Iceland is a dream for many photographers, it almost feels like cheating when you’re photographing the beautiful landscapes. Iceland however is not a cheap destination. Luckily, there are some way to reduce the cost of the trip. Here’s how I cut about $2,000 from my trip to Iceland. At the time, I couldn’t transfer American Express Membership Rewards or Starwood points to Iceland Air. In fact, until recently it was impossible to book Iceland Air using points. That has since changed, Iceland Air is a partner with Alaska Airlines and you can book using Alaska miles. The value isn’t great and there’s surcharges making it a mediocre value, at best.
I booked a round trip flight from SFO to KEF for only $103.10 and 60,000 American Airlines miles. The routing was SFO, ORD, DUS and KEF. I didn’t mind spending a full day in Germany, considering I have a friend to show me around Dusseldorf. The way I acquired these miles was pretty simple: sign up bonuses. Credit card sign up bonuses make it really easy to have thousands of miles with little effort. Citi sent me a generous offer for one of their American Airlines co-branded credit cards: spend $500 in 3 months and receive 30,000 AA miles. With the 30,000 AA miles I had generated with very little spend, I transferred an additional 25,000 SPG points to American. Transferring Starwood points in 20,000 points increments to American adds a 5,000 point bonus, totaling 30,000 miles. This is how I reduced the cost of my trip by about $2,000.
The Road Trip of a Lifetime
If you are visiting Iceland, renting a car is a must. Public transportation is available but it’s only available in the city and it’s impossible to do the ring road via train. I rented a Toyota Yaris from BlueCarRental for 12 days, totaling somewhere in the range of $750 USD. To save money on insurance, I suggest reviewing the car rental coverage your credit card offers and go with that. American Express and Chase offer car rental insurance. After renting the car, I started driving to a super market to pick up peanuts and mandarins. Food in Iceland is expensive. Any stop at a restaurant usually reached $20 USD with very little effort. Picking up snacks was essential in keeping this trip relatively affordable.
The next biggest expense, apart from accommodation is fuel. Fuel in Iceland is expensive, specially for an American and that’s coming from someone living in California. At the time, I remember paying 192 ISK per liter. In gallons, it was reaching about $6.00 USD per gallon. There’s petrol stations all throughout the country and they all take credit cards. Most take American Express, but some don’t. This applies to the entire country: everyone will take your credit card. I didn’t withdraw any Icelandic Kronar at the airport. I just used credit card to pay for things and didn’t need cash throughout the trip. If you use an Amex card, carry a Visa or MasterCard in case Amex isn’t accepted.
Accommodation in Iceland is not cheap and I suggest you book ahead of time. I used Booking to find accommodation and booked directly with the hotel, when possible. Each night was at least $100.00 USD, usually with breakfast included and free really fast Wi-Fi. Prices ranged between $100 and $170 per night. These prices generally get you something pretty nice in most parts of the world but Iceland is not really about luxury. Hotels in Iceland are small with very little luxury.
My Final Thoughts
Iceland is incredible and I cannot wait to go back. Iceland is expensive but it’s not impossible to do, specially if you go with a partner and split the cost of the trip. I would definitely recommend you visit and explore the country. I spent 14 days in Iceland and took a lot of photos. You can see the rest of my trip at: Ricardodeltoro.me.