What we did with a 10 Hour Layover in Iceland

Iceland may not sound like the most exciting place to have a layover, but in the last year it has become the “it” spot for layovers. Icelandair offers to have everything from a few hours to days of layover in Iceland. It’s a great way to explore a place you might have never otherwise visited. Last year, I had the opportunity to visit Iceland myself with a 10 hour layover. I can tell you it wasn’t nearly enough time to explore this beautiful country, but it sure was the BEST layover I’ve ever had. Let me walk you through what my layover looked like. Granted we had already done some planning to enjoy the hours to the fullest.  Also, we had a schedule before arriving that was not followed at all due to unforeseen things, this is the accurate version of what happened.

6:30 – Landed in Iceland

After some moderate sleeping on the plane we arrived and were ready to make the most of our layover in Iceland.

TIP: Always be sure you’re ready to go as soon as you arrive. Also, early mornings in Iceland are cold, dress accordingly. 

 

7:30- Picked up rental car

Picking up our rental car took too long because it was two people taking care of several reservations. Be sure to allot a good amount of time, we definitely underestimated the wait time.

TIP: Our car rental place had free bottles of water that we kept and refilled for a good part of our trip.

 

8:00- Hit morning Traffic

While we were driving we forgot that not everyone is a tourist and that some people actually had to go to work. Not realizing that we would be hitting the morning commute we got stuck in traffic which threw back our whole schedule.

TIP: Don’t forget to plan for unexpected traffic.

 

8:30- Arrived in Reykjavik

Besides the traffic make sure you enjoy the views on the drive in. We drove around Reykjavik mostly to try and find where we were supposed to go, but it was nice to see the city from the warmth of our car.

TIP: Drive around a bit when you arrive in a new city. It helps you see more of the city and get acquainted with how things work.

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8:45- Found a parking garage on the corner of Hvertisgata St and Smidjustigur St. 

This parking garage is called Traoarkot, but really you can’t miss the huge blue ‘P’ sign. The first hour of parking is 80 ISK ($0.62 currently) and every hour after is 50 ISK ($0.39 currently).

TIP: Park your car and walk along Hvertisgata and the neighboring streets, because this is where all the cute stores and attractions are.

 

9:15- We had breakfast at Grey Cat Cafe (Grai Kotturinn)

While driving around to find where to park and eat, we saw this cute red door that was slightly underground. After we parked and walked a bit to check out the restaurants in the area we settled on the cute Grey Cat Cafe we had seen from the car. Make sure you don’t miss it, it’s a few steps down from the side walk. Red doors and green walls means you are in the right place. While there we had just your average breakfast of eggs, bacon and potatoes. Let me tell you , I have never had better bacon in my life. It might have been the hunger talking, but from what I remember it was pretty delicious bacon.  And the company was quite wonderful. We met some other American tourists who had actually been in town a few days so we asked what we should do, eat and try before leaving. Some of their recommendations: Blue Lagoon, Boli Beer, and Rye Bread Ice Cream.

TIP: When you are in a location with other travelers, never be afraid to talk to them and get recommendations from them. Travelers love to share stories.

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10:00 – Walked to Hallgrimskirkja while getting distracted by cute stores and colorful roads.

On our walk to this famous landmark in Reykjavik we made sure to enjoy our walk by stopping into a store that hadn’t been open yet, several souvenir shops one of which we purchased a shot glass made of lava rocks (I collect a shot glass from every place I visit), and a rainbow road. It was a lovely walk in a brisk fall morning.

TIP: When looking for a souvenir try to find things local to each place. Also stop into even the unlikeliest stores.

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10:30- Got to the top of Hallgrimskirkja.

After arriving and taking pictures outside we entered the beautiful church where the paying system is on an honor system. I was a bit shocked that they trusted tourists this much, but this is after all Iceland where the people are wonderfully kind and trusting. The view from above is just gorgeous. You get to see all of Reykjavik and beyond, it’s quite beautiful.

