For us, first rule of traveling is to always, and I mean ALWAYS, do your homework on the places you are going. While researching Iceland, I have picked up a few Icelandic words that I am going to throw in here and there to make the stories more fun – though I stress that there is a big difference between being able to spell an Icelandic word in a blog and being able to pronounce the word itself, but more on that in a second. Anyway, Ísland is the Icelandic name for the country, so we will be using it throughout the posts on our adventure to the Land of Ice and Snow (queue Led Zeppelin).
A quick side note on some pronunciation – Keflavík (where the airport is) is pronounced “Kep-la-veek” – with the emphasis on the first syllable and no “f” sound. From what I’ve been able to discover the “f” sound changes to a “p” sound when followed by the letter “l”. The letter “Þ” is pronounced as the “th” sound in the word “thin”, and the letter “ð” is also pronounced with a “th” sound, but with a slight buzz from the vocal chords, much like the “th” in the word “worthy”. A double “ll” seems to carry a “tl” sound, so Þingvellir is pronounced as “thing-vet-leer”. We’ll see how well this carries over once we arrive, but that is what the internet has me starting with….. (edit: turns out to be right on – yay for the internets!)
Back to traveling: WOW airlines offers an impressive deal on flights out of BWI on a regular basis, although we should caution you to check into the fee schedule before getting too excited. From what we discovered, round trip tickets from BWI to KEF average about $200 USD, without the associated baggage fees. In all, round trip flight breakdown looked pretty good, but feel free to comment if you got some better deals! We did manage to make our trip with a back pack and personal item each, but after packing everything, we also added a checked bag to have a little extra room to bring back souvenirs, and decided to throw our hiking boots in there to avoid wearing them on the plane. That added an extra $65 each way, but only for one ticket. All together, for three travelers with three backpacks, three personal items (small camera backpacks), and one checked bag we paid $1221.
Once we got to BWI, the WOW counter had a check in line and a bag drop off-line, so we were able to miss some of the wait because we checked in online. They weighed our checked bag like usual, no worries, and then asked to weigh my backpack. I am carrying my Osprey 34 L, and it is right at the dimensions specified by the airline as carry on size.
It was “weigh” underweight (hahaha) but they also made me see if it would fit in their pre-measured bin to make sure it was the right size. It fit in the bin so I got to take it with me, but if it had not I did see them charge another passenger an extra fee to upgrade it to a checked bag. That being said, the dimensions are more than reasonable and they handled it professionally. 5 points to WOW Airlines for being fair and expeditious. After a quick trip through TSA (said no one ever) we hung out at the gate til it was time to board. We also brought a stow-away, the Tomte!
From a packing standpoint, you need to go back to the top of the blog and read rule one – do your homework. If you are planning on hiking and adventuring into caves and onto glaciers like we are, then you need to pack waterproof hiking boots, great socks, a rain solution (it’s not IF it rains in Ísland, but WHEN it rains), and warm, comfortable clothes suited to the temperatures. The forecast for our trip looks pretty normal for Júní on the island, but it seems comparable to October here in Virginia.
On the other hand, if you are visiting Ísland with a more relaxed schedule in mind, maybe visiting the spa’s and museums during a more relaxing stay, then you can probably get away with less clothing specifically tailored to the elements, though I still recommend something to keep out the wind and rain. For specifics, I am taking my Lowa Renegade GTX waterproof hiking boots, some First Ascent hiking pants from Eddie Bauer that have been all over the world and have lasted forever (I hiked Vesuvius in them a few years ago, and they still look new), my merino wool base layer from L.L. Bean, and my North Face Rain Shell. I’ll throw a t-shirt on and roll with it from there. My wife is a little more cold natured than I, so she is also taking some leggings and a heavier coat.
To give you a sneak peek at some of the posts to come, we are planning on visiting many of the major sites the island has to offer, and a few that are off the beaten path. We’ll be scuba diving in Silfra, visiting Þingvellir, making a stop at the Blue Lagoon, checking out the Golden Circle, spelunking into a lava tube, walking behind waterfalls, hiking the painted mountains (hopefully), seeing geysers and black sand beaches, climbing volcanos, maybe catching sight of some whales and puffins, journeying to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, and enjoying the capital and a wide variety of museums. Stay tuned, and if you’d like to leave a comment we’d love to hear from you.