Getting the idea
On May 20, 2017, my boyfriend Austin and I set off on our trip to Iceland and Paris, France! I originally got the idea to go on this trip when I found out how cheap the flights to Iceland are. My dad told me a long time ago that the cheapest way to get to Europe was to fly out of Canada and through Iceland, so when I recently saw YouTube videos of people traveling in Iceland, I looked into the price and found that it was relatively inexpensive. Austin and I had talked about going on a week long trip just to Iceland and back. After some more research, I found out that it was just about the same price to fly to many cities in Europe as it would be to just fly to Iceland. The airline Icelandair offers “stopovers” in Iceland. Essentially you can take a 1-7 day long layover in Iceland when flying to Europe, and your flight is the same price as it would be if you flew directly to Europe without stopping. WOW Air also offers very cheap flights to Iceland, but it is similar to Spirit Airlines in that you have to pay extra for every little thing – carry on bags, choosing a seat, and checked baggage. Taking into account all of these things, Austin and I came to the conclusion that we should fly with Icelandair and do a week long trip, spending half of the time in Iceland as a “stopover” and choosing Paris, France as the European city that we would spend the other half of the week in!
Booking our flights!
I began researching flights, hotels, and other aspects of the trip during the summer of 2016. After comparing many, many different flight options, I ultimately determined that it would be the cheapest to take the red-eye flight out of Toronto Pearson International Airport in Canada, stay in Iceland for about 3 days, and then fly to Paris from there. This meant we could spend all of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday in Iceland, fly to Paris early Wednesday and arrive by mid-afternoon, and then fly home on Saturday. I couldn’t quite pull the trigger on buying the flights until Thanksgiving break, which shows how long I had been looking into different flights. When we finally booked the flights it came down to just over $650 each for the entire round trip flight. Normally flying to Europe can cost over $1,000 just for one person, so I definitely recommend flying through Iceland if possible if you are going overseas! I believe it is so much less expensive because they want to increase tourism and try to lure in people that will already be flying between the US and Europe.
Trip planning tips
Google My Maps
After we purchased our plane tickets I became OBSESSED with planning this trip! I created multiple Pinterest boards, maps, and Google Drive folders with detailed plans for our trip. I spent hours and hours just looking up the best things to do in our destinations. I definitely procrastinated a lot of schoolwork by just scrolling through Pinterest and creating lists and lists and lists. My favorite tool that I used was Google My Maps – not to be confused with Google Maps. On My Maps you can create different categories like Restaurants or Things to See and pin your color-coordinated locations on a map. It is integrated with the Google Maps app, and it made it extremely easy for me to mark down every single place I wanted to go to during our trip. I created two separate maps – one for Iceland and one for Paris. This way I could see where everything was in relation to our Airbnb and plan out efficient routes and itineraries. During the actual trip, I could easily pull the maps up on my phone and navigate to my saved locations without having to re-lookup the addresses.
I chose to use Airbnb rather than a hotel because they seemed to be cheaper for what we needed. I knew we would really only be in the room to sleep, so we ended up staying in studio apartments in both of our destinations. I would definitely recommend staying in an Airbnb as the hosts can be more accommodating than a hotel would be. For example, our host in Iceland allowed us to check in early, and our host in Paris met us when we arrived and gave us some recommendations on what to do.
Pinterest & TripAdvisor
This might be obvious, but Pinterest was extremely helpful when I was planning our trip! I have had a Pinterest account for years, but I was never really that interested in it until I started planning this trip. Traveling to Iceland is definitely a little more off the beaten path than many trips are, so I found other people’s blog posts to be extremely helpful. We chose to do a self-drive tour of the Golden Circle (more on that later) in Iceland, so it was super important for me to know the best things to see along the route before we went. Paris was definitely easier to plan out since it is one of the most visited places in the world and there is so much information about it online, but Pinterest was helpful because it helped me prioritize things to do in the short time that we would be there. TripAdvisor had pretty similar information to what I found on Pinterest, but it was very helpful for my more specific questions – what kind of car should I rent in Iceland? How do you use the Paris metro? Do you need cash or credit in Iceland?
Trying to finalize everything
In the end, I was really never done planning. I actually hadn’t planned out our Paris itinerary until we had arrived, and that led to us wandering around aimlessly and being very hangry on our first day. I learned my lesson and that night planned out an exact schedule of what to do the next day, but more on that later. The biggest takeaway I have from planning this trip is that you can never be too detailed. Literally everything went so smoothly on the whole trip, and I like to think that is because I had all of our important information printed out and was pretty knowledgable about our destinations before we arrived. This led not only to the trip being super fun, but we were also able to fit in everything we wanted to do even in such a short amount of time.
My next post is going to be all about our flight out of Toronto and our first day in Reykjavik!