I'm 29 & This Is How Much I Spent On My 6-Day Trip To Iceland With My S.O.

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Welcome to Away Game, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real millennial women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week's travel diary: A 29-year-old engineering analyst eats ice cream in Iceland.
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Age: 29
Occupation: Engineering Analyst
Salary: $61,000
Travel Companion: My partner, S
Significant Other's Salary: $0 — full time mature student
Hometown: Ottawa
Trip Location: Iceland
Trip Length: 6 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 22 (15 Vacation and 7 discretionary personal days)
Companion’s # of Vacation Days: 0
Flights: $776.38 round trip, including seat selection with an XL seat and a checked bag each (no carry-on)
Rental Car: $455.70 for an AWD crossover for the duration of our trip.
Total: $1232.08
$97.81 1 night in Ryekjavik, private room with shared bathroom/kitchen
$96.53 1 night near Búðardalur, private room in a guest house on a farm with breakfast provided
$96.28 1 night near Akureyri, private cabin in the woods
$183.31 2 nights in Selfoss, private apartment
Total: $473.93 for the 5 nights that we will be staying
Pre-vacation spending:
$68.21 for a cat sitter
$83.37 for parking at the airport paid in advance to reserve a spot
$256.91 for a North Face GoreTex shell and some wind/rain pants
Total: $412.49
Post-vacation spending:
$18.19 for phone plan upgrade while away

Day One

1 p.m. — We stop for a quick lunch at A&W before heading to Montreal. S pays for our burgers and drinks.
3 p.m. — We arrive at the airport and find a spot in the parking lot (already paid for). We catch the shuttle from the parking lot to the airport and start the process of checking our backpacks and getting through security.
4:30 p.m. — We load up on dinner to eat on the plane. First we stop at a pizza place for a small pizza to split (S pays), then a coffee stand for a sandwich, some oatmeal cookies, and some drinks; I pay. We also fill our reusable water bottles. $19.15
6 p.m. — Our flight takes off! We have extra legroom seats and have ended up in a row all to ourselves (though there are only two seats and no window seat). We have a lot of space but don’t end up sleeping much on the flight.
10:30 p.m. — Our time/4:30 AM local time — we land and head to pick up our bags at the Keflavik airport. We also stop at the duty free shop for S to grab some beers, since this is the cheapest place to get them.
5:30 a.m. — After waiting for over an hour we finally figure out that the instructions for our rental car are wrong and we need to take a shuttle bus (despite what the confirmation email said). It takes about an hour to get to the rental spot and then get our car squared away. We leave with a sturdy grey Dacia Duster 4WD.
7 a.m. — We head just down the road to Viking World. After missing out on booking the Blue Lagoon for the morning I had to do some research to find something that would be open for breakfast. This place promised a viking breakfast and a reconstruction of a long-ship and doesn't disappoint on either front. $41.76 for 2 for admission and breakfast.
9:30 a.m. — We leave Viking World and head towards Reykjavik. I’ve downloaded an offline Google map of the area to reduce the amount of data I’m using. We arrive at Perlan, a museum/restaurant located on a hill just outside of town. They have a wonderful planetarium with some movies about Iceland, as well as a man-made glacier cave and really interesting exhibit on glaciers and the impact of climate change. There is also an observation deck where we can see all of Reykjavik and the surrounding area. $75.17 for 2 full admissions.
12 p.m. — We’re getting hungry again so we head to the restaurant at Perlan to split a ham and cheese croissant and a cheese danish. Afterwards we leave the museum and drive around Reykjavik to get a feel for the city (and for S to practice his stick driving and roundabouts). $11.32
2 p.m. — We stop at the Bonus discount grocery store before heading to our rental for the night. We get bread, cheese, mayo, skyr, granola, juice boxes, and two frozen dinners for tonight. When we’re done we head to the apartment and crash immediately. $28.91
5 p.m. — Wake up from the nap feeling a bit refreshed but still groggy and make frozen dinners in the communal kitchen. After we eat we head out for a walk down by the water. I shower when we get back, then decide to go to bed at around 8:30 PM. My strategy is always to try to stay up as late as possible (with maybe a short nap) to try to get on the local time quickly.
Daily Total: $176.31

