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Logistics question re: bringing or using a cooler

We are traveling as a family (2 adults, 2 upper elementary school-aged kids) to Iceland in July. We will be traveling in and out of Reykjavik, touring the Snaefellsness Peninsula, the South Coast, and the Westman Islands.

We are planning to get groceries to make 1-2 meals per day in our AirBnBs to cut down on our food costs, enjoying one restaurant meal each day. We have a couple of days where we only stay 1 night at a location, though. All of our lodging has refrigerators so we can stock up on some fresh foods, but then will need to transport the food for many hours on the days when we are touring and changing towns.

Any advice on whether or not I should bring a soft-sided cooler and reusable ice packs, or do they have readily accessible (and cheap) disposable/recyclable ones there? I would prefer to travel lightly (and greenly), but I think having a way to keep some of our food cold en route to new towns will end up being a necessity! I'd love to hear any advice from people who have traveled to Iceland and hopped around with their groceries in tow!

Posted by
6106 posts

I almost always bring a small cooler bag on trips. When we don't check luggage, I bring several sponges and ziplock bags to make my own ice packs. I either get 2 inch thick sponges or stack 2 or 3 in a bag, add water and through in freezer.

Posted by
7664 posts

How elaborate are the meals you’re thinking of taking on the road? We’re just two adults, no youngsters who may or may not be pickier eaters.

Cheese travels pretty well during the day, if it’s not sitting out in hot sun. Bread and fruit (especially whole citrus), maybe a section of sausage, and you’re good to go. In mediterranean locations, we include olives, but in Iceland, you’ll find dried fish jerky, which you might or might not want. A knife would be handy.

When driving Snaefullsness, we found many places selling strawberries at the end of the driveway, with an honesty box to place the cash payment. We’ve usually kept food in the cloth bag we bring for shopping at the grocery or at a market. Wound around the food, it’s worked to keep things coolish, although sometimes our rental place has had a more substantial container to borrow.

The fridges in your places may or may not have much of a freezer. Sometimes we’ve had ice cube trays, too. Disposable plastic water bottles aren’t the greenest things on the planet, but are much more so if you freeze water in them and reuse them as ice packs.

Posted by
2259 posts

We always bring one of those very thin cooler bags, the kind you see in the grocery freezer section and stay cool for roughly 3 hours. We haven ever needed ice packs, even in the summer. This has worked for us on every trip to Iceland, FWIW. The bags keep the foods cool enough and no worries about getting sick etc.

Posted by
135 posts

Some years ago on a driving trip in New Zealand we simply went to WalMart and bought a "Chilly Bin" which is Kiwi for a styrofoam ice chest. Left it with the last B&B owner (he had a garage full of them).

Point being - it's a solid bet that there is some kind of small ice chest available in Iceland. You simply have to have some way to keep your beer cold when you go fishing. Your only challenge is finding out what to ask for and finding the right store. The web says Hagkaup is the Walmart of Iceland. You could google map the nearest one or ask the car rental staff.

Good luck!

Posted by
47 posts

Thank you, all!

Good call with the sponges! I've never heard of that hack before! And I also like the idea of the insulated grocery bag as a make-shift cooler. I'm hoping we won't have too much excess fresh stuff to lug around, but might have some milk or some extra Skyr, cheese, etc. to pack away while we travel. I have used the water bottle trick before, too, and was thinking of doing that again - I agree, it doesn't feel great for the environment, but we will likely buy some water anyway as we will be far away from towns much of the time and will need a supply of water anyway.

Great ideas!

Posted by
15729 posts

Forget the ice packs. Use the other methods given.

TSA only allows ice packs in carry on when completely frozen. If melted, they must meet the 3-1-1 requirements.

Reusiing water bottles or the sponge in the ziploc are good ideas.

There are also ice cube bags that you fill with water and freeze. They make individual ice cubes--which are a pain to get out of the bags--but would make a good ice pack.

Posted by
2259 posts

Bring your own water bottles and just use the tap water there to keep refilling them. They actually encourage you to not buy bottled water. You can also refill your water bottles at many streams, the water is that fresh. We would never do that here at home without using a filter, but it is fine there. I have lived to tell the tale, and done it on every trip lol. We stopped for groceries every other day or so, and the stuff we had leftover each morning, like milk, oj, was fine in the thin cooler bag. It never gets really warm in Iceland, so staying in that bag all day is just fine.

Posted by
2 posts

You might inquire with your rental car company if there is an option for an add-on. For example mine (Go) offers one for 15 EUR. (Their extras also include a chair and thermos.)

Posted by
356 posts

Hagkaup is the Walmart of Iceland.

LOVE IT, and frankly I was wanting to know this!