Iceland with Kids: Part I

Well, we did it. I don’t know how exactly, but somehow we managed to fit the basic needs of two adults, a six-month old, and a two-and-a-half year old, to travel around Iceland for ten days  into two backpacks. If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time you know that we try hard to organize our time and budget around the things we value most. Traveling as a family is one of those things, and our goal is always to travel as lightly as possible. The more we travel, the more we see the value in being able to move freely, without dragging bulky suitcases behind us, and having our hands free. This held true for our recent trip to Iceland.

Our plan was to take only backpacks that Ryan and I could each carry on our back. Our packs are not huge. Ryan has a 45-liter pack, I have a 30-liter pack, and we packed everything into these.


A few people we ran into before boarding our plane stared hard at our two little ones and our backpacks, and mentioned that we must be checking in more baggage. No, we were not. And, you know what happened? Nothing. We had what we needed, nothing more. No big deal.

So, because we always get asked, here’s what we took (or didn’t take):

Baby Gear. I carried Arya in the Ergo carrier. Johann, our toddler, has good stamina and can walk really well, but he is easily distracted. We borrowed a second Ergo-carrier for the trip, worthwhile since we used it on a couple of our longer hikes. (No one is paying me to say this, but we love the Ergobaby brand; it’s the only soft-structured child carrier we’ve ever needed to use, it is arguably the most ergonomic for adult shoulders and backs, and we’re sold on it for life.)

We carried a small daypack that functioned as our all purpose diaper bag/snack bag/plane distraction bag. We did not take a stroller. We did not take travel cribs or pack n’ plays. We did not take carseats, but considered it since we were renting a car in Iceland. We were on a tight budget for this trip since we had saved up for it, and wanted our money to stretch as far as it would go. The flights were cheap but nothing else in Iceland was! In the end, we decided to rent carseats there. This worked for us, since the idea of toting two cumbersome carseats sounded entirely impractical and totally against the purpose of traveling light. (There are many strong opinions out there on renting carseats, and regardless of what you believe, do what works for your family.)

Clothes and shoes. Three sets of clothes for all and a fourth set for each kid – just because. (Always bring spare clothes on-board for yourself and your kids.) We knew that we would be outdoors most of the time, that there was still snow on the ground in lots of places, and that the average temperature would be around forty degrees Fahrenheit. So we packed layers, including fleece layers, an outer rain/wind shell, and hat and gloves for all. This took up a lot of space in our packs, even though we rolled everything tightly! We also had our handy Scrubba Wash Bag. I seriously love this thing. Ever since I found it before our backpacking trip to Spain while Johann was a baby, we’ve brought it everywhere, and it has made traveling light so much easier for us. We packed hiking boots for ourselves and Johann, and we wore street shoes on the plane. Arya didn’t need any shoes, but she did have this rad bunting and baby booties that kept her warm and dry!


Toiletries, health and grooming items. Not much here. Toothbrushes, a small spool of floss and travel size toothpaste, hairbrush, the concealer stick and eye pencil that forms my only makeup, one sunblock that we could all use, a small tube of diaper rash cream and tylenol for the kids in case they needed that, a disposable razor each, and a few Q-tips. Anything else we could hunt down locally.

Diapers. We opted for disposable diapers on the trip. We packed enough to last three or four days for each kid, we bought more locally when we ran out. A pack of wipes, and a couple of bags to hold dirty diapers on the go, clothes to be washed, or dirty shoes.

Snacks & Entertainment. Arya is still breastfeeding, so no special baby feeding supplies. She has started solid foods recently, but eats what we eat (we are huge fans of the Baby-Led Weaning method!) so no special baby feeding supplies there. The only toys we brought were a small teether and sensory doll that she loves. She was happy with these during the whole trip. Babies are generally pretty easy travelers! This was Arya’s first flight, and we were nervous about that, but it helped that it was a nonstop flight from Seattle to Reykjavik, and seven hours and fifteen minutes flew by. We did not buy her a separate seat, so she was on my lap for most of the flight and napped or played happily.

For ourselves and Johann, we packed dry snacks that would last a couple days so we wouldn’t have to hunt them down as soon as we got there. Nutritious, high-calorie things like apples, dried fruit, nuts, hard cheese, crackers, etc. This is the name of the game for high energy toddlers who just will not sit still for any amount of time. We also threw in Johann’s toddler headphones and found that he was more interested in the seat-back screen entertainment on the flight than he was the last time we traveled overseas. It’s cool to see his attention span get longer as he grows older! He watched bits of movies and played the games that were on offer, and was generally was very well-behaved in his window seat.


We chose not to bring anything special for him besides snacks and headphones. He created his own entertainment. Or maybe he was forced to, because we didn’t bring anything? Either way, we were very proud of how well he did away from all of his familiar stuff. We asked him once, towards the end of our trip if he remembered our house and his toys and all his books…and his eyes lit up! We were touched at how fondly he remembered home, and were surprised to see how his memory is developing. It was a highlight of our time away.

By the time we added our travel documents, handkerchiefs, small electronics, camera, empty water bottles, chapstick, etc. our packs were nearly full. We were ready to see Iceland!

If you are wondering about specific items that we brought or didn’t bring, I’d love to try and answer your questions about it! Please leave me a comment or send me an email!

Next, I’ll share some of the things we saw and did. Iceland is much more kid-friendly than you think! Stay tuned.