Author: Jenny Lynn (Page 1 of 23)

family getaways for new years eve feature

The BEST family getaways for New Year’s Eve around the world

Want to do something different to see in the new year? Check out these family getaways for New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve celebrations with young kids can be a challenge. Whilst the days of dancing around handbags with your mates to Prince, clutching an Archers and lemonade (or was it a Bacardi and coke?) are a thing of the past, you still want New Year’s Eve to be special.

I have to admit though, when the boys were very tiny we did have a couple of New Years watching Jules Holland on TV, curled up in our PJs on the sofa. We were running on such a ridiculous sleep deficit, but were determined to see those fireworks explode behind the London Eye.

But then in 2017 when the boys were 2 and 4 years old (and sleeping better), we looked into some family getaways for New Year’s Eve. As we were living in India at the time, we decided to visit Goa.

We had the BEST time that New Year’s Eve! The beaches were in party mode as soon as the sun set, and it was a novelty to be swimming in the warm Arabian sea whilst fireworks were going off on the beach. The boys lasted until 9 pm before needing to be tucked up in bed. But us parents felt all warm and fuzzy knowing that we had partied together to celebrate the end of the year, and were still able to see some fireworks sitting on our veranda as the boys snored away.

Family getaways for New Year’s Eve

NYE celebrations always seem so focused on the impending clock striking midnight, and it’s not always possible for little ones to stay up that late, for to even keep them from being bored. But if you are looking or family getaways for New Year’s Eve, there are quite a few destinations around the world that have early evening entertainment and are a great option for a New Year’s Eve break with children.

So I’ve reached out to some fellow bloggers for their suggestions of family friendly New Year’s Eve vacations and the best places to spend New Year’s Eve with kids. Let me know if you’ve any to add!

Aruba

(Rai from A Rai of Light)

Who wants to spend the beginning of a new year in the cold? Not me. And neither do the kids. We want amazing weather and perfect beaches. Throughout the year, the tropical climate and summer breeze guarantee great weather and sunshine in Aruba.

The time leading up to the New Year is our favourite time to visit this island. Arubans take the holiday very seriously.

Aruba NYE

A traditional ritual that happens on the days leading up to New Year is the lighting of firecrackers or pagara all over the streets of Oranjestad with the smoke believed to ward off evil spirits.

There is also a huge New Year’s Eve celebration with music and a night of endless fireworks. Fortunately, this starts early in the evening. The best place to watch the display are at the lighthouse or along any of the beaches, my favourite being Aruba Flamingo beach.

Large groups of “Dande” musicians travel around the island bestowing blessings and best wishes for the New Year through song and dance, adding to the already joyous festive atmosphere, which is always a huge hit with the kids.

Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Switzerland

(Augusta from Mini Me Explorer)

You may be surprised to learn that there are a few places in Switzerland where the New Year is celebrated twice, on different dates, and the celebrations start at 5 AM, not at midnight – actually midnight marks the end of them. One of these places is called Urnäsch (population 2270) and it is in Appenzell Ausserrhoden, where the famous Appenzell cheese comes from.

Appenzell Switzerland NYE

The celebrations are called Silvesterchläusen and take place on 31 December and 13 January: they are loud, folkloristic, colourful… and kids are welcome to follow the Chläusen, the protagonists of the celebrations, as they go from home to home.

Who are the Chläusen? What do they do? The Chläusen are groups of 6 men and children (rarely women) who spend the day going from house to house, or farm to farm, announcing their arrival at the sound of ringing bells. Once they reach a doorstep, the Chläusen arrange themselves in a circle and sing three times a Zäuerli, a yodel without words, then wish the landlord a Happy New Year and move on to the next house.

What is most impressive, and what kids love, is the amazing costumes. There are three types of Chläusen: the beautiful who are dressed as women, the ugly who wear terrifying rags and masks, and my son’s favourites. the beautiful/ugly ones, who are dressed as trees, with real leaves, branches, bark and moss.

As it runs all day long, you can turn up and join in the celebrations whenever you want, which is very handy if you’ve got young kids who can’t stay up late. We’ve never stayed up to midnight on the two occasions we have visited with our kids.

Lakes Entrance (Victoria), Australia

(Bec from Travels In Gippsland)

Lakes Entrance in Gippsland Australia is a sleepy seaside town with a population of around 7000 people. It has the magnificent 90 mile beach being it’s draw card in the summer months where it’s population can swell to around 40,000 people from November all the way though to February.

Lakes Entrance Gippsland

With miles of picturesque sandy beach, wildlife to catch a glimpse of and a system of Lakes that are perfect for boating and skiing it is a hot family destination for some serious fun in the sun.

As so many families holiday and live in the area a true family night out is organised for New Year’s Eve by the local shire. After a big day of swimming at the patrolled beach, make your way to the Esplanade (the main street in Lakes Entrance). There is a carnival on the foreshore and the main street is shut down to traffic to make the 9.00 pm kids fireworks completely safe for families. For the older kids there are fireworks at midnight as well to see in the New Year.

You can have a BBQ on the grassed area with the free shire BBQ, you can bring a picnic, or you can eat from the stalls that are set up during the night as well. Some businesses stay open and getting an ice cream from the ice creamery is an absolute must when you are there.

Edinburgh, UK

(Vanessa, Wanderlust Crew)

Edinburgh is one of the most exciting places to spend New Year’s Eve! In Scotland, they call New Year’s Eve the Gaelic “Hogmanay.” It is the most important holiday in Scotland and has become one of the largest New Year’s celebrations in Europe, and even in the world! The world-famous New Year’s Eve song, Auld Lang Syne, was even penned by a Scotsman, Robert Burns.

NYE in Edinburgh

The Hogmanay celebrations go on for several days and include a special torchlight procession, live music, family events specifically for kids, street parties, traditional dancing, fireworks, and a costumed parade ending with an ice-cold plunge in the river!

While the street parties are not really kid-friendly, children are welcome to participate in the Torchlight Procession, and there is even a Bairns Afore where families are invited to enjoy an outdoor concert followed by fireworks.

The National Museum of Scotland also hosts some fun and free activities for families through the day of December 31. Families can also attend a Candlelit concert at the 14th Century St. Giles Cathedral.

Cuenca, Ecuador

(Ayngelina from BaconisMagic.ca)

Cuenca, Ecuador, is a colonial city and considered to be one of the prettiest in the country. It is safe to walk around and everything is quite close. Additionally it has a hop on hop off bus to explore the outskirts for only a few dollars.

But New Year’s Eve in Cuenca is also very special because there are so many traditions. Some have been influenced by Spanish colonialisation, such as eating 12 grapes. Others are more quirky, such as choosing a specific colour of underwear to bring good luck, either red for love or yellow for money.

Cuenca, Ecuador NYE

Older children may enjoy some of the more adult activities such as jumping over a small fire 12 times, or throwing rice into the fire for abundance of food in the year coming ahead or a few coins for financial success.

People also sell masks and create effigies of things that they wish to leave in the previous year. It’s often humorous and can be scandals or jokes that people no longer want to hear. Effigies are often stuffed with fireworks and set on fire.

New Year’s Eve is really a family affair in Cuenca and people of all ages celebrate in the streets. Staying at the Casa Cuencana is a great idea. While it may be considered a hostel, it is really more of a small hotel with private rooms and a full communal kitchen. This is especially wise over the holidays as this Catholic-based city often shuts down so finding a good restaurant can be challenging.

Honolulu, Hawaii

(Noel from This Hawaii Life)

There’s nothing like celebrating New Year’s Eve in Honolulu. There are so many cool kid-friendly venues and activities to see and participate in Honolulu, along with the typical New Years celebrations, great parties, fireworks and even just walking on the beach and see all the amazing firework displays or firing off some yourself.

Honolulu Hawaii NYE celebrations

There are wonderful family activities from beach, snorkelling fun, going to the aquarium and zoo, along with easy adventure experiences like sailing and hiking,  to just enjoying a nice day on the beach or exploring around the city and various attractions. Check out my post on the best things to do in Honolulu for more inspiration.

New Years celebrations happen at all the hotels and resorts around the city and some cater for family friendly fun and you can just check Hawaii tourism site to find out about the latest in NYE celebrations in Honolulu.

Disneyland Paris, France

(Shel from Skylar Arias Adventures)

Ring in the New Year at the ‘happiest place on earth’ at Disneyland, Paris! This special ticketed event at Disneyland Paris has a special New Year’s Eve parade with all the Disney characters, as well as an amazing countdown to midnight fireworks show.

Disneyland Paris NYE

If the kiddos can’t stay up till midnight, you can still catch the regular evening fireworks show, it’s just as amazing! Rides stay open till midnight, so you have the opportunity to get on all your favourite attractions.

