What to Pack for Iceland (in Summer)

One of the biggest challenges when traveling to Iceland is knowing what to pack. I mean, let’s be honest…when you think of Iceland you think freezing / snow / cold / ice. Am I right?! Well, interestingly enough, it can also be warm / sun / green / heat. If I can give you one piece of advice when packing for Iceland, it is pack all of the layers. This is the one thing I kept reading and let me tell you, this is the best packing advice one can give for Iceland. Thank goodness we listened!

— WHAT I PACKED —

For excursions: Various tops (sleeveless, short sleeved, long sleeved), base layers (tops & bottoms – similar to the ones we take skiing), rain shell, down jacket, puffy vest, beanies, scarves, boots & lots of socks (more than you think you’ll need!)

For the Blue Lagoon: bathing suit, flip flops, cover up.

Extras: Small backpack (to pack on excursions), sunglasses, hats, eye mask (to sleep as there is sun 24 hours), camera, go pro, chargers, refillable water bottles, protein bars, beef jerky, nuts & chocolate. (<–spoiler alert: we went through all of the snacks!)

— WHAT I ACTUALLY WORE —

Day 1: The Golden Circle

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50’s and sunny (and dry) felt g-o-o-d for Iceland!

Weather: 50s, mostly sunny, occasional drizzle in the am.

Outfit: Zella black leggings, black tank, gray LS longer shirt, black Patagonia down jacket, hiking socks, short hunter boots.

Packed: Arcteryx rain coat (only used once), gloves & extra socks

Should have packed: scarf (it was pretty windy)

Had to buy: nothing

…because there was minimal precipitation this day, I was dry & warm. I had an extra jacket that rarely got used but it was worth having. Read about our day here & here.

Day 2: Southern Iceland

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I’m smiling but really I was miserable

Weather: 40s, heavy rain off & on

Outfit: old navy black leggings, base layer Patagonia half zip, Burberry scarf, puffy vest, arcteryx rain coat, beanie, hiking socks, short hunter boots.

Packed: gloves, extra socks (used both pairs!)

Should have packed: waterproof rain pants, another pair of socks.

Had to buy: poncho because I was soaked

…even though we packed many layers and backup gear, we both got soaked. I really should have packed water-resistant pants (or ski pants) because once my base layer pants got wet, it was game over. Lesson learned! Read about our day here.

Day 3: Reykjavik

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No joke, this is the ONLY picture I have from this day!

Weather: 50s, sunny with clouds, no precipitation

Outfit: black jeans, long sleeved shirt, arcteryx rain jacket, thick-ish socks, short hunter boots, crossbody purse

Packed: a beanie & scarf in my purse

Had to buy: nothing

…while walking around Reykjavik the main thing is to have comfy shoes and a raincoat (it can seriously start/stop raining at any moment). Also be sure to bring your camera as the city is very picturesque! Read about our day here.

Bottom Line: you literally need it all. One minute it’s raining, the next it’s not! As you can see, I pretty much lived in black leggings, long sleeved tops with sweaters layered over, a shell (either wet or dry, depending on the weather) and thick socks with boots. Aside from the hellish rainy day, I was comfy, warm & dry!

 

Travel Guide: Reykjavik

I think it’s fair to say that most people go to Iceland to experience the outdoor adventures, the incredible excursions and the scenic views. While Reykjavik isn’t a major destination, it is where you’ll likely stay so I think it’s important to know what to expect and how to properly navigate the city.

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Where to Stay

There are countless hotels here, most on or around Lavagulaur Street. After much consideration, we opted to stay at the CenterHotel Midguardar which is one of the many hotels by the CenterHotel group. The hotel was affordable, centrally located & came recommended. It was the perfect choice for us, as it has 24-hour service, easy check-in and breakfast included (which was actually good – it was a typical American meets European spread with eggs, bacon & sausage, Skyr yogurt with fruit, breads with jam and various meats & cheeses).

We also had some friends stay at the Raddison Blue 1919, which was conveniently located in the downtown area (on the other side of Lavagulaur Street). The lobby was beautiful & it is near a lot of the top notch restaurants, so this is another solid choice.

There are also an abundance of “guest houses” where all of the tours will pick up from, so really the options are endless. You can find these on AirBnB or via many third party website (ex. Priceline, Expedia).

As you can see, there are a plethora of choices for accommodations in Reykjavik. It just depends how much you want to spend and what location you want to be in!

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The hotel lobby of the CenterHotel Midguardar

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Typical Icelandic breakfast, served in our hotel’s restaurant

Where to Eat:

The Fish Market: We tried to walk in but that was obviously a rooky mistake. Apparently, Fish Market books up weeks ahead of time due to their fresh food and popular tasting menu. We heard rave reviews all week so be sure to make a reservation if you’re planning a trip to Reykjavik anytime soon.

