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Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

Saint Paul...
Level Contributor
137 posts
56 reviews
Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

Our family of 5 (20,18,12) is excited to be spending a week in Iceland after Christmas. It's a bucket-list item for us. We are from MN, so we understand real winter, cold, snow and tricky driving conditions. I'd love to get some advice regarding housing locations and rental car. We are looking for an airbnb/similar option. Here are the options I'm considering:

Option 1. Rent a 4WD and stay outside of Reykjavik. The advantage is cheaper housing, freedom to explore the ring road/Golden Circle (weather permitting) and appreciation of rural Iceland. I'm assuming the best thing to do would be to stay in the same place the whole week. There may be some days that we are house-bound due to weather. I've read many times to "leave the driving to the experts"---does my rural MN upbringing change this recommendation? Does this option make sense?

Option 2. Stay in Reykjavik and skip the rental car. We'd have to go on organized tours to see sites outside of the city. The advantage is we'd get to experience the city at all times of the day and can walk to urban sites. This option is likely the most expensive.

Option 3. Hybrid option. Stay in Reykjavik 3 nights. Rent a car and stay in country area for rest of the nights. Best of both worlds---but plan could get messed up if weather doesn't cooperate on day we need to go to country house.

Let me know your thoughts and advice! Thank you in advance for your help with planning!

11 replies to this topic
Cologne, Germany
Destination Expert
for Iceland
Level Contributor
12,689 posts
88 reviews
1. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

It will depend on the weather. I learned how to drive in Minnesota and during every winter visit there is at least one day when I am either happy I am not driving or when driving is a challenge.

Keep in mind that you'll still be on unfamiliar narrow roads that will punish every small moment of inattention and in an unfamiliar vehicle. Plus there will be little to no road service on the 26th and possibly the 27th.

If you decide to drive plan short distances during daylight hours at short notice when conditions and the forecast are fine and spend your last night either in Reykjavík or close to the airport.

Get all the insurance you need, know your deductibles, do your due diligence during pick-up and drop-off and get studded tires.

If you arrive on a red-eye don't drive any longer distances until your body clock has adjusted.

Keep a close eye multiple times daily on road.is and vedur.is and adjust your plans if necessary.

I would not book accommodation far away from the main road. Road closures are not uncommon in winter.

Edited: 26 June 2018, 10:29
Cologne, Germany
Destination Expert
for Iceland
Level Contributor
12,689 posts
88 reviews
2. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

January 1st may also see limited road service. Make sure you get studded tires.

Saint Paul...
Level Contributor
137 posts
56 reviews
3. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

Thanks for the advice! Much appreciated!

NJ
Level Contributor
70 posts
5 reviews
4. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

Your advice has been excellent, but can you define "driving short distances" in your answer above? We are still a litle nervous about 'road closures' especially during Christmas time where there may be limited road services. Thanks.

Cologne, Germany
Destination Expert
for Iceland
Level Contributor
12,689 posts
88 reviews
5. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

That's why checking the forecast reglularly over the course of the day and making the right decisions will be the most important thing to do.

With short distances I mean no more than 2-3 hours max and making sure you don't drive in darkness. Personally I would not drive myself over the Christmas holidays. I would book a guided multi-day tour, since there is no way to guarantee you won't be stuck somewhere. But that's a decision everyone will have to make for themselves, their skills, experience and risk threshold...

Toronto, Canada
Level Contributor
2,134 posts
6. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

We visited Iceland in May 2016 and had a wonderful 2 week self drive trip. Having said that, based on what I saw with respect to the roads, driving distances between villages, etc as well as knowing that there would be very limited daylight hours and the possibility of adverse winter weather conditions, I’m in complete agreement with Kim’s advice to book multi-day tours over the Christmas period, especially if your trip is already a short one to begin with.

Washington
Level Contributor
1,359 posts
33 reviews
7. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

Just a note- cold and snow are not the main issues to consider when driving; wind and ice are. The key is to be flexible. My husband and I are very familiar with driving in windy and icy conditions SO we didn't want to drive longer distances while on vacation in winter Iceland. What worked for us when we were there in December was to book a multi-day guided tour for the longer trip out to Jökulsárlón lagoon, then rented a car for shorter trips from Reykjavik (Golden Circle, Borgarnes-Húsafell, Reykjanes peninsula) for the rest of the time. We kept those days very flexible and left our explore-the-city day for whichever of them didn't work out for driving.

Perth, Australia
Level Contributor
153 posts
4 reviews
8. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

maybe for that time of year I'd stay in Reykjavik and skip the car hire. I've written about travel in Iceland which might be useful to you :)

https:/…

Saint Paul...
Level Contributor
137 posts
56 reviews
9. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

Thanks for all the tips and advice!

We ended up with an Airbnb in Reykjavik and a rental car. The 4WD rental car seems pretty reasonable compared to the option of guided trips----but we may still consider a guided trip when we get there. We understand that the daily weather is going to shape our trip, so we're going to have very flexible plans and also plan on just relaxing in our place a bit.

Can anyone tell us if there are good outdoor pools at that time of the year (beside the Blue Lagoon)?

Gardabaer, Iceland
Level Contributor
10,688 posts
4 reviews
10. Re: Advice needed for Dec 26- Jan 2 trip

"Can anyone tell us if there are good outdoor pools at that time of the year (beside the Blue Lagoon)?"

- There are a few hundred options: https://sundlaugar.is/swimming-pools/?lang=en

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