I am starting off with learnings from night one; I would highly recommend not booking a red eye flight with a toddler (despite the cheaper price). As obvious as that sounds in retrospect, it ended up being layers upon layers of tiredness and honestly, I don’t know how we managed. And as most people and especially parents of young children would know, it takes a couple of days to recover from sleep deprivation (I’m talking about the adults here!), and even longer when you aren’t stationary and are being commanded by your mini-self.
WOW Air flight was fine, although it did take them a damn long time to figure out we had a wriggly toddler and directed us to a row with a spare seat (as the flight was about 60% capacity). I will give out some understanding because the flight crew seemed to have no experience or comprehension of children and their exploratory nature. But other than that there were no dramas. I would rate them 4/5. And again a reminder: Do not book midnight flights! Terrible idea and a choice that is worth paying to avoid. Besides all that, the airplane window scenic view of the horizon being lit by forever twilight was just magical…
Arriving in Iceland. Keflavik to be exact, after a 2 hour and 50-minute red eye flight from Dublin across 1,500 kilometres eventually landing in Iceland at 12:25am on a Monday. First impression was the amazing midnight sun. What a sight!
“Upon pickup, an agent from Icerental 4×4 will meet you in the airport arrival hall.”
We had booked a 2017 Dacia Duster + Roof Tent (Auto) from Monday, 5 June 01:00 to Monday 12 June 17:00 at total cost of ISK 144,400. After looking for the Icerental 4×4 sign to no avail, I had called their office and got an answer from a friendly Polish driver (who sounded Italian to me!).
After waiting about half an hour in what I would only describe as a crammed, cold, and chaotic arrivals hall at Keflavik International Airport, we were welcomed by friendly Marcin, the Polish driver, and he helped us with our luggage while sneakily says in passing that we and the other passengers have been upgraded to new Toyota RAV4s.
Why sneaky? Because later we would find out these RAV4s were a few years old, manual, and imported from the Czech Republic or Slovakia. We could not read the manual – so we had to query Google half way through our trip. Seems to me a bit of a con if we receive an older car when you’ve specifically ordered a 2017 Dacia (although there are definitely benefits to getting an older rental car! Especially after driving around Iceland with all the gravel).
While I’m reviewing Icerental4x4, I might add that we were given super thin sleeping bags for our Rooftop tent – which wouldn’t have been a problem if the weather stayed above 5’C, but it fell below zero. In all my fiancée’s wisdom, she had bought a snowsuit for our toddler and it was a lifesaver. (Check it out at the Toddler travel trunk). We nearly froze in Mývatn (read Day 4).
Besides all that the Icelandic car rental manager seemed to be a nice man, and he told us a good place to drive at that ungodly hour would be Grindavík – and at that point we were so tired that we’d have stopped anywhere, so we were glad to have received some local advice.
The drive to Grindavík was phenomenal. The barren landscape illuminated by the midnight sun was all I had dreamt Iceland to be. I was really happy to make it in one piece, as it was the first time I was driving on the opposite side of the road, and in a manual! It was a big tick of confidence passing the first few corners and since it was around 3am there were no other cars to crash into.
Then came time to unveil the rooftop tent. Let’s talk about this rooftop tent… it definitely has its advantages and that night we made use of its main benefit — it pops up within a few seconds and is exactly what we needed in our completely exhausted state… no nails to hammer in, no nothing, easy! It’s also good value compared to other options, but on the comfort scale we were wishing we had spent that extra dough for the warmth – especially as exhausted parents traveling with a toddler.
Post trip update:
The rooftop tent is definitely not recommended on the Mývatn region of Iceland (Northern section) especially with the aforementioned thin sleeping bags and general chill of Iceland (yes, perhaps we were a bit naïve) – good learnings though! And we might have been luckier with the weather!
P.S. I’ll be adding the following embedded-style map to each post to coincide with the route travelled, based on the start and end point of each day. Day Zero was short (hence the name); the drive began from the Icerental4x4 office and ended at the Tjaldsvæði Campsite. Reykjavik is included for reference only.: