Iceland In February - What to Expect during Winter

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Iceland in February… it’s gorgeous.  And unpredictable would be an understatement.  If you’ve been living under a rock lately, you might not know that Iceland is a super popular destination as of right now for all types of tourists.  You can score plane tickets for as little as $200 round trip if you play your cards right (ours were $300 with taxes out of Newark and we booked them less than 3 months out from our trip), making it a really tempting international destination for travelers looking for breathtaking scenery and adventure.  

I kind of planned this trip on a whim, mostly because I have a desire to travel and I often check out airfare to see if any deals are going on.  I asked around with some friends, and two said yes, so the planning began!  The winter months are much slower for me business wise, so it’s the perfect time for me to plan a little escape.  Once I booked the flights, I wanted to get busy planning the trip, but I had a difficult time really finding a ton of information on what to expect for Iceland in February.  Of course I knew it would be winter, which was ideal for me because I was hoping to catch the Northern lights and also wanted to see the Ice Caves, both things that you can only do during the colder months.

We’ll start with the cons of Iceland in February (I promise this is NOT a negative blog post, but there are things you should know if you plan a trip to Iceland in the winter, particularly in February).

The Weather

The weather is incredibly unpredictable in Iceland in February.  I had read all over that ‘if you don’t like the weather in Iceland, wait five minutes’, meaning the weather changes rapidly.  This wasn’t really the case for us, but I did learn that the weather is very intense and extremely unpredictable.  The week before we arrived, they experienced tons of rain, and the week we were there, lots of snow.  We landed after an overnight flight during a harsh storm with high winds, in the darkness of the early morning and had a very long day of driving ahead of us.  I have a lot of experience driving in the snow, and never get nervous about driving in winter conditions, but the weather upon landing was daunting, even for me.  Fortunately, after about an hour or two of driving, the sun began to rise and we seemed to be ahead of the storm.  It was pretty much smooth sailing from there for the remainder of day 1 and we had great weather until we reached our Guesthouse for that night and the weather started to decline again.  My biggest recommendation here is to plan extra days into your winter trip in the event of bad weather.  Our trip was only 3 nights (4 days) and we completely lost one day due to a blizzard, and had to book a hotel in a completely different area of Iceland than where our actual reservations were originally scheduled due to road closings one day. Flights were completely cancelled that day as well, which could really affect a lot of travelers who aren’t prepared for the possibility of this happening during their trip, so do yourself a favor and just plan an extra day.  If you’re wondering if we saw the lights… we did not.  Unfortunately the weather was far too bad each night for us to even have a chance at seeing them.  I’m honestly still a little bit bummed about this, despite knowing that lots of people visit Iceland and do not get to see the Northern Lights.  I guess this means I’ll need to go back and try again!

 

So Many Tourists

Some things are REALLY touristy, even in February!  I can’t imagine traveling to Iceland in the summer, because even in the ‘off season’ many areas were teeming with tourists!  One of the reasons I love to travel (particularly in off seasons) to new places is to enjoy nature and another culture.  I typically prefer landscapes and breathtaking views to city life, as I treat my travel as time to reflect and learn.  It’s sort of cleansing in a way.  With Iceland being such a heavily visited area right now, it almost takes away from the beauty of the place.  If you’re like me, I think staying away from the areas where all of the tour buses go will be your advantage.  I had to work extra hard to get shots of some of the busier places that didn't have tons of people in them, so I tried going away from the crowds and finding my own space to view the scene... like by the road!  Of course there are some things that I just had to see, like the black sand beach, but we only stopped for very short periods of time at the larger waterfalls like Seljalandsfoss and Skógafoss.  Although it was on our original itinerary, we completely skipped the Golden Circle stops (honestly due to the blizzard), but I don’t even regret not seeing them.  Renting a car was absolutely the best decision we made and worth every penny to travel on your own pace.  The time in the car and the views we were able to see while driving were much better than being bussed around to locations with hundreds of other tourists.

 

Driving in Winter

Iceland is a very safe country to travel in… except the weather and drivers!  One of the most common comments I received were from people concerned about the safety of three girls traveling abroad.  I honestly felt much safer in Iceland than I have in many American cities.  For the most part, English is spoken at least in part by everyone we came into contact with and the country itself and even capital of Reykjavík were extremely easy to navigate.  With that said, I’m going to talk about the weather again.  The only unsafe thing about the country was the harsh weather and the drivers.  We had a Ford Focus wagon (not a 4 wheel drive vehicle) and we witnessed more accidents than I care to count.  Most of the accidents we saw, involved 4 wheel drive vehicles, which leads me to believe either these folks have no clue how to drive in snow, or they thought they could push the limits more because they were driving those vehicles.  Either way, it was honestly downright scary to be on the roads for portions of the trip.  We drove through a blizzard one day which led to the main ring road being closed, and had to take an alternative route along the coast through an area with volcanoes and a view of the most amazing roaring sea during the storm.  I would visit that area again in a heartbeat because when we could actually see more than one foot in front of the car (i.e. when it wasn’t a whiteout due to the wind and snow whipping horizontally at gale force) it was magnificent.  So if you’re heading to Iceland, take route 427… it won’t disappoint!  Oh, and when I say blizzard and you think you know what I mean, you probably don’t.  It was difficult for me to even get out of the car and stand without falling over and we literally could not see a road at all at times and were driving in a caravan of cars all trusting and praying that the car in front of us was actually on the road, because the only things we could see were potentially some tail lights from time to time, if we were lucky.