Make sure to reserve tickets online, and dress warm as the weather can be very cold during the winter in Paris.

Also make sure to reserve hotel rooms in advance as well. It was so crowded during our visit and most hotels were sold out. We stayed at the Explorers Hotel, which is a Disney partner hotel with free shuttles to the parks and train station.

Disney World, USA

(Kris from Nomad By Trade)

New Year’s Eve at Disney World is the ultimate celebration for kids. What kid wouldn’t want to party with Mickey and friends? All four theme parks stay open until midnight or later, with the major rides and shows open as well as dance parties throughout the evening, and special fireworks at midnight (Animal Kingdom will have a special projection show instead of fireworks).

Epcot and the Magic Kingdom also do special early performances of their fireworks for those who can’t make it until midnight, and Hollywood Studios offers Fantasmic earlier in the evening.

Disney World NYE

The Magic Kingdom has the most family-friendly celebrations as alcohol is only served in the table service restaurants, but it’s also the most crowded, typically closing for capacity well before lunchtime.

After several trips, our favourite has been Epcot for New Year’s Eve because of the parties at the different World Showcase pavilions and great dining options for a special NYE dinner.

Whichever park you choose to celebrate at, I’d highly recommend staying at a Disney World hotel that night so you can take advantage of their free transportation. It took us more than an hour just to leave Epcot’s lot after NYE one year, and we very much would rather have been on a bus to our hotel even if the line for it was long. These hotels do book up quickly though, so make your reservation as far in advance as possible.

Wisla, Poland

(Bec from Wyld Family Travel)

Having a white Christmas knee deep in snow is a bucket list travel item for many Aussies. It is such a contrast from what we are used to and celebrated in such a different way but I can tell you New Year’s Eve knee deep in snow with your own set of fireworks should definitely be number two.

Wisla, Poland, for NYE

We celebrated our first every snow covered New Year’s Eve in Wisla Poland. We had spent the day getting stocks of the most delicious Polish food and vodka before going home to cook it up for a very lavish dinner. We had to stop on the way home at numerous fireworks stalls on the side of the road which was an eye opener in itself as this is completely illegal in most of Australia.

We spent the afternoon sledding and snowball throwing just out the front of our friends’ ski chalet, and as the sun went down we sat down to a beautiful traditional dinner made for us by our friends. As there are ski runs near their house, the mountains were lit up but that all changed just before 12.00.

The lights went off and the countdown began in the houses around us. 5,4,3,2,1….the ridge where the ski runs started became alight with every little house, resort letting off their fireworks. The next was the valley below us and then there were ours as well. The sky was alight with so many colourful explosions it was one of the most beautiful things I have seen in my life. It was a layers of colour. We stayed outside right to the end, had one more quick snowball fight to start the year and then back inside for a hot drink and bedtime!

Dubai, UAE

(Yukti from Travel With Me 24 x 7)

Celebrating New Year’s Eve in Dubai is a very unique experience for all ages as the whole city glitters with special light shows and fireworks. The world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, welcomes the New Year with spellbound fireworks, unique Laser show and special LED shows.

Dubai NYE fireworks

When the countdown begins to say goodbye to the present year, Dubai excitedly welcomes new year with all lavish and pompous celebrations at many places all over the city. Many families prefer to visit the family public beaches of Dubai with beautiful fireworks views over the famous buildings. But if you to avoid the crowded places to celebrate and watch fireworks, books in to one of the many hotels of Dubai that have a view of Burj Khalifa.

You can also do a day trip Desert Safari to witness the last sunset of the year, complete with Arabic performances.

Throughout the day on New Year’s Eve there are many events held inside the malls, at the beaches, and at many attractions across the city. Many people book theme parks on this day as they have special surprise events.

Sydney, Australia

(Evie, Mumpack Travel)

Sydney is one of the most iconic places in the world to see in the New Year, and a once in a lifetime experience for many. Sipping champagne on the edge of Sydney Harbour surrounded by the Harbour Bridge, the Opera House and sparkling ferries and yachts as the incredible fireworks display explodes into life in front of your eyes.

Sydney City Council puts on two huge fireworks shows on New Year’s Eve – one at 9 pm for the kids and another at midnight to welcome to the new year.

Sydney NYE fireworks

If you have the funds you can buy tickets to some of the best parties of the year at the Sydney Opera House, the Opera Bar, Mrs Macquarie’s Chair, Shark Island and the restaurants that dot Circular Quay.

If you have the stamina you can arrive early and claim space at one of the free viewing areas around the city. But note that some are alcohol free, and most close as soon as they reach capacity.

Also consider booking a hotel room in the city, either with a good vantage point to watch the show or to save yourself the time to back out of the city. Train is the best way to get in and out of the city on New Year’s Eve but be patient as the crowds will be big and you will most likely have to queue.

Sometimes the best place to watch the fireworks is live on TV surrounded by your best friends and family. Both the 9pm and the midnight event are broadcast live with the soundtrack. Happy New Year!

Cape Town, South Africa

(Lydia from Africa Wanderlust)

Looking forward to having an African Christmas this year! Cape Town is the perfect destination for the family during the festive seasons, as there are lots of cool family activities happening.

One of the best family destinations in Cape Town is V&A Waterfront. Expect lots of delicious food, pop-up performances, and fun characters. There are a lot of activities to keep your kids occupied, such as the family-friendly dance party in the Constantia valley, a perfect way to spend New Year’s Eve.

Cape Town NYE

Another fantastic thing to do for NYE is to relax at the Range, a flourishing venue located in Constantia valley countryside. Here, you can dance to classics and old favorites during New Year’s Eve. Drinks are also available in the fully stocked bar, and most importantly, there are activities for kids below 12 years, such as jumping castles and arts and crafts.

MannaBay, Taj Cape Town, and Cape Grace are some of the best hotels within close vicinity. So you can be merry and celebrate New Year’s Eve the African way with your family in Cape Town.

Bangkok, Thailand

(Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters)

Some New Year’s Eves you’ll never ever forget. New Year’s Eve in Bangkok with our toddler definitely falls in that category. It was one of the highlights of our year travelling around South East Asia.

The question of whether or not to wake the kids is obviously a non-issue if you’re spending New Year’s Eve somewhere in such a special location. Since our little one was still so young, we decided to let him sleep for a bit before heading out, which worked out well.

Bangkok NYE for Flip Flop Globetrotters

We stayed at Erawan House on Soi Rambuttri, which worked well since we brought our own toddler travel bed. Next time we’d probably choose Rambuttri Village Plaza as it has more amenities (and a swimming pool!). We love staying in this part of Bangkok. It was magical to see the area around the Democracy Monument decorated with thousands of little lights. With all the trees near the King’s Palace lit up as well it looked like a fairy tale. The vibe on the street was really good and we enjoyed simply wandering around. Our toddler was happily watching everything from the back carrier. The annual fireworks show over the Chao Phraya river near Wat Po was amazing and well worth the crowd and the wait!

San Diego, USA

(Chelsea, Explore With Me)

New Year’s Eve is one of the most magical times in San Diego, California. One of the most fun events to attend occurs at the Hotel Del Coronado. This event is perfect for both the adults and the kids!

First off, the Hotel Del is a beautiful beachfront hotel which is popular to the San Diego residents. The oceanfront ballroom is transformed into a night time dance floor for the adults. The best part is that the kids get to have a party of their own as well! From 7 pm to 12:30 am there is dinner, ice skating, games, and s’mores for the kids.

If you have a teenage child they can even go hang in their own lounge and mingle with other teenagers. Tickets to this event are required. Please go here to purchase your ticket.

San Diego NYE

If you are looking for a more relaxed event then you grab a seat on Coronado beach and watch the movie Aladdin under the stars. There will be a bonfire with smore’s as well. After the movie is over you can watch the infamous New Year’s Eve Times Square ball drop at 9 pm followed by fireworks. This is a great family friendly event. Head to the beach early as the seats are on a first come basis and go quickly. The event officially starts at 6pm.

New York, USA

(Sally from our3kidsvtheworld)

New York has to be on any list as top places to spend New Year’s Eve. However, spending New Year’s Eve in New York City with kids is very challenging. Firstly its freezing, its was -12 degrees with a chill factor of -20 degrees when we were there in 2017/2018. Most of the restaurants are closed for private prepaid parties and mostly don’t welcome kids.

Times Square is a nightmare and once you are in, you are unable to leave and there are no public toilets provided. We considered doing this and having spoken to others over there, we were advised its not very kid friendly and to steer clear of it at all costs. Many people were arriving at lunchtime and staying all day to get the best viewing spot.

New York NYE

So what did we do? We stayed in our hotel, then at 11.30pm we headed down to Central Park for the midnight fireworks. We had a great spot where we were able to look straight down 5th Ave and we could see the 2018 Ball Drop in the distance and we had the fireworks right behind us. Was it perfect? No. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

We went to Times Square on the evening of December 30, set up was underway for the next night festivities and just as we were standing there, they had a practice of the Ball Drop, so technically we did actually see the ball drop! The atmosphere was electric though and a big change from our NYE’s here in Australia on the beach.


So hopefully we’ve provided some food for thought with these family getaways for New Year’s Eve. This year, we’ll be seeing the New Year in with family, but we’re already planning somewhere a bit different and exciting for next year!

Whatever you have planned, I hope you’ve had a wonderful year of adventure, with lots more planned for 2020 🙂

 

 

 

You may also want to read:
Family adventure travel ideas for 2020
Is it worth getting a GoPro for family travel adventures?
How do we afford

becoming a family travel blogger

It’s my 3 year Blogiversary!

“Let’s just do it,” I decided, “and see where it goes.”

We had just tucked the boys into bed at The Tamajun Hotel in Chanthaburi, Thailand, and were enjoying a couple of Chang beers on the wooden veranda overlooking the river. I had been receiving messages from friends asking for tips about travelling with young kids (our boys were 1 and 2 years old at the time) and one friend mentioned that I should become a family travel blogger.

*This post was originally written for my 2 year blogiversary, but I’ve updated it for my 3 year blogiversary! And according to the Collins Dictionary ‘blogiversary’ is actually a word 😉

Jenny and Jay’s UK to Australia Blog

We had actually started a travel blog back in 2007. This was pre-kids, when hubby and I travelled for 8 months overland and sea (no planes) from the UK to Sydney; we took a freighter from Singapore to Brisbane for the last leg.

This blog was really just a diary to keep friends and family back home up to date with our adventures.  We never continued writing once we settled in Sydney, and in all honesty, forgot all about it. But for anyone interested, here’s the link to Jenny and Jay’s Blog!

becoming a family travel blogger

This new family travel blog would be different though. We had travelled extensively before kids (read our story) and we wanted to continue our travelling lifestyle. This blog would hopefully inspire and provide tips to like-minded parents who wanted to do the same. We had no plans for what it would become, we just thought we’d start it and see where it went.

Starting TraveLynn Family

Once we returned from that family holiday in Thailand, Jay (hubby) wrote our first post – 10 reasons to travel with young kids. We hit publish, set up a Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter page to tell our friends about it, and TraveLynn Family was born!

becoming a family travel blogger

This was our first ever logo! The photo is from one of our first trip to Morocco with kids.

Note that Jay wrote the first blog post. I never considered myself a writer back then, I was more into the photography and social media side of it. However, after a few weeks I decided to start writing some posts myself, and I loved it.

I was a SAHM at the time and this creative outlet was just what I craved. I found the writing process calming and rather therapeutic, and when you’re writing about something you’re passionate about and know a lot about, well, once you start, the words begin to flow.

Those early posts are far from my best work, and most of them were written late at night once the boys were finally asleep. But as with most things in life, the more you do it, the better you become. Well that’s what I like to think anyways…

Growing the family travel blog

When we moved to India in April 2017, the blog really took off. Whilst living in Bangalore we took every available opportunity to travel when Jay wasn’t working, be it a weekend in Hampi or Pondicherry, or flying to Northern India or the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Sri Lanka.

People seemed interested that we were doing something different; although through the blog I’ve connected with so many similar families and there really are a lot of us travelling the globe intrepidly with our young kids.

Sri Lanka Itinerary with kids - Galle

Galle, Sri Lanka – August 2017

Our 101 days overlanding Africa in a Land Rover brought more followers, as again, I suppose it was something a bit different.

Namibia itinerary with kids

Caprivi Strip, Namibia, and our Land Rover – May 2018

Since returning to the UK in July last year and setting up a new life in the Peak District, we’ve managed to continue our travels (albeit around school term) and have in turn created more and more content for the blog.

I thought keeping up with our travels would have been tricky with the restrictions of school and European travel costs, but over the past 18 months we’ve had some amazing trips including two separate Iceland road trips, a Morocco road trip, and a 4 week camping road trip in France, (we do like a good road trip!) as well as lots of city breaks in between, and I managed to sneak in a little mumcation in South Vietnam.

If you’re wondering how we afford to travel so much, have a read of this post

Becoming a family travel blogger

Since finishing a Masters at Nottingham Uni back in 2004, I’ve worked as a spatial software consultant (my short-lived corporate years), a travel agent, an actor, a wine adviser (hello free wine!), a performing arts teacher, a swimming teacher and even started a little sewing business called Sew Ape. You could perhaps call me flaky, or indecisive, but I’ve just always fancied trying new things, although I always thought that blogging was just a hobby.

becoming a family travel blogger

Music theatre days back in 2009 – playing Petra in A Little Night Music

If you told me three years ago that blogging would become my ‘job’, I would have stared at you in complete disbelief. I had no idea that you could make any money out of blogging, and I certainly didn’t imagine all the amazing opportunities that would come our way. Nor did I really appreciate the amount of work that goes in to becoming a travel blogger and making it successful. Over these past years I have learnt a lot about building a website, growing page views, SEO, coding, as well as social media strategies, networking and content creation (yes – a lot of this used to be foreign lingo to me too).

And would you believe that this is technically the longest I’ve ever been in one ‘job’?!

Travel blogging is the first job I’ve had where I’ve thought – “this is long term”. It allows me to work from home, be totally flexible about my hours, talk about travel all day, and enables us to travel more as a family (which is what we love to do).

We’ve been hosted by tourism companies to promote destinations such as Johannesburg and Iceland, been invited to stay at accommodations across the globe, and worked with prestigious travel brands, including Lonely Planet, Mountain Warehouse, and Vango.

In fact, I often feel uncomfortable telling people it’s my job as it sometimes sounds too good to be true, even to me.

Iceland itinerary with kids

Iceland – October 2018 – hosted by Hey Iceland, car hire provided by Europcar Iceland, and outdoor clothing gifted from Mountain Warehouse.

How do I make money from family travel blogging?

I make money from lots of different revenue streams, and I’ve learnt that you cannot rely on just one. My income can fluctuate A LOT from month to month, and having different revenue streams helps balance this out somewhat. But family travel blogging is not something to get into to get rich quick. It takes A LOT of unpaid hours to build and grow a blog.

Some of my income is from affiliate links. This may be an amazon link or a booking.com link, for instance, where I have recommended a product or accommodation on the website, and I receive commission if you click my link to purchase (this is at no extra cost to you). There is also advertising on my website, which I am paid for.

I also get paid on occasion to write travel articles for online and print magazines, or sponsored posts for my own website, and also to publish posts on my social media channels like this one for travel vaccination advice.

In all instances, whether I am paid, hosted (complimentary accommodation) or gifted (I’m sent a product for free), I will always disclose this to my readers (you may sometimes see #ad #hosted or [AD] in my social media posts), and I will ALWAYS say EXACTLY what I think and be honest with you. For example this campsite review isn’t very favourable, and this post advises people with young kids NOT to go to the Alpkit outdoor festival.

It sounds like the perfect job for a travel-loving Mum!

It’s not all smooth sailing. For a good 18 months I built the blog around looking after my boys full time and whilst we lived in India for a year, neither of them were in nursery/pre-school. This meant lots of late nights and very early mornings, writing and editing, for no payment whatsoever. Although I started to get invites from accommodations asking me to write a review for my blog and post to my social media channels in exchange for a complimentary stay. One of the first invitations I received was from the Savoy Hotel in Copenhagen, and since then I’ve reviewed many hotels across the world, including Living Heritage Koslanda (Sri Lanka), Ayana Fort Kochi (India), Game Haven Lodge (Malawi), and Green Bay Resort (Vietnam), to name a few.

Whilst these may sound like a free holidays, in all these instances I am working. I’m making notes, taking photos, posting to social media and even writing the blog post(s) whilst I’m there.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But I just want to portray the full picture for anyone believing us family travel bloggers get ‘free’ trips. There’s a lot of work that goes behind the scenes.

Plus I never switch off when travelling now and have to really make an effort to put my camera down, and appreciate the moment. I’m always wondering how a particular view or scenario could fit into a social media or blog post.

Packing for travel Mums

Searching for hippos in Zambia with my boys – May 2018

The future of TraveLynn Family

We’ve been back in the UK for almost 18 months now and had some amazing European trips, as well as our Moroccan road trip. School kids actually get a lot of holiday time in the UK, but we’ve had to be organised and savvy to be able to afford to travel as much as we have done within the school holidays. Check out my post about how we afford to travel so much as a family.

