What I Spent: Seven Nights in Iceland

The Hallsgrimkirkja Church, Reykjavic, Iceland

 Travelpix Ltd/Getty Images

The upfront costs of vacations are predictable. It’s the little things—airport snacks, cocktails before dinner, tipping a tour guide—that can throw even the most well-planned vacation budget off track. In this new series, we’ll look at the spending patterns of real travelers in popular destinations, so you can estimate what you’ll actually spend. (Thanks for the inspiration, Refinery29!)

In this installment, a couple travels to Iceland for seven days of exploring the countryside. 

Flight: $585.46, JFK-KEF

Accommodations: $419 ($838 AirBnB reservation, split by 2)

Rental Car in Iceland: $265.81

Size of Group: 2

01 of 08

Saturday to Sunday

Reykjavik cityscape in Iceland
Afriandi/Getty Images

4 p.m. We head to Port Authority to catch the NYC Airporter shuttle bus to JFK. Our flight isn’t until 9 p.m., but the bus can take awhile. I pick up the tickets. Cost: $34 (for two people)

6 p.m. The lines at JFK’s Delta terminal look crazy-long, but we actually check-in and get through security fairly quickly. We pick up a sad airport dinner—Panda Express. My boyfriend explains that Panda Express is usually delicious, but I have my doubts. He picks up the tab. Cost: $0

8 p.m. We still have an hour to kill, so we go to an airport bar for drinks. I pay for two exorbitantly priced beers. Cost: $29.13

10:30 p.m. I’m impressed with Delta’s in-flight movie selection—I watch The Big Short and my boyfriend watches The Revenant while we eat our second (free) dinner. Cost: $0

8 a.m. (next day) Picking up our rental car takes an eternity. I’m a little hangry, so I break into the stash of Kind bars I smuggled from my office. Cost: $0

10 a.m. Reykajvik is a ghost town on Sunday mornings. We find the only coffee shop that’s open and order two coffees. At the moment, I’m willing to pay anything for caffeine. Cost: $7.91

12 p.m. We can check into our AirBnB and nap for five hours—perhaps the lamest first-day-of-vacation activity ever.

6 p.m. We head to a pizza place locals call Pizza With No Name… because it really doesn’t have a name. My boyfriend gets the pulled pork pizza and I get smoked mozzarella and spinach pizza. We get one beer each. He picks up the tab. Cost: $0

8 p.m. There’s a craft beer bar above Pizza With No Name called Mikkeller & Friends. Alcohol is really expensive in Iceland, so we only stay for one. My treat. Cost: $25.81

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02 of 08


A church in Iceland

7 a.m. We have a full day of exploring the Snæfellsnes peninsula, so we hit the road early. I spot a Dunkin’ Donuts on the way out of Reykjavik and happily purchase two good ol’ American coffees. I’m happy to be caffeinated and eat another smuggled Kind bar. Cost: $6.94

1 p.m. We have half a tank of gas, but everyone has been warning us to always have a full tank—the countryside is largely unpopulated and there’s no cell service, so you don’t want to be stranded. My boyfriend tops off the tank for $42. I’m starving, and I buy water, an Icelandic candy bar and Doritos. Cost: $11.92

1:30 p.m. We arrive in Stykkishólmur, a small fishing town in the northernmost part of the peninsula, for lunch. There are only a handful of restaurants, so we choose randomly. My boyfriend has a burger and I have a veggie patty/rice cake hybrid. I pay. Cost: $35.90

4 p.m. It’s a long drive back to Reykjavik, but we drive by an insanely beautiful frozen caldera. Iceland is truly breathtaking.

9 p.m. I’m hungry (as usual). We go to Nora Magasin in downtown Reykjavik for dinner. It’s expensive—over $50 for two sandwiches and one beer—but my boyfriend pays. Cost: $0

11 p.m. We head to the grocery store, intending to buy a few staples—eggs, cheese, bread, yogurt—to avoid paying for breakfasts and lunches. Groceries are even more expensive, so I just buy a bunch of gummy candy. Cost: $7.58

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03 of 08


Ion Hotel in Iceland
Ion Hotel

10 a.m. I am a creature of habit (and I want to save some cash). More free Kind bars and Dunkin Donuts coffee. Cost: $3.47

10:15 a.m. It’s my turn to fill up the gas tank. I dropped my toothbrush in the toilet this morning, so I buy a new one and another bag of Doritos inside the gas station. Cost: $45.44

12 p.m. We arrive at Ion Hotel, an eco-friendly adventure hotel about an hour outside of Reykjavik. It’s snowing pretty hard, but the outdoor geothermal pool is open. We change into our bathing suits and spend a few hours floating around.

6 p.m. Cocktail hour! We each have two beers at the hotel bar and charge it to the room. That means it’s basically free, right? Cost: $0

7 p.m.  It’s a splurge day. We order two drinks, two appetizers, two entrees and two desserts from the swanky hotel restaurant. It’s charged to the room. I’m getting a little nervous about paying at checkout tomorrow morning. Cost: $0

10 p.m. Back out to the pool to try to spot northern lights. It’s really cloudy from the snow earlier in the day and a little late in the season, so we don’t see anything. We go back to the room to watch a movie and eat more Doritos. 

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04 of 08


Gullfoss waterfall and volcanic landscape, Hvata river, Arnessysla, Iceland
Cultura Exclusive/Atli Mar Hafsteinsson

10 a.m. Checkout time. I hold my breath as my boyfriend hands over his credit card. Cost: $246 each ($492 total)

10:15 a.m. There isn’t coffee in the hotel lobby and the nearest shop is in Thingvellir National Park. I’m desperate. Cost: $3.50

11 a.m. We’re driving the Golden Circle today; the first stop is the Geysers at Haukadalur. The geysers are amazing, but it’s really cold and rainy.  

