What It’s Really Like Driving Around Iceland

Here’s what you need to know before embarking on an Iceland road trip:

(here’s a vlog of our whole trip on YouTube)

It’s a good idea for everyone. Iceland is a great destination for basically any type of traveler. It’s great for experienced travelers because it has so much to offer that you just can’t find in other places. It’s perfect for less experienced travelers because it’s really easy to navigate (they speak English, have lots of wifi available, and it’s really safe). It works for couples, groups of friends, families, and solo travelers. They even have handicap access at most of their popular sights!

Gas is expensive. Iceland in general is expensive, so the budget travelers out there will have to do some extra planning and research to cut down on costs anywhere possible. Gas costs will be unavoidable on a self-drive tour so factor accordingly. We rented an eco 4WD car and spent AT LEAST $30 per day on gas. We were driving about 4-5 hours each day.

Rent a car you feel comfortable driving. Icelanders typically drive manual cars, so if you require an automatic make sure you specify with your rental company ahead of time. I also highly recommend getting a car with 4WD because the weather can be so unpredictable and powerful. We went in May and just barely missed a snowstorm that led to a major road closure. You don’t want to get stuck in a bad situation, especially in the more remote areas. Also, you will be driving on a lot of gravel roads, so 4WD helps.

The max speed limit ANYWHERE is 90 km/hr. That’s right, you aren’t allowed to go faster than 56 mph. Anywhere. Even though there’s hardly any cars on the road. It might be tempting to speed, but beware– there are speed cameras out to get you. The limit also makes sense because the roads hardly ever have guard rails, and they quite often turn into one-lane bridges.

They drive on the right side of the road and have lots of roundabouts. Just FYI.

Drinking and driving is not allowed at all. No one drink exception. You can’t drive at all after having any drinks. So plan accordingly.

Your car will get messy. Thanks to all the gravel roads and crazy weather. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the dirt, most gas stations have a washing station if you know what to look for (brooms with water shooting out of them).

Get a Garmin or navigation system with Icelandic letters. Unless you’re comfortable using a map, Garmin will be your best friend. Our rental company included one in our package which we used religiously. Even though everyone speaks English, the signs are all in Icelandic, and Garmin can’t find locations using just the English alphabet.

It’s the best way to explore at your own pace. We loved having the freedom to make random stops and to stay somewhere as long as we wanted. It was also nice to be able to wait until the hoards of tour buses left the scene at the popular stops. We were on our own schedule, which is one of the best feelings you can have while being on vacation.

The scenery is incredible. We drove for 10 days and not one day looked the same as another. Even my wildest imagination couldn’t have dreamed up the combinations of landscapes we saw. Iceland, you are so strange and beautiful!

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Have you ever road tripped around Iceland??

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Street Art Spotlight: Reykjavik

Those of you who know me know that I’m a sucker for street art, so it comes as no surprise that one of the things I was most excited to do in Reykjavik was hunt down theirs. And this city brings it. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital and the world’s most northern capitol, is such a great city to explore because it’s small and walkable without being boring. When I went in early May they had even set up a display on the main road showcasing artwork from local kindergarteners–they start them young and value creativity, and after seeing that, everything in the city made more sense to me. From photography, pottery, and design stores to concert halls and colorful rooftops, art feels like it’s literally everywhere in Reykjavik! Wandering around this city brought me so much joy, so I wanted to share some snaps with you 🙂 I’ve also uploaded a 3 minute vlog to YouTube if you’d like to see more of what we got up to!

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What city do you love for its street art??

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5 Things To Do in San Diego When it’s Raining

San Diego = outdoor living. From hiking to surfing to beach hopping, you’ll best experience this city outside. It seems like every restaurant has an outdoor section, and even the malls are mostly outdoors. This works well the majority of time but not so much on the occasional rainy day. I’ve struggled quite a bit trying to come up with things to do in San Diego when it’s raining, so I figured I’d share my best ideas and hopefully save you some time brainstorming 🙂

Experience the indoor sections of breweries: I usually bypass the indoor sections of breweries and head straight outside for the sunshine (can you blame me??). However, the brewery game in San Diego is strong, and their indoor sections are impressive and worth spending time in. If you come to SD and don’t drink any craft beers, you’re doing it wrong. Check out Ballast Point in Miramar which is nautically designed to look like you’re underwater below a ship. Or visit Culture in Ocean Beach or Solana Beach which always has neat local art on display. Green Flash is another favorite (we always take our guests). The options are really endless and can get you through many hours of rain–just make sure to Uber or have a designated driver!

See a movie at a luxury theatre: Rainy days are perfect movie-watching days, and they’re a great excuse to spoil yourself and go to a luxury theatre. Click the link to see what and why I recommend.

Cheer on the San Diego Gulls: The Padres play outdoors so that won’t work, but bad weather won’t have any effect on your night at the Gulls game. It’s B-league hockey at its finest, with $2 beers every Friday and lots of fist fights.

Museum hop in Balboa Park: Bring an umbrella because there are some uncovered areas, but you won’t have to do much walking in the rain since most paths are covered. Stay dry while experiencing as many museums as you can handle–there are a ton of options! Click here to decide which one(s) you want to visit.

