Planning and Packing for a Trip to Iceland in December

When you tell people you’re going to Iceland in December, you get a lot of weird looks and reactions along the lines “why would you do that? It’s cold (and dark) there.” Truth is, Iceland’s a little cheaper in the late fall and winter and a bit less crowded than during the spring or summer.

Although it will be cold, it won’t actually that much colder than it is where I live. My big concerns are the dark, because there’s only about four hours of daylight (combine that with jet lag and I think I’m in for a bit of a rough ride), and the snow and wind. But, while it might be snowy, windy, and dark, I think with a bit of preparation and planning, I’ll be able to have a great trip.  Here’s what I plan on packing.

Travel Capsule

I may not be the poster woman for a seasonal capsule wardrobe, but I’m pretty good at putting one together for travel. Figuring out what to wear when the weather’s cold and unpredictable and I might be spending a fair amount of time outside has been more of a challenge than figuring out what to pack for a trip to a more temperate area, though.

There aren’t that many websites out there that have useful information about to bring to Iceland in late fall, if you’re not planning on going glacier climbing or otherwise exploring the country’s great expanse. Although part of my trip includes a tour around the Golden Circle, most of the time, I’ll be in Reykjavik, the capital, which is pretty trendy in its own way. I really don’t want to look like a clueless tourist in a fleece and snowpants, nor do I have need for crampons (spiky things you attach to your boots so that you don’t fall).

First things first, I figured a wool coat was out of the question and that my best bet was some sort of water resistant, down filled jacket. My first thought was a down jacket from Uniqlo, because they are inexpensive and lightweight and claim to repel water.

But, I feel weird about down. It keeps you warm, but I’m bothered by the idea of feathers being ripped from geese while they are still alive. Luckily, I did some research and learned that Patagonia has a traceable down program, meaning that the birds they source their jackets’ feathers from are not live-plucked or force-fed. It’s not a perfect solution; please don’t come after me for getting a down jacket if you’re vegan.

I ended up getting the Prow Jacket in dark blue from Patagonia because of the feather situation and because I liked the style. The asymmetrical zip looks more interesting than your basic puffer and I like the really high, funnel neck. The jacket also claims to be water and wind resistant, so we’ll see.

Iceland Capsule Idea #2


The rest of my travel capsule was pretty easy to put together, using two rules: remember to layer and stick to wicking fabrics. Although I do have a cotton T-shirt pictured in the photo above, I actually plan on bringing a few Heattech Innerwear tops from Uniqlo, to wear under blouses and sweaters. I’m also packing my Gap merino cardigan, which is very warm but still thin and lightweight, as well as a merino pullover, and three silk blouses. Silk is pretty amazing for travel, I think. It’s warm and rolls up nicely, so there are no crinkles or creases.

Although I am packing a pencil skirt so that I don’t look like a slouch when we go out, I plan on spending most of the trip in jeans. I’m also taking along some Heattech tights, both to wear with the skirt and under jeans, if needed. My Doc Martens have gotten me through many a snowstorm in Philly, so I’m hoping they are up to the task of whatever weather Iceland throws our way.

My Travel Must-Haves

Here’s a fun fact about Iceland: they  have different outlet shapes that we do in the US and different outlet shapes than they do in the UK. Rather than keep buying new outlet adapters every time I travel to a different area of the world, I decided to invest in this universal travel adapter, in hot pink (there are other colors available, but I figured hot pink would be difficult to miss). It works in the UK, Europe, the US, and Australia. Although it only  has room for one plug at a time, it also has two USB ports, so I can charge up a phone or Kindle at the same time.

The one thing this adapter doesn’t do is convert voltage. I’m always amazed when I read people’s reviews of adapters and they’re like “this broke my hair dryer!” All I plan on bringing to Iceland is a Chromebook, phone and Kindle, so I don’t have to worry about converting voltage. If you’re planning on taking your hair dryer or whatever to another country, you will need a converter. Just a little PSA.

I don’t check luggage, for a few reasons, the main one being that it’s a pain. So, my carry-on needs to be super organized. That’s where a Seat Pak and Packing Cubes come in.

I actually read about the Seat Pak on a travel blog and was like, I need that. It’s relatively slim and has four separate zip pockets, three on the front and one in the back, designed to carry what you need to be comfy on the plane. There’s a pocket just for your passport and IDs, one for media, and one for “seat comforts.” The pocket on the back is a good size for a Kindle. There’s also a little loop to hang the pack from the tray of the seat in front of you, but that doesn’t work with every airline.

I know some people aren’t into travel cubes, but I absolutely love them. I have a small cube for socks and underwear, a medium-sized cube for PJs and T-shirts and a garment folder for blouses, skirts and pants. The three cubes combined take up less than half of the space available in my carry-on suitcase. They not only keep your clothes contained, they also keep everything neatly folded and help minimize the space your stuff takes up.

We’ll see how I fare in Iceland. I’m hoping I’ll be warm enough and organized enough to enjoy the trip!

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