When planning a trip, it seems as soon as you’ve decided your destination, a grumpy budget troll climbs up on your shoulder and whispers into your ear with its icy cold breath, “how much?” Iceland in particular is an expensive country. That reputation alone deters a lot of people from even considering it as a destination. When we choose it for our honeymoon, we knew we’d have to do some creative saving and look for a lot of budget opportunities to make it feasible. In this budget I’ve broken down exactly how much everything for our honeymoon cost, how and where we saved money, and ended up with an overall Iceland honeymoon cost of less than $5,000.
How to save money while planning
We knew a lot of saving money would depend on our ability to plan a fun road trip with not too many costs. Guided tours and activities in Iceland are particularly expensive, so we used a lot of online guides, other blogs, and our priceless Lonely Planet book to do a lot of strategizing beforehand and on the road.
Plan when to buy your flight, and give yourself a target price
Our first step to saving money was to land an affordable flight. We wanted to fly with Icelandair, since they had a great reputation, and knew they had regular flight sales. The goal we gave ourselves was to only spend around $500 per person for a round trip ticket. In January, we saw the right flight deal come up, and booked tickets right away for $1,164.48 after tax for two people. Later in the summer before we went we actually saw it drop down to $350 per person, but that would have been way too late in the planning stage for us.
Go in the shoulder season
We went to Iceland for two weeks at the start of September. June-August are Iceland’s busiest months, and its most expensive. By waiting for shoulder season, we still had nice weather, but prices were a lot better, and the crowds at big tourist hot spots were a lot better.
Camp instead of getting hotels
While we loved the AirBnB we stayed at while in Iceland, we saved a lot of money by camping in our van, instead of staying at hotels or AirBnBs at our destination. If you wanted to save even more money on gas, you could even tent instead of being in a camper. Then you could take a smaller, more gas-efficient car. Some campsites were also cheaper to camp on if you were tenting instead of driving on.
Rent a manual shift vehicle instead of an automatic
I was stunned that just by renting a used Manual vehicle instead of a new automatic one, we saved about half of the cost for our rental vehicle. Rob and I both learned how to drive manual just to save money on this trip. At times it was stressful, because we didn’t have a lot of experience driving manual (my Mom gave us a few lessons and let us borrow her car to try driving it around before we left). But in the end? Saving more than a thousand dollars was totally worth it, and it kind of made the adventure even better.
Bring your camping gear with you
We paid $150 for a large checked suitcase full of camping supplies like sleeping bags, lanterns, and more. We had all of our clothes and other gear for two weeks in individual carry-ons. Sure, it’s no fun paying for luggage, but it’s way cheaper than buying or renting it there, and we also knew this way that our sleeping bags would be warm enough for September camping.
We also had a car converter from our last big road trip across North America, so we had a way to charge our electronics in the car, which also saved us money on batteries, or renting a converter.
Ask for honeymoon funds as wedding gifts
Before we got married, Rob and I had already lived together for almost seven years, had all the appliances we needed, and didn’t want any more stuff as wedding gifts. Instead, we used this great website called Honeyfund as our honeymoon registry, and instead of listing items, we listed experiences in Iceland that guests could donate money towards instead of buying us a wedding gift.
It worked great for us because it helped give us extra money to save for the honeymoon, and our guests didn’t have to pick up any home appliances or anything to physically bring to the wedding, they could just make a donation and leave a message online. Listing experiences was nice because guests could still personalize what they were getting us, like gas money, helping pay for airfare, or donating to the beer fund.
Don’t honeymoon right away
You don’t have to go on your honeymoon right after you get married. In fact, you might be so tired from your wedding that going to a foreign country is the last thing you want to do. I know after our wedding I just wanted to sleep for two days.
We waited a year until after we got married to go on our honeymoon, and having the extra time to save up money helped us put away more cash, and find some great deals. It also gave us more time to plan everything we wanted to see and do, so when we got in country we had a battle plan and were ready to go.
It also kind of draws out the honeymoon period longer—after we got married, we had a whole year to be excited about our Iceland adventure coming up.
A breakdown of everything we spent
I broke our spending down into a few main categories. Rather than give you the day-by-day play, I’ll give you the totals and then explain a bit about how they came to be. On the road, our most expensive day was around $350, and our least expensive day was about $60.
