a definite bonus! The country is extremely safe, with very low crime rates. In fact many parents leave their babies in the buggies sleeping soundly outside the store!
Items we were really glad we had:
1. Rain Gear
2. Really Warm Clothing (including hats, mitts and down jackets, long underwear)
3. Sleeping bag rated for a minimum of 0
4. Baby snowsuit
5. Woombie Donut for baby sleeping (it says it isn’t for sleeping…but…it kept Freya comfy, protected and insulated from the ground.)
6. Unlimited soother supply – where our kids are involved, enough said.
7. IPAD/Umizoomi for days we ended up in the car longer than we had hoped.
8 . A double stroller and baby carriers X2 (the stroller worked as a second chair for the kids and kept them off the ground. It was a great place for them to nap while we were in villages/town)s and the carriers were perfect for our hikes. We have an Ergo and a Manduca baby carriers and picked up a Joovy Caboose Ultraligh Too with the extra seat. It fit in our small trunk, and we had no problems checking it at the gate. It was our first time traveling with a stroller as opposed to just the baby carriers, and although it took up space it was definitely nice to have.
4 person tent that can withstand wind and rain. We have the Marmot Halo 4. It is smallish, and lightish compared to many other 4 person tents, but fits a family of 4 comfortably.
9. Bathing suits (for the hot springs and geo-thermal pools in almost every town).
10. Iceland Camping Card. For 99 Euros, this card allows you to camp at about 50 campgrounds across Iceland. You don’t need to book ahead, which lets you be flexible and go your pace. Hotels/Guesthouses in Iceland book up fast in the summer, and are very expensive, so if you are willing to brave the elements, this is a great way to let you stay as long or as short as you would like.
If you like the outdoors, and are willing to put up with a little rain and wind, I highly recommend Iceland. Although I wouldn’t call it a “relaxing” vacation – the kids often went to bed a bit late so there was little or no downtime, and camping does involve a bit of work – it was a great adventure and allowed us to experience and see some absolutely unbelievable and completely unique sights.
Stay tuned for a post on our favourite places! I’m just waiting for my other computer so I can properly edit my photos 🙂 If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear them!!
Happy Exploring 🙂