Tips for Visiting Iceland With Kids
Despite what its name may imply, Iceland is a vividly stunning country filled with breathtaking scenery. We fell in love with it due to its interesting and unique culture. Iceland is a very family-friendly destination and we hope these tips for visiting Iceland with kids will help or inspire your family to visit.
1. Fly Icelandair
Icelandair does a remarkable job of introducing you to Iceland through in-flight entertainment on their TVs, phrases on the seat backs and blankets, and kids activity sheets on flights. Meals aren’t complimentary but are reasonably priced. The best part is that Icelandair allows passengers free stopovers for up to seven nights before or after flights to other European destinations. We stopped in Iceland on our way to Copenhagen. The airline also offers discounted fares for children, ages 3-12.
2. Visit During the Summer
Though Iceland can be a year-round destination and popular for the Northern Lights, summer is the best time to visit. We went in mid-June and took advantage of 23 hours of sunlight. It felt a little weird but was also a wonderful experience to see the midnight sun. Our time was limited, but we got to explore more of Iceland with so much daylight.
3. Rent a Car
Iceland has limited public transportation. Having a car allowed us to explore more places than if we went on tours. It also gave us flexibility with our schedules, which is very important when traveling with kids. Car rental rates and gas were a bit pricey, but it was still a significant saving over tour companies. The roads were easy to drive and navigate with our standard-sized car. We downloaded the Iceland map into our GPS and didn’t get lost despite some unpronounceable street names.
4. Visit the Hot Springs.
Don’t miss the Blue Lagoon or one of the thermal hot springs. It is an unforgettable and relaxing experience, especially after a long plane ride. Keep in mind that Europeans are more liberal with clothing inside the locker rooms. Be prepared and think about how to approach and warn kids not used to seeing so much nakedness. There are closed changing rooms and showers too. Everyone must shower before entering any of these bathing areas. Bring your slippers or water shoes.
5. Drink the water
There aren’t many places in the world where tap water has such a distinct freshness. I never thought I’d describe water as delicious. Don’t buy any water; bring your own water bottle and fill up, the colder the better.
6. Try Icelandic food.
One of the great things about traveling is eating local cuisine and introducing kids to foreign foods. Iceland has a unique food culture with plenty of seafood (including whales and puffins) and putrefied items. Yes, we ate minke whale, which wasn’t too bad. Hot dog, or pylsur, stands are common but don’t miss the Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur stand by the Harpa Concert Hall in Reykjavik and get “the works.” It’s one of the best hot dogs we’ve ever had.
7. Visit the Supermarkets
Local supermarkets are excellent for food souvenir shopping, to see different versions of familiar items, and to see local favorites like Skyr (cultured dairy product) and chocolate covered licorice. Supermarkets provide a wonderful insight into Icelandic culture. My kids enjoyed visiting grocery stores like Bonus and Kronan and seeing some unique items.
8. Enjoy Tax-Free Shopping
Iceland has many beautiful items, especially woolen goods. 66° North is a local brand and Laugavegur is the main shopping street. Keep in mind that stores close around 7 pm on weekdays and earlier on weekends.
Shop away and get a Value Added Tax (VAT) Refund for items or receipt totals over 4000 ISK ($36) that you’re taking out of the country within three months. Participating stores usually display Tax-Free or Global refund signs. Get the tax-free form from the stores and ensure they sign it. Attach your receipts to the form and take it to a City Refund Point. We went to the one at the airport. As guarantee, you’ll need to present a Visa or MasterCard, valid for at least three months. Then send the tax free form, together with the original purchase receipt, by mail to Tax Free Worldwide.
More helpful information for visiting Iceland:
- Consider Hilton Reykjavik Nordica for your home base.
- See our vacation photos from Iceland.
- Explore vacations to Scandinavia and Western Europe.
- Read our 10 Tips for a Getting a Rental Car in Europe.
Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…