Planning a trip to Iceland: a how-to guide

Are you planning a trip to Iceland? 

I’ve been to this incredible European destination twice now, and can affirm that it’s somewhere that should absolutely be on your bucket list. 

Although it can be pricey and parts do feel very touristy, Iceland shines throughout the seasons, and has plenty to offer tourists. 

But, to save money and ensure you have the best possible trip, taking your Iceland trip planning seriously is a good idea. 

I consider myself a pro at planning trips – I was a full-time traveller for years and still travel at least once a month – so here’s everything you need to know about visiting Iceland! 

My recent trip to Iceland was hosted by Jet2 Holidays with some activities hosted by the Icelandic tourist board. All opinions remain my own. This blog post may contain affiliate links.

Book flights in advance

I recommend securing your flights as soon as you decide to go to Iceland, so you have one cost out of the way and can focus on saving for your trip!

Plus, flights are often cheaper the earlier you book them. 

We recently went to Iceland with Jet2.

Jet2 offer flights to Reykjavik from various UK destinations including London Stansted, Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester. They’re affordable but are more comfortable than budget carriers and are very reliable (I remember during the chaos of summer travel in Europe in 2022, they seemed to be the only airline not cancelling flights!).

Consider a package to book a trip 

With Jet2, you can book more than your flights – in fact, Jet2 Holidays can arrange a whole package for you!

That’s right, package holidays aren’t just for beach trips – city breaks to Reykjavik are made easier with Jet2 packages that include flights, accommodation, transfers and even a Northern Lights tour (obviously this is seasonal). 

We loved the fact that Jet2 offers city breaks from Bristol Airport – this is our local but as it’s a smaller airport, we have fewer options! But you can also enjoy one of their Reykjavik city breaks from Birmingham, London Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds and Newcastle. 

Jet2 city breaks include your hotel, so we stayed in Midgardur by Center Hotels during our stay. This was a lovely and convenient 4* hotel very close to the city centre – with so many hotels in Reykjavik, it can be a bit of a challenge to find the perfect option for you, but Jet2’s browsing and booking platform makes it easy!

Some of the perks of booking your Iceland trip as a package are: 

  • Most aspects of your holiday are included on one ticket (and you can access them all via the Jet2 app). This helps you to stay organised, keep everything streamlined and can help if there are any delays or cancellations. 
  • You’ll be ATOL-protected if anything goes wrong. 
  • It can be cheaper to book as a package. 
  • Jet2 include 22 kg of hold luggage.
  • You can chat to a Jet2 rep during your stay! 

Use Reykjavik as a base for short trips

Many people don’t realise it, but I think Reykjavik is one of the best places for European city breaks.

The city maintains an effortlessly cool charm, with quirky cafes lining the streets and plenty of fascinating museums and attractions. 

It’s also a fantastic city to just be in, with wonderful views over the bay and up to the mountains and friendly locals. 

My top tip? Don’t miss the public thermal baths, where you can have the Blue Lagoon experience for 5% of the cost! 

If you’re only visiting Iceland for a short break, it’s worth basing in Reykjavik and doing a few day trips to the surrounding areas (particularly if it’s your first time).

I’d recommend 1-1.5 days seeing the city and two day trips! 

Think about the time of year 

Iceland is a wonderful country to visit whatever the season, but it’s a very different place in winter compared to summer!

Personally, I’ve always visited in the winter. I love the snow-covered landscapes, the cosiness of exploring Reykjavik, warming up with a hot coffee and the chance to see the Northern Lights. 

But in the summer months, you’ll have (probably!) better weather, the Midnight Sun and more events. 

During shoulder season, you can get the best of both worlds – for example, some people choose to visit in March as there’s still a chance of seeing the Northern Lights but it’s also the start of the whale watching season (although you can see whales in winter too!) and you get much more daylight than in January. 

When planning an Iceland trip, think about what your priorities are – are they road tripping and seeing as much of the country as possible? Are they enjoying a slower pace of life in Reykjavik? Enjoying snow? Seeing the Northern Lights? Or experiencing the Midnight Sun? 

This will help you decide the perfect time of year for you!

How long to spend in Iceland

You can easily visit Iceland for a long weekend – Jet2 packages usually include four nights.

If you’re on a winter trip to Iceland, four nights – a long weekend – is perfect!

However, if you want to see more, you could always spend more time – although by doing this you’d probably want to rent a car and drive more around the country.

Personally, I think four nights is perfect for your first trip to Iceland, so you an see what the country’s about without breaking the bank.

Choose your perfect attractions

Once you’ve decided how you’re going to get to Iceland and when you’re going, think about filling out your itinerary! 

