Two days after I arrived from Japan, I bought my tickets to Iceland...
And much like my ticket to Japan, it was bought spontaneously without an ounce of thorough research. It wasn't until months later that I learned that yes, going to Iceland is cheap ($500 roundtrip through Icelandair) but staying there is hella expensive.
As somebody who was going alone and already on a pretty tight budget - I was stressed for months leading up to my trip. But I'm here, I survived, and I'm writing this to help anyone else who wants to make a similar journey to Iceland.
Things I wish I knew:
Food is more expensive than I thought
We're talking about $20 per meal. If you're staying at a place where you can cook, you can buy groceries at Bonus.
I didn't need to pack so much thermalwear
I took the Ice in Iceland pretty literally and being the warm-blooded Texan that I am - I packed as many layers as possible. In reality, all I needed was a good wool coat. Granted, I visited in April - so there was no snow. But my baggage was filled with clothes I didn't even use.
Northern lights tours end April 15
And I arrived April 18. I thought that I could drive to secluded places and see the northern lights - no luck. It didn't get dark until 10:00 PM and it got light at 4:00 AM.
I didn't really neeeed a four wheel drive car
I drove around the Golden Circle, Vík, and to Jökulsárlón (Glacier Lagoon). I didn't go off road often so I felt a bit ridiculous with this 4 wheel drive SUV for one. Not to mention it needed diesel gas and cost about $80 to fill. I should note that it wasn't snowing, terribly windy or rainy.
The blue lagoon costs about $100 for a ticket (which you must buy in advance)
Was it worth it? I'm still on the fence about that. But I truly enjoyed the experience! I got the comfortable package which comes with a free drink and a clay mask. It felt like a luxurious spa and I certainly didn't regret it.
You have to pay for several things
Especially if you're staying at a hostel. You have to rent towels, locks, sometimes even sheets.
Things I'm glad I brought:
These are so handy at the hostel's showers and hot springs. They take up so little space - so why not? I've had these flip flops for yeeaarrss. They're so sturdy and last a while.
I am so grateful I brought oatmeal. I bought about a pound or so in the bulk section before my trip. It was perfect because it was filling and everywhere I stayed had an electric kettle. Later on in the trip I bought a jar of peanut butter and raisins at Bonus for toppings.
A little hostel-life specific. I stayed in a co-ed room complete with bunk beds and cubbies. Even though I doubt anyone would steal my passport or my clothes, it gave me peace of mind. Before I go out, I would lock my bags and my designated cubbie. I got two at Marshalls for about $5.
My new favorite travel item. This towel is lightweight, takes little space, and dries so quickly. It was handy for the showers. Though I didn't need it for the Blue Lagoon. I plan to bring this with me to all my future trips.
Didn't have cold toes the entire trip.
Don't buy water in Iceland. The water there is so pure, you can just drink tap. I have a mini one I brought everywhere.
Where I rented my car
This was my first car rental experience and it was soooo easy. I rented a 4 Wheel Drive Kia Sportage. As mentioned above, I don't think I needed such a heavy duty car - but I loved driving it (and that's coming from someone who hates driving).
The hostel I stayed at
Although the hostel was cute - I think I would have rather stayed somewhere more central. The Oddson was a 15-20 minute walk from downtown and as much as I love walking, I found myself going back and forth way too often.
The breakfast buffet was about $20 and wasn't incredibly spectacular - just your average oatmeal, bread, deli meat, cheese, etc - but it was food! I would eat as much as I could in the morning to fuel my day.
The airbnb I stayed at:
Possibly the best Airbnb I have ever stayed at. Their backyard had a waterfall, horses, sheep, and chickens. The best part was that they provided an authentic Icelandic breakfast with 99% coming from their farm and garden.
Jón was the one who recommended that I go to Diamond Beach and I'm so glad he did! It was absolutely beautiful and I would have been so sad if I left Iceland without seeing this spectacular beach.