TIP: Take a minute to just look out at that view. It’s a beautiful peaceful moment when you’re on a crazy busy schedule.

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10:45- Walked back to car while trying Rye Bread Ice Cream

We decided to follow the recommendation of our fellow traveler and try the Rye Bread Ice Cream. It is not something that I would typically order, but it was actually pretty good. It was sweet and had a little bit of a grainy texture to it. I definitely recommend you at least taste it.

TIP: Always try something that was recommended to you by another traveler or local, even if it sounds totally bizarre. Also, walk into a store and ask the local for something that is native to the country or city you are in. (Example: My sister asked me to get candy from every country I visited, and the store workers with the help of other locals gave me recommendations on what to buy. It was fun and educational.)

 

11:00- Got lost on our way to the Blue Lagoon

In every trip, there is always a moment where we are totally lost in a country we don’t speak the language of and have to stop and ask for directions. In our case, we were already late for our Blue Lagoon ticket time so we stopped at a pizza shop for directions. I, literally, stumbled into the store because I didn’t see the bottom of the door frame to ask for directions. They were very nice and even showed on a map how to get there. Without their help, I’m not sure how we would’ve gotten there.

TIP: When you get lost, always remember to stay calm and reassure yourself that everything will work out. It is not the end of the world. It also makes for great stories!

 

11:30- Check in at Blue Lagoon

With every situation you get lost in, you always find kindness on the other side. For us, it was the amazing hostess at Blue Lagoon who not only allowed us in past our ticket time without a penalty but also helped us change our reservation at the restaurant.

TIP: Even when you’re stressed out, worried and behind schedule, always remember to be kind to those who you meet, they might just turn your day around. Also, always carry safety pins, you never know when your bathing suit will decide to break….

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11:45- Head to the bar in the Blue Lagoon

After arriving, getting our lovely bathrobe, flip flop and goody bag we headed to the locker rooms to change. We quickly changed and headed to the warm waters of the Blue Lagoon. It was a much needed relaxation. Our ticket offered a free drink from the bar. I had the rose wine cooler and it was  delicious! They also offer non-alcoholic drinks such as a slushie called Krap, which my friend had. The great thing is everything from your free drink, to lunch to extra drinks you might want to purchase are all go on your bracelet, so make sure you don’t lose it.  Grab your drink at the Lagoon Bar in the water then enjoy the steaming hot waters. Make sure to stop by the small waterfalls too.

TIP: Alcoholic or not, always try something local. The walls are all made with rocks so there are some places with natural seating if you just want to sit down and relax. Also buy a waterproof bag for your phone so that you can enjoy taking pictures.

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12:00- Do the Silica Mud Masks

I’ll let the description from the website do the talking: “The white face mask that you’ve probably seen in photos is the Silica Mud Mask. The mask is delivered at the Silica bar, located in the lagoon. You can apply as much as you want to your face and body, before leaving it on for at least 5 minutes. When you wash it off, you will feel a significant difference in the softness of your skin.”

This “Silica Bar” they refer to is a wooden box with slots just big enough to fit a hand through and grab a handful of it and spread it on your body. The great thing is everyone does it, so we all look ridiculous together.

TIP: Just do the mask. Trust me.

 

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13:00- Lunch At Lava

On site the Blue Lagoon, there is a wonderful restaurant called Lava. At first it feels extremely weird walking into a fancy restaurant in a bath robe, but soon enough you see a few other people in bathrobes and then you realize that you are too fancy to be wearing real clothes anyways. It was a strange but awesome transition of feelings. We had a wonderful lunch, where we did rush it a bit to get back to the water before leaving.

TIP: When you are allowed to go have lunch in your bathrobe, take advantage of it. How many people can say they’ve had lunch at a fancy restaurant in a bathrobe?

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13:45- Headed back to the water

We couldn’t leave without one last dip in the water.