Day Two

7:30 a.m. — We wake up feeling a lot better so we decide to go out in search of coffee. I forget my phone at the apartment and we end up in the wrong direction. After an hour and 4,000 steps we end up at the nearest Te & Kaffi and S gets our lattes. We walk back to the apartment to eat breakfast (skyr and granola) and pack up for our next stop. While S is in the shower I make some sandwiches with tuna we brought from home and some local cheese, and fill our water bottles.
10:15 a.m. — The car is packed and we hit the road for the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. The weather looks great and the view of the mountains is amazing. As we leave Reykjavik the wind starts to pick up and doesn’t ever really let up.
11:30 a.m. — Stop for gas in Borgarnes. $29.72
12:30 p.m. — Stop just off the road for our sandwiches and delicious Icelandic juice.
1:30 p.m. — Head across the peninsula and stop halfway through for stunning views of the mountains and the ocean. As we’re leaving the car’s check engine light comes on. This will end up bothering S for a few days, but I tell him that since it isn’t flashing and no other lights are on it’s probably just a sensor issue.
2 p.m. — Arrive at the Greenland Shark Museum. I saw this place on Departures and have wanted to try Greenland shark ever since. At the museum we learn the family’s history, see how the shark is cured, and get to taste some cured shark (it’s poisonous fresh due to the ammonia content). I find the shark pretty tasty, but S does not. We also meet the cutest dog in the world, and briefly consider adopting an Icelandic Sheepdog. $20.05
4 p.m. — After driving around Snæfellsnes and snapping some amazing pictures of waterfalls and mountains we make our way towards Búðardalur for our second night’s sleep. On the way we drive around a snowy fjord and come across some girls from Texas who have gotten stuck in the snow. We give them some winter driving tips and help dig them out (along with some boys from Japan).
5:30 p.m. — We arrive at our home for tonight, a quaint farmhouse on a sheep farm in the hills (Sauðafell). Our hosts greet us at the door and let us know that we are the only guests staying tonight, so we have our pick of breakfast time and room upstairs.
7 p.m. — We drive 15 minutes up the road to the only restaurant in the area, Dalakot Guesthouse. We order pizza and curry crusted haddock and they are both delicious. We end up chatting with the waitress for a while about Canada and the weather in our respective countries. We head back to the farm and spend a relaxing evening to ourselves. We try to see the Northern Lights, but the sky is too cloudy. We’ll have to try again tomorrow night. $47.19
Daily Total: $96.96

Day Three

7:45 a.m. — I get up and shower before our host arrive for breakfast. They’ve set out a wonderful spread of local meat, cheese, bread, spreads, and skyr. We indulge and spend the morning chatting about the farm, guests they’ve met, our plans for the rest of the trip, and their plans to travel to Alberta this summer. After our hosts leave to do chores I make sandwiches while S showers, then help him pack up the car.
10:30 AM — We’re on the road again, headed to Akureyri. The drive is uneventful, but breathtakingly beautiful. S manages to find a spot where the adorable Icelandic horses are close to the fence line and we stop for some close-ups and selfies.
12:30 p.m. — We stop in Blönduós for gas and sandwiches and I’m shocked by how much 40L of gas costs. $59.98
3 p.m. — We arrive in Akureyri after an incredibly scenic drive through snowy mountain passes. We stop at a garage to see if they will check the engine light and they suggest calling the rental company so we don’t have to pay. I call the rental company and they say it’s a known issue with this car and the code is likely just a fault in the system. I guess we’ll just keep driving.
4:30 PM — We get to our home for the night, a charming cozy cabin on a farm that has been turned into a forest (Bakkakot Cabins). The cabin is small but cute and the farm comes with a dog, two cats, and an elusive bunny rabbit. Our host suggests we head down to the town for a swim in the public hot tub, but I let him know we have other plans in mind and thank him for the advice.
5 p.m. — We arrive at the Beer Spa in Árskógssandur. My mom gifted us with a spa day for Christmas, and this is what I decided on. The experience ends up being amazing! First we spend half an hour in an outdoor hot tub overlooking the ocean, then a 25 minute soak in a hot bath with hops, malt, yeast, beer oils, and beer salts (with the local brew available on tap), then a 25 minute rest in a relaxation room. ($132.80 to be paid back by my amazing mother.) After the spa my skin and hair feel amazing and I’m ultra relaxed.
7 p.m. — We finish our spa visit with dinner at the adjacent restaurant. We split roast lamb, salad, and fried camembert cheese. S picks up the tab for this dinner.
9:30 p.m. — Back at the cabin we decide that the conditions are right to take a trip out into the dark to hunt the Northern Lights. We end up successful, though the full moon makes the lights a whole lot harder to see with the naked eye. Fortunately the new camera app for Google has Night Sight, which does an automatic long exposure shot where we can see the lights in all their blue and green glory.
Daily Total: $59.98

Day 4

8:30 a.m. — Wake up, make our breakfast, and enjoy the beautiful views of the fjord. After breakfast we make our sandwiches and pack up. We’re heading back down to Selfoss today and have a long drive ahead.
10:30 a.m. — We stop in at Bonus again to get some more breakfast/snack staples, as well as some pasta and sausage for dinner at home tonight.($28.59). We also stop to get gas ($38.81) before our long drive South. $67.40
1:30 p.m. — We stop to get gas again and use the washrooms. $20.94
5 p.m. — We’re finally at our stop for the night in Selfoss. It’s been a lot of driving and S’s back is starting to act up. We decide on a quiet dinner in of pasta with red pepper, sausage, and pesto.
6:30 p.m. — After dinner I’m craving a sweet treat, so I suggest going to a local ice cream spot, Huppu Ísbúð, since Iceland is supposedly well known for their ice cream. We intend to walk, but on the way out the door a surprise sudden downpour hits and we opt to drive. The place is great! We get a scoop of daim (a toffee candy) and a scoop of chocolate cookie dough in a cup to split. $4.05
7:30 p.m. — We spend the rest of the night watching Star Trek Discovery on my tablet (it’s on Netflix in Iceland!) and relaxing in bed. The room is pretty warm due to the geothermal heating, so we have to crack some windows to get comfortable.
Daily Total: $92.39

Day Five

7:45 a.m. — I’m up early to try to get a start on the day. We’re going to be exploring the south coast and I have a few things I want to see. We’re too far away to visit the largest glacier in Europe, but I think I’ve found a smaller outlet glacier nearby that we can walk right up to.
9:30 a.m. — Sandwiches made; we’re on the road again. We fill up with gas on the way out of town. $49.23
10:45 a.m. — We stop at Seljalandsfoss waterfall for some pictures. It’s starting to rain and I’m really glad I have my shell available. This is the first place we’ve been with lots of tourists and I have to work a bit to get pictures without people in them. Normally you can walk behind the waterfall, but in the winter it’s closed.
11:30 a.m. — We arrive at Sólheimajökull glacier. It’s an outlet glacier of the larger Mýrdalsjökull glacier, which covers Iceland’s most active volcano, Katla. The hike up to the glacier is windy and wet and I’m glad I put on my splash pants before we headed out. We spend about an hour and a half hiking around the glacial lagoon and end up close enough to touch the glacier. It cracks in the distance at one point and the sound is eerie. Fortunately the wind is at our backs on the way back to the car. At the car we have our sandwiches and dry out a bit before heading back to the Golden Circle.
1:30 p.m. — Quick gas and bathroom stop before we head up to Geysir. $25.22
2:45 p.m. — We make it to the Geysir geothermal area and park in the large parking lot. This area is a lot more built up and touristy than other places we’ve visited and there are a number of large tour busses and minibuses in the parking lot. We’re losing steam (just like the geysers) and we only spend about 20 minutes wandering around the thermal pools before heading off to Gulfoss. The falls are pretty spectacular, but still very busy and tourist focused. We only stay about 20 minutes again before heading back to Selfoss for the night.
5:30 p.m. — We’re tired, but decide to get dressed up and go for a nice dinner at a local restaurant, Tryggvaskáli. S gets a burger and a beer and I get some salmon and a beer. The food is very tasty, but the price is hard to overcome. $78.09
7 p.m. — We skip dessert and instead head over to the ice cream shop. This time I get bragðarefur (like a blizzard but with more choice and better ice cream) with daim, cookie dough, and Oreo, and S gets a scoop of chocolate licorice and a scoop of chocolate cookie dough. S pays and we head back to the apartment to pack and watch more Star Trek before heading to bed.
Daily Total: $152.54

