Smart Ways to Save on Your Iceland Vacation Itinerary

Daniel Cramer

12 min read


Iceland, a land where fire meets ice, has long captured the imagination of travelers around the world. Its dramatic landscapes, from the thundering waterfalls to the tranquil hot springs, offer an unparalleled adventure for nature lovers. Yet, the notion that a journey to this Nordic wonderland comes with a hefty price tag has been a deterrent for many. However, the truth is, with the right planning and insights, an Icelandic vacation doesn't have to break the bank.

In this guide, we delve into the art of crafting an affordable itinerary for your Iceland vacation. We'll explore savvy strategies for budget-conscious travelers, debunking the myth that Iceland is an unavoidably expensive destination.

From early planning perks to selecting the right itinerary that aligns with both your interests and budget, our goal is to equip you with practical tips to maximize your travel experience without overspending.

Whether you're dreaming of witnessing the ethereal Northern Lights, exploring the rugged volcanic landscapes, or immersing yourself in the rich Icelandic culture, this post is your starting point.

We will guide you through the nuances of smart travel planning, local insights for savings, and how to leverage the expertise of travel planners. Get ready to embark on an Icelandic journey that is as economical as it is exhilarating.

Planning Ahead

The key to unlocking a cost-effective Icelandic adventure lies in the art of early planning. Iceland, with its ever-growing popularity as a travel destination, rewards those who are proactive and strategic in their trip preparation. Here's how you can save significantly by planning ahead:

Booking Flights and Accommodations Early

Airfare and lodging constitute a substantial portion of any travel budget. Securing your flights and accommodations well in advance can lead to considerable savings. Airlines and hotels often offer early-bird discounts, and by booking ahead, you gain access to a wider range of options at more competitive prices. Consider using price comparison websites and setting alerts for price drops to get the best deals.

Image from the inside of an aircraft looking at the Northern lights in Iceland at 30000 feet
Northern lights from an airplane over Iceland

Timing Your Visit

While Iceland's allure is year-round, visiting during the shoulder seasons ? late spring and early fall ? can be a game-changer for your budget. During these periods, you can enjoy Iceland's natural beauty with fewer crowds and lower prices. Accommodations, car rentals, and even some activities tend to be more affordable outside the peak summer months. Plus, the shoulder seasons still offer plenty of daylight for exploring, as well as opportunities to see the Northern Lights in the early fall.

Budget Airlines

Consider flying with budget airlines that service Iceland. While amenities might be basic compared to full-service carriers, the savings can be substantial. Also, if you book in advance (like we mentioned earlier) you will get a great deal.

Click here for a guide to visiting Iceland on a budget.

Research and Compare

Spend time researching and comparing different travel elements. Look for deals on car rentals, accommodations, and activities. Websites and forums dedicated to Icelandic travel can offer valuable insights and tips from fellow travelers who have navigated the budgeting challenges themselves.

Pack Wisely

Iceland's unpredictable weather means packing versatile and layerable clothing. Avoiding last-minute purchases of essentials like warm clothing or rain gear in Iceland, where prices can be high, will help keep your expenses down.

Through thoughtful and advance planning, your dream trip to Iceland becomes not only feasible but also more enjoyable, free from the stress of last-minute price surges and limited availability. This approach sets a solid foundation for an unforgettable Icelandic adventure that respects your budget constraints.

We recommend reading further about weather here and here.

Choosing the Right Itinerary

One of the most effective ways to ensure a cost-efficient trip to Iceland is by selecting an itinerary that aligns perfectly with your interests and budget. This approach not only maximizes your enjoyment but also ensures that every penny spent contributes to experiences you truly value. Here's how you can make smart choices while planning your itinerary:

Image of a road in Iceland
Go where you believe is right

Personalized Itineraries Over Generic Tours

While off-the-shelf tour packages might seem convenient, they often include elements that may not appeal to every traveler, leading to unnecessary expenses. Opting for a customized itinerary ensures that you're only paying for experiences that excite you. Tailor-made itineraries can be more cost-effective as they focus solely on your preferences, avoiding the one-size-fits-all approach.

