Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Maximize Credit Card Rewards for Free Iceland Flights
Earning enough points and miles for free flights to Iceland may seem daunting, but with the right credit card strategy, it's quite achievable. The key is to maximize bonus categories and welcome offers.
For starters, get a card that earns 3-5x points on travel purchases. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great option, offering 5x on flights booked through the Chase portal. Pair it with the Chase Freedom Flex for 5x back in rotating bonus categories like grocery stores. That's an easy way to rack up Ultimate Rewards points for Icelandair bookings.
Next, consider airline-specific cards. The Icelandair Saga Club Premium card gives 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. Since Icelandair awards start at just 10,000 points each way in economy, that bonus alone could cover roundtrip flights. The card also gives 3x miles on Icelandair purchases.
Hotel cards can also help offset Iceland lodging costs. Both Hilton and Marriott have strong footprints there. Aim for cards that offer large welcome bonuses, like the Hilton Honors Surpass which gives 150,000 points after meeting minimum spend. That's enough for several free nights at top hotels like the Reykjavik Konsulat.
Finally, don't underestimate the value of flexible point programs. American Express Membership Rewards transfer to Icelandair at a 1:1 ratio, and both Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou points move to airline partners that fly to Iceland.
With the right combination of welcome bonuses, category bonuses, and everyday spending, you can easily amass 200,000+ rewards points for airfare and hotels. That's enough for two roundtrip economy tickets on Icelandair and several free nights at luxury hotels.
What else is in this post?
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Maximize Credit Card Rewards for Free Iceland Flights
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Strategize Award Availability on Icelandair and Wow Air
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Experience Reykjavik on a Budget Using Points
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Take Advantage of Iceland's Newest Hotel Openings
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Indulge in Iceland's Natural Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - See the Northern Lights and Whale Watch for Free
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Drive the Ring Road with Rental Car Rewards
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Earn Bonus Points Through Iceland Tourism Partners
- Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Use Miles to Visit Iceland's Lesser-Known Regions
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Strategize Award Availability on Icelandair and Wow Air
When it comes to booking award flights to Iceland, availability is everything. The country is an increasingly popular destination, which means seats tend to fill up far in advance. By carefully strategizing and remaining flexible, you can greatly increase your chances of finding the perfect redemption.
Start by looking 11-12 months out when Icelandair and WOW Air first open up their award calendars. Set calendar reminders on both airline sites to check back periodically and snag newly opened up dates. Availability is best if you can book 330 days in advance.
Be flexible with your travel dates. Flying mid-week is ideal, as weekends sell out fast. January through May offer the lowest fares and most open award space. Summertime is peak season. Expand your airport options—you can fly into Reykjavik but also consider Akureyri in the north or Egilsstaðir on the east coast.
When searching for award flights, always check segment by segment. Direct routes from North America are limited, so you may have better luck booking separate awards from your home airport to a European connection point, then onward to Iceland. Consider funnel cities like Helsinki, Copenhagen, Stockholm or London which offer frequent service.
Mix and match partners across alliances. Icelandair is in Oneworld so look to American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia. WOW Air left Star Alliance in 2018 but United and SAS still fly to Iceland. Leverage flexible programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards which transfer to United, BA and Iberia. Check award charts carefully to understand pricing nuances. British Airways for example charges more for London layovers.
Be open to whatever cabin your points will allow—economy, business or first class. Don’t limit yourself to nonstop flights either. Allowing one carefully planned connection can sometimes open up many more possibilities. Just be sure you have sufficient time to make the connection given customs and immigration.
Monitor award availability closely in the final weeks before departure as last minute seats often open up. Set expert flyer alerts on Icelandair and other alliance partners so you’re notified immediately of newly available space. Check and recheck often around the 331 days in advance window when airlines typically finish loading their schedules.
Persistently search award availability on Icelandair’s website in addition to alliance partner portals, as Icelandair does not make all awards visible to partners. Their online search tool lets you view multiple months at once to identify trends. If the dates you want don’t appear online, call Icelandair directly as their agents have access to more award space.
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Experience Reykjavik on a Budget Using Points
With its cool blue architecture, trendy restaurants, and lively nightlife, Reykjavik is routinely ranked one of the coolest and most expensive cities in Europe. But savvy travelers know it doesn’t have to break the bank—you can experience all the highlights using strategically earned points and miles.