TIP: It’s hard to leave the water, but keep track of time so you don’t miss your plane.

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14:45- Rushed out of the Blue Lagoon

Realizing we over stayed, we rushed out of the Blue Lagoon after showering and changing back to our travel clothes. When I say rush, I mean we ran to the car as fast as we could after paying.

TIP: Be prepared for situations that might make you uncomfortable like nudity and see-through showers or showers with no curtains. At the end of the day, we are all human beings. (PS- this was all in the a same sex locker room)

15:15- Arrived at Airport

It was a mad dash from dropping off the car to getting to the gate.

TIP: Having everything already packed and organized while driving over to the airport, made the car drop off a lot faster.

 

15:30- Waited in line to board with a Boli

While we were behind on our schedule, thankfully so was the airplane, giving us enough time to try one more recommendation, Boli. Boli is a very popular beer in Iceland and we couldn’t leave without trying it. It was very refreshing after a day of relaxation. It almost took us away from the craziness of an airport.

TIP: Remember the water bottle from the car rental we spoke about earlier? We asked around until we found water fountains to refill our bottles. Every airport should have something that can refill bottles, look for them.

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16:35- Take off

We were satisfied with how much we got to do and getting the chance to experience Iceland, even if it was just for a little bit.

TIP: If you can extend your layovers to explore some of this beautiful place, do it!

 

Like you see above, you can do a lot in a layover as long as you plan accordingly. If you’re planning on going to the Blue Lagoon, plan your tickets in advance they do sell out. If you plan for your layover at night you can drive out to see the Northern Lights. Also, car rentals aren’t necessary to get to Reykjavik and the Blue Lagoon they do have buses available, we just preferred to have the freedom to be on our own schedule. Iceland is a beautiful place and I can’t wait to explore more of it!

 

Enjoy your adventure!

8 Alternative Spring Breaks

Spring break is usually associated with wild parties, tons of drinking and a lot of craziness. However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way or in the typical locations it usually occurs at, Florida and tropical islands. I’ve compiled a list of alternative spring breaks for those looking for something a bit different to do.

1. Cruise

If fun in the sun is your thing, yet you don’t want to be standing next to thousands of other people on a beach take a cruise. It can be fun and still involve everything you wanted to do on the beach on a bit tamer scale. You’d be surprised at how affordable cruises can be, especially if you get a group of your friends to join in. Or if you just need some time off from everyone, be brave and take a cruise by yourself. You never know who you could meet!

2. Log Cabin/ Ski or Snowboard Getaway

If you prefer colder environments, why not take a ski trip? Rent a log cabin with your friends or your partner and spend the week in hot tubs, shredding the slopes and drinking hot chocolate until your heart is content. You don’t even have to go skiing, but a retreat in a log cabin with your closest friends could turn out to be one of those college stories you will be talking about for years.

3. Service Trip

Now there’s already a lot of controversy on service trips, but I think doing some good in the world is always important and good. Plenty of schools and organizations that plan trips you can join in on.  There is a variety of options from working with orphanages to building homes, so you are bound to find something that interests you.

4. Trip to an European Country

You might never think one week is enough to do anything, but actually it’s plenty of time to visit any country in the world. I recommend an European country because the flight time is shorter. Also, everything in Europe is closer together, so you’d be able to see quite a lot in one week. So either pick a country and visit a few cities, or pick a few major towns with 2-3 days in each place, you can really make a lot out of one week.

5. Visit a Friend’s Hometown

One of the greatest things about college is that a lot of people come together from all over the US. So, why not travel to your friends hometown and let them show you around. Whether they live in a big city or small city, I can guarantee it will be very different  with a local’s perspective than being a tourist in a new city.

6. Short Road Trip

A great alternative is always a road trip anywhere you want. With a week at your disposal you can take a road trip to surrounding areas. But if you’re really determined and had good planning, you could get pretty far. I recommend a shorter one so you can truly relax and enjoy your surroundings.