Identify Must-See Destinations and Activities

Start by listing your must-visit locations and activities. Whether it's the Blue Lagoon, the Golden Circle, or a specific hiking trail, knowing what's non-negotiable for your trip helps in prioritizing your spending. Once you have this list, you can plan your itinerary around these key highlights, ensuring your budget is spent on experiences most important to you.

Image of the glacier lagoon in Iceland
Glacier lagoon is popular

Leverage Local Expertise for Value

Local travel experts have in-depth knowledge of Iceland's best and often less-known destinations. They can guide you to options that offer great value for money ? from hidden gems that are free to visit, to less expensive alternatives to popular tourist spots. This insider knowledge is invaluable in crafting an itinerary that is both unique and budget-friendly.

Consider Logistics and Proximity

Being strategic about the geographical layout of your trip can save both time and money. Grouping nearby attractions together minimizes travel time and transportation costs. For instance, if you're exploring the South Coast, visiting the waterfalls, black sand beaches, and nearby hiking trails on the same day can be more economical than spreading them out.

Image of the entrance to Black sand beach in Iceland
Entrance to Black Sand Beach in Iceland
### Balance Paid Attractions with Free Experiences

Iceland is abundant with natural wonders that won't cost you anything to explore. Balancing your itinerary with a mix of paid attractions and free natural sites like waterfalls, beaches, and hiking trails can significantly reduce overall expenses.

By carefully crafting your itinerary with a focus on personalization, prioritization, and local insights, you can create an enriching Icelandic experience that's both fulfilling and financially savvy. This approach allows you to explore Iceland's majestic landscapes and unique culture without overspending, ensuring your trip is memorable for all the right reasons.

Here a few blogs about great itineraries in Iceland:

Local Insights for Savings

Tapping into local knowledge is a treasure trove of savings for any traveler. In Iceland, where tourist hotspots can sometimes be pricey, having local insights can lead to significant cost reductions. This section explores how leveraging local knowledge can help you save while enhancing your Icelandic experience:

Dining Smartly

Eating out in Iceland can be expensive, but with a few local tips, you can dine well without overspending. Opt for lunch specials in restaurants, which are often cheaper than dinner menus. Look out for local eateries off the main tourist paths, where prices are usually lower and the food is equally delicious. Also, consider trying Iceland's street food or local supermarkets for budget-friendly yet authentic options.

Affordable Accommodation Choices

Locals know the best spots for affordable accommodations. Consider guesthouses, hostels, or Airbnb options outside of Reykjavik or major tourist areas. These can offer not only better rates but also a more authentic Icelandic living experience. Booking accommodations with kitchen facilities can also help you save on food costs.

Free or Low-Cost Attractions

Iceland is famed for its natural beauty, much of which can be enjoyed for free. Local guides and resources can point you to stunning waterfalls, hiking trails, and beaches that don't require an entrance fee. Also, many towns have local museums with minimal or no entrance fees, offering a glimpse into Iceland's rich culture and history.

Image of a waterfall in Iceland for a budget trip itinerary Iceland Vacation
Waterfalls are a cheap option

Discounts and Deals

Keep an eye out for local discounts and deals. Tourist discount cards available in major cities can offer savings on attractions, dining, and shopping. Also, check local travel websites and brochures for current deals and offers.

By using these local insights, you can significantly trim down your expenses without compromising the quality of your Icelandic adventure. This smart approach to travel spending ensures that your budget stretches further, allowing you to enjoy more of what Iceland has to offer.

My week on the road is a great article showcasing the way you can travel around Iceland for seven days.

Bundling Services

Bundling various travel services can be a strategic way to reduce the overall cost of your Iceland vacation. This section discusses how combining different aspects of your trip, such as accommodations, car rentals, and tours, can lead to more economical and streamlined travel experiences.