 

The Good

The Guesthouses

I often hear people say they can’t afford to travel.  One of my tips for that is to check out guesthouses and hotels with shared bathrooms.  Fortunately, Iceland has tons of them!  We booked stays at two farm guesthouses and one guesthouse in Reykjavík, although on night two we weren’t able to make it to the guesthouse we had booked and had to book a hotel room last minute in Skaftafell due to the blizzard and road closings.  On night 1 we stayed here and loved it!  The owners were young and the space was very clean and inviting.  Breakfast included homemade waffles and I would definitely stay here again!  For our last night, we stayed at Sunna Guesthouse in Reykjavík and it was also great, with a perfect location that was walking distance to everything we wanted to explore.  Each place we stayed included breakfast which was the perfect way to start the day and helped to keep food costs down.  I also think that staying in guesthouses helps add to the experience of traveling.  I’ve stayed in hostels before too, and am never opposed to those types of things if I want to travel somewhere and don’t want to blow my budget on hotel rooms that I won’t even be spending any time in.

 

Ice Cave Discovery Tour with Local Guide of Vatnajökull

This was worth every penny.  This is probably my favorite excursion I’ve ever been on and was completely amazing from start to finish!  I always struggle with what to book with a tour guide and what to do on my own when I travel, and I really only like to splurge on one excursion most of the time.  This honestly cost as much as our flights but I would book this again in a heartbeat and highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Iceland in February or the winter months.  Be sure to book early, as these typically sell out and there are less available than the shorter, more popular and less expensive tours.  Find all of the details of the specific tour we did here.  The caves we got to see were large and not crowded, and the views were unparallelled.  The hike on the glacier itself was equally as awesome as going into the caves!  This was my favorite day in Iceland and I think provided me with a taste why so many people love exploring this country so much.  Pictures don’t even do it justice.  It was a full day of adventure and our guide helped us with much more than just a hike.  We went on this trip knowing that a blizzard was coming, and he helped get us safely back to the headquarters before the roads closed and even assisted in helping to find every person accommodations for the night who needed them.  I will never forget this experience!

 

Renting a Car

Renting a car was one of the best decisions we made, despite the weather conditions and closed roads.  We spoke to some people who did not rent a car and were at the mercy of tour busses.  Due to the weather, many tours were cancelled meaning they were literally just stuck in Reykjavík for the entirety of their trip.  Renting a car is of course an expense, but in my opinion it’s always worth it.  I love to just be able to travel freely and on my own schedule, rather than relying on public transportation schedules or tour bus options.  Plus, by the time you add up all of those tour fees, you would honestly probably come close to the cost of renting a car.  Since we were able to split the cost 3 ways, it was actually a less expensive option for us and driving was half the fun (when I wasn’t white knuckling the steering wheel).  A tip is to be sure your designated driver knows how to drive standard.  Automatic transmission vehicles are more expensive to rent (and harder to come by) so we saved some money just by renting a manual transmission vehicle.

Þrír Frakkar

Þrír Frakkar in Reykjavík was a great way to celebrate our last night in Iceland with some traditional Icelandic cuisine!  I actually heard about this restaurant on the Travel Channel and knew we had to check it out!  We didn’t eat out during our trip at all aside from this meal, and instead opted to buy some noodles and pre-made sandwiches and wraps for lunches and dinners at the grocery store.  We saved the best for last, and had a really great meal at this restaurant on Sunday night.  We were able to walk right down the street from our guesthouse to dinner which was super convenient.  We looked like a mess after traveling in a blizzard all day, but were greeted by a friendly server who offered a space to hang our coats and a cozy table in the corner to enjoy our meals.  We didn’t have a reservation and were the first ones in for dinner shortly after 5PM, but by the time we left the restaurant was filled.  Definitely make a reservation or arrive early if you want to eat here!  The fish soup as an appetizer, hashed fish and black bread for an entree, and Skyr brulée for dessert are my top recommendations!  