Grill Market: Another highly recommended gourmet spot in town. Our friend ate here and raved about the food, drink & ambiance. They didn’t have room to squeeze us in either, but it’s on our list for next time.

Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur: Now I know y’all have heard of this place. It’s the world famou hot dog stand in downtown Reykjavik and hands down the cheapest meal you can find in Iceland. I don’t eat hot dogs but everyone who had them said they’re the best. Terry loved his so much that he went back for a second. A must try!

Nonnabiti: If you’re headed on a full day excursion (like Southern Iceland or The Golden Circle) this is an ideal spot for you to stop before you board. They’ve got great sandwiches to go. It’s basically a sub shop but the bread is soft & its all very fresh. I had a turkey sandwich with all of the veggie toppings and it hit the spot.

Noodle Station: This place was located practically next door to our hotel and full all the time, all day long. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to try it but I’ve heard rave reviews. Given that it’s cold & dreary in Iceland, I can see why noodle bowls are popular!

Glo: Another restaurant that was one my list but we didn’t make it to. Known for their organic, vegetarian style food, it’s one of the healthier spots in town. And their presentation is practically made for Instagram.

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World Famous Hot Dog Stand!

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Pizza was all that was open when we landed at 1am

What To Do:

I’m guessing you’ve likely seen a picture similar to this before:

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Well, it’s taken at the Hallgrímskirkja church in downtown Reykjavik where you u take elevator to top of church tower. It’s a beautiful 360-degree view of the city, the mountains & the sea. A must-see if you’re in the city.

Truth be told, we spent most of our time outside Reykjavik, apart from dinner & drinks at night. The town itself if very cute, charming & walkable. The buildings are colorful and there is art everywhere. It’s definitely worth wandering around.

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Some other activities that we didn’t have time to do, but were on our list were horseback riding, whale watching, and exploring the local markets.

 

What’s in my Carry On Bag

One of the questions I get asked ALL of the time is “what do you pack in your carry on bag”? Now, truth be told, I almost always try to carry on both pieces of luggage – my 20″ spinner bag and my trusted Longchamp (my favorite carry-on because it’s liquid proof, has a zipper, an internal pocket & seriously holds a ton!). Today I’m sharing what’s in my personal bag – you know, the one that goes at your feet (unless you’re like me and stick it up in the overhead bin to have more footspace…#sorrynotsorry).

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Ok, so now let me break it down for you. Given that I travel a TON and I pretty much have packing down to an art, I have a solid list of items I take on almost every trip. This list is tried & true and will be sure to help you get you through any flight:

Headphones…and not just earbuds- those kill my ears after a while & don’t drown out the background noise well enough. I recently was gifted these headphones and let me tell you – they’re great! They’re very affordable, stylish & lightweight. If you don’t want to spend the money on Beats or Bose (the crème de la crème), I definitely recommend them.

Bonus: they’ve also been great to run with.

So if you’re flying business or 1st they’ll give you an amenities kit; otherwise I always pack one myself with some face wipes, toothpaste/toothbrush and a few mini toiletries. When flying overnight or more than 3 hours, a little freshening up works wonders.

A couple of key items that are easy to forget, but critical for flying are an eye mask to help sleep and a pen for crosswords, Sudoku or customs forms. They’re so small and take up no space in your bag, but make a huge impact on your trip. Trust me.

iPads, books and magazines are a must to keep entertained, especially on a long flight. I usually read the magazine during takeoff and then try to watch a pre-purchased movie on my ipad while in flight. Thank goodness for in-flight internet!

Tip: if you’re not flying a carrier with free tv (such as Jet Blue or Virgin), head to the GoGo website to pre-purchase internet for a lower price than you’d pay once on board the plane.

I never leave for the airport without a water bottle – it’s cheaper than buying airport bottled water and it’s more eco-friendly. Plus, we all know that staying hydrated while flying is key. This is my #1 item that I must have while flying (or road tripping!).

Two critical pieces of clothing I always bring with me on flights are extra socks (the more plush, the better) and either an oversized scarf or an open front cardigan. Planes are notorious for being chilly & layering is key! I never, ever wear jeans – usually a maxi dress or these leggings with a long v-neck top. Comfort, while remaining presentable, is key my friends. Let’s not forget we’re in public.

So there you have it, 9 critical pieces that must go with you on your next flight. Use this list as a base and you’ll be sure to be comfy, cozy & have what you need to get through the most painful of flights (I’m looking at you, United).

What’s your “must have” item in your carry on?!

Iceland Part 3: The Blue Lagoon

We arrived back in Rekjavik around 6pm (read about our day 1 excursion here), grabbed a quick bite at happy hour & then quickly changed into our bathing suits for our 8:00 pm pickup. I wondered if we were too rushed and packed too much into one day, but let me tell you…Blue Lagoon at night is the way to go!

