Today I want to talk about our trip to Norway this past December. I know when I started posting up photos at least half of ya’ll were rolling your eyes and sighing “are they traveling again?”
The answer to that was yes! Our trip to Norway, while short, was one of my favorite trips of all time.
How did we even pick that place, you ask? Well, you can thank a bottle of wine and Google Chrome’s saved credit card information for that. I mean, I’m not saying I regret it, but I’ve definitely made more informed choices!
That being said, the number one reason I jumped on the flight tickets out there was because they were going for an awesome price- it was $335 round trip from New York to Oslo, so obviously we had to go! (Fun fact I accidentally bought two tickets for myself and had to have David call Norwegian Air’s help line to reticket his) How did I stumble onto these tickets? I follow a nifty website called travelpirates.com, which you’ll find is a recurring theme in my posts. I’m a sucker for good deals.
Once I started researching Norway, it became clear that some of the things they excel most at are winter activities. Duh. Since our trip was only a few days long, I booked us a flight straight up to Tromsø, north of the Arctic Circle, to get our money’s worth on our trip.
Sadly, it was too early to stay in an ice hotel (igloo?), but there was plenty of snow to be found. With an average temperature of 25 degrees (ok but really it felt colder) and daily blizzarding, it truly felt like we were in the arctic. Or, like, Canada.
Now, I don’t know if you guys know this, but Norway is an insanely expensive place to live/eat/play. We found this out to our detriment during our first meal, where our cheeseburgers and fries cost a cool $25/each plus tip. Luckily, most of our activities included food (reindeer stew!) so we didn’t have to pay often.
I’m going to divert here for a second and tell you guys about our hotel. I promised that I would explain to you how we get to travel so much, and while I didn’t use a ton of tricks for Norway, (aside from cheap planes tickets) I did do a few things to help keep costs down.
As anyone who has had to be near me for more than 10 minutes knows (Sorry Chrissy) I am super into the credit card reward game. I just started last year, but already it has helped make my travel…just…incredible. There are a number of really good travel rewards cards out there, but one of my favorites is called the Citi Prestige. Amongst numerous other perks, the card offers an unconditional “buy 3 nights get the 4th free” deal on all hotel bookings. And I mean all. That’s an automatic 25% discount on any hotel you’re trying to get. So that’s what I did! I called them up, had them reserve it for me, and a few weeks after I finished my stay, the money was back on my card, plus taxes. It’s a really sweet deal. We ended up staying at the Scandic Ishavshotel, which was centrally located and really nice. It even had heated floors!
Another trick I used, and I use the word minimally, was to find a hotel that served a full breakfast. This seems obvious, but in a location where meals routinely cost $50/pop (yes, even for breakfast), this really saved our asses. Happy and full, we were able to skate through the day without spending tons of other money on food.
Ok! Now back to the good stuff! By far my favorite activity was the dog sledding that we did on our first day. Now, Tromsø has some really decent tourist activities. They’ve also got a boatload of options for dog sledding expeditions. However, scrolling through the available options, there were ones of different difficulties, differing lengths, etc. If you guys have met me, you probably know that I’m the kind of girl to be like “oh yeah you gotta flip upside down then climb a mountain naked? No problem.” (Which is why I’m constantly injured). So, barely restraining myself from the multi-day dog expedition, I picked the full-day one. It was costly- but oh man was it worth it.
It was just four of us on the full length expedition. Well, the four of us and our guide, an Australian named Tim who was in Norway on his summer break. He had been coming up for a few years and knew extensively the surrounding locale, which was really nice. Also great was the fact that he spoke native English, which our Spanish companions didn’t seem to love. Whoops!
So, as we started out, he warned us that the snow had just fallen a few days before, and that it was possible there wouldn’t be any trails created for us to follow. Let’s just say that was an understatement.
Let me lay the scene out for you.
The vista spread out before us, a sprinkling of snow falling atop the dog kennels, where those who were left behind bayed with longing. “Now here,” Tim said, his Australian accent thicker behind his balaclava, “you simply step up onto the sled, and when you want to go you simply shout ‘yip!’ And the dogs will move. Does that sound ok?”
I nodded, bundled in my Arctic gear, barely able to move behind the layers of fabric. Jumping onto his sled, Tim signaled to his dogs, bounding away in a smooth line. I was next- the others behind me, and my heart squeezed with anticipation. Leaping onto my sled, I too, called to the dogs, a bright ‘Yip! Yip!’ That sent them lunging forward- at last- to run free through the snow, my sled bumping behind. I bent my knees and leaned forward, gasping in the freezing air and reveling in my freedom, when, abruptly, the sled stopped. I pitched forward over the top of it, catching myself on the bar and peering in front of me in confusion. What was going on? Behind me, the dogs of the other team started whining, and I narrowed my eyes- not believing what I was seeing. Yes. I, Carissa, the dog sledder of the century- had successfully raced my dogs across the moor- a full ten steps before my lead dog stopped to take a shit.
Grace is my middle name.
After that snafu, my team began to run again, and I quickly caught up to Tim, the rest of our expedition behind me as we raced through the wilderness. One of the first things I saw was a pack of wild reindeer, gallivanting away (lest we make them into soup). Soon, however, the trail ended, and the real work began. It is a little known fact that in the case of trail-less activity, dog sledding instead becomes sled-pushing-up-a-mountain-in-arctic-gear-ing.
Nevertheless, it was a blast, and we stopped at midday in the midst of the swirling snow to eat lunch. Perched atop reindeer pelts, we drank hot cocoa and ate chicken pesto sandwiches, a rare delicacy only found in such places as “Sub-way” and “Qui-znos”
Finally, once finished with our lunch, we climbed back onto our sleds for the last half of our rollick through the snow. In the winter, it never really becomes daylight, it only becomes “less dark,” and our time of “less dark” was ending quickly. (It usually goes from about 11am-1pm). Strapping headlamps to our heads, we took off, sledding for another few hours before turning and heading back towards camp.
Once returned, we peeled off our gear, which had performed admirably, and sat down to eat a traditional Sami meal in a traditional Sami tent. It was dark, smoky, and hot, and absolutely perfect after a long day of dog sledding.
Boarding our bus back home, we could barely climb up the metal steps. Dog sledding was exhausting, nerve-wracking, and a little dirty, but one of the best times I’ve ever had. Worth every penny.