My husband and I first went to Iceland back in 2018, and we absolutely loved it. We’ve always wanted to bring the kids there one day, and when a good opportunity arose for us to go, we booked it right away.
As the land of fire and ice, Iceland is a destination that offers some very unique and educational experiences. The kids really enjoyed the long daylight hours, cooler summer weather, and above all, the breathtaking scenery.
Usually, spending around a week in the country would be ideal to visit most sites at a leisurely pace. However, with plans to meet up with family in Crete, we had to make the most out of just five days, and here’s how we went about it.
Why Travel to Iceland as a Family?
Iceland is nestled between Greenland and Northern Europe. Its close proximity to Eastern Canada makes it a very easy destination to travel to.
Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and largest city, has many great family-friendly attractions that are within walking distance of each other. Once you get outside of the main city, the attractions are very spread out, and require long day trips and many hours of driving.
The beautiful scenery and landscape make the drive quite pleasant, but this should be a consideration for those travelling with toddlers. Most of the attractions outside of Reykjavik are also not stroller friendly, too.
Even the summer months in Iceland are quite cool, with temperatures averaging between 9–11°C in July and August. The summer weather is similar to that of the United Kingdom, in that it can quickly change from being windy and rainy to sunny several times a day.
Throughout our stay, we had periods of sun and clouds with scattered rain, which sounds about par for the course.
When travelling in the summer, you’ll want to pack a waterproof insulated jacket, or dress in layers with a thicker raincoat. We also brought lined splash pants for the kids, which kept them warm on those windy and rainy days.
Hiking boots or waterproof shoes would also be helpful, as there are a lot of trails, and when there’s rain, it gets muddy and sometimes slippery.
Visiting in the summer, you can expect almost 20+ hours of sunlight, so there’ll be plenty of time for sightseeing. However, if catching a glimpse of the northern lights is on your hit list if things to see, then it’s best to travel during September to March, as they won’t be visible in the summer months.
Furthermore, all natural glacier caves are inaccessible during the summer months.
Getting to Iceland from Canada as a Family
Travelling from Canada, you can fly direct to Reykjavik (KEF) on Icelandair, Air Canada, or Play Airlines, from Vancouver, Toronto, Hamilton, and Montreal. From Eastern Canada, it only takes five hours to fly into Reykjavik, while from the West Coast, it will take a little over seven hours.
Flights depart in the evening from Eastern Canada, and in late afternoon from the West Coast, but both arrive in Reykjavik very early the next morning. Encourage kids to sleep on the flight, as they will be quite tired on arrival otherwise.
In my opinion, the best way to travel to Iceland is to book Icelandair with cash during a flight sale, and then offset the cost by redeeming fixed-value travel points against the purchase, such as TD Rewards, HSBC Rewards, CIBC Aventura, or Scene+.
Sometimes, you can find round-trip flights to Iceland for $538 CAD ($400 USD) from Eastern Canada in economy, or $1,450 CAD ($1,100 USD) in business class. Icelandair also serves many European destinations, and allows free stopovers in Iceland on connecting flights.
Booking Icelandair using points is rather difficult. The airline has its own award program called Saga Club, and but it’s not a part of any alliance, so earning points can be tricky. You can also redeem Alaska miles for flights with Icelandair, but not at a particularly favourable rate.
Play Airlines can also have similar pricing, but since it’s an ultra-low-cost carrier, expect to pay extra for seats and baggage. If something goes awry, the customer assistance may be limited, too.
For flights with Air Canada through Aeroplan, a redemption falls under the first distance band on the “Between North America and Atlantic zones” chart.
A one-way flight in economy should price out at 35,000–60,000 Aeroplan points for a five-hour flight from Eastern Canada. This definitely isn’t the best value you can extract from your points, and you’re likely better off booking a cash flight instead.
Family-Friendly Accommodations in Iceland
When you’re planning out a trip, keep in mind that most flights arrive in the early morning, so it’s best to have other plans as your accommodation will likely not be ready. You can grab a bite and do some sightseeing in town to pass the time until your room is ready.