Expenses during the planning phase
These costs I’ll represent in Canadian dollars, but the expenses were in a mix of Canadian, Icelandic Krona, and Euros. This is all the money we spent before we left for Iceland, starting about eight months before our honeymoon.
$1164.48 Round Trip Flight for 2 from Halifax via Icelandair
$1295.69 Car Rental for 12 days (Manual Used Dacia Dokker from Kuku Campers)
$148.74 1x Check baggage fee (both ways) for camping gear
$145.50 Travel Insurance from World Nomads
$64.08 Hafnarfjörður AirBnB (had +$30 Credit) for 1 night
This $2,818.49 we paid before leaving Canada was more than half our total honeymoon budget. This is actually really useful, because booking things and paying in advance means that you’ll have to less to worry about paying for in country. Our flight and car rental we paid for months before going, and it really helped inspire us to save more money to have those big costs already paid off. Because they were things we could book in advance, it made saving up easier, and buying the plane tickets in January really got us excited about saving more for our trip—because it’s happening!
That’s why plane tickets are usually the first thing I buy for a trip. There’s something about buying a plane ticket that makes a trip real. With a ticket in hand, you know that on a specific date and time in the future, you will be in the air, headed on an adventure in a new place.
Costs while in Iceland
This section I’ll represent all in Icelandic Krona, or ISK, since that’s what you’ll be dealing with in country. For reference, 100 ISK at the time of this writing is about $1.10 CAD, or .87c USD.
35,749 ISK camping fees in Iceland
We spent 12 nights camping in Iceland. The average cost per night was 3,250 ISK, with the exception of one campground (Gata Free Camping) which was, as the name suggests, free! We could have looked for more free camping spots in Iceland, but we wanted to stay at some of the nicer National Parks. There aren’t a lot of free camping spots in Iceland, but if you looked you could probably save a few more nights camping fees.
78,888 ISK food and supplies in Iceland
An average load of groceries at the discount supermarket (Bonus) was about 5,000 ISK. From a load of groceries that size we’d usually feed ourselves for 2-3 days, with a few gas station coffees, snacks and hot dogs added in.
The kind of groceries we’d buy and then make at our campsite were sausages, dehydrated potatoes, cup o’ noodle, pasta with red sauce, peanut butter and jelly, eggs, bananas, meat and cheese for sandwiches, peanut butter, jelly, toast, and muesli. We kept it pretty basic both because our van didn’t have a refrigerator, and because we were trying to save money.
We picked up groceries every few days, as well as some extra milk, gum, tissues, or garbage bags at the N1 gas stations. Most of them are really well-stocked, and have additional camping supplies, like propane, matches, and anything else you’d need while camping.
Our Kuku Camper came with all of our cooking supplies (bowls, plates, utensils, stove, etc.), so we only had to bring with us some extra lanterns for light at night, and our campfire kettle (Gotta have my tea!). From home we also brought pillows, warm sleeping bags, and a huge quilt for extra warmth.
Stopping for fries and hot dogs or a bowl of soup at the popular N1 gas stations was how we’d sometimes break up the day or take a break from cooking. For a shared bowl of fries, two hots dogs, and a couple coffees, you’d pay about 2,000 ISK.
36,530 ISK gas in Iceland
As expected, when driving around the country you’ll pay a lot of money in gas. We were driving a Dacia Dokker camper van, and put about 5,500 ISK worth of gas in it every other day. We spent 13 days driving in total, and travelled about 2,300 kilometres, or a few hours each day.
Here’s another tip on gas refuelling. Make sure when at the pump you don’t select the ‘Fill Tank’ option. When you do, it automatically places a $250 hold on your credit card, and it isn’t released until 3-4 days later, in our experience. We’d be putting around $70 worth of gas into the tank, but would have a $250 hold until days later we’d have the different ($180) released back on our card.
At one point we had more than $700 frozen in gas holds. When we realized what was happening, we made it work, but if you’re on a really tight budget, having those holds bar you from your funds could cause trouble.
17,300 ISK Activities in Iceland
To help our budget go further we stuck to many free activities, such as outdoor sights, hiking, and having fun in our camper. But there are a few activities we did pay for. Here they are broken down.