But plans are in motion for another BIG adventure. We’re in the very early stages, so I can’t share anything with you yet… Watch this space 🙂

As for the future of the blog, even though I’ve now been blogging for three years, there’s still have so much to learn, and Jay always comments that I never switch off (I think any self-employed person has that). But I love it! This job fits so well around my family and gives us amazing travel opportunities, I think this is one that I’ll stick at for a bit longer…

 

 

 

You may also like to read:
How we afford to travel with kids
What is the best age to travel with kids?
Our Story

 

Accommodation at The Residence, Bintan

THE ASIA INTERVIEWS – Visiting Bintan with kids

Have you considered visiting Bintan with kids?

Just a one hour ferry ride from cosmopolitan Singapore is the tropical island of Bintan, Indonesia; the perfect destination for lazy pool days and a fascinating contrast to city life.  You will need your passport if coming by ferry, but you’re unlikely to need a visa as 169 nationalities are provided with a free 30 day visa.

Recent British expat to Singapore, Emma from Wanderlust and Wetwipes, tells us the ins and outs of visiting Bintan with kids, a top family holiday destination in Asia.

  

The sea at Bintan

1. Tell us a bit about yourselves. Where are you from and how often do you travel as a family? How old are your children?

We are a family of 4. We are originally from the UK but have spent 8 of the last 10 years living abroad in Houston, Doha and now Singapore. The children (affectionately known as Thing 1 and Thing 2) are now 7 and 5. We travel as often as we can which usually works out as about once every 6-8 weeks.

2. How many times have you travelled to Asia and why do you love travelling there?

Before kids, my husband and I started a bit of a love affair with Asia and had a big trip every year for several years. We spent time in Indonesia, Malaysia, Borneo and India.

It took us a bit of time to get back to this side of the planet after we got married as it is quite far from the US! It got easier when we moved to Doha – we visited Thailand twice, the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka. Now that we are in Singapore we are very excited to do all the holiday planning and have already (2 months in) done two little island hops for the weekend.

We loved Asia pre-kids but we love it just as much now we have kids. Everything is so laid back and easy: the food is amazing (as long as it’s not too spicy for my picky 5 year old!), the climate is gorgeous and there’s just so much to explore. From history and culture to stunning beaches of tropical rainforests to amazing wildlife.

It seems to be a destination which has things that we all love doing as a family which has to be the end goal of travelling. If you’re doing too much boring grown up stuff or too much kids focused stuff then half the family isn’t having fun.

3. Why is Bintan your favourite destination?

Bintan was a new one for us. Not even on my radar as a destination before we moved to Singapore, it was recommended by lots of people living here.

Conveniently located less than an hour away by ferry it is super easy to reach which was it’s first appeal. We were looking for a weekend getaway so spending hours at an airport or on a plane was out of the question. We actually chose a resort on the other side of the island (oops!) so we had a 90 minute drive to get there but when we did it was amazing. Hard to believe you are still so close to the hustle and bustle of day to day life in Singapore, it was like an oasis!

4. What were your top things to do in Bitan with kids?

The thing I loved about Bintan was that we were outside all the time. Having been cooped up for much of the year in Doha and even in Singapore to an extent with longer school hours, it’s important to us to get outdoors when we can. Both our kids love swimming so we spend lots of time in the sea, on the beach and in the swimming pool.

But it was the kayaks that won the day hands down. The kids loved going out on them and begged to go out every day that we were there!

5. Where to stay in Bintan with kids?

We stayed at The Residence, Bintan. It is a truly beautiful hotel and has some wonderful rates to take advantage of. There were a couple of drawbacks – it is quite far from the ferry terminal (90 minutes) and the costs were quite high once there and it wasn’t that easy to leave the resort and do your own thing which is what we love to do when we are travelling. That being said, there are plenty of options for day trips if you want them such as visiting nearby islands, learning about the local communities (including sea gypsies!) or shopping for local souvenirs such as batik or foods and spices.

Child exploring at The Residence, Bintan

6. What did the kids eat?

The Residence Bintan has 3 restaurants to choose from. We usually try to encourage our kids to try new things at lunchtime so they ate some typical Indonesian dishes like nasi goreng, chicken satay and dim sum. At dinner time when they were more tired we let them choose western food.

7. How did you get around?

There was a bus to take us to and from the ferry terminal on arrival and departure. Apart from that we made the use of the resort bicycles a lot which was fun. And don’t forget the kayaks!

Click here for ferry information between Singapore to Bintan. 

bikes to rent from The Residence, Bintan

8. What is your top tip for families travelling to Bintan?

Have a bit more of a plan than we did! It was a very last-minute trip booked because we had a visitor in town and wanted to take her away. We didn’t know much about the island or where anything was.

9. What item could you not have done without at Bintan?

Swimsuits! We were basically in them from breakfast to dinner hopping from the sea (which had a swing and some hammocks!) to the pool to kayaks and back to the beach.

 

We’re heading back to the UK for Christmas and taking a cheeky trip to Lapland from there (shh don’t tell the kids!). Then in January we are heading to Japan to go skiing and explore a bit too – the itinerary is still in the making so we are very excited!


     

 

 




whale watching boat coming in to Husavik

Húsavík whale watching tour with North Sailing

As you travel around Northern Iceland, the natural beauty is all around you and hard to miss. But it’s easy to forget that some of the most remarkable sights are actually hiding underneath ice-cold water, only appearing occasionally to break to the surface and take in some air.

The whale population off the coast of Iceland is one of the most accessible and extensive in Europe, and the town of Húsavík provides the perfect base to set sail and get a close up glimpse of these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.

Whale watching in Iceland

Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family were offered a complimentary whale watching tour with North Sailing, booked through Hey Iceland, in return for coverage on my website and social media. As always, these are all my own words. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission.

We spent a fantastic morning with North Sailing on our eldest’s sixth birthday, spotting several humpback and minke whales on a Húsavík whale watching tour. Húsavík is one of the best places to go whale watching in the world, and a must do on an Iceland family holiday.

The North Sailing whale watching tour

The tour starts by registering at the North Sailing offices in town, where there is also space to park your car (click here for location). The check-in process is really easy and well-organised and you’ll soon find yourself on-board the open-decked boat, which will be your transport for the next few hours.

The friendly crew welcome you onboard with an offer of incredibly warm overalls which fit easily over your normal clothes (including winter jacket). It’s highly recommended to take them up on the offer and, if you are wearing winter clothes underneath, you’ll find you are more than warm enough to brave the elements.

We went whale watching in November and didn’t feel the cold once. Note that life-jackets are also available; particularly recommended for the kids as their suits don’t have an in-built flotation devices in them, which the adult suits do.

What to wear on your Húsavík whale watching tour

Even if you are visiting in the Summer months, it can get very cold out at sea and we advise wearing the following:

• Gloves, hat and scarf (or snood)
• Thermal top and bottoms
• T-shirt and jumper
• Warm socks and shoes with good tread
• Warm trousers
• Warm winter jacket
• THEN ON TOP OF ALL THIS WEAR THE SUIT PROVIDED BY NORTH SAILING.

 

There are a few seats on board which you can use but you’ll spend most of your time standing or lent against the railings looking for the whales. Bear in mind that children won’t be able to see over the front of the boat as the sides are quite high so you are better off at the sides, which was the perfect height for our 4 year old. As for actually viewing the whales, most of the best viewing points were from the side anyway.

If you fancy it, there is an option to walk up some stairs to the top of the boat where you can get an even better view, although this area is popular and can get crowded.

Will I definitely see whales?

This is a wild, natural experience, so it’s pot-luck when and where the whales will appear. We were lucky on our trip and the guide (who provides an interesting but non-intrusive commentary during the tour) said that we saw a large number of whales close-up for this time of year.

Even when the whales aren’t around, the scenery is incredible and you’ll enjoy just being out on the water with the sea air and snow-capped mountains for company. It really is a fantastic day at sea.

When is the best time to go whale watching

The best time to see whales in Iceland is June to August. During this time there are multiple sailings per day. You can also combine your tour with seeing puffins at this time of year.

Despite it being the very tail end of the season (excuse the pun!) and whale watching in Iceland in November, we saw two different humpback whales and a minke whale up-close, which was fantastic.

looking for whales on our Husavik whale watching tour

How do they find the whales?

The tour tries its best to be as unobtrusive to the whales as possible (they don’t use sonar for example) and instead use eyes and communication with other boats on the bay to find the whales.

