Guide to Planning Your Iceland Family Vacation

Are you thinking about a family trip to Iceland? In this guide we share all the details for planning your Iceland family vacation.

Let me start with saying I honestly never thought we would visit Iceland as a family. It never even occurred to me to consider it but that is exactly what we did for our summer trip in 2023.

We started planning our Iceland itinerary as a bonus to our family vacation to Europe. When I first started planning this trip Iceland wasn’t really on the list. I assumed it was too difficult to travel to as well as too expensive.

As I was doing my flight research I found IcelandAir had the best prices for our trip, from the East Coast, and you could include a 1 to 7 night layover as part of your itinerary.

From there I knew we had to include a family vacation to Iceland in our itinerary.

We decided on 2 nights to allow a full day of exploring. It was perfect for our family and although we couldn’t see and do everything, we really enjoyed our experience in Iceland.

Read on for all the details on how we planned our visit to Iceland with the kids, where we stayed, where we ate and what we did during our family vacation in Iceland.

iceland famiy trip itinerary Hallgrímskirkja
Hallgrímskirkja is a popular place to visit in the city of Reykjavik in Iceland.

Overview of Our Family Trip to Iceland Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival In Iceland

  • Depart on a red-eye flight from Toronto, Canada. I do not recommend a red eye, which I go more into below in my detailed itinerary, but if you are flying from the East Coast the flight is only around 5 hours. You will arrive in the morning in Iceland and most likely be exhausted.
  • Travel from airport to Reykjavik, Iceland. Check-in to hotel.
  • Brunch at The Laundromat Cafe, explore the sites around our hotel until we could get in our apartment.
  • Dinner at the famous Icelandic Hot Dog stand.

Day 2: Full Day in Reykjavik

  • Puffin Boat Tour
  • Walked along Rainbow Road
  • Whale Museum
  • Perlan Museum
  • Explored the City

Day 3: Early Departure Flight to London

  • We include this as part of our layover so we only stayed 2 nights in the city. It was enough to see Reykjavik and we had a great time. If you would like to see more of Iceland 2 nights is perfect for the city and then continue your visit with other stops.

Things to Know When Planning a Family Trip to Iceland

How long is the flight to Iceland from the US?

This was one of the things that really surprised me during our trip. The flight to Iceland from NY is around 4.5-5 hours. There is also a 4-5 hour time difference depending on if you visit during daylight saving time.

I booked a redeye flight because I expected it to be longer. Needless to say we didn’t sleep more than 20 minutes during the flight and arrived in Iceland early morning.

How do you get around in Iceland?

The main airport is Keflavik and there are two popular ways to get around Iceland. Visitors either rent a car and drive or make reservations with bus tours.

We made a bus reservation with Flybus Iceland for our drive to and from Reykjavik. Large buses are not allowed within the city. Guests traveling from the airport to Reykjavik take a bus to the bus station and then transfer to a smaller bus to get to the city center.

Family Trip to Iceland Cost

Iceland is not a very budget friendly place to visit. As a family of five we knew we would spend more than usual on things like food and accommodations. Below is the breakdown of cost of Iceland family vacation, not including our flight cost.

  • Transportation Costs: $200.00 (this was the Flybus transportation to/from airport to Reykjavik)
  • Accommodation Cost: $838.00 (2 nights at Hotel Odinsve Apartments)
  • Food Cost: $338.00
  • Attraction Cost: $400.00

Where to Stay in Iceland with Kids?

We stayed at the Hotel Odinsve apartments. These were great for a family of five because they have separate bedroom areas as well as kitchen and living room area.

The location was perfect for walking around and exploring Reykjavík. We were close to everything. The great thing about having an apartment is we could stop at the local grocery store to pick up drinks and snacks. This saved us a bit of money and was really convenient. Read our full review: Great Family Hotel Reykjavik Iceland with Kids

Do they speak English in Iceland?

Yes they do speak English in Iceland. The native language is Icelandic but everyone we interacted with spoke English.

