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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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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Summer vs. Winter: NYC Edition

I was lucky enough to visit NYC twice in 2016, experiencing both its summer and winter. I realized there were similarities between both trips, the slight difference being the levels of foliage and layers of clothing. 😉 If you are trying to decide between a summer or winter holiday in the city that never sleeps, I hope the following comparison will help you decide!

Summer version: rooftop bar hopping

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Featured bars: Le Bain and Wythe Hotel. Nothing shouts summer like drinking outdoors.

Winter version: Stone Street bar hopping

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Featured Bars: Fraunces Tavern and random lovely bars of Stone Street. This was a highlight of my winter trip and might need its own dedicated post. I mean I drank at the same place George Washington did back in the day (and got a selfie with him hehe)! Nothing feels better in winter than drinking alcohol in cozy settings.

Summer version: views from the top of the Freedom Tower

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Winter version: views from an office building in Times Square

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You can’t visit NYC, arguably the most impressive city in the world, without marveling at its skyline from above. Doesn’t matter when you visit, it’s breathtaking every time and I love finding new viewpoints to take it all in.

Summer version: exploring the High Line

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Winter version: exploring the festive streets around Fifth Ave

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The energy in NYC is undeniable. There’s always something going on no matter how hot or cold it is–from markets to window displays to public art–it’s all worth exploring!

Summer version: picnics in Central Park

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Winter version: walking past the frozen lakes and twiggy trees of Central Park as you make cover for somewhere warmer to eat

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Central Park is quintessential NYC and is an important part of any summer or winter itinerary.

You might be wondering what made the cut on both trips?… Brunch at Jacob’s Pickle and drinks at Pier A overlooking the Statue of Liberty. Because some things do not change despite the weather–and that’s our love of carbs and freedom.

Summer Version:

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Winter Version:

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Moral of the story…NYC is amazing year round and you will be impressed any time you decide to visit! So book that ticket sooner rather than later 🙂

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Port Douglas Photo Diary

As the plane starts its decent and we head into the clouds, I wonder what the world will look like below them. After day dreaming about the Great Barrier Reef for such a long time, it’s surreal to be on my way there. My first glimpse of Tropical North Queensland is bright turquoise and green, and I understand after just a few moments why it’s a wonder of the world. I’ve arrived in paradise.

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All underwater photos courtesy of Wavelength Reef Cruises.

For a written, day-by-day itinerary click here.

To see my review of our stay at the Sheraton Mirage click here.

Need help packing for a trip to the GBR? See what I brought and recommend here.

Check out my Port Douglas vlog to see highlights of the hotel, helicopter flight, and more!

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