You can opt to change hotels as you move around Iceland, which is what my husband and I did when we visited several years ago. Alternatively, you can make Reykjavik your base from which you can make day trips, which is what we did this time around, as we scored a very good hotel rate in Reykjavik.
Unlike other destinations, where a base-level room can have two double or queen beds, many hotels in Iceland offer base rooms that have either two twin beds or a single queen or king bed, which only accommodates two guests. If you’re looking to stay at a Hilton or Marriott property in particular, to accommodate a family of four, you’re either looking at paying a hefty cash rate or parting ways with a tidy sum of points.
The Reykjavik EDITION is one exception to this rule, as it offers base-level rooms with two queens beds. However, cash rates and Bonvoy redemption rates are high at this hotel – expect to pay anywhere from 59,500 ISK ($450 USD, $595 CAD) to 100,00 ISK ($765 USD, $1,000 CAD), or 61,000–78,000 Bonvoy points per night.
Thanks to the keen eye of one of our fellow Prince of Travel team members, I was able to score a random hotel in Reykjavik at the rate of $3 (CAD) per night through a third party travel site. It was quite obviously an error fare.
The hotel wouldn’t honour our original booking, so the third-party vendor rebooked us at the Reykjavik EDITION at no additional cost, which was a big win.
I normally never book a loyalty brand hotel through a third-party site, as most often your elite benefits and points will not be honoured; however, for what I was paying, it didn’t matter this time around.
The EDITION ended up being perfectly situated for a majority of our sightseeing needs, and with free parking, it was easy to come and go as we pleased.
At check-in, they only requested the passport of the guest the room is registered under, which made it easy to have our family of five stay in a room with only two queen beds.
For our last night in Iceland, we stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott Reykjavik Keflavik Airport, for the convenience of being closer to the airport and also for exploring the area around the hotel.
Unfortunately, all rooms at this hotel have either two twin beds or a single king bed, so we had to book two rooms. There are several connecting rooms, so if you choose to stay here with your family, I would recommend requesting this in advance.
Some independent hotels and local hotel chains offer rooms that can accommodate up to five guests at more reasonable rates of roughly $300 (CAD) per night. Otherwise, Airbnb may be another good option for families.
Getting Around Iceland as a Family
Public transportation in Iceland is expensive. A taxi from Keflavik Airport to Reykjavik can cost around 16,700 ISK ($127 USD, $167 CAD) one-way, and regular taxis will only accommodate a maximum of four passengers, regardless of the number of adults and kids. Larger taxis that can accommodate up to six passengers generally have to be called in for.
One important thing to note is that kids riding in taxis in Iceland are legally required to have an age-appropriate car seat, so it’s best to bring one with you for your trip. Otherwise, a taxi may not even take you.
From Keflavik Airport, FlyBus is a service that will take you to the bus terminal in Reykjavik in around 50 minutes. From there, you can then hop onto a connecting bus to take you closer to your hotel.
Adult tickets are 3,899 ISK ($29 USD, $39 CAD) one-way, while kids aged 6–15 are half price at 1,950 ISK ($15 USD, $20 CAD), and kids under six are free.
FlyBus can also be booked to go back to Keflavik Airport, or even to and from the Blue Lagoon. The return ticket can be booked on Viator, and it actually prices out kids aged 0–11 to be free.
Whether or not there will be an issue redeeming the child voucher when you board the bus is yet to be determined.
At these rates, you’re likely better off renting a car. However, car rentals aren’t cheap either.
I found that the rates are cheaper if you’re picking up your vehicle from within Reykjavik, rather than from Keflavik Airport itself.
For our trip, we booked a one-day rental for $157 (CAD) with Enterprise through Expedia. Rates can be cheaper if renting for multiple days, or if you have a corporate code.
Dining in Iceland as a Family
Like everything else in Iceland, dining is no cheap affair. A soup or salad can easily cost you $20 (CAD), and a bagel with cream cheese $10 (CAD). We wound up packing some cup noodles, and lots of snacks.
If you’re renting a car and staying in an Airbnb, make a stop at Costco, which is conveniently located between Keflavik Airport and Reykjavik. Costco is also the cheapest place to gas up on the way back to Keflavik Airport.
