Back from Europe: a Crazy/Amazing Rollercoaster of a Trip
Before you start looking for lodging in Iceland, I suggest first deciding if you are comfortable renting a car. This will likely determine your options. If the answer is No, then you will be limited to the capital city of Reykjavik. There is nothing wrong with that plan, especially if you like urban settings.
If you do go that route, I suggest paying extra to stay in the Old Harbour area, preferably with the view of the water. You will be able to walk to restaurants, stores, pharmacies etc.
Most tours leave from Reykjavik, so if you don’t mind sharing your Icelandic adventures with forty other strangers, you’ll be able to hit all the main highlights. Naturally, for a price. You will find a huge selection on Viator.com, but shop around because you will sometimes find lower prices if you book directly with tour operators.
Personally, I hate renting cars in foreign countries, and do my best to avoid it. To me, having a vehicle substantially increases the overall stress of travel, and going somewhere with young kids is stressful enough already.
However, in Iceland I really wanted to stay in the countryside, and that required renting a car. Or in our case, a minivan, since my in-laws have decided to join us. I also wanted to stay relatively close to the KEF airport, since our flight to US was set to leave early in the morning. So, when I saw this listing on AirBnB , I knew I found exactly what I was looking for.
It’s located near town of Grindavik, right beside a working farm. It’s 22 minutes from the airport, 45 minutes from the city of Reykjavik and 10 minutes from the famous Blue Lagoon. IMO, the location is excellent and allows you to easily complete the famous Golden Circle drive in one day.
As long as you avoid Reykjavik area, driving is super easy, and not something to be scared of. And I’m a scaredy cat when it comes to driving. Usually, there are only a few cars on the road. Speaking of car rentals, I found the best deal on VIPcars.com
A scenic base near Grindavik
There aren’t that many rental options in Iceland outside of Reykjavik, and they tend to be quite expensive. So, I was thrilled to “only” pay $300 per night for this unassuming house. The host was very friendly and like most Icelanders, spoke great English.
This is an older home, filled with family photos, knick-knacks and quite a bit of junk scattered outside. The last part didn’t really bother me, but was a bit of a turn-off for my sister-in-law.
I loved the fact that this rental had a washer+dryer, which came in really handy. There were two separate bedrooms, plus one open sleeping area upstairs where we put the kids.
In fact, we had to enter our tiny bedroom through it.
The house has two bathrooms, one upstairs and one downstairs.
There is one major issue with this home if you plan to use the bedroom downstairs. The tile floor is heated, so it makes it too warm to sleep during the summer months. Even with the open window, they were uncomfortable, but they also turn down their A/C in Florida to 69 degrees at night. It goes without saying that most homes in Iceland do not have air conditioning.
In the winter this would be a non-issue. Alas, we stayed here in June. Of course, some people (like my mom and dad) prefer to be very warm at night, so this will depend on your individual comfort. It wasn’t a problem for bedrooms upstairs where my family slept, but my in-laws decided to find a hotel room for the last two nights.
I’ve mentioned before that the sun doesn’t really set in Iceland during the summer, so good blackout curtains are essential. In our case, the shades certainly helped, but didn’t block the light completely. So, I went ahead and hung dark sheets over the windows.
The furniture in the house has definitely seen better days, and was shabby rather than chic. The location, however, was magnificent, and the glass-covered porch really took advantage of it.
This is the main reason I booked this house, and I wasn’t disappointed. It was such a treat to have my morning coffee, while listening to ocean waves in the distance. Another wonderful amenity: a hot tub filled with water from the geyser. We used it twice a day.
I really loved the location of the house, so if you don’t require luxury, I absolutely recommend it. It was neat to hike towards the water and see Icelandic horses in the distance.
To me, the pros of this house totally outweigh the cons, and I would stay again here, without a doubt. Of course, this assumes that we come back without in-laws. I did feel bad that they had to pay for two nights in a hotel.
However, we rented this house before we knew they would join us. I also refused to let them contribute any money in the first place. As a result, they didn’t really lose anything. Btw, they paid $300 per night for a hotel room without a view in nearby Grindavik. That’s why I feel this house is a very good value, all things considered.
We were only three minutes away, so it wasn’t that much of a hassle to pick them up. Speaking of Grindavik, it’s a very small town with very friendly residents. People aren’t used to seeing tourists here, so many were happy to talk to us. My kids made some friends at a local park and enjoyed discussing Disneyworld, which most Icelandic families apparently try to visit at least once.
There was one grocery store, pus a few restaurants in Grindavik, and not much else.
We happened to stay here during a festival, which local residents clearly take quite seriously. There was a parade on the main street, with most folks eventually making their way to the harbor. I was told this was town’s first celebration since Covid pandemic started.
Renting this AirBnB was an excellent decision that allowed us to live like locals for a few days. That’s something I really appreciate when visiting foreign lands. Hotels are fine, but they often lack local character. Of course, to be fair, they also lack junk around the yard!
How does my family travel so much? We use miles and points from credit card bonuses. See my Travel Hacking 101 post as well as current credit card offers here.