Start by covering accommodations with hotel rewards. Brands like Marriott have six properties in Reykjavik, including the chic EDITION and Reykjavik Konsulat Hotel. Hilton operates the luxurious Canopy by Hilton along the harbor. IHG offers the even more upscale Reykjavik Marina District Hotel. By earning bonuses on your hotel credit card, you can redeem free nights during peak summer dates.
Remember elite status goes a long way too. As a Marriott Platinum elite, you’ll enjoy lounge access, free breakfast, and suites upgrades at properties like Le Centre. Smaller chains provide local flavor—opt for apartments from CenterHotels or boutiques like Hotel Holt.
Don’t pay cash for pricey activities either. Chase Ultimate Rewards can be used to book excursions through Viator or GetYourGuide. Horseback riding tours, glacier hikes, and the famous Blue Lagoon are all bookable with points. If you have Membership Rewards, check resort credits at the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica—these can offset car rentals or even day trips like snowmobiling on Langjökull glacier.
Eating out is easy with points too. Skip cooking and use UberEats delivery paid for with Amex points. Enjoy happy hour small plates at Apotek Restaurant redeemed through the Capital One dining portal. Grab pastries at Sandholt Bakery using Chase Pay through the end of 2021.
Make the most of reopened lounges as well—both American Express Centurion and Priority Pass have options at Keflavik airport. Or enjoy Bonus Points dining and shopping partners like Veður Bar and Grill or the Blue Lagoon Shop. Racking up points on souvenir sweater purchases helps offset costs.
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Take Advantage of Iceland's Newest Hotel Openings
As Iceland explodes in popularity, savvy travelers know that now is the time to take advantage of the country’s exciting wave of new luxury hotel openings. International hotel brands are finally recognizing the huge untapped opportunities here for high-end hospitality experiences catering to adventure travelers. Most exciting of all, many of these chic new properties can be experienced for free by using redeemed points and miles.
In just the past two years, the Ion Adventure Hotel opened with Northern Lights-viewing terraces just an hour from Reykjavik. The Moss Hotel followed in 2021 on the remote Westfjords peninsula, combining sleek and modern digs with nearby hot springs. 2022 welcomed the Silica Hotel, whose design honors Iceland’s volcanic landscape and hot spring resources. All provide prime Aurora Borealis viewing away from the crowds.
Most recently, the highly anticipated Retreat at Blue Lagoon – Silica Hotel began welcoming guests as the only accommodation situated right at the world-famous spa destination. The AAA 5 Diamond property screams indulgence with in-room geothermal baths, private lagoons, a subterranean spa, and floor-to-ceiling windows showcasing epic lava surroundings.
Though cash rates hover around $3,000 per night, points and miles can unlock free stays. As part of Marriott's Luxury Collection, free nights can be redeemed at 85,000 points per night. But elite members may access even better Fifth Night Free awards during off-peak dates. Similarly, the Ion Adventure Hotel joined Curio Collection by Hilton this year allowing redemptions from 50k points per night. With the right credit card strategy, you can swing luxury lodging that would normally blow any Iceland budget.
Beyond the Blue Lagoon area, exciting openings are drawing visitors to undiscovered regions. North Iceland's Langaholt recently launched, inspired by nearby lava fields and wild Arctic coastlines. Further remote destinations are now within reach like Husavik's Cliff Hotel and Siglo Hotel's Nordic chic. The key is booking early and keeping award nights flexible across multiple hotels as availability opens up.
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Indulge in Iceland's Natural Hot Springs and Geothermal Pools
Iceland’s otherworldly landscape isn’t just about jaw-dropping waterfalls and mossy lava fields—it also provides pure hedonistic enjoyment for travelers via its abundance of natural hot springs and geothermal pools. This volcanic island practically bubbles over with over 700 caldron-like pots where hot spring waters are heated by the very earth itself. Many are tucked away like hidden gems across Iceland’s diverse regions. Visitors find indulging in these relaxing and rejuvenating waters to be a highlight.
Why does it matter? For starters, dipping into Iceland’s naturally occurring thermal baths and lagoons provides the ideal antidote to a day spent hiking to thundering waterfalls or driving the Ring Road. As Jack Ezon of Embark Beyond travel shares, “Nothing beats the simple pleasure of soaking in the warm, mineral-rich water surrounded by breathtaking scenery after a long day of exploring.” There’s no better way to unwind both body and mind. The variety of temperatures allows you to find your optimal zone too. And the pools’ mineral content nourishes skin while their supposed stress-relieving powers dissolve anxiety.