11:30 a.m. There’s a cafeteria in the park, so we duck in to warm up and eat lunch. I get soup, a piece of crusty bread and water. Cost: $6.71

1 p.m. The next stop on the Golden Circle is Gullfoss Waterfall. There aren’t any admissions fees for the parks, so it’s a pretty cheap day so far.

3 p.m. I beg my boyfriend to pull over to pet some horses. Huge mistake. The car sinks into mud on the side of the road and we can’t get it out. We’re in the middle of nowhere and don’t have cell phone service. I see a farmer and beg him for help; to my surprise, he declines.

3:15 p.m. Trying to dig the car out has proven futile. I ask the farmer for help one more time and he agrees to tow us if we pay him. I give him all of the American money I have. Cost: $54 

4 p.m. Miraculously, there’s no damage to the car. We get back onto the Golden Circle and head to Kerið Crater. There’s a small admission fee. Cost: $2

7 p.m. My boyfriend wants a burger for dinner, so we go to a restaurant called Roadhouse. The menu includes items like the Cadillac burger, the Captain America pulled pork and the Southern Belle salmon. I pick up the tab because I feel guilty about the car incident. Cost: $62.54   

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05 of 08


Blue Lagoon geothermal open air spa pool in Iceland, under blue sky streaked with clouds.
Mark Whitaker/Getty Images

9 a.m. I’m a little tired of free Kind bars. We pick up two coffees and two donuts and head to Krysuvik-Seltun for a short hike. Cost: $11.35

11:30 a.m. There’s an Icelandic version of Chipotle called Serrano. My boyfriend is obsessed with Chipotle, so we go for lunch. It’s … okay. We pay separately. Cost: $11.97

1 p.m. We’ve avoided paying for parking so far, but will have to on Saturday. I take $40 out of an ATM—and get hit with a whopping $10 transaction fee. Cost: $50

3 p.m. Blue Lagoon! We each get a beer before changing into our bathing suits. My boyfriend treats. Cost: $0

5 p.m. I’ve never been on spring break, but I imagine the Blue Lagoon is the adult version. There are two floating bars and pretty much everyone is zonked. My boyfriend and I join in and drink three beers each. They’re charged to my reservation.

6:30 p.m. I’m pruning and ready to go home. We checkout and I pay for everything. Cost: $151.65 ($124.50 for admission, $27.15 for drinks)  

8 p.m. There’s a Thai noodle shop in Reykjavik I’ve been wanting to try all week. I order spicy broth with veggies and extra noodles. It is SO delicious. And cheap! Cost: $9.51

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06 of 08


Horses in Iceland
FEBRUARY/Getty Images

6 a.m. It’s another early day; we’re going to Vik to ride horses! I get the usual from Dunkin Donuts and eat a free Kind bar. Cost: $3.47

10 a.m. We ride horses! It’s amazing! Icelandic ponies are so tiny and hairy! I pay for both of us because I think my boyfriend is a little afraid of horses, but was still a good sport. Cost: $112.11

12 p.m. It’s my turn to fill up the gas tank. I buy Doritos and a candy bar, too. Cost: $45.40

12:15 p.m. The gas station is attached to a small fast food restaurant, so we grab some lunch. It’s really, really tasty for a gas station lunch. My boyfriend pays. Cost: $0

2 p.m. Vik—and the entire southern shore of Iceland—is amazingly beautiful. We go to Reynisfjara, Dyrholaey and the famous waterfalls Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss. And there are no admission fees! Cost: $0

7 p.m. Back in Reykjavik and starving. We go back to the noodle shop because it’s seriously that good. Cost: $9.51

8 p.m. I buy a giant cinnamon roll for dessert because, hey, I’m on vacation. Cost: $2.50

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07 of 08


Islenski Barinn
Islenski Barinn

9 a.m. It’s our last day of vacation, so we sleep in a little bit. The plan is to hang around Reykajvik for the day. But first, coffee. Cost: $3.47

11 a.m. I want to buy every single thing in every single store. I refrain and buy some souvenirs for friends: candy, bunny-shaped nightlights and a stuffed puffin. Cost: $56

12:30 p.m. We go to Í​slenski Barinn (Icelandic Bar) for lunch. You guessed it: more burgers and beers. It’s a little bit pricey, so we pay separately. Cost: $26.35

2 p.m. I’m craving more gummy candy. I shamelessly load up at a market. Cost: $5.91

6 p.m. Shopping and not buying anything is exhausting. We get dinner at Ramen Momo in downtown Reykjavik. They accidentally served me chicken dumplings (I’m a vegetarian), so I‘m a little upset. My boyfriend feels bad about it and picks up the tab. Cost: $0

8 p.m. Back to Mikkeller & Friends for last-day-of-vacation drinks. Cost: $33.66

9 p.m. We have a 4 AM wake-up, so we call it an early night and rent a movie. Cost: $2.99

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08 of 08


En route to Reykjavik from Keflavik Airport
Raqeebul Ketan/Getty Images

4:30 a.m. Bye, Reykjavik! Dropping off the rental car takes forever, but prepaying saved a bit of time.

5:30 a.m. There’s time to kill, so I buy friends more duty-free candy and jams. Cost: $11.04

12 p.m. Land at JFK, jet through customs (the self check-in kiosks are life changing) and grab an NYC Airporter back to Manhattan. Cost: $34 (for two people)


  • Food & Drinks: $458.68
  • Activities & Entertainment: $241.60
  • Gas: $82.45
  • Accommodations: $138.00
  • Miscellaneous: $175.08
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