Making the Most of Your Iceland Stopover

 

Flying over Iceland

Flying over Iceland

I was moving to London and I wanted a comfortable flight where I could take two pieces of luggage without paying through the nose. I was going to take Air Canada, but with the extra baggage fee I was looking at close to what I spent on the return flight to London in June. So I called a travel agent. I know, I can’t believe it either – they’re not extinct!

Luckily, the agent I spoke to suggested taking IcelandAir because two pieces of luggage is included. It was only slightly less expensive than Air Canada + extra luggage, but there was also an opportunity: a layover in Keflavik.

I’d never been to Iceland before so I booked a 10-hour layover in the hopes that I could leave the airport and do some fast slow travel before returning to my journey. Just an FYI – IcelandAir will let you lay over for up to a week for long-haul flights – just give their customer service a call.

Some people really dislike layovers – getting off the plane, waiting, getting on another plane. It’s just a time-waster. But if you can extend a layover to a stopover (and if you don’t know the difference like I didn’t five minutes ago, read this) then it may make it a little more enjoyable. So how can you get the most out of your experience? Here are some tips:

Research, research, research!

To be honest, I when I booked that stopover, I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to leave the airport and how it would work. I may have had to sit in Keflavik Airport for 9 hours, bored out of my skull.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case. But to avoid that ‘oh-shit-did-I-just-do-something-idiotic’ feeling, be sure to do your research beforehand.

Tjornin Lake, Reykjavik

Tjornin Lake, Reykjavik

Before you book your flight, check the airline – and airport – stopover policy. You don’t want to spent all night in an airport because they don’t allow you to leave the airport when you have a connecting flight.

Check whether you need a transit visa. I actually didn’t do this either. In fact, I never check whether I need a visa because I have a Canadian passport and I tend to assume they’re like Mastercards – accepted everywhere. Excuse me while I check my privilege, dammit.

Look for airlines that are more forgiving about stopovers so that it doesn’t add to the cost of your ticket. Some airlines will simply charge you for two one-way flights, which can get to be pricey.

Make sure the things you want to see will be open when you’re going to the destination. You don’t want to turn up somewhere in September that’s only open in June!

Think about what you really like to do, especially if you don’t have much time

Now that you have the official stuff sorted out, it’s time to plan the itinerary!

When I started talking to people and looking into what I’d like to do,  a lot of people recommended going to the Blue Lagoon. Apparently it’s one of those things you have to do once – even though the Planet D thinks it’s overrated, they agree. At first, I was convinced. I was going to book the bus and spend the morning there before taking he bus into Reykjavik.

A couple weeks later, I changed my mind. It’s seemed expensive for what it is, there are plenty of other thermal pools around and I don’t really go to spas and such – so why would I spend all that time at a tourist hot spot because people say I should?

Remember: it’s your trip.

I like meeting people, exploring, visiting museums and eating local food, so that’s what I made a plan to do.

Think about what your ‘ritual’ is when you visit a place, or what really interests you – and do that.

Research again – preparation is key

When you only have a short amount of time one screw up and your trip could go out the window.

Organize what you want to want to do and know how you’ll do it.

Will you rent a car or take the bus? I weighed the pros and cons (and prices) of renting a car versus taking the bus into Reykjavik.

Does the airline hold on to your luggage? If it’s more than a day’s stopover, then be sure to bring the items you’ll need for an overnight.

Is there somewhere you can store your carry-on items? Because of the weather – and the fact that I was moving my life to another country – I ended up having to lug 9kg (~20lbs) around Reykjavik all day!

What’s the weather like and how will you travel? Pack your luggage accordingly. I was coming from somewhere relatively warm and going somewhere effing cold so I packed my carry-on with plenty of warm things. Are you going to a warm place from somewhere cold? Wear layers and leave extra space in your carry-on.

Organize and make firm plans. I researched the times of the buses and the opening times of the places I wanted to visit to make sure they would be open.

Even if you’re not into planning, at least look at a map. I like to use Google Earth to get a feel for the place if I haven’t been there before. Don’t do what I did my first year in Martinique and hope that someone would be there to take you to a place you haven’t arranged to at yet. :)

So, what did I do for my stopover in Iceland?

I walked around Tjörnin Lake…

Tjornin Lake, Reykjavik, Iceland in Autumn

I visited the Harpa…

The Harpa, in Reykjavik, Iceland

Really cool architecture

I met up with a really nice Couchsurfer/student/blogger named Romina at Stofan’s Cafe

Stofan's Cafe in Reykjavik, Iceland

And generally just took in the sights…

View from the pier in Reykjavik

View from the quay

Iceland homes

On the drive from Keflavik to Reykjavik

Tjornin Lake

I spent enough time there to realize that I want to spend more time in Iceland! I think I might book a longer layover next time I get the opportunity to go home to Canada!

Oh yeah, and if anyone could explain to me what these are – I’d greatly appreciate it!

Iceland

  9 comments for “Making the Most of Your Iceland Stopover

  1. 1 December, 2013 at 13:34

    Looks like you made the most of the short time you had there! Good work! I’d love to go to Iceland… one day it will happen! :)
    Helen recently posted…Swimming with Dolphins in New ZealandMy Profile

    • Alyssa James
      3 December, 2013 at 16:15

      Soon soon soon! It’s not too bad a flight and the prices seem good from UK to Iceland. Plus, you can see a lot in a few days, so it’s good that way too.

  2. 2 December, 2013 at 12:09

    You know, I’ve seen flights with Iceland Air pop up before, but have yet to fly with them. How were they?

    And yay to layovers! I have a 16-hour layover in Kuala Lumpur when I head to Taipei in January. Luckily I have friends there, and have been to the city before, so know the layover is feasible. My main objective? Eat delicious food. Sleep. Then back to the airport for a morning flight!
    Tom @ Waegook Tom recently posted…Harrogate Christmas MarketMy Profile

    • Alyssa James
      3 December, 2013 at 16:14

      Sounds like a success and a half. I look forward to that foodporn friday post!

      IcelandAir was actually awesome! They give you a little water bottle, a pillow and a blanket (for long-haul flights anyway). They all have little Icelandic phrases and jokes on them! I slept the whole flight though, so that’s as much as I can tell you!

  3. 17 December, 2013 at 05:16

    I love long layovers like this. Like you said, it gives you enough of a taste to know whether you should come back and spend a lot more time there. When I took an Iceland Air flight, unfortunately I didn’t have time to leave the airport…darn it! We are doing this next week, though, a stopover for 26 hours in Doha….yay!
    Corinne recently posted…Our Top 7 World Heritage Sites of 2013My Profile

    • Alyssa James
      17 December, 2013 at 07:06

      Ooh, that sounds exciting! Thanks for commenting, Corrine :)

  4. 14 January, 2014 at 15:02

    Iceland has never really been on my radar but I have been seeing a lot of posts on it lately. It looks absolutely beautiful and is most defiantly now on my bucket list. It’s suppose to be really good place for extreme sports and outdoor adventure. Can’t wait to go!
    Tana B recently posted…The Beauty of Monterrico, GuatemalaMy Profile

    • Alyssa James
      15 January, 2014 at 07:59

      Hi Tana,

      There are always more places to put on your bucket list. I generally just want to go EVERYWHERE. I should probably just narrow it down :)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

x

Keep up with Alyssa!

Or get updates to your inbox: