Saturday, July 14, 2018

Iceland Road Trip 2018 ✈ Pre-Trip & Reykjavik

2,850 kms (1,770 miles), 8 days, and a camper van. We spent 8 days driving around Iceland, feasted our eyes with spectacular scenery at every turn, fed our soul with solitude, and indulged in so many unique experiences within such a short period of time. Iceland is definitely a unique country like no other.



A year ago, I wrote this post about us cancelling our Iceland trip that was planned for March 2017, and letting go of a great redemption opportunity. Even though we were bummed having to give up the Iceland trip last year, I'm still glad we made the choice to keep the Round-the-World trip, no regrets at all. Iceland had been on our bucket list and we were determined to make the trip happen this year. 

Bought this boots 1.5 years ago. Finally putting it to use!



Booking the Trip

I was hoping for Delta's Great Europe Sale to return but it never did, so we decided to go ahead and book our flights. Our original plan was to travel at the end of April with the hopes of seeing Northern lights, but due to work commitments (and another manager starting her maternity leave at the same time), we decided to push the trip to Spring. After multiple date changes (thanks to the free flight changes for Platinum members), we finally decided on May 27th - June 4th (8D7N). We also invited the MiL to join us on this trip, and helped her get free flights for this trip. Sharing the travel hacking fun! =)

We used 120,000 Delta miles for both our round-trip tickets. I also had a $100 Delta gift card from work so our out-of-pocket cost was really only $18. Not the best redemption ratio, but might as well use the points to save some money before they devalue more.


Trip Preparation

I started planning for the trip since Dec 2016, and this is what happens when I had more than a year to plan for a trip...lol! Random note: Printed all these for free at the lounge in Narita airport during my transit on the way back to US from Malaysia recently.

Trip planning wouldn't be complete without mapping everything out right? =P Had multiple versions, Google Map, Maps.me app, and printed version. Mapping out all the stops on Google Map came in very handy throughout the trip.


Our driving route around Iceland's Ring Road in 8 days.


Our 'home' in Iceland. We decided to travel around Iceland in a camper van mainly because we wanted the flexibility, and to experience camper-vanning for the first time. We chose to rent from Rent.is as they had the best price based on my research. If you're interested to find out more about our camper van (including costs) and some tips and guides on camper-vanning in Iceland, check out the following links:
The Rookie Guide to Traveling Around Iceland in a Camper Van

Iceland is known to be an expensive country. In order to reduce food cost, we packed quite a lot of food in our baggage. Almost half of all our luggage was filled with food...lol! We stocked up some canned soups ($0.95/ea), veggies ($0.62/ea) and pasta ($0.68/ea) when Publix had buy 1 free 1 sale. 

We had plenty of free baggage allowance (total 5 check-in baggage) among the 3 of us. Might as well make use of the free check-in baggage and fill up our luggage with food!


Reykjavik & South Iceland Trip Report

27 May 2018 (Sun): Huntsville - Atlanta - Minneapolis - Reykjavik

First international trip (together) for the year. =)

Was upgraded to first class for the 30 min flight from HSV-ATL. ...lol! 

Used my United Club membership for the 3 of us to enter the lounge in Atlanta airport before hopping on the next flight to Minneapolis. Delta Comfort seats for this flight.

Had dinner at the Delta SkyClub located near Gate C12 at Minneapolis airport. Only MiL and I entered the lounge as my Platinum member club access only allows one guest. The food options are pretty good, especially the chicken.

Finally, time for our 5.5 hours red-eye flight to Iceland! Now time to try to get some rest as we will start with sightseeing as soon as we collect our camper van from the airport!

First row of Delta Comfort seats with plenty of leg room right behind first class. =) 


Well...my attempt to rest didn't quite work out. Breakfast was served at 3am CST, but it was actually a good time to be awake as we were flying across Greenland.


Amazing view of icy Greenland from above! We were very lucky to have clear skies and no clouds! How often do you get to fly over Greenland?? Don't forget to look out the window if you're flying between the US and Iceland!

Approaching Iceland, which ironically is greener than Greenland...haha!!

And this is the largest city in Iceland - Reykjavik! A capital city without skyscrapers.

28 May 2018 (Mon): Keflavik Airport - Reykjavik - Selfoss

Finally arrived at the land of ice and fire at 9.20am! Getting through immigration was super quick, with no questions asked at all...lol! Withdrew ISK 5,000 ($50) from the ATM (just in case) and waited for the rental company staff at the arrival hall.

The guy from the rental company picked us up at the airport with the free shuttle and took us to their office 5 minutes away from the airport.

After getting the paperwork done and finished inspecting the camper van, we were ready to hit the road! But before that, let me show you the interior of our 'home' for the week!



This is how the interior of our van looks, plenty of space for the 3 of us. We implemented shoes-off policy to keep the back of the van clean. Read more about our camper van here.

Putting my OCD skills to work...haha!! Gotta keep things organized in such small space, else you'll never find anything.

The front section of the van. I love the design of that clipboard, so practical and smart!

The camper included a portable stove, a gas butane, and a container filled with pots, pans, dishes & cutlery. We pretty much survived on these for most of our meals.

Now let's continue with our sightseeing. Iceland drives on the same side of the road as the US, so hubby was the designated driver for this entire trip. We were lucky to have blue skies welcoming us to Iceland!

First stop of the day...Sólfarið Sun Voyager. There are some parking space right next to this sculpture so it was easy to hop off the van, take some photos, and hop back into the van.

Gotta do the touristy stuff and try the very popular hot dog (Iceland's national food...lol!) for lunch at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur. The hot dog costs ISK450 ($4.50) each. Honestly, not sure why it's so popular, but we weren't very impressed with it. A hot dog is a hot dog. 
Btw, the brown color sauce is actually mustard (looks like something else though). =P


On a side note, trying to find parking and drive a big a$$ camper van in Reykjavik was quite a challenge. Our first challenge was not knowing how to shift to the reverse gear, and was stuck halfway in the middle of the street...lol! We had to call the rental company to figure out the trick. After spending 20 minutes parking the camper, we found out that we were wrongly parked in front of the Canadian embassy, wasted all our efforts...lol!! =.= We finally found a spot close to the hot dog stand that wasn't obstructing the traffic, and made it a quick stop to avoid getting in trouble. At that point, I think hubby was ready to just get out of crowded Reykjavik. =P


Final stop in Reykjavik before we leave the city...Hallgrimskirkja church. There is an elevator you can take to get to the tower of the church for a panoramic view of the city. It costs ISK1000 ($10) per person, and we decided to skip it.

Finally left the city, where there is no such thing as traffic! Random photo stop.

Made a quick stop at 'pink-pig' Bonus, one of the most popular grocery stores in Iceland. If you want to save money on food, this is a must-stop. Since we've already brought a lot of food, we didn't go crazy here. We spent about $35 for eggs, bread, milk, sandwich ham, yogurt, mustard, cooking oil and dish wash. Basic things we couldn't pack in our luggage.


Made it to Gesthus Selfoss around 3pm. Parked our camper, took a shower, and cooked dinner at the kitchen before going to bed. It costs a total of ISK 5,000/night ($47) for the 3 of us. We were the only ones there in the afternoon so it was nice to have the entire area to ourselves. We were all pretty tired after more than 24 hours of continuous travel, and passed out in the camper by 4.30pm. We brought eye mask and sunshades so we could sleep even though it was bright outside. 

That's all for Reykjavik. Stay tuned as we continue our journey to South Iceland in the next post! As a token of appreciation for scrolling through this post, here's our map to help you plan for your Iceland adventure! Click on the top right 'square' to open in Google Maps.

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