 

Blue Lagoon and Geothermal Pools

One thing so many people seem curious about are the geothermal pools in Iceland!  They are pretty cool, and on day 1 we visited the Seljavallalaug Swimming Pool.  It’s a hike to get to, but it’s a beautiful hike, and it’s completely free!  Good thing, because it’s not very warm.  If you enter on the far end where the water comes in, it’s much warmer than on the end closest to the changing rooms.  Keep an open mind about this one… it’s a little rough around the edges but it’s a great experience and you just have to get in and do it.  We had plans to visit other pools, but unfortunately the blizzard limited our travels and the only other place we got to visit was the Blue Lagoon right before heading to the airport to catch our flight home.  This was the perfect way to end our trip and I wouldn’t recommend doing it any differently.  I would never want to waste an entire day taking a bus trip to the blue lagoon, personally, but spending an hour or so here before catching a flight was super relaxing!  I’m not sure this is something that I would feel necessary to do if I went to Iceland again, but I do think it’s one of those things you just have to do at least once.  Just be sure to purchase tickets well in advance to get the date/time you want.  

 

Why I Like to Travel

Well, this is a hard one without getting super all philosophical and somewhat crazy on you… I think that the main reason that I love to travel is that I love learning about the history and culture of different regions, and I have a huge desire to see different parts of the world.  We live on a fascinating planet and I can’t possibly learn about it and truly experience it through a textbook or television show.  Each time I travel I also experience something that’s difficult to put into words.  It leaves me wanting less, to experience more.  I’ll have to write about this in a future blog post, but I think that my biggest takeaway from travel is contentment and learning what is truly important to me.  Since I don’t travel luxuriously, I find that each time I come home wanting less, with a desire to purge the ‘stuff’ in my life.  I would encourage anyone who wants to travel to just get out and do it.  It doesn’t have to be costly, and adventures await everywhere!  You don’t have to take an international trip to experience some of these same feelings… head out to your local state park and camp with your family or enjoy a day of hiking with some friends.  Just get out and do it!

To see more travel photos, be sure to check out my travel gallery!  

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Olivia & Grant | Snowy Engagement Session

I kicked off my first engagement session of the year yesterday with Olivia & Grant, one of my 2019 couples!  This snowy engagement session was seriously the perfect thing to get me prepped for my winter weddings that I get to photograph starting this weekend.  Olivia & Grant were SUCH troopers, and trekked all over to some of my favorite spots in our area, all while Grant wasn't feeling well.  Couples like this make my job so easy, and I love that they were up for anything (even an impromptu engagement session that we literally planned via Instagram yesterday morning).  Congratulations Olivia & Grant... enjoy this glimpse into your winter snowy engagement session!

Henna & Tristan | Herman & Luther's MacKenzie Childs Inspired Wedding

I love a unique wedding, and Henna & Tristan's MacKenzie Childs inspired dream wedding at the picturesque Herman & Luther's venue in Montoursville, PA, was the perfect wedding of the summer.  Herman & Luther's is a gorgeous treasure in the heart of Pennsylvania, and we just love a restored stone barn as a wedding venue!  The windows bring in that soft, dreamy light throughout the day which is the essence of the way we love to photograph a wedding.  The barn itself isn't all Herman & Luther's has to offer!  They boast a pretty amazing menu for couples to choose from which is all created in house. Henna chose to incorporate her love for all things MacKenzie Childs into her wedding day, and I loved the classic black & white color scheme with the signature MC courtly check throughout many of the details, from the cake stand to the umbrella that we had to use to dodge a few raindrops (and take advantage of an amazing rainbow shortly after)!

Aside from all of the 'pretty' of this wedding (and there was a lot of that), my favorite thing about Henna & Tristan's day was the amount of love that was poured into this day.  From all of the hard work Henna & her family did to create the day for each guest with carefully thought out details, to lots of happy tears, great friends who offered thoughtful and meaningful toasts, and parents who were filled with gratitude for a beautiful day surrounded by their family and friends, this wedding was truly a dream come true.  Congratulations Henna & Tristan!

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VENDOR INFO

Nicole DuMond is a wedding and engagement photographer based in the rolling hills of Stillwater, Pennsylvania and specializes in outdoor weddings and barn weddings in Muncy, PA and the surrounding areas.  

Janel & Daniel | Romantic Editorial Cherry Blossom Brand Film Session

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to work with Tyler Welch Co. and a gorgeous couple on this romantic editorial cherry blossom session for my brand film!  It's no secret that I love my job, and I love engagements & weddings, and I'm so happy to share what I'm so passionate about with you all!  A big thank you to everyone who made this possible, Rohrbach's Farm in Catawissa for allowing us to shoot on their stunning farm, Exclusively You in Bloomsburg for the fabulous dress rental, Tyler for being amazing at what he does, and especially all of my loyal clients and future brides... I can't wait to work with you on your wedding day! romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1romantic editorial cherry blossom pennsylvania engagement 1

Nicole DuMond Photography (Brand Film) - 90 from Tyler Welch on Vimeo.