On top of this, there was only one other tourist boat out with us during the tour so it didn’t feel like we were on a mass-safari, although I’d be interested to see how it is in peak whale watching season. Whenever we spotted something we would saunter over to the general area and patiently wait, only moving on when the whales took a final breath and dived underwater for several minutes.

Snacks and sea-sickness

Towards the end of the tour, the crew will provide hot chocolate and pastries for you to enjoy; a very lovely idea if you haven’t been affected by sea-sickness ,which does need to be mentioned. We were all affected (apart from our youngest) to some extent, this was despite wearing sea-sickness bands.

The water was very rocky for us and it can be particularly bad when you are sat still waiting for the whales to appear. Looking at the horizon and mountains helped somewhat. But what didn’t help were the numerous passengers being sick overboard; although these people are guided to the back of the boat. Keep this in mind if you are particularly prone to sea-sickness. However, no one in our family was actually sick, and this didn’t affect our viewing of the whales. But after three hours at sea, we were ready to head back.

Hot chocolate onboard our Husavik whale watching tour

How to book your Húsavík whale watching tour

We went with North Sailing, booked through Hey Iceland. Tours run all year, but check the websites or phone ahead if travelling in winter as sailings will be cancelled in severe weather.

The cost of the three hour (approx) whale-watching tour is ISK 10,500 for adults, ISK 3,500 for children 7-15 and under 7’s are free.

You must go to Geosea afterwards!

After your Húsavík whale watching tour we suggest you head over to nearby Geosea (also in Húsavík) to warm up with a long soak in their geothermal baths, overlooking the bay you’ve just been sailing on. Click here for our review of Geosea.

GeoSpa - North Iceland itinerary

Where to stay nearby

     


 

You may also like to read:
NORTH ICELAND ITINERARY: a 7 day family road trip
Geosea Húsavík REVIEW: visiting geothermal sea baths in North Iceland
SNOW DOGS kennel visit: a family friendly husky experience in Iceland

Stóru Laugar feature

Stóru-Laugar REVIEW: cosy guesthouse with 24hr hot tub in North Iceland

Holding our breath, we tiptoed quickly across the snow, whipped off our dressing gowns, then let out satisfying sigh as we slipped into the hot tub under the night sky. The hot tub at Stóru-Laugar is open 24 hours a day, as fresh water pumps in from the surrounding natural geothermal springs, hovering around a toasty 39°C. I was grateful we’d brought a beer with us to cool down. This was a perfect stop on our North Iceland itinerary!

accommodation building at Stóru Laugar

Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family received a two night complimentary stay at Stóru-Laugar, booked through Hey Iceland, in exchange for coverage on our social media and blog. As always, theses are all my own words.

We spent two nights at Stóru-Laugar, in the small village of Laugar, as part of our North Iceland itinerary. This cosy guesthouse is a thirty minute drive from Húsavík, which is a good place for a whale watching tour, and the geological wonders of Mývatn are a twenty minute drive away.

There’s a petrol station, swimming pool and restaurants in Laugar. However, we really only used Stóru-Laugar as a base on our road trip and didn’t get a chance to try these out.

Our family room

We had a ground floor family room with ensuite bathroom (with shower, no bath), a double bed, and a pull out double sofa bed. It felt a novelty to be staying in a spacious room, and the little kichenette right outside our door (with kettle, teas and coffees, large fridge and a microwave) was very handy.

Check out booking.com for more photos of the various rooms.

Breakfast

Our boys were very impressed to see pancakes on offer at breakfast and smuggled the chocolate sauce to our table for multiple helpings.

eating pancakes for breakfast at Stóru Laugar

In addition to pancakes, there are the usual cereals, fruits, meats and cheeses, yogurts, and fresh juices. There’s also a coffee machine for those in need of a decent coffee.

Breakfast is served in the main reception area, which is in a separate building to the accommodation.

breakfast at Stóru Laugar

reception building at Stóru Laugar

The hot tub

This was such a special treat! It’s totally free for guests and open 24 hours a day. Unfortunately the Aurora Index was low and the night sky cloudy for both nights we stayed at Stóru-Laugar. But it would be a wonderful spot to watch the Northern Lights!

The hot tub consists of a long concrete box and is the perfect depth to sit in. Wooden slats act as a lid. Just roll these back when you want to get in (they are heavy, so be careful of little fingers), and once you’re finished, just roll back over again.

hot tub at Stóru Laugar

There is little lighting to the hot tub and around, so you may want to take a torch if having a night-time dip. Bath robes are provided for adults in the room and we hung these on the ‘Hot Tub’ sign. Flip flops would also be a good idea, but we didn’t have these. Instead we braved the ice and snow bare foot! Although it is only 10 metres from the front door of the accommodation to the hot tub.

What to do in the area

Despite feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere, there are actually lots of things to do in the area.

Húsavík is just a half hour drive away, and here you can book on to a whale watching cruise before a long soak at the geothermal baths of Geosea. Also close by are the huskies at Snow Dogs where you can experience a husky sledding tour or a kennel visit.

Stóru-Laugar is also a good base for visiting the geological sites (including craters, smoking fumeroles, and lava stacks) around Mývatn. There is a road that takes you right around this lake. Check out Day 6 of our North Iceland itinerary for more details.

To book Stóru-Laugar

Head to the Hey Iceland website to book and find out prices. Hey Iceland also have a range of other family-friendly stays in Iceland.

reception at Stóru Laugar

Reception at Stóru Laugar

If you’re looking for accommodation enroute back to Reykjavik, we very much recommend doing a farm stay at Stóra-Ásgeirsá, which also has an outdoor hot tub (next to a waterfall) and a singing host!


 

You may also like to read:
NORTH ICELAND ITINERARY: a 7 day family road trip
Geosea Húsavík REVIEW: visiting geothermal sea baths in North Iceland
SNOW DOGS kennel visit: a family friendly husky experience in Iceland

Geosea - North Iceland itinerary

Geosea Húsavík REVIEW: visiting geothermal sea baths in North Iceland

If you’re visiting Húsavík in North Iceland, it’s more than likely you are going whale watching. Indeed it’s one of the top things to do on an Iceland family holiday.  But after a few hours out on the North Icelandic sea, you will probably want to warm up. So why not treat yourself to some warmth and relaxation at Geosea, Húsavík !

Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family received a complimentary visit to Geosea, booked through Hey Iceland, as part of our North Iceland itinerary. In exchange I have provided coverage on our social media and published this honest blog post review. This post also contains affiliates. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission.

Iceland has lots of geothermal pools to enjoy but not many can compete with Geosea for its incredible natural setting, which overlooks the open expanse of Skjálfandi Bay across to snow capped mountains and the Artic Circle on the horizon. If you peer very closely over the edge of the cliff, you might even see some of the famous whales also enjoying a swim.

Where does the water come from?

Drilling for hot water here in the mid-20th century revealed water that turned out to be hot seawater, too rich in minerals to be suitable for heating houses. Instead of letting this hot water go to waste, an old cheese barrel was installed for Húsavík residents to enjoy the health benefits of bathing in hot seawater.

The water in the GeoSea sea baths comes from two drillholes. One located by the cheese barrel and the other by Húsavík harbor. There is no need to use any cleaning agents or equipment, as the steady flow of water from the drillholes, between the pools and into the sea ensures that the water stays clean and hygienic.

The pools at Geosea, Húsavík

There are three main pools (one of which doubles-up as a bar area) and we found the temperature in each one to be perfect for our young kids (aged 4 and 6). These were the pools we spent the longest amount of time during our North Iceland road trip, which gives you an idea how much we all enjoyed it.

pools at GeoSpa Husavik

Having the snow capped mountains as a backdrop was very special and, when the afternoon winds picked up and whipped across the pools, it felt so invigorating to be sat in the open but also at the perfect temperature.

As a special treat, we ordered a beer from the bar (IKR 1000 ~ £6) and watched the kids splash around us, the blend of minerals and geo-thermal water working their therapeutic magic. Water is provided at the bar for free (which our boys enjoyed ordering themselves numerous times). Do keep hydrated though, especially if you’re in the water as long as we were.

Can I take kids to Geosea?

Yes you can! Staff were very welcoming to our boys (aged 4 and 6) and were more than happy to serve them their multiple orders of water at the bar. There are no places that the kids can’t go, but we did make an effort to keep them away from couples and contain their games to an area away from others.

father and son at GeoSpa Husavik

There are no slides or kids play area, but we took some diving sticks that kept our boys entertained for hours. We also found that they were happy to spend hours in the pool as it’s such a lovely warm temperature – just like bath water!