Advantages of Package Deals

When services are bundled, providers often offer them at a discounted rate compared to purchasing each service separately. These package deals can include a mix of accommodations, car rentals, guided tours, and even meals. By opting for a package, you not only save money but also simplify the booking process.

Car Rental and Accommodation Combos

Many travel providers offer deals where you can book your car rental and accommodations together, often at a reduced price. This is particularly useful in Iceland, where having a vehicle is essential for exploring the diverse landscapes. Look for deals where free upgrades or additional services, like GPS or an extra driver, are included.

Rent A Car In Iceland

The largest selection of Car Rentals in Iceland

Tour Bundles for Comprehensive Experiences

Tour operators sometimes offer bundled tours that cover multiple attractions or activities over several days. These can be more affordable than booking separate day trips. For example, a multi-day tour package that includes the Golden Circle, South Coast, and a glacier hike could offer better value than booking each of these experiences individually.

Checking for Hidden Costs

While bundles can provide savings, it's important to read the fine print and understand what's included and what's not. Check for any additional fees, like insurance for car rentals, to avoid unexpected expenses.

Bundling services can offer significant savings and convenience for travelers to Iceland. By carefully selecting and combining different travel components, you can create a cost-effective and hassle-free vacation plan. This approach not only benefits your wallet but also ensures a smoother and more enjoyable travel experience.

"Not so tourist" Adventures

Exploring less touristy areas not only offers a unique and authentic experience but can also be a key strategy in saving money during your Iceland trip. This section discusses how venturing off the beaten path can lead to more affordable yet equally memorable experiences.

Discovering Hidden Gems

Iceland is full of lesser-known locations that are just as stunning as the popular tourist spots but often come with fewer crowds and lower costs. Engaging with local guides or using resources can help you uncover these hidden gems. These places offer a more intimate encounter with Iceland's natural beauty and are usually free or have minimal entrance fees.

Discover some hidden gems here.

Staying Outside Major Tourist Centers

Accommodations in Reykjavik and other major tourist areas tend to be more expensive. By staying in smaller towns or rural areas, you can find more affordable lodging options. This also gives you a chance to experience Iceland's local culture and hospitality more deeply.

Reykjavik articles:

Enjoying Nature's Free Attractions

Much of Iceland's allure lies in its breathtaking natural landscapes, many of which are freely accessible. Hiking along lesser-known trails, visiting secluded waterfalls, or simply enjoying the rugged coastline can be incredibly rewarding experiences that don't impact your budget.

Image of tourists in Iceland near a waterfall
Tourists visiting hidden gems

Community Events

Smaller communities often host local events, festivals, or cultural gatherings that can provide entertainment at little to no cost. These events are a great way to immerse yourself in Icelandic culture and often feature local food, music, and traditions.

By choosing to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations and immersing yourself in local communities, not only can you save money, but you also gain a more authentic and personal experience of Iceland. These adventures often lead to lasting memories and a deeper understanding of this unique country.

Read further here for a guide on Icelandic festivals.


As we've navigated through the various strategies to economize your journey to Iceland, it's clear that an unforgettable adventure in this land of fire and ice doesn't have to be a strain on your wallet. By planning ahead, customizing your itinerary, tapping into local insights, bundling services, and venturing off the beaten path, you can significantly reduce costs while enriching your travel experience.

Remember, the essence of a memorable trip lies in the experiences you gather, not in the amount you spend. Iceland offers a wealth of natural beauty, cultural richness, and adventure that can be enjoyed on any budget. With thoughtful planning and savvy choices, you can explore the majestic landscapes, immerse yourself in the vibrant culture, and embark on thrilling adventures, all while keeping your expenditures in check.

We hope these tips and insights empower you to plan your Iceland trip with confidence and excitement, knowing that it's possible to have a budget-friendly yet profoundly rewarding experience. So pack your bags, set your sights on the horizon, and get ready for an Icelandic journey that promises to be as economical as it is extraordinary.

Happy travels and enjoy your adventure in Iceland!