A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go

A few months ago we stumbled across an article from late 2017, saying how the Northern Lights were going to be decreasing for almost the next decade! While we did catch a brief glimpse in Lapland (northern Finland) when we first met almost nine years ago, we didn’t get to see the full sky filled with a beautiful display of aurora. This would be our last chance, so to speak, to try to catch the Northern Lights for the next few years.

Click here if you want to skip to our 5 Top Iceland  Travel Tips. If you'd like to watch our Iceland experience on video, check out Bettina's Instagram stories here.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

How We Got To Iceland

 

Soon after we read that article, WOW Air came out with a great fare sale from Chicago to Iceland, which allowed us to pick up round trip tickets for the two of us for only $220 each. You can’t beat this kind of price for a direct flight to Iceland! We left Chicago late on a cold Friday in January and flew overnight. The beauty of over-night flying is that you don't need to get a hotel and you have the entire arrival day to explore. Check out this blog post for tips on how to get over jet lag.

 

Weekend In Iceland Itinerary and Story

We left Chicago on a cold Friday in January and were actually heading to warmer temperatures up in Iceland, the land of ice and fire! Arriving around 5:30am, our first stop was Joe and the Juice, a great coffee shop in the airport, and then to Avis to pick up our rental car.  We then had a 3 hour drive in front of us, to our destination: Vík.

We passed by top sights such as Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss but unfortunately, at this time in the day, it was still pitch dark and we couldn’t see them. It wasn’t until we closed in on Vík closer to 10:00am that the sky started to brighten. We were lucky to have done a complete Iceland road trip back in 2015 and have seen most of the main sights already. We were thus able to focus on one of our favourite areas of Iceland: the South-East coast.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

When we were in Vík in 2015, it was late August and lush, green, and almost warm. Things were slightly different today, with temperatures hovering around 0C (32F) combined with wind and snow. That did not stop us from getting out and capturing some amazing photos at Reynisfjara Black Sand Beach.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Shop Bettina's Look

Chicwish gifted Bettina this gorgeous dress. It also comes in black and white. It's the perfect dress for a wedding guest!


 

The combination of wind and snow meant we ran back to the car quickly to warm up. The clouds had also moved in, and it began to rain, putting a bit of a damper on our moods. However, one thing to know about Iceland is that the weather changes quickly, is unpredictable, so you just have to expect the unexpected!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We began our drive back towards our hotel in the direction of Reykjavík and did take the time to stop at the Dyrhólaey lighthouse and both Skógafoss and Seljalandsfoss for more pictures despite the continuing rain.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

The sheer power of the waterfalls is absolutely amazing every time you see it.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

During the winter months, Iceland does not get a lot of daylight. With 5 hours of daylight, the sun was already setting as we were heading towards our hotel.

 

 
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Since we really only had one night in Iceland, this was now our chance to see the Northern Lights. Unfortunately, the aurora forecast was not great. It was also a cloudy night, so our chances were slim at best. It was however supposed to be clear skies in the early morning, so we decided to get up at 6:00am and see what we could see. We drove a few minutes out of town to get away from the surrounding lights and stared out at the pitch black sky.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After fiddling with the camera a bit in the bitter cold, we were able to capture some reflections of the Northern Lights off in the distance. Not quite the epic full sky pictures you see in the travel brochures, but we were happy to have seen something – our trip had not been in vain!

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

After heading back to the hotel to freshen up and have breakfast we were off again, but this time under blue skies and shining sun, exceptionally rare for this time of year, made all the better by the light dusting of snow from the night before.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We drove south towards the ocean and stopped for pictures at Strandakirkja. The views here were absolutely incredible and made us so thankful for our decision to actually do this weekend trip.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Continuing through the Reykjanesfólkvangur Nature Preserve, we came across even more awe-inspiring views.

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

A Weekend in Iceland & 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

We were a bit pressed for time at this point to head back to the airport and catch our flight. After a brief stop at the local Costco for a cheap snack and fuel – off we went back to the airport!

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Costco in Iceland - 5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 


Despite having only about 30 hours on the ground in Iceland, we had experienced so much in such a short amount of time that it felt like we had been gone for days. If you have the chance to spend a weekend or longer in Iceland, we highly recommend – it is one of our favourite places!