7. Stay at School and Visit Nearby Sites

Whether you’re staying at school by option or not, whatever city you are in you can explore it and nearby attractions. It’s a great way to see campus when it’s quiet and the city much less filled. It’s a great experience if you need some time to yourself or to relax.

8. Camping

For the outdoors lover, you can never go wrong with a week of camping, technology detoxing and a lot of quality nature time. Depending on where you are, it might be a cold camping experience, but a fun one none the less. Just be smart, pack everything you need and make sure to stay warm.

 

Hopefully this will help you pick what to do for your spring break this year! Whatever you are doing, wherever you are going just remember to be smart, be safe and have some fun!

Enjoy your adventure!

6 Valentine’s Day Dates in New England

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and if you have yet to plan something to do with your significant other or your friends, let me help! New England around winter time can be equally as beautiful as it is bountiful of activities. Here are some ideas of places to go for this Valentine’s Weekend.

1. Fancy Resort

If sitting in a hot tub with mountain views sounds like the perfect day for you, I think I have exactly what you need. New England has many ski areas with several grand resorts, most of which also have spas.  Whether you’re out skiing all day or bumming out in a soft bathrobe and eating room service to your heart’s content, a weekend in these hotels should be the perfect romantic getaway. Here are a few recommendations of resorts in the New England: Mountain View Grand Resort (New Hampshire), Harbor View Hotel (Massachusetts), and Q Burke Mountain Resort (Vermont), Hidden Pond (Maine). You can never go wrong with a getaway relaxing in a resort with beautiful views.

2. Local Breweries & Distilleries

For beer lovers or spirit lovers, here’s a neat and unique option. You can spend the day learning how some local beers and spirits are made and then have a tasting at the end. New England is full of local breweries, but here are a few you can visit: Mooselick Brewery (New Hampshire), Allagash (Maine), Harpoon (Vermont), and Samuel Adams (Massachusetts). Click here for a few more options. And if you just want to go to a different bar, one with a lot of character and variety check out this list by Boston Magazine on what they consider to be the Top Breweries in New England. So why not make a day of tasteful drinking? And instead of driving around, you can Uber or even rent a limo for the day?

3. Vineyards

Going along with breweries and distilleries, vineyards are also a great romantic date. You might even want to look up any special events wineries are hosting. Or just grab your partner or friends and head down to winery and have your own little party. Dogs + wine = White Mountain Winery (New Hampshire). Enjoy!

4. Inns

If fancy resorts aren’t your thing and you prefer a small quaint room or cabin, then a small inns might be a better option. Still on ski grounds so that you can enjoy all the outdoor activities, an inn has the perfect home away from home feel. For a romantic sleigh ride in the snow, Franconia Inn (New Hampshire) has got you covered. A few more options to look into are  Red Lion Inn (Massachusetts), WilloughVale Inn (Vermont), Rendezvous Bed & Breakfast (Vermont) and Rabbit Hill Inn (Vermont).  Each inn offers a different perk or attraction so make sure to look into them before picking one, I guarantee you’ll have a hard time choosing one.

5. Food Tours

For the couples who love to eat, but most of all love to eat together without putting any work behind it, this option is for you! Food tours are available in several cities around the New England area. A few are: Savoring Rhode Island, Taste of New Haven and Boston Food Tours. For more options check out this website: Discover New England.

6. Chocolates

Yes, chocolates. They are every girl’s best friend and a tasty treat for all. So why not take your partner to a special evening in a chocolate maker? Fascia Chocolates in Connecticut offers a Valentine’s Day Dessert Night. So if you know of any chocolate stores in your area, check in and see if they’re offering any special events for Valentine’s Day.

 

Whatever you choose for this Valentine’s Day just remember the important thing is to try new things together, because that will always bring people even closer. Anything big or small can be turned into an adventure, it’s all up to you.

Enjoy your adventure!

 

PS- For more ideas on what to do in New England check out these articles I wrote: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut.