Family Vacation to Iceland and the UK (Cotswolds, Wales and London)

For the 4th summer in a row, we have taken our girls on a “BIG” vacation!  You can read my trip reviews from our previous trips here (France & Spain,  Kauai,  Rome, Sardinia, Corsica and Paris).  This summer we weren’t planning to go back to Europe but I found an amazing deal with IcelandAir which also allowed us to pick from a list of other cities in Europe to continue on to. After much debate, we picked London.  I knew we wanted to see more than just the city so I posted questions on a few different travel message boards asking for recommendations for locations in the UK that had great scenery, castles and hiking.  So many people recommended the Cotswolds and Snowdonia in Wales that I decided we had to put both places on our itinerary.  I spent countless hours researching exactly what to see and do and I got two thumbs up from my family, so once again, I’m sharing our trip details and would be happy to answer any questions!

Day  1:  We arrived early to Reykjavik from Newark and took a bus directly to the Blue Lagoon. I am so glad that we decided to do this straight from the airport.  It’s only 20 minutes from the airport and hanging out in the warm water was so relaxing after the overnight flight. We ended up staying there from around 9am to 2pm and then got another bus to take us to Reykjavik where we walked to our airbnb apartment.  Out of the 12 airbnb’s that we’ve stayed in, this is the only one that I wouldn’t recommend so I won’t link it here.  The location was great but the hosts live upstairs and were too noisy.

Day 2:  After MUCH deliberation I decided not to rent a car in Iceland for a variety of reasons.  I worried that I would regret this decision but I have to say that I am SO glad that we took tours instead.  We’ve never done a bus tour in any of our travels and never even considered them on any other trip.  However we have LOVED our private walking tours in Paris, Barcelona and Rome and a private hiking guide for a day in Kauai. It is so important to meet local residents on vacation.  So after reading a lot online and talking to friends, we picked Arctic Adventures as our tour company and booked two full day tours with them.  We got so much more out of the sites because we had guides talking with us for the whole day, we didn’t have to worry about getting lost or being stressed about getting lost, and we could cram in so much more into our days because these guides know exactly where to go.  The first day tour left town at 8am and there were 9 of us on the tour including the 4 in my family.  We did the South Shore Adventure tour and saw a glacier, two waterfalls (Skógar and Seljalandsfoss), walked on a volcanic black sand beach and stopped at a farm to visit with the horses.  Out tour guide, Thor was awesome!!

Day 3:  We picked the Golden Circle tour on this day and it was supposed to be another small group  but we were upgraded to a private tour!  So we had our amazing guide Michael at our disposal for the entire day starting at 8am.  This was definitely the highlight of our entire vacation.  He talked to us about life in Iceland which was fascinating to have someone answer all of our questions about all sorts of random topics from the cost of apartments, health care, vacation time, weather, how locals feel about the tourism boom and much more.  We saw the main sites of the Golden Circle ( Thingvellir national park, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir hot springs) but then also went to see Faxi waterfall and the crater Kerið and a tomato farm inside of a greenhouse.  On our drive back we made two impromptu stops for little hikes.  It was the perfect end to our stay in Iceland.

Day 4:  We flew early to London and picked up our rental car (we used AutoEurope again for our car rental).  My husband was nervous about driving on the left side but we made it!  We drove about 2 hours to our amazing airbnb in Bibury.  What a GEM!!! We want to come back here and stay longer.  The village of Bibury is like out of a fairytale.  We loved exploring it and had such a great dinner at The Catherine Wheel.

Day 5:  We stopped at Bourton-on-the Water after breakfast to walk around. Such a charming town but much more crowded than Bibury.  After an early lunch, we continued on our way north stopping at a castle that we just happened upon on the road we were on called Hampton Court Castle.  The second castle was a planned stop to Stokesay Castle  which was a lot of fun.  Next we stopped in the village of Welshpool for dinner before making it up to our airbnb cottage in the teeny tiny village of Rhydymain.  There were no street signs in the village, we had to ask for help but everyone in Wales were so kind to us!

Day 6:  We drove 10 minutes to the nearest town of Dolgellau and rented bikes for the day. We picked an 18 mile round-trip ride on the Mawddach Trail.   It was completely flat so it was very easy although it was pouring rain for about 10 minutes at the begininng of the ride so we did get very wet and muddy.  But we all agreed that it was well worth it- the views are beautiful and we loved seeing all of the sheep!  After returning our bikes, we took a drive up to Cregennen Lakes which was definitely one of our highlights of the trip.  The girls tried to herd the sheep and we had the whole place to ourselves.  On our way back to the house we stopped for dinner at George 3rd  which we loved and we even ran into some of the people we were chatting with on our bike ride.

Day 7:  This day was a rain out but we put on our rain jackets with hoods and still ventured out to Cadair Idris and  Talyllyn lake.  Both beautiful spots for hiking!

Day 8:  We drove to Chester England to return our car and get on a two hour train to London.  Then we took a quick cab ride to our awesome Notting Hill airbnb apartment.  We ventured out and walked around Portobello and on to Kensington Gardens.

Day 9:  We had a packed day!  We went to Convent Gardens, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London and walked across Tower Bridge.

Day 10:  We had another rain out but still took a tube up to Primrose Hill and then Chelsea.  Good thing we packed plenty of umbrella’s!

Day 11:  With the Iceland Air deal, we had to do a layover in Reykavik so we flew from London to Reykavik (almost 3 hours) and then immediately got on the line to board our flight to Newark (almost 6 hours).  So it took longer to get home than if we had flown directly from London to Newark but we saved so much money on the airfare.

As usual, I took hundreds of photos so it was hard to just pick some of them to share!



The amazing airbnb in Bibury




Stone cottage airbnb



The notting hill airbnb


This is a summary of our experience traveling with kids to Iceland and the United Kingdom; hope you enjoyed it!!







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Christie Adams Photography

Bergen County NJ baby children & family photographer