Travelling to Iceland with your family can be a daunting task. That’s why we’ve created these Family Travel In Iceland – Top 5 Tips to get the best of your time in Iceland. Hunting for the northern lights, hiking on a glacier and bathing in a volcanically heated hot pool will undoubtedly bring you and your family closer together. Let’s create some memories together!
Well, for the past 11 years, Iceland has topped the ranks as the safest country in the world on the Global Peace Index. This is due to the tiny crime rates, high levels of gender equality (it’s number one for that too) and social inclusion. A day won’t go by that you won’t be impressed by how well Iceland is run as a country, and how friendly the people are. Also, most Icelanders speak close to perfect English. Icelanders are taught English from a very young age and love to practice with you and the kids. They’ll even teach the kids how to say Eyjafjallajökull if you ask nicely enough.
I was recently asked to provide some insight into family travel during COVID-19 for Family Vacationist if you care to get an updated thought process. In essence, family travel is still high on people’s priority list. But now, rather than chasing Mickey or persuing the tight streets in a cultured city they are looking for seclusion and natural wonders. Thankfully Iceland has both in spades.
Iceland is home to so many incredible attractions that your kids will love. In fact, you’ve probably been told the golden circle is a must see. That the Reynisfjara black sand beach is essential. And, of course you have to stop off at the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon for the kids to get a glimpse of the shimmering blue icebergs. But these places aren’t exactly next to each other.
So how do you create a holiday out of all of these far off places? Also, when is the best time of year to come? And what kind of accommodation is there for families? Should I be worried about the weather?
Getting overwhelmed yet?
Hidden Iceland are part of the Family Travel Association and love to work with families to create the perfect trip in Iceland so read on to get some of our top 5 tips. If you’re already inspired then get in touch and we can start planning together.
FAMILY TRAVEL IN ICELAND – TOP 5 TIPS
Without further ado, here it is!
1. Make your family trip private
Hidden Iceland specialises in personalised travel. And what better way to personalise a trip than with a private tour. Our private tour packages can be customised to add/ remove activities that you think might not be suitable for certain family members. Hiking on a glacier has a minimum age of 10 so instead perhaps you can go on a short ice cave tour with a custom vehicle taking you right to the front of the ice cave. Does someone in the group have back problems and might struggle with a walk up the Eldfell volcano? Why not explore the Eldheimer Museum that’s literally built around the ruins from the 1973 eruption instead, on our Westman Islands trip.
Making the trip private, as opposed to joining our small group tours, really does allow you the time to enjoy Iceland at your own pace. And if you have quite a big family the cost, split between everyone, is surprisingly affordable.
2. Make it action packed, not crammed
Two similar sentiments but one can be exciting and the other can just feel rushed. Doing the must see sights like the Golden Circle with the family is one thing but why jump rush through the secluded Secret Lagoon Hot Pool and lunch at the Fridheimar tomato farm just so you can add in another two waterfalls. This is a holiday after all so don’t skip the desserts just to make ‘good time’.
My recommendation is to beware of any company that seems to be offering the world. These types of crammed itineraries end up becoming a tick box exercise. Not fun for anyone, but especially not for the little ones who may be dying to explore.
Insider’s tip right here! Do not, and I repeat, do not try to get to the Jökulsárlón glacier lagoon in one day from Reykjavik and back. This results in 11 hours of driving. Not to mention that you won’t get much time to see anything outside of the vehicle before dark. Cranky kids stuck in a car makes this even less appealing.
3. Always include activities in nature for the kids
There is a limit to how many ‘breathtaking’ waterfalls and ‘fun facts’ you can take before the young ones start to lose focus. I think that’s true of all ages though. So every trip we run when travelling with families includes some form of activity. That could be speeding boating around the Westman Islands. It could be walking up a still warm volcano. Or it could be hiking on a glacier on our two day trip to the glacier lagoon. One thing is for sure, there’s plenty of open space and adventurous terrain to entertain. I always say, the more senses you engage the more likely you are to create a lifelong memory.