700 ISK Seljalandsfoss parking (you really have no other choice, it’s on the highway and there’s nowhere free to easily park)
3,000 ISK Petra’s Stone Museum, 2 people
6,000 ISK Myvatn Nature Baths, 2 people (cold weather discount)
800 ISK Helgafell, 2 people
3,000 ISK Icelandic Goat Centre Tour, 2 people
3,800 ISK Perlan Museum, 2 people (construction discount)
As you can see, we got lucky with two of our would-be-most-expensive purchases (Myvatn and the Perlan Museum) being discounted because of extenuating circumstances. It was a cold day when we visited Myvatn, and when we came to the Perlan they happened to be doing construction on it (although not on what we wanted to see, yay!), and so we scored some huge savings there. Normally Myvatn is about 5,000 ISK per person, and the Perlan is 2,900 ISK per person.
If you want to see all the activities we did and see whether you’d like them too, you can check out Our Iceland Honeymoon Itinerary: 14 Days of Exploring the Ring Road in a Camper Van for more details and images. It will also give you a good idea of how full our days were!
6,020 ISK Souvenirs from Iceland
We went light on the souvenirs during our trip. We picked up a volcanic rock from Petra’s Stone Museum for my Mom, a pack of Icelandic playing cards from a small fishing village for Rob, a magnet and sticker for me, and some goat sausage and homemade jams at the Icelandic Goat Center. The goat sausage was actually confiscated when Rob claimed it at Canadian customs, which is a real tragedy.
If budgeting for souvenirs, one popular souvenir is the classic Icelandic knit sweater. I would have loved to get one, but the real, handmade ones are 14,000 to 28,000 ISK or even more. Thus, way outside my budget for this trip. If there’s any particular item you want to bring back with you, it’s worth doing some research beforehand to try and find out how much it will cost, and if it’s more affordable some places than others.
For example if you want to bring back Icelandic beer, it’s cheaper to buy it on the airport on your way out. We bought some Einstök IPA in the airport for 250 ISK apiece, at the Pure Food Hall past security on the second floor. Most places in Iceland were selling the same beer for 550-900 ISK. More than double! The Pure Food Hall has a lot of other well-priced Icelandic food souvenirs as well, including Icelandic Herbal Tea, and lots of cured meats. All the shopping at Keflavik Airport is also tax free. Just show your boarding pass when you go up to the cash.
10,805 ISK Miscellaneous Costs in Iceland
You never know what you might need on the road, and it’s good to build into your budget a number for miscellaneous costs, unexpected things, and who knows what else. For example, we had to pick up some nasal spray and paracetamol when I wasn’t feeling well, some campgrounds have showers or laundry machines that cost 500 ISK to use (on average). There was a 345 ISK bank fee when we withdrew cash in Iceland, the public transit bus to the airport cost us 3,680 ISK for two tickets, and I topped up my SIM card twice, 1,990 ISK each time for 1GB of data.
Money notes about Iceland
Cash in Iceland
You won’t need much cash in Iceland. The country prides itself on being a ‘cashless country,’ and it’s really true. Even the camp wardens who’d come around to our camper in the night to collect our fee would have portable credit card machines with them. The only times we used cash were at 1 campsite, and for laundry and showers. If you’re coming here for 2 weeks, I’d say take out about 10,000 ISK, and that will be plenty.
The cost of a cup of coffee in Iceland
The average price of a drip coffee in Iceland was 250 ISK. For a specialty coffee (cappuccino, french vanilla, etc.) made from an automatic machine, it would cost you around 400 ISK. For a nice, fresh-ground espresso coffee done by a barista like what you’d get at a North American coffee shop, you’d pay 550 ISK or more.
We had a bottle of freeze-dried instant coffee that we brought from Canada that lasted us almost the whole trip while camping. I also had some nice oolong from Tillerman Tea, and De Jian Long Zhu from Camellia Sinensis tea house.
The cost of a nice meal in Iceland
Eating out anywhere in Iceland is going to be a lot more expensive than what you might expect in the United States, Canada, or even Europe.
For example, a fish n’ chips dinner for two with beer cost us 6,500 ISK. A meal I’d expect to pay $40 for in Canada was $72 in Iceland, and that’s about standard. Expect to pay double what you’re used to when eating out. We had four nicer, “fancy” meals like this while in country, and I found the difference in price compared to Canada about the same for each.
The total cost of our two week Iceland honeymoon was $4,993.03
And let me tell you—that’s in Canadian dollars. I know I have a lot of American readers as well, in which case the total cost was only about $3,855 USD. All in all, not bad for a two week vacation in one of the world’s most expensive countries.
Did you ever put yourself on a budget for a trip? What was hard, and what was easy?