In Downtown Reykjavik, 10–11 is a 24/7 convenience store where you can buy some drinks, snacks, breakfast items, or ready-made meals for the road, including wraps, sandwiches, and stuffed croissants, at a reasonable price.
For economical sit down dining with kids, I was a huge fan of food halls. There’s plenty of them all over downtown.
They’re like more upscale food courts with a variety of food options and plenty of seating. For example, Posthus Foodhall & Bar had pizza, Italian food, tacos, Indian food, and an Asian fusion restaurant. Alcohol is also served.
Pricing at food halls was very reasonable by Iceland’s standards. For example, a pizza or pasta dish costs $20–30 (CAD).
The prices are good in comparison to a sit-down restaurant, which may charge the same price for a bowl of soup. With several food options in each hall, there should be something for the everyone in the family.
Tap water is safe to drink, and is probably the best water you’ll ever drink as it’s natural Icelandic spring water.
Five Days of Family Travel in Iceland
Since my husband and I had covered much of Southern Iceland before, we decided to focus our travels on other parts of Iceland this trip. Ricky has also extensively travelled Southern Iceland, so for ideas on what to see in that part of Iceland, be sure to check out his article.
We really packed our days, and it would have been better to spread things out over a longer period if we had the time, so keep that in mind when planning your trip.
Day 1: Exploring Reykjavik
Our hotel wasn’t ready on arrival, so after dropping off our luggage, we grabbed an early lunch and visited some attractions in town before returning to the hotel to check-in and take a nap. We walked along the harbour front and visited the Whales of Iceland exhibit and Lava Show.
Lava Show Reykjavik is a 45-minute show that allows you to learn about Iceland’s volcanos and see molten lava up close. It was a fun, entertaining, and educational experience.
The kids were fascinated how molten lava seemingly hardened so quickly on the surface, but was still more than 6,000 degrees deep inside. Book through Viator to earn cash back, Aeroplan points, or American Express US Membership Rewards points.
Whales of Iceland is an exhibit featuring life-sized replicas of whales found in and around Iceland. It offers a free audio guide, age-appropriate quizzes to do while you walk through exhibit (you get a certificate for completing it too), computer games relating to marine biology, and colouring sheets for younger kids.
If you prefer a free guided tour, arrive for 11am or 3pm. Buy tickets onsite, as as they offer a family ticket for up to two kids for 7,800 ISK ($59 USD, $78 CAD) which isn’t available through Viator.
If you have more time to kill, consider visiting FlyOver Iceland and Saga Museum, a museum on Iceland’s viking history. Whale-watching tours are also popular here.
Day 2: Snæfellsjökull National Park
Our kids love wildlife, so we headed up the western coast of Iceland for the day to see the seals at Yrti Tunga Beach.
You can see them lazing around on rocks and popping their heads in and out of the water. A bunch of them were located on the far end of the beach that required climbing over some big boulders, which can be dangerous for toddlers.
The best time see them is during the summer months, and they can be found on shore within two hours of low tide.
From there we headed to Djupalonssandur, a black pebble beach with the ruins of a ship scattered along it, and saw a few waterfalls enroute. We ended the day at the Perlan Museum.
Perlan Museum features the natural wonders of Iceland all under one roof. There is a planetarium show on the northern lights, an exhibit and show on volcanic activity, an ice cave and glacier exhibit, and a panoramic observation deck which overlooks Reykjavik.
The museum is more appropriate for kids six and over, as there is not a lot to entertain toddlers here. The museum is open till 10pm in the summer, which makes it a great add-on activity at the end of the day.
Once again, this is an attraction where it is better to buy the ticket onsite as they have a family ticket for 12,990 ISK ($99 USD, $130 CAD). It wasn’t clear how many kids you can bring in for the price, but they didn’t have an issue with us bringing in our three kids.
My kids were a huge fan of the ice cave. Although it was manmade, it was a good simulation. It’s also a nice alternative to visiting an real ice cave, which is very expensive experience and would require winter clothing and boots, which we didn’t have with us.
