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France Spain Iceland end of April/May

I am finding packing for myself my husband and 2 kids the hardest part of planning so far. A lot the problems stem from being in Paris mid April, Southern Spain beginning of May and Iceland Mid May. The huge weather variation is doing bad things to my carry on only plan. Does anyone else have experience with this? We are only in Iceland for 3 days but the weather sites say to expect about 10C there but mid 20s in Spain. I am almost at a loss. I am also having a heck of a time finding a rain coat for myself. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Posted by
279 posts

I was in a somewhat similar boat last summer. My suggestion is layers and packing as many multi-use items as you can manage. I was in Iceland and the Norwegian mountains in June/early July and while it wasn't exactly cold (except on the water), it was definitely chilly and windy at times. I bought a light thermasilk undershirt and wore regular, cheap, Target leggings (the $5/pair kind) under my jeans (yes, under skinny jeans! And I'm not exactly skinny) on cold days. When I got to warmer places, the undershirt and leggings were light enough to double as pajamas. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn how well a regular fashion scarf worked against the wind.

This is the undershirt I bought, but there are plenty more like it. I chose this one because it was fairly inexpensive and pretty discreet.

For Iceland, I would recommend a hat of some kind because the wind can be pretty intense. Again, an old regular knit beret-type hat from Target did the trick. But Iceland also has beautiful woolen goods which make wonderful souvenirs, and you're going at the end of your trip, so you wouldn't have to lug them around. If you're flying Icelandair, they'll let you check your bag for free on the transatlantic leg.

I hope this helps!

Posted by
20 posts

Thanks Caroline!

Did you find you wanted little gloves as well? We are from the Canadian prairies so it sort of warps your definition of cold. I struggle with what is warm enough and what is too warm. We have a lot of really really cold weather gear in our house but it seems over kill for 10C. But I imagine you are right about the wind.
We were considering bringing rain pants for the kids but for 3 days that seems a bit much especially if we have to schlep them around for 3 weeks previous before they may get any real use. The other item I am waffling on is water shoes for the kids. We use them a lot at home at the beach, canoeing (which we hope to do in the dordogne) etc. But it just seems to me like such a specific item.

Also with my kids I am really having a hard time trusting to just bring 2 shorts, 3 pants, 1 pair of athletic pants, 1 skirt and 1 dress with tights (for my daugher) 4 short sleeved shirts, 2 long sleeved tops, a bathing suit, running shoes, dressier sandals and a sweater each.

I just keep thinking of how much laundry we normally go through, but then maybe this will be a lesson to help cut that down over the long term!

I went to Paris (around 50F) and Barcelona (around 70F) in the month March and had a similar struggle. I brought tights to wear under jeans because they take up so little room but provide an extra bit of warmth. Leggings and the suggestion above would work and probably be warmer.

compression bags have become my best friend while traveling. It save tons of room in your carry on because you roll out all the air. I usually pack my carry on without it and bring an empty one to throw my laundry in as the days pass that way I have more room for souvenirs/shopping :)

Also, try a packable down jacket like the ones uniqlo have. theyre great as a pillow or blanket for the plane too! (this is the only one I saw on the site.

Posted by
279 posts

Hello again,

I'm sorry for the delayed reply.

I brought really cheap and already-fraying gloves (that I already owned) with me to Iceland. While doing the Golden Circle tour, it was chilly enough that I was glad I had them, but I also would have survived without them.

I can't imagine that you'll need the rain pants for your kids provided they're otherwise dressed warmly and have good rainjackets, but you didn't mention how old they are and, of course, you're the expert on them! But the weather in Iceland is very changeable, even from hour-to-hour. I don't think you need to worry about getting caught in too many drenching and long-lasting rainstorms.

As for the water shoes, again you know your kids best and if they'd adapt well, but maybe just bring (or acquire) cheap and lighter flipflops?

I forgot to mention before the Marmot rain jacket I brought with me. I love it and it totally did the job. It's also nice enough that it can double as a real jacket if necessary. I bought mine on sale, but, 13 months on, it would have been worth paying full price. You can check their website, but then I'd shop around online and see if you can find any better deals.

Also, have you seen this blog? It was enormously helpful in planning my trip to Iceland, and if you're looking for a good Reykjavik walking tour, this is the one.


Posted by
149 posts

Canadian prairie girl here. Today it is 7C, partly cloudy and windy. Go for a long walk and see what is comfortable for you.
I agree that layering is the key. I did Iceland/France no problem with a small carry on (25L backpack). In Iceland I wore jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt with a lightweight fleece and /or an unlined waterproof windbreaker when necessary. I didn't have gloves but I did wear a cotton fashion scarf and my trusty Tilley hat some of the time. Admittedly, it was July but we were tenting and therefore outdoors almost all the time, including chilly mornings/evenings that were definitely colder than 10C. You are only there for 3 days so you can wear the same warm outfit the whole time if you want to save luggage space for your lighter France and Spain clothes. Then again, I know I wore the exact same pair of jeans and long-sleeved shirt in Paris in April on a different trip.