What You Need to Know BEFORE You Visit Iceland

I just got back from eight days in Iceland but before I recap how the trip went, I thought I would take the time to share some things I learned while traveling in the land of fire and ice. Our trip was during the month of October, so you may find that if you go earlier, you won’t have to worry as much about winter weather or a chance of snow.

Car Rentals/Gas/Driving
If you’re traveling from the United States, you may be surprised to find that automatic transmission cars are few and far between. Just like the rest of Europe, Icelanders own and drive manual cars. Take this into consideration when booking a rental – automatic is normally much higher and since there are fewer available to rent, book your car before you go.

We rented a manual because that’s what my brother-in-law drives anyway, so he did all the driving and that worked out fine for us. But if you have a group going and want to take turns but not everyone can drive a stick shift, make sure your driver gets breaks along the way.

Pay attention to the road conditions. If you are driving the Ring Road or Golden Circle, most of it is paved. We ran into a few spots on Ring Road that were gravel, but had no issues driving them. We did not need a 4×4 since the F roads inland were closed (those are all gravel) and we couldn’t venture off road anyway. Check the road conditions online and note that weather can change in an instant.

The wind can be extreme. Along the east coast, our car was being blown around the road quite a bit and if you aren’t an experienced mountain driver, that can be intimidating to feel like you’re going to be blown off a cliff and into the ocean. The Iceland Road conditions web site will also notify you of extreme wind conditions.

Make sure you don’t run the car down to E. Once you get past the Ice Lagoon, there aren’t many gas stations between there and Akureyri. If you use your credit card at a self-service, unmanned station (there are a lot of those), you will need a PIN # for it to go through. Gas is also VERY expensive compared to the US. Expect to pay $9/gallon.

Get the optional car insurance. You will drive on gravel and it will chip your car. Each chip is up to $500 but if you add the optional insurance, you can basically total the car and not have to pay a dime. Everyone recommends it and while I’m not normally one to add the insurance, everything I read said you need it and they were right. We got hit by loose rock every single day.

Roundabouts are EVERYWHERE. We saw maybe four or five stop signs the entire time and that was it. The larger cities have traffic lights but if you can’t navigate roundabouts, you’re going to be in big trouble when driving through Iceland.

Weather/Clothing
You will absolutely need weather appropriate gear. I took a pair of rain boots, waterproof snow boots and a pair of winter Toms boots for airport travel and sunny days in the city. Tennis shoes were much too cold for October in Iceland.

It rained the first couple days pretty much all day, then we had periods of showers a couple days after that. Invest in a good waterproof, warm coat and it will be a lifesaver! I bought a North Face down filled parka off Poshmark and it worked wonderfully. Wind resistant, water proof and warm, I wore it nearly every day. If you go in summer, a lighter rain jacket should be fine.

Take scarves, gloves, and hats too – you will need them! I did not invest in waterproof gloves and they got soaked on day two and didn’t completely dry out until day five.

I also took every fleece pullover I owned and layered over thermals and tanks. Jeans weren’t great for keeping my legs warm, so I’d invest in a good pair of fleece lined leggings. I found the pair I have kept the cold out nicely and dried faster than denim.

Like I said earlier, the weather can change instantly. We had rain the first couple days, sunshine and wind the next, then drove through snow more than once in the northern part of the country. At one point, we were driving through mountains in snow and a few miles down the road the sun came out and we had to drive through sand blowing over the road!

Also, Iceland is not the place to go to look glamorous. The wind and rain are not compatible with make-up or hair and I just gave up after a couple days. If you can’t go out in public without make-up on, you better get you some heavy duty waterproof stuff or else stay home.

GPS
I used WAZE the entire time and was shocked at how well it worked. We didn’t get lost once and even when my cell service was spotty, the maps kept on working. Google Maps wouldn’t connect very often so I gave up on it with the exception of using it for walking directions in Reykjavik. I also took paper maps just in case.

Food
After gas, food is the next shockingly expensive item. Unless you’re swimming in cash, you can’t eat out every meal. A Subway sandwich was about the cheapest fast food item we found. Two street tacos at a Mexican restaurant cost me $24. If you’re looking to travel cheap, I suggest stopping at grocery stores or gas stations with good food selections – we often ate one meal that way so we weren’t spending outrageous amounts of money on food. You could easily spend over $100/day if you eat out every meal.

Lodging
We didn’t do hotels at all, instead opting for a mix of hostels and Air Bnb. Every place we stayed had shared kitchen space, so we could cook food and some even had shared bathrooms/shower space. If this bothers you, look to spend about $200/night on a hotel.

Currency
Iceland is pretty much cashless. I took some krona with me just in case but did not need it at all. Everywhere I went, credit cards were accepted.

Sheep!
Sheep are EVERYWHERE. They outnumber the people and many are free range. Watch out for them when driving as some are grazing by the side of the road. Most seem aware of traffic but we did have a couple run out in front of us so just make sure you’re paying attention to them.

I think I hit on the major things one should know before traveling to Iceland! Full trip recaps by region coming soon 🙂

Easy Fresh Pasta Sauce

Growing up, my mom used to make this sauce with fresh garden tomatoes and serve it over pasta. It’s so easy, delicious and fresh – you’ll want to drink it right out of the blender.

I used fresh tomatoes that I got from the farmer’s market, but I think store bought fresh tomatoes would also work. This hasn’t been tested with canned tomatoes, so if you try it that way, let me know if it works for you!