3. Find accommodation in the right locations
A list of tips couldn’t be complete for family travel in Iceland without including accommodation. After all, this is where you unwind and let the kids get their cherished game time. Reykjavik is actually filled with great options for family friendly accommodation. For example, Hotel Borg has many adjoining rooms and Reykjavik Residence provides plenty of family apartments.
However, once you get out of the city things get a little more tricky. In fact, once you are out on the road you are often restricted to one or two good options per location. Our main recommendation is pick location over luxury. If you can get both, great. But there’s nothing worse than adding on lots of drive time to your journey because of your hotel.
On our more budget conscious trips we like to sleep overnight at the quaint newly built Lilja Guest House. This secluded hotel has many triple rooms with great views. It’s also conveniently situated near the Glacier Lagoon. Further along the south coast we like to get away from all the unnatural light. Especially during northern lights season. Places like Hotel VOS and Hotel UMI offer unrestricted views.
4. The best time to come to Iceland with kids
This is a harder question than it appears. Mainly because there is no ‘bad time’ to come. It’s more about your priorities for the trip. Kids love lots of different things. Adults have their own goals. And if you are a little older, the grandparents might desire something else entirely. So we’ve highlight 3 below:
Basking in the Midnight Sun in Summer – (June, July and August)
It pretty much stays light for 3 months straight in summer. The perfect time to see the midnight sun, play with new born lambs, and find puffins along the sea cliffs. This is arguably the best time of year for family travel in Iceland. The only slight negative is that it is the busiest time of year to come. Still by no means crowded though. Kids tend to be a little happier in the warm and sunny moments though as you can imagine.
Northern Lights hunting and Ice Cave Discovery in Winter (November to March).
Our 2 day ice cave trip allows you to do both, if you are lucky. You will sleep overnight in the middle of nowhere for the perfect vantage point to see the Northern Lights. The following day includes a hike to an off the beaten path ice cave. The only negative for the winter is the weather. Teenagers and young adults will love the adventure of this trip. But, if you are contending with very little ones and those more advanced in age, then other activities might be more suited to you.
Saying that, sometimes you get lucky and have a perpetual sunrise in the day and beautiful starry night. Iceland’s winter is often referred to as a wonderland. And rightly so! With fresh snow and northern lights, it’s no wonder. Avid photographer’s will love this time of year.
Off Season Calm (April/ May/ September/ October)
The shoulder months are great because there are often far fewer tourists around. The weather usually behaves itself a little better than in winter too. You can also still see the northern lights during these months too. Add in the birthing of most barnyard animals and the yearly round up in autumn and this can be a great time of year. Kids and adults love animals. This might be the time of year to see them at their cutest and most active.
5. Keep it short with breaks in between
Finally, timing is everything. The longer you spend in Iceland the better, in our eyes. But we know that Iceland can be expensive. Add in some turbulent weather and we would hasten to say that a week is a pretty good time limit unless it’s summer.
Of course we want you to book as many trips with us as possible but more than 3 or 4 days out on the open road can be a little tiring with young kids. No matter how great the itinerary is. So we tend to suggest doing 2 days along the South coast first. Add in the Westman Islands in summer. Then finish off at the Golden Circle before giving yourself a much needed break back in Reykjavik. This is perfectly planned out in our Essential South Coast 3 day trip. As with all our private trips, things can be changed for you though, with new days added in. Once you’ve had a reset day in the city and explored some of the best restaurants in Reykjavik then perhaps you can rejoin us for a couple more days. Perhaps we can check out the most photographed mountain at Snaefellsnes. Or enter a Lava Tunnel along the Reykjanes peninsula.
Hopefully these top 5 tips will help you create a great trip. But, if you would like to us to help you plan your family travel in Iceland please click here. Together, we can find the best of Iceland.