 

 

Top 5 Iceland Travel Tips

 

1) Expect the unexpected when it comes to weather.

You could easily experience weather from all four seasons, so be prepared and take it in stride! Make sure you bring warm and water-proof clothing. We wore Sorel boots and Fjallraven jackets to keep us warm.

2) Find meals at the local Bónus or Krónan grocery store.

Eating out is really expensive. We’re talking $20 to $25 for a basic entrée excluding drinks, starters, or dessert. However, you can find a good selection of food for somewhat reasonable prices at the grocery store. If you can, bring some snacks with you. Trail mix and protein bars travel really well.

3) Rent a car no matter how long your trip.

Iceland is all about getting out and seeing nature, and there’s no better freedom than having your own car to explore. We rented a car with Avis and everything went smoothly.

4) Bring your Costco card!

The store is relatively new in Iceland and you will save big time on fuel, groceries, and snacks from their restaurant! We got gas at Costco right before returning our rental car, and even snuck in the Icelandic version of the famous Costco hot dog.

5) You don’t actually need cash.

As long as you have a chip and pin credit card, you won’t need to exchange for any Icelandic Krona. We used our cards everywhere without problem and saved the time and hassle of exchanging currency.

 

5 Things to Know Before You Go - The Next Trip

 

Would you visit Iceland just for the weekend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, we will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

 

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A Mini Vacation in Cancun, Mexico

Believe it or not, but I have never been to Mexico – until now. It has always been on my bucket list but either the timing or the flight prices weren’t quite right. It all changed when Kyle found a great flight option from Chicago to Cancun with Southwest. We couldn’t resist the opportunity of having a mini beach vacation after a busy week at work and booked the trip right away.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Kyle and I woke up at 3:30 am on Saturday to make our 6 am flight with the promise to be at the beach before noon. We pulled up in front of the Westin Resort & Spa, Cancun, only a few hours later (thank you Happy Shuttle Cancun for getting us there), where we were able to check in early and drop our luggage in our room. The hotel room was facing the ocean and we couldn’t have been happier with the views.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Inpatient and way too excited to hit the beach, we quickly changed and explored the resort grounds.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

We claimed two sun chairs between the hotel pool and the beach and started to relax, which to Kyle means laying down and enjoying the sun and to me means catching up on my Instagram stories.

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Shortly after we had settled in by the pool, the pool staff came asking for our food and drink orders. Given my love for guacamole, I had to order tortilla chips with lots of guacamole, which I polished off almost all by myself. I wrongly thought that Kyle didn’t want any. (Oops!) So, we had to order another one, though this time was full on nachos with spicy shrimp and lots of cheese!

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Being at the beach really brings out the child in me. We spent the day splashing around the water, sipping on some delicious coconut cocktails, eating more nachos, spending time at the pool bar, and relaxing in the sun.

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

We got up early the next morning to enjoy as much of the beach and the ocean as possible. Our flight only left at 6 pm so we basically had another full day in paradise.

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Shop My Look

 

My beach cover-up shirt is from ASOS and currently on sale for $17!

 

A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

With our batteries fully restored and running out of reading material, we headed back to Chicago. We had a wonderful weekend in Cancun and would do another weekend at the Westin Resort & Spa in a heartbeat.

 

The Westin Resort & Spa Cancun - A Mini Vacation in Cancun

 

Would you go to Mexico for a weekend beach vacation? Let us know in the comments!

 


 

A Weekend in Paris

I truly love Paris. I know it's a bit of a cliche, but the city has so much to offer and is so charming in its own ways, I can't resist it. I have been there a few times now but still get super excited when we plan another trip or layover in Paris. Some would say that doing a weekend in Paris is a bit crazy (and they are probably right), especially given that it's an 8 hour flight from Chicago. But it was still totally worth it. The weird thing is when we're out of town on the weekend, it feels like we can slow down time a little bit and that we're actually gone 3-4 days instead of just 2.