Things to do in Reykjavik

  • Hallgrimskirkja Church (1 hour): This church is an icon of Reykjavik – from the top you can take in incredible views over the city. It’s the best viewpoint in town, so I definitely recommend it! 
  • Walking tour of Reykjavik (2 hours): We went on a tour with and highly recommend it! Our guide, Asi, was excellent and gave us an incredibly insight to Icelandic life. 
  • Museums (1-2 hours): National Museum of Iceland, Maritime Museum, Saga Museum, Whales of Iceland and Reykjavík Art Museum are popular. 
  • Lava Show (1.5 hours): In this experience, lava heated to more than 1,000°C is poured into a room and you’ll see experiments! 
  • FlyOver Iceland (1 hour): This immersive flight experience is a simulation where you’ll “fly” over the whole country – even parts that tourists can’t make it to! 
  • Statues and Sculptures Walk (1 hour): This is worth doing if you have a sunny day, the views are incredible! 
  • Perlan (3 hours): This is an immersive nature exhibition where you can see an ice cave, Northern Lights simulation, a volcano show and more. 
  • One of Reykjavik’s thermal baths (1-2 hours): Sundhöll and Laugardalslaug are the closest to the city centre. 

If you want to visit a few museums and thermal baths and use the buses, consider a Reykjavik city card. These can work out value for money if you’re doing a lot! 

Day trips from Reykjavik


Suss out restaurants in advance

Iceland is expensive, so it’s a good idea to take stock of your budget and make sure that you know which restaurant to visit in advance.

I’d recommend budgeting at least £20/ €23 per person for a dinner in Iceland (luckily, with Jet2 packages, you get breakfast included so can make the most of that!). 

Before I travel anywhere, I always find restaurants that suit me and add them to a Google map of the city! 

Here are a few we tried and looked at…

For a treat, we loved the fresh and ingenious menu of Kopar Restaurant. We dined on broccoli tempura and arancini for starters, followed by catch of the day for my partner and mushroom wellington for myself, and finished with a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate brownie. That, plus a bottle of wine, came to €150 which we didn’t think was too bad for the amount of food. 

We also adored Ramen Momo, the first ramen house in Iceland, which is a traditional restaurant serving different types of ramen (vegan options available). It came to nearly €60 for two bowls of ramen and some gyoza. 

For more budget restaurants, we found a Thai called Mai Thai Bistro that served up authentic curries and went to the Loving Hut which is a Vietnamese vegan chain. Meals here were cheaper, costing around €35 for two people. 

(As you can see, Iceland has a lot of Asian restaurants – and as I’m vegetarian and love Asian food we mainly frequented these!). 

Lebowski Bar was always very busy when we walked past – it’s a traditional American diner with dozens of burger options – and they served up a range of burgers with fries and soda for around 20/ £17. 

Reykjavik Fish Restaurant is another popular choice – they serve fish and chips for £14 or 16 – and they say to “ask them” for veggie/ vegan options (we didn’t have enough time to try them!). 

And finally, the ever-popular Icelandic hot dog. If you eat meat, you can find the original Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur hot dog stand here – they don’t, unfortunately, serve veggie hot dogs because the owner of the business also owns the main meat company in Iceland! 

For a hot dog with “everything” (i.e. onions, mustard, remoulade, fried onions and crispy onions), the price is 4.2/ £3.50. 

Pack right 

The countdown’s on to your trip, and it’s time to pack!

If you’ve booked a Jet2 package, good news – 22kg of hold luggage is included in your ticket. This means that you don’t have to sacrifice anything when packing! 

Here are a few things I’d recommend packing for Iceland, whatever the season: 

  • Proper rain jacket 
  • Power bank 
  • Camera with extra batteries and SD cards 
  • Good day pack that’ll fit plenty of water and snacks
  • Comfortable shoes for exploring
  • Hiking poles if you’ll be trekking at all 

And here are some winter-specific things to bring!

  • Thermals 
  • Lots of layers
  • Winter jacket – a ski jacket could work well 
  • Winter trousers – again, I brought the salopettes that I wear skiing
  • Snow boots or at least water-resistant boots

Bring some snacks and alcohol

If you want to save some money in Iceland, bring some snacks and alcohol with you! 

Generally, these are cheaper in most other countries and with Jet2’s 22kg of baggage allowance you can take liquids in your hold luggage with no issues. 

We brought a couple of bottles of wine and some beer with us. 

Snacks that you could bring include cups of oats, ramen, chocolate, sweets and cereal bars. You might find that you could make use of the free breakfast, eat snacks for lunch and only need to pay for one meal per day! 

Just make sure that you abide by the Icelandic rules for importing alcohol and food. You can find these on the official Icelandic revenue and customs website.

Are you ready to visit Iceland? 

Hopefully, these things to do before visiting Iceland post has helped you plan a trip of a lifetime! While it is popular and expensive, it’s well worth the hype – everyone should visit it at least one in their life!