Iceland with a young child: A mother’s perspective

As you may or may not know, I didn’t get to know the princess until she was around five so I mostly missed her baby and toddler years. Even though I was a very active participant in taking care of my two sisters when I was young (I was like the third parent, I often still feel like that actually and mother them when I’m not supposed to) I have basically forgot everything about taking care of babies. So when my girlfriends all started having their beautiful children I was like those notorious bachelors in American comedies that put diapers on backwards and carry babies around like footballs. One of my best friends made a lot of fun of me once when I was trying to show interest in an old school friend of ours that was describing the difficulties she was having with her newborn and I asked some (apparently) inappropriate questions (I was trying to be supportive, darn it), accidentally suggesting that her child was the spawn of the lord of the underworld.

I get a lot of questions from mothers that are trying to find information about visiting Iceland with young children and to be honest with you I often don’t know what to say. I can tell them that children in Iceland wear a lot of wool and fleece during the winter and which playgrounds the princess liked back in the day.Skyr is a popular snack and most places in Iceland are pretty child friendly.

A while ago I saw some nice photos on Instagram from a woman that was traveling around Iceland with her husband and young daughter so in order to find some answers for all you distressed mothers out there I sent her a message to see if she was willing to answer a few questions on the topic. Which, thankfully, she graciously agreed to.

Meet Karie and her adorable little family

Image via Karie

Image via Karie

Hi, I’m Karie. I’m a 26 year old Registered Nurse from Singapore. I’ve made multiple trips to various parts of Europe over the past 4 years with my husband, and this Iceland road trip marks our first Europe trip with our daughter. We hope to be able visit all of Europe someday.

We were in Iceland for 8 days from 9-16 February 2015. We rented a car from Blue Car rental, picked it up upon arrival at Keflavik, and drove ourselves around. This is our first time driving overseas, and our first time driving in Winter (it’s Summer all year round where we come from). We drove on the ring road mostly, and ended our road trip at Varmahlid during the last night before returning to Reykjavik. The longest drive of the trip was probably the drive from Höfn to Egilsstadir.

Of all places I’ve been to, Iceland is most magical. It has this otherworldly quality to it. During our week-long stay in Iceland, we’ve seen Northern lights thrice, shooting stars twice, glaciers, volcanos, lava fields, black beaches, waterfalls, ice caves, fjords, geysirs, rainbows and beautiful Icelandic landscapes – totally worth driving through the occasional blizzards for Iceland has become my favourite place in the world, and I’ll definitely be back soon to explore Reykjavik more, visit the Westfjords and do horse riding!

How old is your daughter and have you traveled much with her?

She’s currently 2 years and 3 months old. Prior to Iceland, her first trip was to Japan during Spring, April last year.

Image via Karie

Image via Karie

Why did you choose to travel to Iceland in Winter?

I’m of the opinion that Iceland looks most beautiful in Winter. I am attracted to where there are snow, mountains and clear skies. That and, the chances of catching Northern lights during this period 

Were there any special challenges you faced traveling around Iceland with a young child?

There weren’t any special challenges – I had an easy time. The only challenge we encountered was when we were walking to Keflavik airport on the last day. There was a blizzard and my daughter and I almost got blown away. However, a car pulled over and this very nice and helpful local family gave us a ride to the airport, whereby they jokingly said in the car, “It’s like Antarctica!”.

Were there any activities that you especially enjoyed together as a family?

Soaking in Mývatn nature baths was definitely a highlight. There is something so lovely about being in a warm geothermal pool while watching the snow fall. We also enjoyed watching the beautiful majestic waterfalls and northern lights together, and my daughter had a great time playing with snow and interacting with horses.

Image via Karie

Image via Karie

Did you find it difficult finding something suitable for your daughter to eat during your travels around Iceland?

Food was a huge concern of mine while planning for the trip, as my daughter has an egg allergy. It turned out to be the least of my concerns as my daughter loved every single dish we had at the restaurants, and most foods on the menus were egg-free. However, as part of a contingency plan I did bring along an adequate supply of ready-made toddler meals that she usually has back home – these served as car snacks on the road trip alongside other snacks we got from the petrol kiosk and supermarkets.

Image via Karie

Image via Karie

What about clothing, what did you bring that you didn’t need and what do you wish you had brought?