We took an overnight flight from the U.S. to Paris and arrived at 9am, supposedly ready to start our weekend in Paris and to explore the city all day. The reality looked a bit different. We both worked on the flight and at best got 2-3 hours of sleep so we needed a lot of coffee to get us through the day. We stayed at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendôme which was a dream. After we had successfully surprised my parents (read the exciting story and watch the reveal video here) we were off exploring the city on this beautiful spring day.

 

A weekend in Paris - Walking around Place Vendome

 

A weekend in Paris - Bettina and her mom

 

We strolled through parks...

 

Walking through a park in Paris - after the surprise in Paris

 

A weekend in Paris - Strolling through parks

 

A weekend in Paris - strolling through parks

 

Enjoyed the beautiful flowers blooming everywhere...

 

A weekend in Paris - Blossoms and spring fashion

 

Shop My Look

 

I picked up this adorable purse in Venice earlier this year but flower prints are all in trend right now. I link a few options here.

 

Shop Floral Purses

 

And stopped by the Louvre.

 

Exploring the Louvre in Paris during our surprise in Paris

 

A weekend in Paris - exploring the Louvre

 

A weekend in Paris - Lantern by the Louvre

 

I couldn't resist grabbing some crêpes on the way. I don't really have a sweet tooth but I knew if I got one that Kyle would happily eat the rest! 🙂

 

A weekend in Paris - Eating Crepes

 

After our snack, we continued our self-created walking tour to Palais Royal for some mandatory snaps.

 

A weekend in Paris - Photo by Palais Royale

 

A weekend in Paris - Palais Royale

 

Exhausted from all the walking, we took a real break and sat down for an apéro - wine, cheese, cured meats, grissini, and escargots. (I remembered eating escargots as a kid and not liking them so I cautiously tried them and was surprised by how much I like them now! It's weird how your taste buds change over the years.)

 

A weekend in Paris - Bettina and her mom enjoying an apero

 

I was in heaven with this great selection of cheeses.

 

A weekend in Paris - cured meats and cheese apero

 

A weekend in Paris - wine and escargots

 

Because no trip to Paris would be complete without seeing the Notre-Dame, we continued our tour towards Ile de la Cité.

 

A weekend in Paris - Ile de la cite

 

A weekend in Paris - Eiffel tower

 

A weekend in Paris - Notre-Dame Cathedral

 

 

Saturday evening, we grabbed an Uber and headed to Montmartre, a part of town in the 18th arrondissement, for dinner, enjoying the sights along the way.

 

A weekend in Paris - Sunset by the Opera

 

If you're ever in Paris, you have to stop by Le Relais Gascon. It's a cute little restaurant very close to Sacré-Coeur. With little, I mean a lot of tables crammed into a small space - very European style. They have two locations, although I like this one better because of the ambiance.

 

A weekend in Paris - Dinner at le Relais Gascon

 

They are known for their incredible salads. I know what you're thinking - you don't go to Paris to eat salads. Trust me, you don't want to skip out on these.

 

A weekend in Paris - Salad at le Relais Gascon

 

The salads are all covered with home-made potato slices which are similar to chips, and come with melted goat cheese, bacon, and other great toppings. It's anything but your typical salad and it's so delicious! The portion is very large and I've rarely seen anyone finish it. If you're not in the mood for salad, their other creations are also outstanding.

Exhausted after a very long day (Kyle and I hadn't really slept since we left Chicago) and stuffed with salad (didn't think I would ever be able to honestly say that), we headed back to the hotel and to bed.

We started our Sunday with a typical French breakfast - pain au chocolat and coffee...

 

A weekend in Paris - French breakfast

 

Followed by some window shopping...

 

A weekend in Paris - Window shopping at Guerlain

 

A weekend in Paris - Window shopping at Guerlain

 

And some real shopping (no, not for me, we shopped for Kyle) later on.

Although our flight home was at 6pm, which is relatively late for a flight from Europe to the U.S., we wanted to get to the airport early as the line-ups at Charles de Gaulle Airport can be very long and we weren't able to check in online. Sad to say goodbye, my parents left to drive back to Switzerland and we were headed home.

A weekend in Paris - Aerial view of Chicago

 

It was a truly successful weekend in our books. Would you do a weekend in Paris even if it was an 8 hour flight? What was your shortest trip? Let us know in the comments below.

 


 

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