Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Traveling to Iceland with a Baby

You know that thing where a blogging person has a baby and then they only write about their baby on their blog and become a MOMMY BLOGGER? (dun-dun dunnnnn) I am trying not to do that. At the same time, I want to share my experience, while also not try to portray myself as some kind of parenting expert just because I've been at it for almost 10 months. That said, I was looking for info when preparing for the trip, and found it a bit hard, so wanted to share my experience. So, if kids bore you (and I understand, I really, really do) - feel free to skip on to the next post in your reader. If you're interested in traveling with a babe in arms, read on. 

When we were doing our research for this trip, I did a lot of Googling about traveling to Iceland with a baby. Pickings were slim. There's one guy who answers just about every question about travel to Iceland on those travel message boards, and he seems really grumpy. I think he even said it was "irresponsible" for someone to travel to Iceland with a baby in winter. Jeebus. Nobody needs your judgement, buddy. I think that baby's parents can decide what they and their babe can handle, not some grumpy travel forum troll. Anyway, here are my own tips for traveling to Iceland with a baby. Let's hope the SEO is good on this one!


First off, L. is 9 months old. And he's not new to traveling. By the time he is one year old, he will have taken 12 flights (10 so far). So, he's kind of a pro. He's also a laid-back, easy-going baby. He's also the cutest. So, I know we kind of have it easy when traveling with him.

We traveled in late March, and it has been an unusually cold and snowy winter (here and there). More than the temperature, it was very windy there - and that wind was bitterly cold. For evening walks, L. wore his fleece bunting AND  his little fleece-lined puffy coat. During the day he was happily bundled in just his coat, a sweater and a warm stroller sleeping bag thingy (we have a Jj Cole Original Bundleme ).

Car Seats

Let me first say I know nothing about Icelandic law. But, from what I read online, babies must always be in car seats, in cars, taxis and on coaches/buses. American car seats are apparently not allowed. However, most coach companies (including the Fly Bus at Keflavik airport and the Grey Line bus tours) have car seats that you can use. And taxis do as well, though you may need to book ahead to reserve one.

You can book your Fly Bus ticket and car seat online before you go. We didn't do that, but still had no problem getting a car seat when we got to the airport, but they only had one available. It was an infant rear-facing seat, but it didn't actually fit into the bus seats.

Here's the odd thing about the car seats. We used 3 Icelandic car seats (which were all Britax car seats). None of them really fit properly, nobody helps you install them, and it didn't seem to matter if your baby was big enough (or too big) for the seat you were given. I'm pretty sure my American car seat would have been safer.

Facing forward, it's cool.
A little research tells me that US car seats aren't used in European cars because the seat belts over there don't lock. You can buy a Metal Seat Belt Locking Clip for just a few dollars that will lock the seat belts, but I don't know if this will make your own car seat ok in Iceland. I'd be willing to risk the heavy hand of the law for it though, because at least your child would fit into the car seat.

Sight-seeing

We did a lot of walking around Reykjavik, and mostly used our stroller. For the record, we have a Baby Jogger City Mini , which is lightweight and folds up easily, so it's great for traveling. Some people opt to buy an umbrella stroller, but I don't need to buy another stroller when I have one that I like.

We brought our stroller just about everywhere, including going up, up, up Hallgrímskirkja church. There is an elevator up, but then there are quite a few stairs, so the stroller could only get up to a certain point - not all the way up. We just took turns going to the top.


As I mentioned the other day, we also did the 6-hour Grey Line Afternoon Golden Circle Tour. We booked a car seat ahead of our tour, and picked it up before getting on the bus. I booked the shorter afternoon tour, because I thought it would be easier with the baby. However, there is no less travel/bus time on this tour, it's just shorter stops at each of the sights. I didn't feel rushed, but if you're wondering which of the two might be better for a kid or baby, that's the difference between the two.

While we were able to stow the stroller in the luggage compartment on the bus, we only used our carrier for each of the stops. It was unusually snowy and icy when we visited, and some sights - like the Gullfoss Waterfall - have a lot of stairs. When you get to the bottom of the stairs, only a low rope separates you from certain death. I didn't go near it, because of the ice - and if you're traveling with a more mobile kidlet, be very careful.



The cafeteria at Gullfoss has changing facilities, but seemingly no high chairs.

In Reykjavik, we stopped by the little pond Tjörnin where they feed the ducks, thinking L. would enjoy it. However - being geniuses - we forgot to bring bread. Whoops. However, L. still enjoyed looking at the ducks and geese.



Eatin'

L. is pretty good in restaurants, but we still aimed to eat at places that seemed child-friendly. We also ate earlier than the dinner-rush. Everywhere we ate was accommodating to us, and our stroller, and as I recall, all had high chairs available.



