Our Top 5 Travel Destinations on a Time and Money Budget

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We love to travel as often and to as many places as possible. So we like to book trips for as cheap as possible without sacrificing too much comfort. After all, the less we spend, the more trips we can take. BUT we usually can only take one week off at a time (sometime a week and a half) so we will pay more for faster transportation, convenient flights and extra comfort on the road. We don’t stay in hostels, nor do we take long rides on the chicken bus—but those are great options for travelers who are on a tight budget and want to have an amazing adventure! We spend a little money for speed and comfort since we are vacation travelers rather than slow travelers at the moment. But we want to show you the experiences you can get by just saving a little bit each week.

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The Golden Circle, Iceland

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Although the golden circle wasn’t our favorite part of the trip, it was really interesting and well worth it!

The trek around the sights included the usual characteristic of the “must see” places around the world: large crowds and long boarded walkways, overpriced gift shops, obese birds dining on littered junk food, etc.

BUT the sights were really impressive: the history of the first parliament, the original Geysir after which all other geysers are named, and a giant, gorgeous waterfall.

These sights give the traveler a peek into the wonders of Iceland while also being fairly accessible. We’re glad we rented a car to do it at our own speed – and the roads were easy to navigate.

Our favorite stop was the Kerid volcanic crater lake we stopped to walk around on the way back to Reykjavik. On a clear day, its blue-green water is amazing!

We would definitely recommend the golden circle if you have the time – but if there’s something else you really want to see, there are many other good options!

A Magnificent Drive to Vik

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Our drive to Vik was the highlight of our trip. It is an easy ride along the ring road and unless you want to hike or find hot springs, you don’t have to map and plan much to see the sights along the way – they are right by the road.

There are beautiful waterfalls, strange lava formations, glaciers atop large mountains and looming volcanoes. There are fields full of vibrant shades of green, yellow, red and brown. There are black sand beaches, Icelandic horses and lots of grazing little lambs.

It’s about a five hour round trip drive from Reykjavik to Vik. Our only regret is that we didn’t make a hotel reservation in time to drive an extra 2 ½ hours east to the glacier bay at Jokulsarlon. By the time we decided to do this, the few hotels and guesthouse in the area were already fully booked. We decided it was just a bit too much to do in one day, so we had lunch in Vik and made the scenic journey back to Reykjavik.

I would say, if you only have time to chose one: golden circle or drive to Vik – definitely drive to Vik!

Blue Lagoon, Iceland: Tourist Trap?

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We were hesitant to go out of our way to visit the Blue Lagoon because we thought it may be a tourist trap. BUT there is a picture of its beautiful blue water in an Iceland Air ad on the Washington D.C. Metro that I often stared at dreamingly during my daily commute. And so, I had to check it out.

It did not disappoint! Touristy? Yes. Heavenly? Absolutely. The water was warm and wonderful, the backdrop was beautiful. The wine was tasty. The people were friendly. Need I say more?

We didn’t make reservations, but we called ahead and raced over when they told us they had some room (which apparently never happens, so book online at least two hours ahead of time). They ran things so efficiently that, despite the line to get in, everything went smoothly and the atmosphere was calm and relaxing. We went at about 7 pm and I highly recommend this time – when it isn’t as crowded.

Wonderful experience!

Welcome to the Arctic! (Well, Reykjavik is close, anyway)

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Reykjavik is a beautiful town and perfect for wandering on foot. Everyone is friendly and locals will gladly help you find your way around. It’s a bit cold and rainy, but that hasn’t taken away from the experience. The weather right now (in August) is sort of like October weather in New York.

LiAnn at the Golden Circle

The travel was easy with a 5 ½ hour direct flight from JFK and a reservation for the Flybus to take us into town. We arrived at our adorable little studio (reserved through airbnb for a fraction of the hotel rates) at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning.

Reykjavik has a reputation for being a party town and it didn’t disappoint. After asking a few questions out on the safe and clean streets, we found our way to the heart of town. Laugavegur, the main street, was full of tall and sturdy-looking youth in various stages of intoxication running from club to club or standing in very long lines outside awaiting their chance to get into the next venue.

We were glad to find a pizza shop and some food trucks operating at the late hour – the famed hot dog place, Baejarins Beztu Pylsur, had already closed. Then we opted for a quite spot and sipped on vodka drinks while we watched the scene from the window.

When our quiet pub closed at 3 a.m., we were provided plastic cups for our drinks and we wandered home, passing by the still raging nightclubs along the main street.

Keep in mind, Reykjavik is small and beautifully quaint. Many of those raging clubs operate as cafes and restaurants (or perhaps even a laundromat) during the day. There are no skyscrapers or superhighways. But there is plenty to do.

The food is absolutely amazing! Try the tasting menu at Apotek or Fishmarket for a once in a lifetime culinary experience! It’s very pricey, but tax and gratuity are included in the price, so it’s really not that much more than what you would pay in New York or Washington D.C. after you add that in – if you’re from less expensive areas though, you should prepare yourself for sticker shock.

Tomorrow we are renting a car and we plan to drive through south Iceland. We hope we get some sun!