I am sure there are areas in Iceland where there may be limited English speaking but within the area of Reykjavik we didn’t encounter much language barriers.

Do they use US dollars in Iceland?

In Iceland they use the Icelandic Krona. When we arrived at the airport we used the ATM to have some cash on us but most of the time we used our credit card.

We didn’t have any issues using the credit card at all locations but make sure you check with your credit card for foreign transaction fees.

What is Weather Like in Iceland?

The weather in Iceland is very unpredictable. Expect cold temperatures in the winter and milder temperatures in the summer months. We visited Iceland in June and the weather ranged from 40s (F) to 60s (F). Be prepared for any weather when you visit Iceland.

2 Days in Iceland Itinerary

For our 2 days in Iceland itinerary we had to decide what we wanted to see on our family trip to Iceland, and what we didn’t have time to fit in.

There are so many beautiful nature things to see in Iceland but we decided to focus our time on Reykjavik. We also decided that we wouldn’t visit any hot springs or the Blue Lagoon. If we had more time that would have been added to our itinerary for Iceland.

We felt there was enough things to do in Reykjavik, that we focused on exploring the town and allow ourselves to not feel rushed during our visit.

But with our 2 days in Iceland I am really happy we focused our time on really exploring Reykjavik. It is a great place to visit!

We were able to take easy walks around town and had so much fun exploring the capital city. Don’t worry if you don’t have a car. Walking was a great way to see a lot!

After our itinerary I will share more of the best places to visit in Iceland if you have a longer time to visit.

Day 1: Arrival Day and Exploring Reykjavik

We made the under 3 hour drive from our home in Rochester, NY to Toronto for our nonstop flight to Reykjavik. As I mentioned earlier I thought the flight would be long and a redeye would allow us to sleep.

I was wrong! With the 4 hour time change and a 4.5 hour flight we arrived in Reykjavik at 8:30am. Most east coast major airlines will offer nonstop flights to Iceland.

Once we arrived we gathered our luggage, used the airport ATM to take a bit of money out, and headed out of the airport to catch the bus.

We booked Flybus because it was the most affordable option for our family of five and it had flexible timing. This meant we could board any bus available upon arrival.

We took the bus to the bus station and then had to transfer to a smaller bus that would drop us off at a bus stop.

Reykjavik does not have much car traffic and most bus stops will be located within a short walking distance to your hotel. If you are not renting a car Flybus is the best way to get from the airport to the city.

Our bus stop was at Hallgrimskirkja which is the famous church in the city. From there we walked the short 10 minute walk to Hotel Odinsve to check-in.

I knew we wouldn’t be able to get in our room yet so we stored our luggage at the hotel and went to our first stop: breakfast at The Laundromat Cafe.

Iceland Laudromat Cafe for brunch during our trip to Iceland.

The breakfast was exactly what we needed to recharge a bit before we started exploring. There was also coffee involved to get me moving!

Something I need to mention about coffee is that most places had drip coffee if you specified that is what you wanted. You do not see people walking around with travel coffee cups like you do in the United States.

I am a big coffee lover and was thankful that I could find something comparable to home to start our day.

After brunch we decided to walk around with no real destination. We were using it to get a feel for the area and made our way to Harpa.

Harpa is home to the Iceland Orchestra and offers other art and music events. From the outside it is visually stunning. On sunny days the sun reflects off the mirrored building and water making it a beautiful sight.

On our visit it was mostly gray but we did go inside to check it out and warm up. The building was really pretty and worth checking out.

iceland harpa inside
Inside Harpa. There are paid exhibits to check out but it is free to walk inside.

I need to mention that we were totally unprepared for the weather. Thankfully we all brought winter hats but we did not bring gloves or jackets.

This was part of a 12 day London and Paris vacation and we wanted to pack light. For most of our time in Iceland we were layering two sweatshirts and our hats. It is not ideal but it was fine for 2 days.

It is not the most fashionable but it worked for what we needed to do. If you are visiting I would at least pack gloves and hat for walking around and lots of layers.