I brought too much inner thermal layers for my daughter, as I was worried if she might need frequent change of clothing due to food spillage etc (didn’t happen).

I wish I had brought along wool gloves and ear muffs – my usual leather gloves and lack of earmuffs I use in other parts of Europe during Winter just didn’t cut it in the Icelandic winter. I got a most comfortable pair of wool gloves and earmuffs from Icewear — I’ve never tried on wool mittens and earmuffs that were so comfortable. And it does such a great job at insulating! It proved to be a better idea to buy from Iceland, and they make lovely souvenirs too. 

Do you have any advice for parents thinking about bringing their young children with them to Iceland?

Do not hesitate, bring them along! My daughter thoroughly enjoyed her stay here and she was excited to see everything. In comparison to the one time we went on a trip without her, I personally enjoyed the trip more with her presence, despite having extra baggage to carry. Some advice to parents: do pack as light as possible, since you have your child’s baggage to carry along as well. And do pack some things to entertain your child (i.e. books, toys, colouring sets) and snacks during the trip. 

If your child too, like mine, still drinks formula – rest assured to know that I prepared formula with cold water straight from the tap without any issues. Just remember to fill the bottles with cold water, not hot. The smell of sulphur is overbearing when it’s hot. 

If you need more information about visiting Reykjavík with a toddler you might also enjoy this guest post by Jenn Pici Falk, a mother of two who travels to Iceland regularly for her yoga retreats.

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10 thoughts on “Iceland with a young child: A mother’s perspective”

  1. tika says:

    Informative!!! We already are thinking of some of the points but good extra info. Counting down days for aurora, eclipse, & troll hunting.

    Mom, dad & almost 8 months old baby.

  2. Many good points here!
    We recently launched a site for families travelling to Reykjavik. Where are the pram friendly cafés, how and what to pack, what to do and a bunch of other recommendations. Take a look at http://www.kidsinreykjavik.com

  3. Carmel says:

    Brillant article! Brought the 13yr old in November, now its time to start planing a visit with the rest of the family

  4. Ingrid says:

    Thank you for this lovely article. We are a family of 5 and we are departing for Iceland in 5 days. So exciting. I have been quite worried about weather/driving in snow/what to pack. Your timely article helped me breathe : )
    Has anyone spent Easter in Iceland and have any thoughts of local activities happening over the holiday weekend?

    1. Hi Ingrid! Easter is a family holiday and most Icelanders enjoy lamb and huge easter eggs (of chocolate) in company with their loved ones – or they have several confirmations to attend. However, the ski resort called Bláfjöll is open some of the days – if your kids are big enough to hit the slopes. Some shops close (especially on Good Friday and Eatser Day) but many cafés and restaurant stay open over the holidays. A trip to Viðey is exciting, both for toddlers and older kids. If the weather is ok, a stroll out to Grótta is highly recommended.

      1. ingrid says:

        Hello Silje Beite Loken- I did not know of the places you recommended and they sound exactly like what we are looking for! big thanks and hi-5’s from Canada to you : )

        1. Have a wonderful trip, Ingrid! And if you’d like more tips for family friendly activities in Reykjavik – visit our site: http://www.kidsinreykjavik.com

  5. Mabel says:

    “week-long stay in Iceland, we’ve seen Northern lights thrice, shooting stars twice, glaciers, volcanos, lava fields, black beaches, waterfalls, ice caves, fjords, geysirs, rainbows and beautiful Icelandic landscapes ”

    We’re planning on travelling to Iceland in February with our 3 year old and I’m *dying* to visit some ice caves on our visit. I was pretty disappointed when I saw that all the tours I’ve seen require the minimum age of 8+. How was the family in the article able to do so with their toddler? I’d love to find out and see if we couldn’t do the same since every article I’ve read said that you can’t/shouldn’t visit any ice caves without guides for safety reasons. Any help or information would be appreciated. *crossing fingers*

    1. Angeline says:

      Hi Mabel, did you manage to do ice cave with your child in e end? We’re planning a trip next feb with my 4yo & we’re planning on doing ice cave as well. I’ve not been able to find any articles on this online. Your reply would greatly appreciated. Thank you!

      1. mm Auður says:

        You cannot bring such a young child to the ice caves, they all have age limits.

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