Day 3: Northern Iceland
If you’re moving around hotels, then you can definitely drive up to Northern Iceland, which takes around five hours. Since we were short on time, we caught a 35-minute domestic flight from Reykjavik Airport (RKV), the domestic airport in Reykjavik, to Akureyri Airport (AEY), an airport in the north.
From there, we picked up a rental car and drove eastward towards Eglisstadir (EGS), where we caught a flight back to Reykjavik.
In between, you can make stops at Krafla caldera, Hverastrond sulphur springs, Dimmuborgir for strange lava formations, Jokulsargljufur river and canyon with several spectacular waterfalls, and Asbyrgi canyon.
Closer to Eglisstadir, you can see puffins at Borgarfjordur eystri, visit the Vok thermal baths, Studlagil basalt canyon, and Hengifoss. There’s not enough time in a day to see everything, so pick and choose your favourite sites.
Domestic flights are actually really convenient to catch. When we asked our hotel, they told us we only needed to be there 10 minutes prior to departure.
I was skeptical, so we arrived 30 minutes prior to takeoff, but the staff were right. It’s an extremely small airport, and if you have no bags to check, you literally walk into the airport and into a small room to await your flight with absolutely no security to go through.
Despite being such a short flight, Icelandair still provided cute activity kits to the kids.
A round-trip domestic flight will cost $150–300 (CAD) per person, once again a cost that can be offset using a credit card with a fixed-value travel points.
Day 4: Golden Circle
This is a popular and comparatively shorter day trip that can be made from Reykjavik. Even though the drive will take roughly three and a half hours, it’s best to double that time to account for the time needed to actually visit the attractions along the way.
Here, you can visit Thingvellir National Park, which sits in a rift valley and was where Iceland’s parliament was once located.
Also worth visiting is Gullfoss, a magnificent waterfall, the world’s third largest geyser, and walk around Kerid volcanic crater.
A slightly different experience is seeing how traditional geothermal bread is baked at Laugarvatn Fontana. Bread tours are 30 minutes long, with a tasting afterwards, and the bread is delicious.
Adults are 2,990 ISK ($23 USD, $30 CAD), but kids are free. Be sure to pre-book this experience online, as the tour often sells out.
If you have more time in the area, then you can also visit a lava cave, Langjokull glacier, or visit a skyr museum to see how Icelandic skyr is made. For those with older kids, you can snorkel between the tectonic plates at Silfra.
If you’re looking for a place to have lunch, check out Efstidalur farm, which serves fresh burgers and ice cream made in-house. The dining area looks down into a barn with grazing cattle, which the kids enjoyed watching.
We ended off the day with a relaxing visit to the Blue Lagoon, which is open until midnight during the summer. Admission for adults isn’t cheap, but kids aged 13 and under are free with a paying adult. The minimum age for admission is two, and floaties are mandatory and provided for kids aged eight and younger.
Our kids loved swimming in the white, warm thermal waters and applying their free facial mud mask. Be sure to book early, as admission is timed and limited.
Day 5: Reykjanes Peninsula
On our last day before our flight, we ventured to Reykjanes Peninsula, which was close to the airport. The main attraction here for us was visiting Fagradalsfjall volcano and lava fields, and the Bridge Between Continents.
Fagradalsfjall Volcano is a volcano that erupted in 2021. Hiking to the top of the volcano and back requires around five hours. However, if you just want to see the end of the lava fields, you can easily do so with a short 15-minute hike to the Nátthagi viewpoint.
To get here, head to car park #2 in the area. You’ll be able to touch the end of lava field, and see its path from the volcano down into the valley.
Bridge Between Continents is kind of a neat symbolic landmark. The bridge connects the rift between the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates. The kids had fun hopping from one continent to another.
Our five days in Iceland were action-packed. Despite the weather being a bit cool and at times wet, the kids were filled with a sense of awe, and found a new appreciation for the wonders of nature, which are truly at their best here in Iceland.
When we left, they were already asking when we could come back. We’re planning on a few trips to Europe in the coming years, so I’m sure we’ll find a time to stopover again and visit all the attractions we missed.
Next time, we’d also like to take them along the southern coast to see a real glacier and visit the famous Glacier Lagoon.