After Harpa we made our way to Rainbow Road and visited some of the shops. We didn’t purchase anything other than an ornament because it was pricey. It was fun to browse though.

Then we went into Hallgrimskirkja, which is the big church, to check it out. You can purchase tickets to go to the top and see the view. It is the largest church in Iceland and has become a symbol for the country due to the unique architecture.

iceland church
It is free to go inside and sit but if you want the top views you need to purchase a ticket.

After exploring we headed back to the lobby of the hotel to wait for our room. We were staying at the Hotel Odinsve Apartments. The check-in is located at the Hotel Odinsve but the apartments are located through the city.

Ours was across the street from the hotel but we found another one on Rainbow Road. They are all laid out basically the same.

The apartments were great because they fit the whole family. They had a kitchen, dining and living room area as well as two bedrooms.

Each bedroom had 2 twin beds and the living room had a sleeper sofa. All the beds were very comfortable and we would highly recommend staying here. Read our review of the hotel: Great Family Hotel Reykjavik Iceland with Kids

After we got settled in our hotel we were trying to just get through the long day and make it to dinner. We walked to Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur which is the famous hot dog stand in Iceland.

Iceland is known for Icelandic hot dogs so we knew we had to try them. They were okay and not something we loved. I suggest trying them for yourself to see what you think. Definitely order them with the crunchy onions!

iceland hot dog

After dinner we made the short walk back to our hotel room. It had been a long day and we were all exhausted. We had a full day planned for tomorrow and wanted to get a good nights sleep.

One thing to consider purchasing before you arrive in Iceland is a sleep mask. In the summer months you will see the midnight sun because of the very short nighttime hours. This can make sleeping difficult.

It was very odd and I didn’t think it would bother me, but even with only 2 nights in Iceland we noticed that lack of darkness at night. A sleep mask makes it a little easier to sleep.

Day 2: Puffin Tour and Perlan Museum

For our 2nd day in Iceland, our only full day, we had so many things planned! It was an ambitious itinerary but we were ready to see everything we could in our short visit.

We started with grabbing breakfast at Braud & Co. These were some of the most delicious breakfast pasties we had during our entire trip! Totally worth including in your trip.

I also got a hot cup of coffee for our walk to the harbor. This kept my hands warm for the short walk.

Then we made our way to the harbor for our Puffin Express tour. As we walked we took some photos on Rainbow Road.

Puffin Express Tour with Special Tours

When planning this family trip to Iceland I knew we wanted to see the Puffins but I was worried we wouldn’t have time. Whale Watching is also a popular activity in Iceland that wouldn’t make it on our itinerary.

As I researched ways to experience these activities within the city of Reykjavik I found Special Tours. Special Tours offers all different excursion throughout the year.

We partnered with them for their Puffin Express Tour and the Whales of Iceland museum. Both were an excellent addition to our trip.

The Puffin Express Tour is a one hour boat ride to a small island where you can see the Puffins. It takes 15 minutes to get to the island, 30 minutes where you float around, and 15 minutes back.

Again we were not prepared for the weather but thankfully guests can ride in an enclosed sitting area where snacks and drinks are available as you make your way to the island.

Once we arrived we made our way up to watch the Puffins. Binoculars are provided by Special Tours to get a better look at the Puffins.

Something I learned on the tour-Puffins are small! They are much smaller than I expected and having the binoculars really helped. If you want to get close up pictures be sure to bring a camera capable of zooming in.

At this point 2 out of 5 of us were starting to feel the movement of the boat. It was choppy being out at sea and I am very sensitive to motion sickness with boats.

The staff was wonderful in making sure we felt comfortable and gave us tips to not get sick. Thankfully we didn’t and once our feet were back on land we were good. The short boat ride makes this great for people prone to seasickness.

After the Puffin Express we walked about 15 minutes to the Whales of Iceland Museum. This is the largest whale museum in Europe.

