Tips for travelling in threes – in Iceland and otherwise
We travelled to Iceland for eight days this April, just the three of us adults. Finding accommodations was complicated slightly by the fact that there were three of us, but for the most part didn’t pose any major issues.
We stayed in a combination of Air BnB rentals, hostels and hotel rooms. This was partially because we drove around Iceland’s ring road, and stayed in cities, very small towns and in the countryside, so options were varied. If we had stayed in only private rentals, we likely could have booked the accommodations based on two-person occupancy and never had to address that there were three of us.
Going in, I felt the need to be upfront about there being three of us when contacting Air BnB hosts as well as hostels, given the likelihood that they would see or meet us. I didn’t want anyone to think that we were trying to deceive them.
The thing is, even if you try to be transparent and even exceedingly clear and say that you only need one bed — size double or larger (it’s king-sized all the way at home but when travelling on a budget, you squish in) — for the three of you, and no extra blankets, people still assume you need an extra bed and lay out the linens as such. There is no way short of getting completely awkward with a stranger over the internet (a stranger whose lack of English proficiency may present additional hurdles) to explain your relationship in the context of a vacation rental and avoid the extra cost for the third person.
Here are some tips specific to the different types of accommodation you might consider:
We were turned down by a couple of hosts based on there being three of us. One stated “the bed was specifically built, by hand, for two people.” Uh, what? What if the three of us weigh the same amount as a couple who wants to stay there? There was clearly not an understanding there of the situation.
I avoided contacting hosts who would have had us staying in a room in their home. That could have been fine, to be sure, especially given that Iceland is quite a liberal country — but we didn’t feel like sullying our vacation with awkwardness.
Instead, I searched for apartments that we could have entirely to ourselves. There has been an explosion of tourism in Iceland and there are scads of Air BnB rentals available, however book early if you want to get your favourites. We missed out on a couple extremely cute ones (BEHOLD!).
As it was, we rented three places from Air BnB, but one was more of a camping experience. The other two were in or near Reykjavik; the first a tiny home in someone’s
backyard, and the second a downtown apartment. At the first, we met the host, though Justan was up in the loft bed when he stopped by so we could have just said there were two of us (we would have felt bad, though). At the second, we never met the hosts, nor did we use the linens they left on the couch. Here we likely could have just said there were two of us and been okay with it — we didn’t make any extra work for them, in fact because they thought we needed another bed made up there was more effort put in than needed. It’s very difficult to determine these things in advance though.
It is often not possible to book a hotel room for three and get one bed. Unless hotels have king rooms available and will allow you to bring a third person, it can be a risk to even inquire, because once you have disclosed the third person they will want to rent you a room with two doubles and may think you’re being sneaky if you refuse. We did get one room with a king when we stayed at an all-inclusive resort in Mexico for a friend’s wedding, but on this trip we didn’t risk it, especially since by the time we booked the rooms, availability was limited. I booked rooms at two separate hotels — one boutique hotel in a city and one family-run hotel in the country — for two people.
We stayed first at the country hotel. Andi and I went in for check-in to pay the remainder of the fee, then went down to find our room, found the nearest exit, propped the door open and snuck Justan in. We couldn’t go out to do much there anyway and it was evening when we arrived, so Justan just stayed in the room and drank beer. We had a queen-sized bed here, which was perfect except that it was really two twins pushed together — seemingly a fairly common thing in Iceland. I slept (hardly) on the crack. In the morning, Andi and I went to the dining room to scout the free breakfast, found only staff that wouldn’t recognize us, and texted Justan to join us. We all ate without issue.
A few days later, we stayed at the boutique hotel. This was trickier as it was a very small hotel, with an entrance directly to the front desk and stairs on the left leading up to the rooms — no big lobby, no crowds of guests. We got lucky and no one was sitting at the desk any of the times we walked in with Justan. Here, we had two twin beds on separate walls with built-in night stands between them. Andi and I squished together on one and Justan slept on the other. Again, we were able to all eat breakfast in the morning without issue.
We stayed in two hostels on our trip, one that belonged to Hostelling International, and one private hostel that was actually an old church. We tried to get a private room with a double or queen bed at the HI hostel, as they definitely had them
(unoccupied!), but because they didn’t understand what I was asking for, they wouldn’t let us. We instead got a room for four, with four twin beds. Again, Andi and I squished together (poor Justan). We had linens for three but only used two. We left the others folded and clean on the third bed.
At the private hostel, which slept ten, it was just the three of us. There were lots of beds to choose from and the host just gave us three sets of linens, so we were able to just use those on one double bed. This was ideal. We lucked out here! It was pricey though, for a hostel, but felt worth it since there was no one else there.
Hostels weren’t really that affordable because we couldn’t rent a double room, however it’s always nice to have the kitchen and be able to talk to other guests and the hosts. Both the hostels we stayed in were worth it, but they were some of the most expensive accommodations we stayed in on our trip.
Also, be advised that if you want to get the HI discount, you need a family membership or you each need one. I had thought since I had the membership and I was paying entirely for one room, I would get the discount, but nope — only for my single portion.
We didn’t truly camp on this trip, but it would be a great option in Iceland, specifically in the summer (although it doesn’t get dark at all starting around mid-May, and you might regret the absence of black-out blinds, which were included at every place we stayed!).
You could either rent or bring a tent and everything else, or rent the seemingly very popular Happy Camper vans, which we saw all over. I have to wonder how much gas those burn though. You gain a lot of elevation if you drive up in the north at all, so keep that in mind in the gas mileage context. Maybe the vans come with blackout blinds though! And bonus — no one to ask any questions about your sleeping arrangements.
We did stay at a sort of camping resort which we found through Air BnB, where we slept in an adorable hobbit pod. The pod was tiny and contained a table, bench and bed. The bed was the perfect size! I believe
it was a queen. There was a separate building with spartan kitchen facilities, including an outdoor wash station (brr!), as well as hot tubs and a wash house. A restaurant on site meant you could buy food if needed. This was a decent way to go and fairly affordable, in line with our other accommodations.
We didn’t look into any, but we saw tons around the country, especially in small towns. It just seems potentially very awkward…
This was one option that I really wish had worked out. There was a really cool girl in Reykjavik who I wanted us to stay with. Couchsurfing is great for meeting locals and getting tips on where to go. It’s a very social way to travel! Plus, it’s free. I did pay to verify my account so I looked more legit, and I’ve filled in my profile and made an effort to connect with any of my friends on there and get any testimonials I can. I think, though, that in order to be successful, Justan and Andi should have been verified members with profiles as well. I don’t think I could have convinced them to do this, but for the small amount of effort, if you travel often, this could be very worth it. Definitely worth considering! If you like meeting new people, especially locals, this is a really great option.
Have you travelled as a triad? Where did you stay? Did you run into any issues?