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We booked this transfer via FlyBus which was super easy. They picked us up at 8:30 pm and we arrived at the Blue Lagoon exactly 45 minutes later. As you pull up, the building is very sleek and feels very “of the element”- it’s all built with wood, stone, and moss.

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So, here’s how the Blue Lagoon works:

Step 1: You must buy your tickets ahead of time. This is critical. We bought ours about a week ahead and almost every time slot was sold out.

Hint: Buy the basic entry package. We brought a towel from our hotel & they had free silica face masks everywhere. There’s really no need to buy a more expensive package.

Step 2: They give you a wristband to control your provided locker and for any purchases. I threw my clothes in the locker, rinsed off, grabbed my towel & walked right in.

Hint: Bring either a waterproof phone case or a Go Pro – you’ll want to take pics!

Step 3: Grab a drink, put on a mask and enjoy all that the lagoon has to offer! I must say, the lagoon is much bigger than I was imagining, with rocks, bridges & coves all around. It’s this milky, creamy hot tub feel, sans bubbles. They’ve got a swim up bar, various grottos and coves. It’s super chill and relaxing, though I imagine it may not feel this way if it were crowded. We didn’t partake in the spa or restaurant; however, I heard they’re both very nice.

Hint: Plan to spend at least 2 hours at the lagoon. We could easily have spent another hour or two wandering around and enjoying the amenities.

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We packed up around 11:00 pm and headed out to catch the bus back. We caught the most incredible pink sunset and were back in our beds by 1am. We were so relaxed from the evening that we passed out right away & slept like babies. One last thing to mention (especially you ladies!), your hair is going to be a frazzled mess the next day. I used a lot of their provided conditioner but still had a slimy, dry feeling to it.

Overall the Blue Lagoon is incredible and so worth it! I’ve heard many people say it’s “too touristy” or “overcrowded” but I think that if you go at the right time of you, you’ll be able to enjoy the area as much as we did.

Related Posts:

Iceland Part 1: Golden Circle Tour

Iceland Part 2: Southern Iceland Tour

Below are some unedited pictures from our Go Pro to give you an idea of the size/space:

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Entrance to the huge lagoon

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enjoying a cold brew in the hot lagoon

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silica face masks

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pure relaxation

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heaven 🙂

Iceland Part 2: Southern Iceland

Remember in my first post when I said that the weather changes by the minute? Well, day two in Iceland was the perfect example. As we were eating breakfast on Monday, we noticed a slight drizzle outside. We thought “no big deal” as this is common for Iceland. Well, fast forward about 20 minutes and we were in full torrential downpour. That lasted All. Day. Long.

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thank goodness we stopped for more rain gear 🙂

We already had a trip set up with Bus Travel IcelandBus Travel Iceland to explore all that Southern Iceland has to offer, so we threw a few extra pairs of socks in our bag, added an extra layer and hit the road. My first impression of the Bus Travel Iceland bus was “is this it?” Iit was a very small (maybe 14 passenger) van. Given the weather, this small vehicle was not the most comfortable. To be honest, we were pretty cold the whole time and never felt fully dried off or warm. On a day like this, I would have preferred the coach style bus, although we only had 4 people total so it was nice to have a smaller group with a more personalized tour.

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Our first stop was about 90 minutes south on a working farmhouse in Village of Vík, the southernmost village in Iceland. A young couple owned the house and ran the farm, with 200+ sheep, 75+ horses & a lot of land. Their home was warm, cozy & quite charming. They were only about 500 meters from the sea. Upon arrival, the hosts had coffee, tea & traditional Iceland pancakes ready. Everything was delicious! (You can find their home on Airbnb!)

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their farm – with so many cute horses!

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our host in her lovely home

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yummy coffee & crepes

Next, we took the journey down Ring Road to the Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss waterfalls—taking time to walk behind the former The wind & rain were really bad at this point, so we ran out of the van for a quick 10 minutes but that’s about it. Then we stopped for lunch and I was quickly reminded why I kept reading to bring your own lunch. We were at a small restaurant attached to a petrol station that was mediocre at best. (We paid $37 for 1 lukewarm bowl of vegetable soup & 1 beer stew. Meh. Lesson learned)

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Seljalandsfoss – so massive & powerful

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Skógafoss

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soaking it all in at Skógafoss

The weather improved a bit and we headed to the black sand beaches of Dyrhólaey. I was SO looking forward to seeing this beach so the weather was a huge bummer here. I’ve seen some amazing pictures of this beach on a nice day and it’s stunning. The black beach is sandwiched between the ocean and these huge rocky mountains that form some seriously awesome caves. It was one of the most unique beaches I’ve ever seen and felt very Game-Of-Thrones. Here is a picture I found of the area on a nice day (our pictures didn’t turn out well):

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Our last stop on the tour was the Sólheimajökull Glacier. This was awesome! I’m not sure about you, but I had never seen a glacier in person before. For a minute, I felt like we were in Alaska. The large glacier was a very blue-ish white color with green mountains behind it. We saw a lot of groups doing glacier walks (that was another offered excursion) and I think that would be a really neat tour to do next time.

