Preparing for Iceland 2018

We did New Years Eve in Paris last year, New York City the year before, and this year we’re doing NYE in Reykjavik! This was my second time visiting Iceland. My first time had been in July a couple years back when I was traveling solo. My partner Matt had been to Iceland twice before, but only as a flight stopover. His experience of Iceland had been the Blue Lagoon and the airport duty free!

Photo of a map of Iceland and a pint of beer


Reykjavik is a popular New Years Eve (NYE) destination due to its fireworks and Northern Lights (aurora). Airfare was cheap when we booked in September, but we were surprised by how outrageous accommodations were. Even co-ed dormitories were incredibly expensive – outside of the city too!

We booked the accommodations for the beginning and end of our trip in using AirBnB and Research advised us not to pre-book winter accommodations as the weather can be unpredictable. We felt uneasy about that as we both like to plan ahead.

We poured ourselves a beer and planned out a route out [on the beautiful International Photographer Map I’d bought at a hostel during my last trip to Iceland]. However, when we logged onto the computer, it was impossible to find an affordable place through Youth Hostels International, Visit Vik, or AirBnB! Some places weren’t taking bookings this premature and/or didn’t have their prices updated for the new year yet. So, much to our discomfort, we had little choice but to leave our January nights up to chance.

Photo of an Icelandic souvenir mug and a map of Iceland


As the weather at home began to cool, I started obsessing about winter wear for our trip. Despite being Canadian, I am not one for winter sports, nor being cold. My winter apparel consists of a wool coat, a fur headband, leather gloves, and rubber boots worn with thick wool socks. I figured this would not be sufficient for tromping around the wilds of Iceland.

I dug out my old marshmallow coat from my mother’s closet. This is a coat I wouldn’t have been caught dead in for the past ten years. Not only was it puffy, but white too – making me look like a giant marshmallow! Pros included goose down, a hood, and the fact the coat went down to my knees.

Photo of an air field at sunset


Everyone I spoke to said “You must do the Blue Lagoon!” so I bit the bullet and decided to do the most touristy thing imaginable in Iceland. I was surprised to learn the Blue Lagoon does not accept walk-ins, and further surprised that the Blue Lagoon was totally booked up until the day we were to leave Iceland! So we booked the remaining slot at 8am on January 6th for a brutal $90.

After I had accepted the fact I’d just spent $90 to sit in a warm body of water, I got very excited. I was finally going to DO THE ICELAND THING. Yeah!!!

With the Blue Lagoon booked, I returned to review accommodations in Vik. I ended up going back to the hostel I’d originally contacted in the Fall (which frightened me away by the prices). They were also booked up for the bulk of our stay, but we snagged one night there near the end of our stay. I’m very excited to see Vik! I hear it is gorgeous.

Leaving for Iceland

Packing for Iceland this time around was tricky. My partner Matt and I had just moved in together and weren’t fully unpacked as the weeks leading up to the holidays had been so incredibly busy. I made the best of it, packing the night before with Ria Mae’s new EP blaring and cracking opening a can of beer, dancing around in my pajamas. I found everything in the end – including my travel pepper grinder!

Matt arrived home from Moncton at 10am on our departure day. Big fluffy flakes of snow were falling outside our window – it was beautiful! He unpacked from Christmas at his parents’ house, then packed up for Iceland. His winter toque had been eaten by mice, so I went down to Winners to pick him up a new one, stopping by the post office to send off New Years cards in the snow.

We took the UP Express from Union Station to Pearson Airport. To my horror, WOW Air required a baggage fee for carry-on luggage. I have never had to pay $60 for my backpack before… apparently it’s only $26 if you book in advance. With much embarrassment, I tried to prove my large backpack did in fact fit the carry-on baggage requirements in front of a long line of people in order to get the ‘discounted’ carry-on rate of $60. But now I know…

Once through security, we made our way to the airport lounge. For less than an airport meal with Matt’s West Jet card, we had a comfortable place to sit, a hot and cold buffet, and open bar to enjoy. The lounge at Terminal 3 wasn’t as nice as the Air Canada lounge we’d experienced on our way to Paris last NYE, but still well worth it. I had three helpings of chocolate mousse, and went up to the buffet counter twice to take full advantage of the hot meals and made-to-order soup!

Our flight was delayed two hours. Once on the plane, I nibbled on a cheese sandwich and sugar cookies that Matt’s mom had made us for our trip. Matt settled into the movie One Chance and I opened up the Giller prize winning novel Bellevue Square.

We are off!