Spa day twist–float in a sensory deprivation tank: The weather might keep you indoors, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to try something new. While escaping the rain, why not escape everything… like all your senses. I tried this a few months ago at Flot SD after reading about it in San Diego Magazine. It’s a relatively new fad going around that sounded so interesting I had to check it out for myself. It’s basically really salty water that causes you to float in a dark, quiet tank. You can’t hear anything or see anything, and floating in zero-gravity conditions is such a strange sensation. During my float, the way time passed was SO WEIRD! I thought it could have been hours that went by or just 30 seconds. Insider tip: use the earplugs they have available. I got water in my ears that lasted a few weeks after and probably impacted my thoughts on the experience as a whole. However, I do recommend trying this at least once… I haven’t rushed back a second time yet, but it was also such a unique experience that I find myself thinking about it again and again. Bonus: Flot SD is in a really cute neighborhood 🙂

What do you like to do in San Diego when the weather isn’t cooperating?

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Why I Don’t Want to Tell You Where We Stayed in Big Bear

Ollie and I visited Big Bear to celebrate our wedding anniversary in early April. We couldn’t believe it took us almost 2 years of living in Socal to make it up–we had THE BEST time. We left feeling like we found a whole other world (even though it’s only 2.5 hours from San Diego) and daydreamed about whether or not we could ever see ourselves living in the mountains.

Skiing was the main reason we chose to visit Big Bear–something we both had never tried but on our “Make Happen ASAP” list. Our anniversary was the perfect excuse to escape for the weekend, experience something new, and splurge just a little bit on accommodation.

I don’t want to spill the beans on where we stayed because we loved it so much and don’t want word to get out but… if you scroll through this post you’ll see pictures of the property that will give it away 😉 Less than 24 hours into our stay we were already planning a return visit.

What made this bed and breakfast so great? To start, it was really charming and dreamily surrounded by pine trees. There was a jacuzzi tub and homemade bath salts as well as a fireplace, which added up to total relaxation and coziness. The highlight of this place, however, was definitely the food. The owners are a husband-wife power duo. Just to give some background: Johann is a former CEO who left the corporate world to pursue his passions including cooking. We were treated each morning to the tastiest homemade breakfast ever, and the daily happy hour included South African wines and impressive hors d’oeuvres. I could go into a lot more detail about the owners, the food, their future plans for the property, and the conversation, but it’s something you should definitely experience for yourself. Just don’t tell too many people so they don’t jack the prices up 😉

Despite how much we loved our accommodation, we did manage to get out and explore a bit. We had a blast skiing for the first time at Snow Summit. We drank craft beers at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company. We ate at 752 Social and Fire Rock Burgers and Brew. We went on a hike and breathed in fresh mountain air while admiring gorgeous views of the lake. In general, we got a chance to slow down (except when we were speeding down the slopes hehe), relax, and enjoy each others company.

Big Bear, you stole our hearts and we can’t wait to see you again! Here are my favorite photos from the weekend (see more on Instagram: @thedaydreamernextdoor)

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Have you been inspired to visit Big Bear and stay at our “secret” bed and breakfast?

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How To Spend 4 Days Adventuring Through Arizona

With its picturesque canyons, winding rivers, impressive peaks, desert landscapes, and national forests, there is a lot of diverse ground to cover in Arizona, which makes it a great road trip destination. I’ve put together a sample itinerary for how to spend 4 days exploring the Valentine State (AZ became a state on Feb 14, 1912) by car, which you can watch on the vlog here. I’ve also included a cost breakdown at the end.

Day 1: Fly into Phoenix Airport and grab your rental car. Prepare for your longest drive of the trip–318 miles to Monument Valley (~5 hrs). To break up the journey, stop in Sedona for pizza with a view at Hideaway House. Continue onto Goulding’s Lodge just across the border in Utah for your first night. It’s about 10 minutes outside of Monument Valley but half the cost of staying at the hotel on the reservation. Get a good night’s rest because the next 2 days are full of exploration.

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Day 2: Wake up before the sun to tour Monument Valley with Navajo Spirit Tours. Take in the sights and learn about the Navajo way of life from your local guide. I recommend paying for a tour if you want access to the restricted sections of MV and if you’re interested in talking to a native.  Learning about the Navajo culture added a lot of depth to my visit and was definitely worth the cost. Our guide could trace his ancestors back 18 generations (~500 years), and we saw ruins that were about 3,000 years old! Give yourself approximately 3 hours for this part of the day.

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Next, make the 2 hour drive to Page, AZ to see Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend. Both these sights are better to photograph when the sun is higher in the sky, so definitely keep that in mind. My friend and I went in February when the sun doesn’t get high enough to cause the famous sun beam in Upper AC, so we opted to tour Lower Antelope Canyon instead. Give yourself an hour and a half total for AC and at least an hour for HS Bend. After an exhilarating but exhausting day of sightseeing, check into your hotel to prepare for day 3! I stayed at Holiday Inn Express Lake Powell.