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the glacier on a rainy day

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Overall, I enjoyed the Southern Iceland tour but not as much as the Golden Circle on day one. Perhaps this was due to the inclement weather, but it just felt like a lot more driving and not as much sightseeing. I’d be eager to try this tour group on a warmer, better day as it would probably give me a better comparison.

Thank you to Bus Travel Iceland for sponsoring this post. They graciously provided us with this complimentary tour. As always, the provided opinions are my own.

Iceland Part 1: Golden Circle Tour

Oh Iceland, where do I begin? Let me start by saying that this country is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been…in a good way. Given that we only had 3 nights in Iceland, we opted to stay in downtown Reykjavik and partner with local tour companies for two excursions. Our full Iceland trip will be broken down into 5 sections, as I have a large amount of review, tips & tricks to share…

Day 1: Golden Circle Tour via Grayline

We woke up bright (literally- it was light out almost 24 hours!) and early on Sunday morning to grab a quick breakfast in the hotel lobby prior to our 10:00am pickup. Since we were staying in town at the CenterHotel Midgaurdar, pickup was a breeze. We waited out front as they pulled up right on time. The small bus takes you to the main bus station, where you are checked in and  directed to the appropriate large bus.

My first impression of the bus was very positive. It’s your standard 55-passenger bus, but felt new and updated. The seats reclined, there was free wifi and in-wall plugs to charge any electronics. Given that this was a full 8 hour excursion, having these amenities proved to be a valuable, and necessary, benefit.

Tip: Come prepared! We packed a backpack with extra socks, gloves, beanies, jacket, various snacks & water bottles. We used it all.

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The lush, green scenery of Iceland

Here’s our itinerary:

The Golden Circle Classic Tour takes you from Reykjavik city to Þingvellir National Park, arguably the most important site in Iceland in terms of history, culture, and geology.

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Þingvellir National Park, right after the rain passed

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A UNESCO world heritage site, Þingvellir National Park is home to Iceland‘s largest natural lake and the place where the tectonic plates of North America and Eurasia split and drift apart. From Þingvellir, the tour continues through an area of beautiful scenery towards two of Iceland’s greatest natural attractions at Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot spring area.

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Gullfoss

At Gullfoss waterfall you can take a short walk down a pathway and get right up close to this powerful waterfall and feel the mist of glacial water on your face as it cascades down into the narrow Hvítárgljúfur Canyon.

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Getting soaked by the powerful & beautiful Gullfoss

The Geysir area home of “The Great Geysir” hot spring, which all geysers are named after, this area is an impressive collage of bubbling mud pools, hissing steam vents, and colourful algae deposits. It also features one of the world’s most reliable fountain geyser, Strokkur hot spring, that every 4 to 8 minutes blasts out a column of super heated water up to 20 metres into the air.

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Overall, Grayline was a very easy tour group to deal with. Their busses are clearly marked, they come fully equipped & they run a tight ship. Our tour guide was very informative, knowledgeable & had a good sense of humor. I would definitely recommend them for this tour – I only wish we had more time to do a second tour!

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A surprise trip to a “secret” waterfall from our tour guide…

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Stay tuned for Day 1, Part 2 tomorrow…

Thank you to Grayline for sponsoring this post. They graciously provided us with this complimentary tour. As always, the provided opinions are my own.

 

My Bachelorette Party

Happy  Monday y’all! I’m still on a huge high from pretty much the best weekend ever. All of my best friends & I hopped down to South Florida for a long weekend full of beautiful ocean views, delicious food & drink and endless laughs. I’m so grateful that 10 of my best gal pals were able to join in celebrating my “last sail before the veil” (as our boat Captain Michael said). To say I’m sad the weekend is over is a huge understatement! Isn’t it the best feeling when you bring a group of friends together & everyone not only gets along, but genuinely enjoys spending time together?!

While I won’t share all of the fun details from the weekend, I want to give recap with a few of my my favorite parts.

We spent hours by the pool, soaking in the view…

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We ate delicious food & drank delicious drinks…

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We dressed up & had a night (or two) on the town…

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The girls surprised me with the most amazing bridal brunch…

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And an afternoon on the best boat ever…

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my high school friends

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my college friends

 I can’t thank my friends enough for all of the time, effort, money, generosity, love and thought spent on this weekend. I am one VERY lucky girl!