The facilities

The changing rooms are very modern, stylish, and clean. As with all spas in Iceland, you must have a very thorough naked scrub in the shower before getting in to the water. There are only communal showers and dressing areas (separated into male and female), so this is something that most English people (including myself) have to suck up (and in!) and get on with.

There are also steam rooms available for use, again all included in the entrance fee.

sauna at GeoSpa Husavik

There are free lockers accessed by an electric wrist band. This wrist band is also used to total your spending for drinks at the bar, which you settle on exit from the changing rooms.

Once you’ve finished your soak, head back to reception where you’ll find a bar and small restaurant, or the main town of Húsavík is only a two-minute drive away where you can choose between the surprisingly large number of restaurants available.

cafe at GeoSpa Husavik

cafe at Geosea Húsavík

reception at GeoSpa Husavik

reception at Geosea

Costs and opening times of Geosea Húsavík

Geosea is open 10am-midnight(!) from May to September and 12pm-10pm at other times. The cost is ISK 4300 for adults, ISK 1800 for children under 16.

What do I need to bring?

Bring your swim suit, towel, and (if you want) a bathrobe. If you forget anything, these can be hired from reception.

Good quality shampoo, conditioner and body wash are provided in the showers, all made with local minerals. There is also a hairdryer in the changing rooms.

We also brought with us some small diving sticks for the boys to play with in the water. There are arm bands if your kids need them. But this isn’t the place to bring your inflatable unicorn or doughnut ring.

Do I need to book Geosea?

Guest numbers are limited. Especially at busy times. Booking in advance is therefore recommended. Click here to book.

entrance to GeoSpa Husavik

Entrance to Geosea

Where to stay and what to do nearby

We didn’t stay in Húsavík, but rather a cosy guesthouse Stóru-Laugar, which is a half hour drive away. Whilst in the area, and in addition to a whale watching tour, make sure you visit the huskies at Snow Dogs, as well the geological sites (including craters, smoking fumeroles, and lava stacks) around Mývatn. There is a road that takes you right around this lake. Check out Day 6 of our North Iceland itinerary for more details.


 

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ICELAND with kids: a self-drive itinerary (5 days)
How to save money on a family trip to Iceland/a>
SNOW DOGS kennel visit: a family friendly husky experience in Iceland

Snow Dogs - feeding the huskies

SNOW DOGS kennel visit: a family friendly husky experience in Iceland

The husky gave four year old Ezra a big sloppy lick. Ez then preceded to giggle away with the biggest grin on his face, his little screeches exciting his new husky pal even more. Older brother Arthur was just the same at the other side of the kennel rubbing the belly of another dog. For two boys who were usually a bit nervous around dogs, they were absolutely loving their Iceland husky experience.

kiss from a husky at Snow Dogs

Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family received a complimentary kennel visit to Snow Dogs as part of our North Iceland itinerary with Hey Iceland. As always, these are my own words. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission.

A kennel visit over sledding

Husky sledding is considered one of the top things to do on an Iceland family holiday. However, it’s also very expensive. Prices start from IKR 30000 (approximately £190) per adult and IRK 10000 (approximately £60) per child aged 2-12 for a two hour husky sledding tour. That certainly adds up for families!

A kennel visit is a more affordable husky experience at IKR 4500 (approximately £28) per person, and in all honesty, young kids may probably get more out of the hands on kennel visit than sledding. Although do note that the kennel visit is also part of the sledding tour.

Our husky kennel visit

Situated in the middle of nowhere, on a lunar-like landscape dusted in snow, we arrived to Snow Dogs at sunset. We had been in Akureyri earlier that day and Snow Dogs is a one hour drive away.

We were met at the front of the owner’s house and led round the side to their basement. Here we were presented with snow suits to keep us warm and protect our clothes from the huskies, as well as a Snow Dogs head scarf that all visitors get to keep as a souvenir.

snowsuits to provide protection from dogs and added warmth

As we walked over to the kennels, the dogs were barking and excitedly leaping in the air. We had timed our visit with their dinner time, and these dogs were hungry!

The dogs were separated into individual kennels with the door locked, and then each one was served their dinner. The boys helped serve up the dog food, changing portions according to age and gender of dog.

Walking to the huskies at Snow Dogs

Snow Dogs - feeding the huskies

Once all 28 dogs were fed they were much calmer. The teenage dogs were then allowed back out into the main indoor area of the kennel to play with the boys.

The boys were instructed to hold out their hands so the dogs could come over a sniff them, and get to know them. But within minutes there was lots of patting, stroking and licking, and we were all loving the play and attention. These dogs are adorable and so very playful!

Whilst all this was going on, we also learnt all about these husky dogs. They’re not native to Iceland, but rather come from Siberia, and it was interesting to hear how they keep warm over the winter months with their thick coats and how they all work together with sledding (going at the pace of the weakest dog).

Back at the basement by the house we got to play with some 4 month old pups. Incredibly cute!

What to wear from your husky experience

Even though protective snow suits are given to you, make sure you dress warmly and take hats and gloves with you. It’s best not to wear the gloves when playing with the huskies inside the kennels, but some dogs are kept outside and your fingers will get cold whilst you’re waiting for them to be fed.

Do we recommend a husky kennel visit?

Like many activities in Iceland, it is on the pricey side. But its certainly a more affordable option to the husky sledding. Price aside, this was a fantastic husky experience for my boys and they will tell you that it’s one of the best things they did on our North Iceland road trip.

I was very impressed with how the owners handled the fact my boys were a little nervous to begin with. He eased them in gently, never rushed them, and it was wonderful to see the smiles on their faces.

I did walk away wishing we had done a husky sledding experience, but in all honesty it’s rather pricey and I could see how much my boys had enjoyed the kennel visit. I need to get saving for next time.

a husky dog at Snow Dogs

How to book a husky experience

The kennel tour last about 1.5 hours and can be booked through Hey Iceland. Do email them if you have a specific time you would like to visit. For more information, check out the Snow Dogs website.

Where to stay and what to do nearby

We stayed at Stóru-Laugar, which is a half hour drive away. Whilst in the area, make sure you visit the geological sites (including craters, smoking fumeroles, and lava stacks) and perhaps the geothermal spa around Mývatn. There is a road that takes you right around this lake and if you plan to visit the spa as well, allow for a full day. Check out Day 6 of our North Iceland itinerary for more details.


You may also like to read:
ICELAND with kids: a self-drive itinerary (5 days)
How to save money on a family trip to Iceland
The BEST things to do in Reykjavik with kids

Guesthouse Keflavi feature

Guesthouse Keflavík REVIEW: Budget accommodation in Keflavík

Many travellers are surprised to find out that Reykjavik is actually a 45 minute drive (without traffic) from the main International Airport at Keflavík.

If you’ve got an early flight the next day, or you arrive to Iceland in the evening, or you just want to avoid the expensive accommodation of Reykjavik, it would be worth staying overnight in Keflavík and you can’t go wrong with staying at Keflavík Guesthouse. Indeed this is where we spent our first and last nights on our North Iceland road trip.

Planning a family visit to Reykjavik? Then read this post on the best things to do in Reykjavik with kids.

Guesthouse Keflavik

Guesthouse Keflavík

Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family were provided with a two night stay at Guesthouse Keflavík, courtesy of Hey Iceland, as part of our North Iceland road trip. As always, these are all my own words.   Feature image courtesy of Hotel Keflavik.

Just a 6 minute drive from the airport along quite streets, you’ll find the very modern Guesthouse Keflavík (located here), with funky artwork painted to its facade by local artists and it’s IKEA-like interior. It’s owned by Hotel Keflavik, directly across the road, and you actually check in at Hotel Keflavik, rather than Guesthouse Keflavík.

Hotel Keflavik

Hotel Keflavík – where you check in for Guesthouse Keflavík. Breakfast is also served here.

Our family room at Guesthouse Keflavík

For those travelling with heavy bags, do note that to get to your room at Guesthouse Keflavík, you need to walk up a short flight of stairs as rooms are on the first floor.

We were booked into a four-bed room, consisting of two bunk beds. The room was very small, but we managed to fit cases under the beds and the kids based themselves on the top bunk, so it didn’t feel too squished. Plus, this room was just a base for our first and last night of our North Iceland itinerary, and we spent less that 12 hours booked into the guesthouse on both occasions.

Guesthouse Keflavik 4-bed room

Our room was very clean and modern, with a distinct ‘IKEA-feel’. There’s a large TV, wardrobe, chest of drawers and a writing desk. I was surprised the room had so much furniture considering how small it was.

There are six rooms available in total.

Facilities

There are no ensuite bathrooms. Instead there are two shared bathrooms, each with a toilet, wash basin and shower. We were the only people staying both nights, so we left our bedroom door open whilst in the room, and the shared bathroom really wasn’t an issue.