It does not take very long to tour, maybe about an hour. If you want to do the audio tour and kids scavenger hunt it may take a bit longer. We took our time and enjoyed the peacefulness of it all.

As you walk through there are whale sounds and I found the entire place, although small, to be a nice area to explore.

iceland whale museum

For lunch we made our way back into the city center and ate at 101 Reykjavik Street Food. I got the chicken soup and it was perfect after a chillier morning out on the boat.

Everyone in the family liked their meal and it was a good choice for lunch.

iceland 101 restaurant

After lunch we stopped for a bit at our hotel room. We decided to make the walk to Perlan. Perlan is an Iceland museum but it is not in the city center.

It is located about 2 miles away. We didn’t want to add the cost of transportation to our trip and the weather was fine so we walked it.

There is public transportation available for a fee but walking was actually okay. All of the roads had sidewalks and the path to Perlan was a public trail. It took us about 30 minutes to walk.

The trail is uphill so keep in mind if you have a stroller or mobility issues.

iceland trail to perlan

Perlan is a perfect place because kids of all ages can enjoy it. There are a few travel destinations within Iceland that are not all ages but a visit to Perlan can allow young children to experience some of the great things about Iceland without leavening Reykjavik.

Our favorite exhibit was the ice cave. This is included in admission. Guests can walk through a carved out ice cave. We were not prepared for how cold this was, notice a theme of not being dressed for the weather!

It was fine though and we spent around 15 minutes walking though the ice cave. It is supposed to mimic a glacier and it does a good job of making guests feel like they are exploring a real glacier.

iceland perlan ice cave

After the ice cave we went to the top floor to view the panoramic views of the city. There is also a ice cream shop if you are looking for a snack.

After Perlan we went to dinner at Reykyjavik Chips. This simple chicken nugget and fry place was one of our favorites. We shared a couple orders and got to try multiple dipping sauces.

This was a great place to eat with kids in Reykjavik.

iceland reykjavik chips
It is a good idea to visit this place with kids. It was a great option for the entire family.

After dinner we headed to dessert. We were not really hungry but there was one more place we wanted to visit during our trip to Iceland.

Voffluvagninn waffle cart is located outside the Hallgrimskirkja church. It is easy to find because you can easily find the church from basically anywhere in the city.

We ordered three waffles desserts to take back to our room for an evening snack. It was so good!

iceland waffle food truck

After dessert we started to pack up for our very early flight to London. Our pick up time at the church was 4:00am. It was very easy to check-out that early and walk to the church, that is one perk of it never getting dark!

More Things to Do in Iceland with Kids

If you have a rental car you may want to drive around ring road. Ring Road takes about a week in the summer months to drive and longer in the winter months. There are many natural wonders from waterfalls, geothermal waters, and lava fields. The natural beauty on a golden circle tour is another thing you may want to see if you have more time.

Some of the most popular destinations are Gullfoss Waterfall, Gluggafoss Waterfall, Seljalandsfoss, Skogafoss. One of the best ways to see this is with a tour guide but if that is not your thing you can do a self-guided tour as well.

Check out this blog article for more information on what to see and do on ring road.

We would have also liked to visit one of the geothermal pools like Blue Lagoon or Secret Lagoon but it just didn’t work out with our time. Another great place to visit is the black sand beaches and Thingvellir National Park.

If you like adventures you may want to do one of the guided tours like Horseback riding in Iceland or a Lava Tunnel Tour.

Another museum in Iceland that may not be for everyone but is worth mentioning is the Icelandic Phallological Museum. We didn’t visit but the teens did find it funny to find it and take a picture in front of it!

One of the misconceptions I had about visiting Iceland is that it is too far and we wouldn’t have enough time to enjoy it.

It was actually very easy to travel to Iceland. Of course we didn’t see and do everything but the things we did see and do in Iceland were incredible.

We made amazing family memories and it was a bucket list trip! Experiencing another culture and getting a taste of the best things to do in Iceland was a family trip we will never forget.

Read Next: Family Trip to London | 3 Night London Itinerary

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