Nicole DuMond is a wedding and lifestyle portrait photographer based in the rolling hills of Stillwater, Pennsylvania.  Nicole offers portrait sessions on her family’s 9 acre homestead as well as on location sessions in Columbia, Luzerne, Sullivan, Lycoming, Montour, and Northumberland counties.  Nicole is also available for limited travel along the East Coast & Worldwide.

View weddings by Nicole DuMond: http://www.nicoledumondphotography.com/category/weddings/

Tips for Saying Yes to Your Perfect Dress

tips for choosing the perfect wedding dress Wedding gown shopping... where do we begin?!  There are SO many options, from styles to designers to even colors to choose from- it can almost be overwhelming, right?  When I was a bride, I never went wedding dress shopping (I made my own), but it's something I do wish I would've done, looking back.  I met up with Kim Keck, owner of Exclusively You, a full service Bridal Boutique located in Bloomsburg, PA recently to get some advice from a pro on tips for saying yes to your perfect dress.  From gowns to accessories (tuxes, too!) this lady has you covered.

  •  Come with Ideas  You know, way back in the day when brides used to earmark magazines with their dream dresses?  Well, these days it's Pinterest or whatever else, but the women that are going to be helping you find the perfect dress want to know what your vision is for the day.  The consultant will use your inspiration as a starting point, and then can help expand on your ideas with their expertise!  On the flip side, try to not bring too many opinions.  Keep your shopping pals to a tight knit group of must have people you need by your side.  You want opinions from a few close people whose opinions you trust, but that also have your best interest in mind.  People that know and understand your taste can be beneficial, but too many conflicting opinions can leave you overwhelmed and upset.
  • Stick to Your Budget  A budget for all things wedding, whether it's a strict budget or a loose one, will help you keep on track with what is the most important to you.  You might want a specific designer for your gown and place a large part of your budget toward that, or you might want a certain photographer and spend more in that department (I swear, this is not a sales pitch- haha!).
  • Location & Time of Year Are you getting married on the beach in August or at a cabin in January?  Ok, it's probably somewhere in between for most of you, but keeping your location and time of year in mind is pretty important to the overall look on your wedding day (as well as your comfort level).  If you're planning a winter (or even a Spring or Fall) wedding, consider sleeves.  Strapless seems to be the go to right now, but I photograph so many brides who don't love their arms.  If you don't love your arms, why are you wearing a strapless gown?  There are some amazing little lace & sheer top options that you can pair with gowns these days that are simply stunning.  If it's a top that you're adding over the bodice of your gown, you can even take it off for the party portion of your wedding.  Fun, right?
  • Your Body Type  A good consultant will take your vision seriously, but will help work on any 'trouble spots' to get you to that perfect gown.  With comfort being a primary goal, consultants want you to not only look great, but feel great all night long.
    • A Line - A great option for anyone.  This is a classic cut that looks great on everyone!
    • Ballgown - The princess dress.  Try. It. On.  Just do it.  Even if you don't want it, try it on!  It looks great on most body types and is especially flattering on pear shapes or those with broad shoulders, as it evens out the frame.
    • Sheath/Slip Dress - Exactly how it sounds, this dress will look best on well proportioned frames.  These are gaining popularity recently and designers are using texture and dimension to add a little extra something to the simple cuts.
    • Trumpet - Fitted through the body and flaring out mid-thigh, the trumpet looks great on anyone with a defined waist
    • Mermaid - Fitted down to the knee, the mermaid gown is ideal for petites and hourglass shapes willing to show off some serious curves!
  • Keep an Open Mind You might go in with your heart set on the most amazing trumpet gown you saw on Pinterest but after trying it on... it's just blah.  Don't let your expectations of what you thought you wanted overshadow all the options on the table.  Let the consultants do what they do best and find the perfect dress for you, even if it's the exact opposite of what you thought you wanted.  It's their job to make you feel more beautiful than you've ever felt before.  Trust them!

tips for choosing the perfect wedding dress

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Want more wedding tips to help you through this crazy process?  Download my FREE wedding day shot list for brides... You know, a handy dandy PDF of all the 'Must Have' pictures you need to have on your wedding day.  Check it out! 

 

Nicole DuMond is a wedding and portrait photographer based in the rolling hills of Stillwater, Pennsylvania and serving the surrounding areas of Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania, including the Poconos, Lehigh Valley, and Philadelphia areas.  Nicole is also available for limited travel along the East Coast & Worldwide.

View more weddings by Nicole DuMond: http://www.nicoledumondphotography.com/category/weddings/

Follow Nicole DuMond Photography on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/nicolemichelledumond