Beyond the famed Blue Lagoon, travelers rave about lesser-known springs like the geothermal caves of Vök Baths near Lake Mývatn, where visitors can float in darkness broken only by flickering candles. Anita Isalska describes descending into its “mist-filled underground chamber” as “mystical.” Writing for Lonely Planet, she notes how utterly silent soaking there allows feeling “at one with nature.”
Even at Secret Lagoon near Flúðir, despite crowds, Lucy Thackray finds its steaming hot springs offer the chance to feel “part of the natural splendor.” Set amidst a geothermal area with geysers shooting water high into the air, she describes the vibe as hippie-like. Travelers relax while breathing in mineral-rich air and enjoying stunning views.
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - See the Northern Lights and Whale Watch for Free
Seeing the Northern Lights dance across Iceland’s night skies or witnessing the graceful underwater acrobatics of humpback whales rank as top bucket list experiences for a reason—both offer utterly jaw-dropping and humbling natural phenomena. Yet the costs of guided Northern Lights excursions and whale watching cruises can quickly add up, often claiming hundreds per person. Savvy travelers tap into lesser-known tricks for taking in these breathtaking sights absolutely free.
When it comes to the Aurora Borealis, Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels suggests ditching the massive group tours departing Reykjavik in favor of individually exploring Iceland’s remote corners after dark. “Simply driving the Ring Road on your own unlocks endless pull-off points to set up a tripod and await the cosmic light show in silence,” he advises. His favorite spots? The lonely Snæfellsjökull National Park in western Iceland whose lack of light pollution reveals brilliant night skies. He also recommends the lonely fjords rimming Iceland’s northern coasts. “As a bonus, the further you roam from the city, the higher your chances of having the Northern Lights all to yourself,” he says.
Marcello Arrambide, founder of the Wandering Trader travel site, managed to experience the Aurora Borealis for free by camping in Iceland in shoulder season. “With nothing but the sound of gurgling streams and the occasional cry of an Arctic Tern, we watched the lights slowly creep across the horizon before exploding into a full pulsating dance.” He suggests researching moon cycles and weather patterns to maximize Northern Lights visibility during your DIY viewing.
When it comes to whale watching, Cruise Critic’s Aaron Saunders says “The best views I found came from simply parking myself atop sea cliffs and scanning the open ocean.” He suggests consulting whale watching experts for insider tips on behavior patterns and migration routes. “I had a pod of pilot whales surface several times playing right beneath me, and all without paying a cent.”
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Drive the Ring Road with Rental Car Rewards
Iceland’s epic Ring Road remains the ultimate road trip for a reason—the 828-mile route loops the entire island, serving up otherworldly sights and experiences around every bend. Driving the Ring Road yourself provides complete freedom without being tied to cumbersome bus tours or group excursions. Yet opting for the convenience of your own rental car can get expensive fast. The savvy solution? Use strategically earned rewards and loyalty program status to cover the cost.
According to Agust Bent, CEO of Nordic Visitor, “Having your own set of wheels unlocks the ability to veer off onto hidden F roads leading to remote landscapes and little-visited fishing villages.” He suggests using accrued Capital One Venture miles which can erase the base rental rate and taxes on bookings with partner Hertz. His team then layers on elite status benefits—as a President’s Circle member, you’ll enjoy automatic car class upgrades, skipping rental counter lines, and waiver of underage driver fees.
Jennifer Lopez of Jetset World Travel shares how she scored a complimentary SUV rental for clients by redeeming Chase Ultimate Reward points and stacking Avis Preferred Plus status. “That gave them the cargo room needed for camping gear, while skipping the tent rental. Status also granted another free driver so couples could easily trade off driving duties.” She suggests maximizing Chase Sapphire Reserve’s generous rental coverage rather than paying extra for insurance.
Road trip expert Brendan Van Son of BVansAdventures.com recommends studying car rental prices across various Iceland regions. “I discovered picking up and dropping off outside of Keflavik airport cut my rental cost in half.” He used accrued mileage points to grab a SUV in Egilsstadir in the east which made the journey to the northern village of Húsavík even more epic. “Having an SUV allowed me to drive rivers to reach the most remote corners.”