One place that deserves special mention is the Laundromat Cafe. Leave your strollers with the others out front, but this cafe had nice breakfast, and has an AWESOME play room in the basement for kiddies. L. was too young to appreciate it, but it was a great playroom. They also had a sign that I really appreciated that said something along the lines of "go ahead and breastfeed, we likes babies and boobs". Sometimes it's nice to know you're in a safe place when you're breastfeeding.

Sleeping

I mentioned in my last post that we stayed at the Hotel Odinsve, which was great for us. We were on the ground floor (room 11, holla!), and had lots of space to stretch out and dump our junk. And lots of space for L. to practice his crawling.

I'm not really qualified to advise on babies and time zone adjustments. It all depends on your babe. We took a short overnight flight, where L. slept most of the way. He also slept on the 50-minute bus ride from the airport to the hotel, and then snoozed in the stroller while we explored Reykjavik in the morning. Usually he goes to bed at 7pm, and obviously he stayed up much later on this trip, and we didn't really try to stop that since it worked in our favor when the morning came round.

(Re-entry for this little space oddity hasn't been so easy though, as he has gotten so used to sleeping in bed with us that we're having to re-sleep train him and get him acclimated to crib-life again).

And there you go. Just a few tips I would have liked to have known about before we went! I hope it's useful to you!



30 comments:

  1. Your post was a happy read. I took my 4 month old to Iceland in December. I brought my own car seat and used it without any difficulty. It is a very family friendly country and strollers are often left outside without need for concern. I love the public pools. The heated pools are so relaxing and always a gathering place for people of all ages. We went again when my daughter was 3 in the summertime and it was heavenly. I love Akureyri in the northern part of Iceland, as well! I am glad that you enjoyed your time there and are encouraging others to consider traveling with babies.

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    1. Oh, thanks for the recommendation! Next time I'd definitely like to go in summer, and hit up some of the areas further from Reykjavik. - and I'll be using my own car seat!

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  2. Thank you for this blog I am currently researching and intend to go in October with my then 6 month old. I came across the "irresponsible parenting" comment on the trip advisor forum too which made me question it.

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    1. It's a very family-friendly place - so have a great time!

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    2. Hi Joanna! What brand of carseat did you use?

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  3. This is a good review. We are going in October with an energetic 20mo so I'm hoping we will be able to get those naps in. We are staying at the same hotel as you which is good to know it comes recommended.

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    1. Have a great time! The hotel was good - the room we were in, at least :) Ask for Room 11!

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  4. Great read! I'm taking my little one there in two weeks for his first birthday and it has been difficult finding sources on what to bring for a baby! Totally stumbled across the grump saying it was irresponsible to bring child!

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    1. Have a great time! That travel forum grump is really doing a disservice to them!

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  5. So cute baby. I love to see sleeping babies!

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  6. We are going to Iceland in April 2016 with a 3 year old and 1 year old. Is 5 days enough time to see the main sites and enjoy the city? Or would we feel too rushed, and need to schedule a full week?

    Also, did you find that you needed a car to get around the downtown area? We are staying downtown and considering forgoing a rental car... just using day tour companies and their car seats to see the sites outside the city. Or would you recommend rental car and car seats?

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    1. Hi Reese, you definitely don't need a car around the center of Reykjavik - it is tiny, and very walkable! We enjoyed our day tour with the car seats, so if you just want to venture out of Reykjavik the one time, that's probably fine. 5 days is more than enough for just Reykjavik and one day trip - I think we were only there for 4 days when we went, and felt like we had covered the city pretty well.

      I wish we had a bit more time outside the city as there are many beautiful sites to see that the tour companies don't go to, but maybe that's for next time! Have a great trip!

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  7. Fantastic read. We've been regular visitors to Iceland for a few years now, we know the country well, but.... we've never had to take notice of baby stuff, until now! Your blog is a fantastic read! Just one question, how did you find the availability of baby food / formula milk?

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    1. Hi Li, we brought everything we needed, and because L. was 9 months old at the time, he was eating a lot of solids. We had no problem with bringing baby food and formula in our suitcases though! Have a great trip!

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  8. Thank you for a great and informative post. Had also seen the grumpy guy who apparently was never an icelandinc baby himself. We're hoping for a well travelled baba too, hoping her skiwear will still fit in March.
    My thoughts on travelling (and most other things) with a baby are that people have been having babies in the deserts, ice ages, islands and jungles for thousands of years fairly successfully so with all the technology we have at hand today it can only make things easier. X

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  9. Thank you for your positive and detailed post. We are planning to go to Iceland in July with our 14 months old girl. We won't be able to bring a travel cot and we don't co-sleep with our daughter. Does the hotel you stayed in have a baby crib?

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    1. I'm not sure if they do - we co-slept while there. Many American hotels offer them, but I'm not sure about Europe. Sorry I can't be of more help!