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Day 3: It’s time to head to the Grand Canyon, which will take about 2.5 hours. I recommend stopping by the visitors center upon arrival to chat with the park rangers. They can help you decide on the best plan for you based on your interests. My friend and I were all about the views, so we spent most of the day admiring the canyon from the various lookouts. We did make some time to learn a little bit about the fascinating geology to help us comprehend what we were seeing. I’ve posted my Grand Canyon photos and review here.  We stayed in the park at Yavapai Lodge which was nice but not necessary if you have a car.

Day 4: Before heading back to Phoenix, catch a final glimpse of the Grand Canyon at sunrise. Then you have 3.5 hours to reflect on the awesomeness of Arizona as you drive back to the airport to fly home. Unless you’ve decided you’re never going home 😉

Cost Breakdown (we went in late February): Accommodation = $126 each, Rental Car = $180 each, MV Tour = $95 each, AC Tour = $26 each, Gas = $18 each, Souvenirs = $30, Navajo Entrance Fee = $20 per vehicle up to four people, Grand Canyon Entrance Fee = $30 per vehicle, and I spent $76 on food.

Where else would you add on to this Arizona road trip??

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Here’s Why You Should Visit the Grand Canyon in February (with photos)

When my eyes laid sight on the Grand Canyon for the first time (and to be honest, every time at all the different viewpoints), my mind could not comprehend its beauty and size. It was instantly clear why so many people flock to visit from all over the world, and to this day, I still can’t put its vastness, colors, and geological significance into words. So I’m not going to try. I’ll just say: go see it for yourself.

I went at the end of February with a friend and highly recommend visiting around that same time. Sure it was a bit nippley, but it was crisp & clear and the hoards of spring & summer tourists hadn’t arrived yet. At one viewpoint I had the platform all to myself. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip and made the canyon feel that much more grand. Having to deal with extreme heat and tons of people would definitely have had an impact on the trip, so I couldn’t have been happier with our decision to go in February. Just make sure you bring a warm jacket, hat, scarf, wool socks, and gloves.

Practical info: I visited the South Rim since the North Rim is closed during winter. The South Rim is about a 3.5 hour drive from Phoenix. I was super impressed with how user-friendly the national park is. There are free shuttle buses that take you around to most of the viewpoints, coming by every 15 minutes. If you go before March, you will need a car to drive the red route to Pima Point as the shuttles do not run there during low season.

Four hours or so is enough time if all you want to do is marvel at the canyon from the various viewpoints. If you want to do any hiking, you’ll need a full day minimum. You could fit the Canyon in as a half day stop during a road trip; however, my friend and I opted to stay the night in the park at Yavapai Lodge. Despite its outdated decor and lack of wifi, we were really happy with the convenient location and price.

Here are my favorite photos of the day 🙂

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We visited the Grand Canyon during a 4 day road trip throughout Arizona. Watch the vlog to see it all in action.

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3 Unique Spots for Your Next San Diego Brunch

Not like the weather is ever horrible in San Diego, but all the rain we got this winter has kept us indoors more than usual. However, we’ve reached that time of year when each day is getting better and better. San Diego has so many great brunch options to enjoy year round, but as we see more sunshine, the urge to go increases. If you’re looking for something different to spice up your weekend brunch, I highly recommended the following 🙂

1 . Karl Strauss: Brunch at a brewery

San Diego is home to over 100 breweries, some of which serve delicious food as well. Karl Strauss takes it a step further and puts on an amazing Sunday brunch. For the price, we can’t believe how good the spread is. You also get your choice of bottomless mimosas, a beermosa, or a beer flight. The service at Karl Strauss is consistently impressive, and each time we’ve gone they have brought out complimentary tasters of their beers as well. The location in Mira Mesa is my favorite because you can sit outdoors overlooking a beautiful Japanese coy pond while enjoying the live music.

Priced at $27 for a 2 hour slot

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2 . Flagship Cruises: Brunch while boating around San Diego harbor

In my opinion, one of the best ways to experience San Diego is from the water. Why not do that over brunch? We did this cruise last year for Easter and loved it so much we’re doing it again this year. You can’t beat the skyline views, cruising under the Coronado Bridge, and feeling the wind in your hair when you take your drink outside to enjoy the deck. My family and I were very happy with the food and probably went up for more 5 or 6 times haha. Bottomless mimosas are also included. Honestly, I don’t want anything to do with a brunch that doesn’t have bottomless mimosas. 😉

Priced at $75 for a 2 hour cruise that boards 30 minutes prior to departure

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3 . Hotel Del Coronado: Extravagant brunch with a side of history

The Hotel Del is one of the most iconic buildings in San Diego. It has hosted 16 US presidents ranging from FDR to Obama, and it’s where the movie Some Like it Hot starring Marilyn Monroe was filmed. Built back in 1887, it is now a National Historic Landmark and is worth checking out for that reason alone. If you plan to visit the Del you might as well experience The Crown Room Sunday brunch, too. The selection is insane and features several high end cuts of meat, seafood for days, and multiple alcoholic beverage options. Afterwards you can walk along the beautiful beachfront and work off some calories.

Priced at  $96 for 3 and 1/2 hours

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Where’s your favorite place to brunch in San Diego??
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