Day 6

8 a.m. — It’s our last day and I’m up early again to make the most of it. We shower, have breakfast, and load up the car. We’re heading into Reykjavik for some souvenir shopping and a hotdog.
10:30 a.m. — We get a parking spot near Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand and walk up towards the iconic Hallgrimskrikja church. We stop in at a souvenir shop on the way and pick up some puffin socks for my sister, a print for S’s mom, and some shirts for us. S stops at another shop on the way and gets a book on Iceland and its folklore that he really loved. $135.97
12:00PM - Get our hotdogs then pack our souvenirs in our bags for the flight home. There’s a parking ticket on the windshield and I’m going to have to sort that out before we leave. The parking machine was automated and I understood that if I put in my license number and paid I wouldn’t have to display the ticket. Unfortunately, it seems like my card didn’t work in the machine. S suggests fighting the ticket, but I remind him that it probably wouldn’t make sense to come back to Reykjavik just to go to traffic court. $7.85
12:30 p.m. — Fill up with gas for the last time on the way to drop our car off in Keflavik. I also buy some licorice and caramel chocolate bars for snacking at home. $48.93
1:30 p.m. — Car is dropped off and we don’t have to pay any extra fees for damage! I get a tip on where to pay the parking ticket and head to the bank in the airport to pay. It’s $33.50. After paying the ticket we check our bags and head through security.
2:30 p.m. — After security we shop around the duty free, since I want to find some treats to bring back to my colleagues. I settle on some Licorice and Sea Salt Malt Krunch balls from Omnom for work folks and six tiny bottles of local liquor for us ($23.34). We also pick up some juice and sandwiches ($23.05) to have on our plane ride home and fill up our giant water bottles. $46.39
4 p.m. — The airplane is loaded and we set off for Montreal. Since I purchased the extra legroom seats we end up sitting in a row to ourselves with a seat-blocker table in between. On the way we can see Greenland and Northern Quebec out the window and it’s pretty spectacular. We watch more Star Trek, eat our sandwiches, and finish any spare snacks we have left.
9 p.m. Iceland Time/4 p.m. Montreal Time — We land, deplane, get our bags, and head to pick up the car. I don’t have to pay on the way out, since I paid for parking in advance. The drive home is about two hours and I’m getting pretty tired by the time we get in the door at 7 p.m. local time. Fortunately S ordered a pizza en-route, so I pay for the pizza and we spend the rest of the evening watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine. $23.14
Daily Total: $295.78
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation? If so, how much?Nope. I’ve got a savings fund set up specifically for vacation/fun spending, and I’ve been replenishing it since my last trip in 2017. Before the trip the fund was at $5500 ($4200 USD) and I’ll pull from that to cover my costs for the trip.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
Visiting Viking World for breakfast was AMAZING! They have great food and a cool museum at a reasonable price. Perlan was also pretty cool, especially if you are not going to be able to make it out of Reykjavik to see a glacier or the Northern Lights. But if you can make it to the Beer Spa — it really is a must-do.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
The ice cream at Huppu Ísbúð was great. You need to have ice cream in Iceland (even in winter).
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Be prepared for changing weather and be prepared to be wet. If you go in the winter and you’re driving outside of the south you should know how to drive in snowy conditions (since a 4WD does not magically make you go in the snow). There is a souvenir store at the airport with no tax/duty, but the cheapest chocolate is at the grocery store. There is nothing wrong with eating ice cream in the winter.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
I wish we had taken a few more days and maybe done the full ring road, but really the trip was pretty magical.
Would you stay at your Airbnbs again?
Yes to all of them, especially the farm (Sauðafell).
Is there anything you wish you'd had time to do?
We wanted to see the Jökulsárlón Glacier Lagoon, but it would have been a 10+ hour round trip from our place in Selfoss. I was just as happy to see the Sólheimajökull outlet glacier and it’s small glacial lagoon.
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