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  10. Hi! Thanks!! This is a very nice blog and a very informative post :)
    I will be traveling with 2 toddlers (23months & 3yo) to Europe this December for 2 weeks and we are thinking of going to Iceland for a 5-day trip to hopefully catch the northern lights.
    In terms of handling the kids, I don't think will have problems because the whole fambam will be with us (grandfolks, uncles and aunt) so we will have a lot of helping hand. Also thinking of renting a car and maybe
    hiring a local guide so we can go at our own pace.

    However, I am quite worried about winter. We're from a tropical country and I am not sure how the kids will handle it. I brought my eldest before to Sydney when he was 22mos. and he seemed to take it very well. But ofcourse Winter in Oz is incomparable to winter in Northern Europe.

    The original plan was to do London, Switzerland, Paris and Prague. But now, we are drawn to Iceland because it seems quite a special place.
    So we are highly considering London, Iceland and Paris only for this trip.
    Was the weather harsh for your baby? Any advice would be much appreciated especially on how to prepare for this kind of trip.

    Best, Karis

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    1. Hi Karis, Sounds like a great trip! We went in March, and it had been an unusually cold and snowy year. L. hated the cold wind - but we were admittedly not properly dressed for the weather. We had expected it to be warmer, and we traveled to London on the same trip, where it was warmer, so we didn't pack proper winter coats. That said, it was manageable for us and for the baby with layers of fleece, hats, scarves, mittens and the stroller bunting to keep him warm. We also used a plastic rain cover on the stroller, which helped keep the wind off him (and the wind was really the worst part). Since it'll be December, you may want to look at buying a full snowsuit - we have the coat version of this, and it's great & warm: http://www.mec.ca/product/5037-265/mec-toaster-bunting-suit-4-infants-kids/?No=40&h=10+50086&f=10+50086

      Have a great trip!

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  11. Hi that's a very informative and detailed blog.quite helpful read for me now as I am frantically trying to read anything I can find on Iceland with kids. I have a 15 months old daughter, and we have just shifted to Sweden from India. So you must now fully understand my worries. Being from a fully tropical country with no exposure to snow before in my life,I am so worried and confused as to what to do. We are actually planning on visiting Iceland around September mainly to see the northern lights.can you please guide me as to what I should make my baby wear for her to be protected by Iceland weather. Please be very detailed when you answer it as I don't even have a basic idea of how my baby needs to wear in a snowy winter leave alone the Iceland winter. And can we take strollers everywhere. I really want to see the northern lights, the Sólheimasandur’s black sandy beach,the Skógafoss, Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon. Did you also go to these places. Are these places child friendly. Can we take a baby and visit a glacial lagoon. Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

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    1. Hello,

      In September, I don't believe it will be too cold (but I'm no expert, so you should check weather trends!) From what I can tell, average temps for September are around 10* C/50* F, which is fairly mild, and shouldn't be snowy. I'd recommend dressing you daughter in layers - I usually find a long sleeve shirt, a fleece hoodie, and then a medium-weight jacket helpful + a blanket for the stroller. We brought our stroller almost everywhere, and found most places very child-friendly (though Gulfoss did have stairs, and was icy). We didn't go to the places you've mentioned, so I can't advise there! I hope this helps - have a great time!

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  12. Awesome post! Thank you so much for the information -- I was really curious if a stroller would work over in Iceland. I had a laugh when I searched for information your post came up first on Google, simply because my son's name is Fox! Hopefully he's not a crabby Fox on our trip ;)

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    1. Ha! Actually, Fox was one of the names I wanted for a boy - it's still on my list, maybe for next time :) Have a great trip!

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  13. Thank you for your post, we are travelling there in October for 8 days with our 14 month old and our friends with a 6 month old. We cant wait! Glad to hear the place is pram friendly, did you find highchairs in most restaurants?

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    1. Yes, we found that high chairs were plentiful pretty much everywhere we went (that I can remember)! Nice ones too, Stokke, etc! Have a great trip!

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  14. Thank you so much for your tips!

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  15. I'm about to take a 3 and 5 year old to Iceland and debating taking a double stroller or not - we have the City Mini Double and it just seems so huge for Europe but I just know with the weather and wind, they're both not going to walk for very long before wanting some assistance. What would you recommend? Also would you recommend one of those GOlden Circle tours or do you wish you had rented a car and driven it yourself?

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    1. Hi, and sorry for the delayed response! I hope it's not too late. I think you could get by with a double stroller, I don't recall Reykjavik being overly narrow or difficult to manage. I recommend the Golden Circle tour, especially with the weather (it was icy and snowy when we went), though it of course depends on how your kids might be in a bus all day - my son was pretty young at the time, but now he'd probably get sick and bored in a bus for so long!

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