Road trip with friends
10 Simple Steps for a Picture Perfect Iceland Road Trip with your Best Friends
Thinking of taking a road trip around Iceland? Thinking it could be even better if you bring your best friends along? If so, you are really onto something. If you follow our 10 simple steps we are certain that you and your crew will have the adventure of a lifetime!
But first, a little background on us and our road tripping crew.
I’m Brenna, and my husband Darwin and I recently quit our jobs and took off on a year-long trip around the world. When we were planning our trip we knew that we wanted our near and dear friends Amy and Ilan to meet us somewhere along the way because we couldn’t bear the thought of going so long without seeing them. We have known them both for nearly a decade and we like to take a little bit of credit for their relationship since it began two years ago at our wedding! Back home in California the four of us love to hike and camp together so it was an easy decision to choose Iceland as the spot for us to meet up for an adventure.
While we think our adventure was perfect exactly as it was, we learned some important things along the way that can be summarized in the following 10 simple steps:
1. Make sure everyone has their passport, preferably more than 24 hours in advance of your flight to Iceland – The four of us met up in Paris for a few days before flying to Iceland together. Unfortunately Amy was pick pocketed on the metro upon arrival, leaving her without a wallet or passport. Some minor panic ensued since we were three days away from our flight to Reykjavik, and because this happened on a weekend we had to wait out two of those days before the US Embassy in Paris opened. The morning before our flight Amy went to the embassy with the necessary paperwork and we all held our breath as the fate of our Iceland road trip lay in the hands of the embassy staff. An hour later she walked out victorious with a temporary passport that would allow her to continue on with her travels. We celebrated. And we learned that the first step in a successful Iceland road trip is ensuring that everyone has a passport in hand. And it’s a lot less stressful if that is accomplished more than 24 hours before flying.
2. Get two camper vans – When we were planning our trip we looked into the possibility of renting one large camper van that would fit all four of us. We realized that there wasn’t much of a cost difference between one large camper van and two small ones so we opted for each couple to have our own van. It was a great call. We got to spend plenty of time together but also enjoyed having our own space for each couple to relax and unwind at the end of the day in the comfort of our own vans. And we never had to worry about driving each other crazy, instead we woke up every day refreshed and ready for more adventure with our best friends.
3. Keep each vehicle well stocked with snacks – One of the most important things when it comes to ensuring harmony among friends and couples when traveling is having plenty of snacks. Whenever we made a grocery stop we would stock up on snacks to eat on the road, always purchasing two of everything so that each vehicle would have its own snack supply and we would never have to deal with challenging situations like realizing that our friends had eaten all of the cheddar popcorn without us. We highly recommend buying all snacks in pairs.
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4. Bring Walkie-talkies – This one is important. If you are going to have two vans you are going to need to bring Walkie-talkies. The roads in Iceland are quiet enough that it is very easy to caravan and never lose sight of the other vehicle, but communication is still key. And even though our awesome vans were equipped with WiFi, using our smartphones for inter-van communication would not have been nearly as seamless, or as fun, as using Walkie-talkies. Some of the best uses of Walkie-talkies include discussing impromptu roadside stops to take in beautiful views, planning coffee and bathroom breaks, and making general exclamations to each other about how incredibly awesome the scenery around us is, the latter being the most common.
5. Assume duties based on everyone’s natural strengths – One of the many advantages of traveling in a group is that everyone can contribute something different, meaning that there is less work for each person individually. Based on our natural strengths and interests we all fell into appropriate roles throughout our trip. Darwin handled planning and navigation in urban areas, Ilan handled planning and navigation in rural areas, Amy looked up all the necessities like campsites, grocery stores, information centers, and places to eat, ensuring that they were all well reviewed online before we made any decisions, and I headed up all meal planning and preparation. We suggest allowing your crew to take on tasks based on natural strengths and interests and discussing who will be in charge of what if it doesn’t automatically become clear. And no matter what, always take turns doing dishes because that is no one’s natural strength or interest.
6. BYO (bring your own) spices – When you are going to be cooking on a camp stove for a week or more it’s important to have some seasoning to liven up your food, especially if you are a hot sauce dependent group of Americans like us. Hot sauce options are much more limited in Iceland and Europe in general, so we recommend coming prepared with your hot sauce of choice. We also recommend bringing your own pepper grinder. We purchased a jar of peppercorns not realizing that it didn’t have a built in grinder in the lid. We even checked a few more grocery stores throughout the trip and found that pepper grinders were either not available or sold out. So what did we do? We sprinkled whole peppercorns over our food every night. It made dinner a lot more fun because it added an element of surprise. Our dinner conversations were regularly punctuated with sudden exclamations of “Oh I just got a peppercorn!’ We actually grew fond of this style of pepper consumption and may even indulge in the occasional sprinkling of whole peppercorns over our food in the future even when grinders are available.
7. Fit in some time to warm up and relax – As the name suggests, Iceland can be cold. We found that the best way to keep spirits high when temperatures drop is to occasionally stop by one of Iceland’s wonderful public pools. For not much more than the cost of a shower at a campground, you can access a heated pool, multiple hot tubs, showers, and in some cases even water slides and steam rooms. There are few things better than reflecting on your day in a warm hot tub with friends.
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8. Don’t be afraid to make new friends along the way – When traveling with friends it can be easy to neglect to make new ones, but there is no such thing as too many friends! We found that the best way to make friends, or at least to not make enemies, is to use proper campsite etiquette. Many of Iceland’s campgrounds have indoor spaces that can be used for cooking and eating when it is too cold, rainy, or windy to do so outside. This is an invaluable amenity, but it is one that is often abused.
If you want to make friends be sure to share any extra space that is available at your table, and DO NOT under any circumstances occupy a table for hours after you are done eating just staring at your smartphone and ignoring the groups of other hungry campers wandering around with their camp stoves looking for a little place to cook their meal out of the elements. Space is limited and is intended to be shared. If you are respectful of this we are certain that you will make friends with lots of other campers during your adventure!
9. Never stop learning – Nerding out is cool and Iceland is a great place to do it. Take the time to visit museums, read the informational signs posted at view points, use your van’s WiFi to google the things that intrigue you, and better yet do as we did and make sure your team is equipped with an avid bird watcher who always has binoculars and a bird guide ready to identify any bird that you may encounter. Everything you see in Iceland is amazing, but we found that we appreciated things even more once we learned a bit about the science behind them!
10. Plan ahead but always be ready to change or abandon the original plan – We were able to see a lot during our eight short days on the Ring road because we planned out a rough itinerary from the beginning to make sure we didn’t miss anything we really wanted to see. However, it’s just as important to be flexible and willing to change the plan on the fly. Weather will impact your days, and sometimes you may just get tired and want to slow things down a bit. Reassess each day, make a rough plan and have an idea of one or two areas you might like to camp that night, but if you come across the most beautiful waterfall you have ever seen and want to spend two hours staring at it, don’t let a set itinerary stop you from doing that! At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many sights you check off of your “to see” list because no matter where you spend your time in Iceland, it is almost guaranteed to be beautiful.
We hope that these steps help you plan the Icelandic road trip of your dreams. There is no right or wrong way to do it because any amount of time spent in this beautiful country with people that you love will be time well spent. We wish you a safe, beautiful, unforgettable adventure.
Read more: Exploring Iceland in a VW Camper – Day 7
Happy Camping! #CamperStories
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