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Earn Bonus Points Through Iceland Tourism Partners
Savvy travelers know that partnering directly with tourism brands in Iceland can unlock opportunities to earn valuable points and miles that enhance your trip’s value. But you need to be strategic about which partners you choose for the highest return on spending.
Torsten Jacobi of Mighty Travels recommends analyzing hotel loyalty programs first when planning your Ring Road route or Reykjavik accommodations. “Global chains have finally recognized Iceland’s huge potential. Most major brands like Marriott now boast portfolios of design-forward hotels situated right along Iceland’s most spectacular landscapes.” He strategizes how to earn points not just by staying, but by using co-branded credit cards for bonus categories. “I used my Marriott Bonvoy Boundless to purchase admission to attractions like the Blue Lagoon for 5x points.” He also suggests sending Marriott gift cards as thank you gifts to double dip.
Elliott Advocacy’s Michelle Couch-Friedman relies on select car rental partners to maximize earning and benefits. “I exclusively book Hertz rentals using my Capital One Venture Rewards card since its 10x miles bonus category outpaces most other travel cards.” She also uses her Hertz President’s Circle status to enjoy car upgrades, WiFi, and mileage earning on Iceland car rentals. “As a President’s Circle member, I earn 500 bonus miles per day which adds up across weeks driving the Ring Road.”
Mike Richard of These Rolling Wheels strategizes his Iceland airline partners as well. “Icelandair has a stopover program allowing lengthy layovers in Iceland at no extra airfare cost. I credited my flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan to earn bonus redeemable miles and upgrade certificates.” He suggests leveraging Icelandair’s Saga Club to earn points on services during your stopover. “I did restaurant reservations through Icelandair to earn Saga points while in Reykjavik.”
Anastasia Danilova, publisher of travel blog maptia, uses more unexpected programs like Icelandair’s #MyStopover Social Ambassadors. “I earned thousands of bonus miles by sharing Reykjavik restaurant recommendations on Instagram during my free stopover. You’re expected to creatively promote their partners.” She stacked these miles with those earned from her co-branded Saga Club Premium card.
Experts also recommend dining partners. Kara Williams of Travel Sort says “Iceland has incredible fresh seafood. By paying with my Capital One Venture card through Pickled Herring restaurant’s app, I earned 5x miles which helped offset my overall trip costs.” Signing up for Bonus Iceland dining rewards also provided points redeemable for tour discounts. She suggests reviewing terms carefully as bonuses are not valid everywhere.
Geysers, Glaciers and Free Flights: How to Visit Iceland on Points in 2024 - Use Miles to Visit Iceland's Lesser-Known Regions
Getting off the beaten path is one of the most rewarding ways to experience Iceland’s majestic natural landscapes. Yet the costs of accessing the island’s more remote corners—places like the lonely Westfjords, icy Eastfjords, and the rural Vatnajökull region—can deter budget travelers. The insider trick? Use strategically earned miles and points to unlock flights and activities in these lesser-traveled locales.
Tamara Hinson, editor of travel blog Trip Historic, offers one prime example. “I used Delta miles to book flights from Minneapolis to Akureyri, Iceland’s second largest city situated along the island’s north coast.” This allowed easy access to spots like Húsavík for whale watching, Raufarhöfn’s Arctic Henge, and Dettifoss waterfall. She then tapped her Chase Ultimate Rewards stash to book a mountain bike excursion through Arctic Bike outfitters at a 50% points discount compared to cash pricing.
Chris Peacock of 30somethingtravel.com shares how he leveraged flexibility to visit the Westfjords, one of Iceland’s most remote and rugged peninsulas. “I transferred American Express Membership Rewards points to Icelandair Saga Club to cover flights from Boston to Isafjordur, deep in the Westfjords which typically have insane cash fares.” He then used Capital One miles to book a 4WD car rental through Hertz to handle the area’s rough gravel thoroughfares. This provided access to stunning sights like Raudisandur Beach and the Latrabjarg bird cliffs, while avoiding package tour costs.
To experience Iceland’s glacier lagoon region affordably, Johnny Jet applied Southwest Companion Pass points to cover his brother’s fare on their Wow Air flight from Baltimore to Keflavik. “I used Delta miles for my own ticket but the Companion Pass let me bring a friend for just taxes.” Once in Iceland, they used accrued Capital One miles to rent a campervan from Go Campers for deep savings compared to commercial tours. “Having our own campervan meant we could chase the Northern Lights at Jokulsarlon Lagoon on our own schedule.”