Guesthouse Keflavik shared bathroom

In the corridor there is a kettle, along with mugs and some tea and coffee sachets (no milk).

Guesthouse Keflavik hallway

Guesthouse Keflavik kettle

Their website and booking.com state that there is a small kitchenette with microwave and fridge available. However, when we asked staff at check in they said that there were no facilities like that available, and we certainly didn’t see them. We had thankfully packed noodles (cooked using boiling water from kettle), as well as an . There is a restaurant at Hotel Keflavik, but it looked rather expensive and swanky for our needs. There is a Olís petrol station up the road serving snacks.

Guests can also use the fitness centre and sauna at Hotel Keflavik, across the road.

Breakfast

A free buffet breakfast is served at Hotel Keflavik each morning. It was honestly the best breakfast we had in all of Iceland! There is so much food on offer; including a cooked breakfast, fresh breads and pastries, an array of fruit, cereals, and fresh juices. A great start to your day!

Breakfast is served from 5am. Very handy if you have an early flight.

Guesthouse Keflavik breakfast

Where to park at Guesthouse Keflavik

You can park outside Hotel Keflavik (across the road), and there’s also a car park adjacent to Guesthouse Keflavik. There was never a problem finding a parking space. All parking is free.

WiFi

The WiFi is also free and good quality. Although most of the time I was connected to regular 4G+ network on my phone.

Do I recommend Guesthouse Keflavík?

If you’re after an easy budget stay near to Keflavik Airport, you really can’t go far wrong with Guesthouse Keflavik. The rooms are small and the bathrooms shared, but it’s very clean and modern, and you’re guaranteed a good night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast.

However, you can only sleep four in the ‘family room’. Families of five will need to book into two separate rooms.

Where to book Guesthouse Keflavík

Click here to check prices and book your stay at Guesthouse Keflavík.


 



NORTH ICELAND ITINERARY: a 7 day family road trip

 

sunset at Stóra Ásgeirsá

Stóra-Ásgeirsá REVIEW: a family farm stay in Northern Iceland

It was still dark outside as we munched on our warm oats and toast for breakfast. It wasn’t early. Just before 9am. But the sun hadn’t yet peeped over the horizon here in Iceland. There was no need to rush out and start our farm chores yet. So we sat back on our chairs in the family lounge, and listened to Magnus (the owner) sing one of his compositions. He’s actually very good!

As soon as Magnus struck the last chord we clapped and whooped. Then our six year old jumped up to announce, “It’s time to work!” He was right. So we all wrapped up in our layers and headed out to the stables.

singing at breakfast at Stóra Ásgeirsá

walking to the stables at Stóra Ásgeirsá

Disclaimer: TraveLynn Family received a two night complimentary stay at Stóra-Ásgeirsá, booked through Hey Iceland, in exchange for coverage on our social media and blog. As always, theses are all my own words. 

During our recent road trip around Northern Iceland, one of our favourite stays was at Stóra-Ásgeirsá; a working farm and family-friendly home, ran by a farmer / dad / singer-songwriter / host called Magnus.

The location of the farm is ideal for travellers heading towards Northern Iceland from Reykjavik – just off Route 1 and about 3 hours drive from the capital. It’s also a great place to base yourself for a day or two, break up the driving and explore the surrounding area, which includes the spectacular 711 loop road around the peninsular.

A home from home

There’s a wonderful homely feel to Stóra-Ásgeirsá, partly helped by untidiness of the family communal area. I do mean this in a good way. There is no pretence to visitors. We were welcomed into the family home as it is, and that felt very special. Our kids all played together, and we all mucked in with laying the table and clearing up at meal times. But we still had the freedom to go off and do our own thing.

The accommodation at Stóra-Ásgeirsá

Accommodation is set up in a building which doubles up as Magnus’ own home. Breakfast is served in the communal dining room and there is also the opportunity to use his kitchen if you need to make a quick snack.

Each of the four guest rooms are modestly decorated in common with other properties throughout the country – modern, clean and minimalist. The basics are here but don’t necessarily expect luxury. The four rooms available all share a bathroom and shower, which was fine for us as we visited during a quiet time, but it may require some morning-routine coordination with the other guests in the high season.

3 bed room at Stóra Ásgeirsá

Our three-bed room. We pushed the two beds on the left together and three slept in there, and one parent slept in the bed on the right of this photo. Larger families, or those with bigger kids will need to get two bedrooms.

bathroom at Stóra Ásgeirsá

The bathroom

Breakfast and dinner

We had a lovely, homely breakfast each morning, including bread, cereals, eggs, oats, coffee, tea and juices; a very hearty meal which set us up perfectly for the day.

During busier times, Magnus can also cook an evening meal which is usually served in the bar/restaurant in a separate building. It looked a great place to spend a communal evening and there was even a stage setup to enable Magnus (and musical guests) to showcase tunes. We got a taster during breakfast one morning and it was fabulous.

What do to on the farm

Our boys (aged 4 and 5) absolutely loved feeding the horses and goats, and also helping to sweep up the stables. Magnus will be happy to find some odd jobs for kids to do. We also took a walk around the farm to meet the sheep and horses.

Horse riding is also offered at the farm for an addition cost, but we didn’t get the chance to do this. Maybe next time.

The true highlight for us though has to be wallowing away in the hot-tub overlooking a small but beautiful waterfall, under the starlit night-sky. We spent a lot of time in geo-thermal pools during our stay but this one topped the lot. Give Magnus some notice and he can fire it up for you as well. A perfect way to end the day.

hot tub at Stóra Ásgeirsá

Also make time to enjoy some lovely walks in the area, as well as visiting nearby Kolugljúfur Canyon. But if you are following Day 3 of our North Iceland itinerary, you will need a good 5 hours to do the loop up to Hvitserkur and round to the Icelandic Seal Center. Just make sure you’re back in time to enjoy a beer, a sing in the bar, and a dip in the hot tub.

To book Stóra-Ásgeirsá

Head to the Hey Iceland website to book and find out prices. They also have a range of other family-friendly farm stays in Iceland.

Where can I hear Magnus’ music?

Check out Stóra Ásgeirsá on YouTube:


  


 




North Iceland itinerary feature photo

NORTH ICELAND ITINERARY: a 7 day family road trip

If you’ve travelled to Iceland once before, it’s likely that you will have visited Reykjavik and the Golden Circle. This is exactly what we did on our first visit to Iceland, as well as tagging on a couple of days on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula (read our 5 day Iceland itinerary here). But are you looking to delve deeper and explore more of this fascinating country?

Disclaimer: This self drive North Iceland itinerary was put together by Hey Iceland who we partnered with for this trip. Hey Iceland provided all accommodation for us and arranged all activities. We paid for our own flights and car hire. Also, this post contains affiliate links. Should you click to purchase, it is at no additional cost to you, but I receive a small commission. 

Iceland is a destination that deserves more than one visit. It’s cinematic landscapes of snowcapped peaks, moonlike lava fields and gushing waterfalls capture the imagination of every outdoor lover, enticing you to return. Indeed there are so many things to do on an Iceland family holiday, that you can’t do it all in one trip.

family on North Iceland itinerary

If you’re looking for even more epic scenery, want to meet huskies and spot humpback whales, and want to experience a more remote Iceland and true Icelandic hospitality, then you will want to follow this 7 day North Iceland road trip itinerary.

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When to visit North Iceland

We visited North Iceland at the end of October / beginning of November. This is the start of winter and temperatures hovered just below freezing. Check out our suggestions of what to pack for Iceland.

For us, this was the perfect time to visit as it falls within the UK October half term, there are still 8-9 hours of daylight, and there are fewer tourists. However, you ideally need a 4WD at this time of year as even the main Route 1 can be covered in snow. There is also a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights.

The summer months between June and August are very popular though for a reason. Endless daylight means you can fit more into your day (although not always a good thing when travelling with young kids), and it’s a good time to spot whales and puffins. A 2WD is also fine for getting around. But accommodation does get booked up and prices peak.

During winter, some minor roads shut, but there are fantastic winter activities on offer including skiing, husky sledding, snowshoeing, and visiting ice caves. All of which you can do in the North. The dark winter months also provide the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Plus, it doesn’t actually get as cold as you may think. Even in the depths of winter, temperatures rarely dip below -5°C.

7 day self drive North Iceland itinerary

Do note that some of the activities in this North Iceland itinerary require an entrance free. Whale watching, geothermal pools, horse riding and husky visits are relatively expensive and if you’re looking to travel Iceland on a budget you may need to pick and choose your activities.