What you’ll need:

4 or 5 large tomatoes
1 Tablespoon of olive oil
4 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper

You could also add fresh basil, garlic or another Italian seasons of your choice. I typically just use store brands of the rest of the ingredients – nothing fancy!

Cut up your tomatoes first, then throw in a blender or food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

 

Serve over spaghetti, penne, bowtie or any kind of pasta. I tried it over cheese tortellini for this dish but think I prefer plain pasta – the cheese kind of drowns out the lovely fresh taste of the sauce.

There’s no cooking involved, other than the pasta and it’s SO easy to make. It will keep in the fridge for a few days or you could freeze or can for later.

Corduroy is BACK

I’ve always loved corduroy but it seems to go in an out of style. But it’s back for fall! I’ve gathered and linked a few pieces I’m loving right now – they give off such a retro 70s vibe.

 

 

These black flares are from AE, the brick pair from Magnolia Boutique and the gray pair also from AE.

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LOVE this jumper from Free People. It’s on sale too!

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Corduroy jacket from Free People – comes in a mauve color too!

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Can’t forget about your feet! These high top TOMS are SO CUTE.

How would you style your corduroy?

The Beauty Suit

As women, we’re constantly bombarded by society to look younger, stay slim, have blemish free skin and frizz free hair.

Social media hasn’t helped us out at all – fashion bloggers are constantly reminding us we need to have our eye lashes filled, our eyebrows microbladed, our skin freshly spray tanned and that last week’s top we bought from the clearance rack is already out of style.

Superficiality is consuming western society and in The Beauty Suit, Lauren Shields argues that women are being told that our worth is defined by our looks and even though the measurement of our hemline is supposed to liberate us, it actually can stifle our path to empowerment.

So she set out to do an experiment – for nine months out of her life, she was shedding “The Suit” as she calls it, and dressing modestly. No make-up, no heals and no blow-outs – Sheilds decided to take inspiration from American Muslim women who wear a hijab for feminist reasons and see how dressing modestly affected her life and how people treated her.

This was a fascinating read and one that most women will relate to. The first time Sheilds goes out in public without make-up, she’s mortified to show her bare face in public. Will someone ask her if she feels alright? Are people noticing the blemishes on her face? What women who wears make-up on a daily basis hasn’t felt that way?

She noticed that men stopped paying attention to her when she’d go out with her friends, preferring someone who looked like they “made an effort.” People asked her if she was a nun. As she documented her experiment for Salon, fellow feminists criticized her saying she was trying to dictate how other women dressed.

Her entire experiment is coupled with the way religion views modesty, so there is quite a bit of historical context throughout as well as a lot of feminist exploration of the patriarchy, toxic masculinity, slut shaming and victim blaming.

However, Shields focuses so much on how women do all these things to please men, but she never really addresses the idea that women put on a full face of make-up for other women. I would have to agree that at first, women try to look their best to catch a mate, but once our significant other has seen us barefaced and naked, we don’t care so much about always looking attractive for them. Instead, we put on “The Suit” because we’re constantly scrutinizing – and judging – how other women look and we know they’re doing the same to us.

(If you’re a woman and you’re reading this saying “I’d never do that” then I’d have to call B.S. on you because ALL women have done this at least once in their life.)

I personally would have liked a little more about what she was feeling and how people were reacting to her experiment versus the heavy focus on feminism and religion but overall, this is an intriguing read and a challenge to women to look past the materialistic facets of our lives and start embracing that “life’s too short to keep cramming ourselves into a costume that tells us we’re secondary in the world.”

I’m Going to Iceland!

This October, my brother-in-law and I are going to Iceland! I’m stoked – Iceland has been on my must-see list for quite some time. We’ll also be going at a time when seeing the Northern Lights is highly likely and for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to see them.

October is the beginning of Iceland’s winter season, so I’m a little unsure exactly how the weather will be. After reading MANY blogs, I plan to dress in layers, take a water proof parka, hats, gloves, warm boots and scarves. Everyone says the weather can be unpredictable, even in summer, so I’m going to try to be as prepared as I can.

Here are a few things on my packing list.

Shoes

I already have a pair of Sperry Topsider duck boots that I wore in Alaska. They are insulated and great for hiking or rain, so I plan to take those. I also bought a pair of Sorel Emelie waterproof boots that are fur lined and super cute. Amazon has them on sale, but I’ve also linked a pair. I’ll also take my Hunter packable rain boots along and my fleece Hunter socks. Both of those came from Nordstrom Rack!

Coats

I plan on taking a lightweight thermoball jacket from North Face as well as a North Face water repellent parka. Both of these were purchased on Poshmark but you can still find the styles elsewhere. Also packing my Kate Spade rain jacket for city wear.

Accessories

Hats! Gloves! Scarves! And probably a fleece blanket. I’ve also read I need to buy a quick dry towel, so I’ll probably buy one of those on Amazon as well. I’m pretty well stocked in the accessory department already since Indiana winters can get really cold, but think I’ll invest in another pair of gloves.

 

Fleece and Thermals

The under layer is just as important as the outer layer. I plan to pack all my thermals – my Free People laguna thermals are my favorite because they also have thumb holes. This Socialite thermal was part of the Nordstrom sale and will also be a great layering piece.

I already have several fleece pullovers and plan to take them as well.

 

Base Layer

This is something I don’t have and need to purchase. Other bloggers suggest a wool base layer, so I’m going to buy these to wear under my denim and fleece lined leggings.

I cannot wait to go! If you’ve been to Iceland before, let me know in the comments!