Also, this Iceland driving tour starts in Reykjavik and drives up to the North of Iceland, going clockwise along the main ring road (Route 1). It is possible to take a flight from Reykjavik to Akureyri in the North, and start your trip from there. But if you’re budget conscious and want to visit a couple of sights in the West of Iceland enroute, this North Iceland itinerary works well.

The accommodations suggested in this self drive Iceland itinerary are all ones that we stayed as a family of four. Breakfast is included at every stay, but dinner needs to be booked in advance if you wish to dine at the accommodation. Unfortunately, none of these accommodations really include a kitchen. But all had a kettle, and some had a microwave. We brought a lot of food from home (it’s cheaper than buying in Iceland) and we even brought along with us an electric sandwich and waffle maker.

Day 1: Arrive to Keflavik

Where we stayed: Guesthouse Keflavík
Click here to check prices and book.

Our flight arrived early evening, so we stayed at an airport hotel. If you’re flight arrives earlier that day, take the opportunity to head into Reykjavik, which is a 45 minute drive away. Check out our post on the best things to do in Reykjavik with kids.

Guesthouse Keflavik

Note that the Guesthouse Keflavik is run by Hotel Keflavik, across the road. This means that you check in and have breakfast at Hotel Keflavik.

Day 2: Hot springs and waterfalls

Where we stayed: Stóra-Ásgeirsá
Click here to check prices and book.

Bypass Reykjavik and follow the road North along Route 1. It’s not long until you’re away from the city and driving though the vast open landscapes typical of Iceland.

To break up the journey North, stop at the most powerful hot springs of Icleand – Deildartunguhver. The neighbouring Krauma Spa is fed by the waters of this spring and definitely worth a visit. There are five relaxing natural goethermal baths situated outside, two steam rooms, a plunge pool, and a relaxation room complete with roaring fire. Kids are very welcome here and under 12s are free. Adults prices work out about GBP24 per person.

Stop briefly to admire the churches at Reykolt, before driving on to view the impressive waterfalls of Hraunfossar and Barnafoss.

Return back to Route 1. Don’t be tempted to take the 525; it’s untarred, in bad condition, and impassable in winter months. It’s a two hour drive to tonight’s farm stay accommodation at Stóra-Ásgeirsá.

Day 3: Farmer for a day

Where we stayed: Stóra-Ásgeirsá
Click here to check prices and book.

Breakfast takes place in the family dining room and if you ask Magnus (the owner), you may get a song or two played to you before starting work on the farm. Our boys loved feeding the goats and horses, as well as sweeping out the stables.

feeding the horses at Stóra-Ásgeirsá

Once your chores are complete, hop in the car to explore the region. Take the 716 and 717 north past Vesturhópsvatn and stop at the Hvitserkur (a large basalt crag rising for the sea). Try spotting seals across the estuary or at Seal Beach (further around the 711). Then continue along the loop to visit the Icelandic Seal Center at Hvammstangi to learn about the history of seals in the region.

On return to the farm in the late afternoon, the animals will need to be fed again. Then enjoy a hearty dinner cooked by Magnus (inform in advance if you’re vegetarian) and finish your day in the outdoor hot tub by the waterfall.

Day 4: The road East and huskies

Where we stayed: Stóru-Laugar
Click here to check prices and book.

It’s a stunning drive today across to Akureyri through impressive mountain ranges. Take a brief stop at Víðimýrarkirkja to see one of the few preserved turf churches in Iceland.

In Akureyri, visit the Lutheran church (Akureyrarkirkja) and take a stroll down Hafnarstræti, perhaps stopping for a hot chocolate. The Botanical Gardens are worth a visit, but if you want to let the kids burn off some energy, head to the swimming pools and water slides at Sundlaug Akureyrar. Or if you’re after a free activitiy, head to the forest at Kjarnaskógur where you’ll find a playground (click here for location of playground).

family at Goðafoss, North Iceland itinerary

Your next stop is the thundering waterfalls of Goðafoss. Allow a good hour here to walk to either side of the waterfall; there are well marked footpaths.

Finish the day with meeting the huskies at Snow Dogs. You can book in to go husky sledding, but it is pricey. So we opted for a one hour kennel visit where we got to meet the huskies, feed them and play with them. It was much more hands on and personal, and worked perfectly for our two young boys; you couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces!

It’s then just a 30 minute drive to tonight’s accommodation, where you’ll stay for two nights.

Day 5: Whale watching

Where we stayed: Stóru-Laugar
Click here to check prices and book.

Whale watching tours run from March through to November from Húsavík, and puffin tours run from May through to August also from Húsavík.

We went on a three hour whale watching tour with North Sailing and we managed to see a humpback whale and a minke whale up close! Take sea sickness pills or wear travel bands before embarking, and dress for the cold. North Sailing provided us with warm suits to wear over our outdoor gear to keep us warm.

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AD| Today was a special day as it's Arthur's 6th birthday 🎉 We ventured out into the Icelandic seas with @northsailing to see whales 🐳 (we saw a couple up close – but the photos are on my DSLR, so I'll share another time). ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ It's VERY cold off the North coast of Iceland so we were given these suits to wear over our outdoor gear to keep us toasty warm. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ Such a fantastic day, rounded off with a dip in the geothermal baths at @geoseaiceland 💦 Not a bad way to spend a birthday! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ ………. #heyiceland #discovertherealiceland #iceland #icelandroad #icelandroadtrip #visiticeland #exploreiceland #icelandwonder #inspiredbyiceland #wintertravel #winteriniceland #icelandwinter #beautifuldestinations #ourtribetravels #familytravel #fearlessfamtrav #lpkids #travelmadfam #travelkids #pottyadventures #bestoficeland #whalewatching #husavik #myfamilywanderlust #worldschooling #myheyiceland #snaphappybritmums #takeyourkidseverywhere

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Whale watching in Iceland

After your whale tour, visit the nearby geothermal baths of Geosea that overlook the bay.  We ended up spending three hours here. But if you still have time, take a little drive to explore the geological features of Ásbyrgi, Hljóðaklettar, and Dettifoss waterfall, before returning back to Stóru-Laugar for the night. Make sure you leave enough time to use the outdoor hot tub at the accommodation.

GeoSpa - North Iceland itinerary

The geothermal baths at Geosea

Day 6: Mývatn and horse riding

Where we stayed: Gauksmýri Lodge

Get an early start to drive the circuit around Mývat, which is a large a volcanic lake. First stop at Skútustaðagígar to enjoy the short circuit walk around the pseudo craters; formed by gas explosions triggered by boiling lava flowing over the wetlands.

Next stop are the unusually shaped lava formations of Dimmuborg, which were allegedly the home of some nasty trolls. There are a series of waymarked paths to explore the area.

smoking fumerole at Námafjall

Following the Route 1 East slightly, you will come across the other-worldly landscape of Námafjall. This is a fascinating and very active geothermal area, where you can see smoking fumaroles and belching mud pots, surrounded by sulphur crystals of many different colours.

horse riding at Gauksmýri Lodge

If you have a day spare, spend the afternoon at Mývatn Nature Baths. But if you need to stick to a 7 day North Iceland itinerary, it’s time to get back in your car and begin the drive back towards Reykjavik. It’s a 3.5 hour drive to Gauksmýri Lodge; the accommodation for tonight. If you arrive before 5pm, you can fit in a family horse riding lesson!

Day 7: Into the Glacier

Where we stayed: Guesthouse Keflavík
Click here to check prices and book.

To break up the 3 hour journey back to Keflavik, book on to the fantastic Into the Glacier tour. It’s a man-made tunnel into Iceland’s second largest glacier and it is incredible! Half the fun is the drive up the glacier in a specially modified glacier vehicle. Allow four hours for the tour if visiting in the winter months, three if in the summer.

Day 8: Head home

We had a late morning flight. But if time allows either head into Reykjavik or visit ‘

Hey Iceland self drive tours

This North Iceland itinerary was initially put together by Hey Iceland. If you book one of their self drive tours, you are given a free tablet to follow your personalised day-to-day itinerary. The tablet gives you recommendations along the way, and helpful information regarding driving conditions, weather forecast, and also comes with inbuilt WiFi, so you can still be connected to the world when you’re out in the sticks.

Hey Iceland tablet for North Iceland itinerary routing

It take the stress out of having to do your own routing and navigation and we absolutely loved it. We also used it for our 5 day Iceland itinerary the previous year. Read more about the Hey Iceland self drive tablet here.


Where would we be without our Lonely Planet Guide? There’s also a specific Iceland Road Trip edition.

We also recommend you purchase a good Iceland road map, in case your tablet or Google Maps fails.


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