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"Meeting the real Santa in Lapland…"
Santa’s Lapland : Ivalo, Finland
This is perfect treat to get your kids mega excited for Christmas. It is the trip of any under 8’s dreams - to really meet Santa, see Reindeer, Huskies and Elves all in the snow.
The trip is a 2 night, 3 day adventure that is well paced and very much geared towards the children and as a parent you have to be prepared to play along with it. It also gives the chance to do and see things you might never have done outside a package such as this, it was really fun!
Day one - Travelling to Finland.
We knew we had hit the right gate in departures when we spotted the glare of the Christmas jumpers shining over the biggest herd of Trunkies we had ever seen. The flight was 3 hours and Santa actually landed his sleigh on the roof our plane, we definitely felt him, much to the delight and excitement of most of the passengers.
On arrival at Ivalo we were met by some pretty crazy Elves (hat’s off to the Elves of Ivalo, they really worked it well) and a reindeer who helped us get our luggage and guided us to the right coach. The transfer to Saariselka resort was a quick half hour and as we approached it there were more crazy Elves hanging off the sign in the snow to greet us. Excitement was reaching fever pitch levels.
Deep inside the Arctic Circle Saariselka gets extremely cold and is only truly light from 11am-3pm. But have no fear as special snow suits are issued to all visitors, along with boots, socks and gloves. They are amazing and they really keep you warm, and the issuing of them was very efficient and organized,
There are plastic sleds left at all entrances to buildings to use for children or luggage. Be warned -DS abandoned all thoughts of walking anywhere, being pulled along in a sled everywhere by his Dad was just too much fun. I felt for parents who had several kids. I saw one poor woman trudging long pulling three which is an art form itself. There is a really great toboggan run too that is totally free to use whenever you have any spare time. It was fun for all ages and even little children were bombing down at great speeds.
Accommodation – We stayed in an annexe of the Hotel Tunturi which is one of the older hotels on the resort. It was warm, clean and basic but fairly cramped and we had single beds pushed together.
The Tunturi housed the dining room for breakfast and dinner buffets. The breakfast was pretty good with fruit, muesli, toast, cooked breakfast, coffee, tea, etc. Dinner was adequate. The kid’s choices were always chicken nuggets and/or sausages and chips every day. DS thought having chips every single day was amazing. Beer and Wine was available to buy for parents but pretty pricey.
*Day 2*- Main Event Day
Coach pick up was at 9.15am with a ½ hour drive to Santa’s activity centre with group singing along the way. As you arrive you are allocated your time slot for driving the huskies and after that you are free to try a range of activities at your own pace.
DS went straight for driving his own Skidoo around and around a tree which was beyond his wildest dream of excellence.
After that we took a reindeer ride to 2 giant Igloos. One housed beautiful ice sculptures, hot chocolate and an ice bar. The other was barred by a giant snow ball which once removed by an army of excited children was revealed to be the Elf present sorting office. The crazy Elves did a great performance for the kids, with songs and interactions, and the kids totally bought it.
Then there was The Magic Sleigh Ride on a Skidoo sleigh. On our journey through the woods we came across some abandoned presents in the snow - could this be a clue? Around the corner a small hut appeared, along with a couple of snow balls. As the sleigh came to a halt we were besieged by a pair of pesky elves trying to sniff out sweeties in our bags. DS though they were so very crazy and funny. These Elves took us into the little log cabin and suddenly there he was, Santa himself. We sat around him and he got out the letter that DS had written to him himself, only a week before. DS had a very solemn little face, he could hardly breathe with excitement, he couldn’t say anything to Santa, he could only nod in agreement. At the time I was concerned that something was wrong but in hindsight he was just over-awed. Santa gave him a little present to open back at the hotel. The present was a small soft toy reindeer and DS was so very delighted with it he introduced it to all his other toys straight away as if they were at a cocktail party …
After meeting Santa we headed for the lunch hall, where there was a hearty Spag Bol for all, and then onto the huskie ride. I fell head over heels in love with the huskies. They were gorgeous. There were 5 dogs to a sled and 9 sleds. The dogs all get so excited before they set off, like ordinary dogs before a walk. We took turns to drive our own sled, which was so exciting and surprisingly swift – one of life’s truly great experiences.
There was still more to do. Ice Fishing, snow hockey (V good fun), tobogganing, standing up sledges and a great tent to pop into for hot berry juice and free pancakes with Jam and cream whenever the urge took you.
We were probably outside for around 4-5 hours, popping inside for lunch and berry juice. It is testament to the brilliance of the snow suits we did not feel the cold.
I had booked an extra Skidoo safari to see the northern lights that evening. We were issued helmets and, following a quick Daft Punk impression, were given instructions on how to drive the skidoo. Adults drove their own Skidoo’s while all the children went on a big sleigh driven by one of the tour guides. Driving was great fun but quite hard work. We did not see the Northern lights that night but driving through the magical snowy forest in complete darkness was breathtakingly beautiful and definitely worth the extra money.
That evening there was a special party for everyone with a premium buffet and games for the children whilst the parents could relax with a drink. There was a great hotel crooner in the bar later who could easily have been a character in the excellent but extremely dark Finnish Film Frozenland
Day 3 – 2 hours in the morning – Tobogganing for the boys, shopping for me. I got some beautiful Christmas decorations and mad flavoured Jellies as Christmas presents.
Overall this was a great trip. Santa’s Lapland was very well organized, the elves were really good and DS had the best time of his whole life. It is very much a kids trip but as an adult I absolutely loved the huskies and the skidoo safari, things I am not sure I would ever do if we hadn’t done it on this package.
Top tips – Bring good waterproof ski gloves, good thick socks and full set of thermals to wear underneath the snow suits. Best combo we found was thermals then trousers/fleece/ then snow suit on top
Try and go to the toboggan run as one of the first things you do to get into the swing of it.
Best ages for children age 4-8/9 or when they stop believing much younger and they won’t get it .
Bring a tablet loaded with movies for the quiet times in the hotel - the TV provision is all Finnish.
If you like a drink you can buy it much cheaper in the Supermarket.
If you do want to book an extra trip (and it was worth it) pre-book in the UK to save ££’s
Watch out for Buffet madness, I was a terrible buffet victim and ate far too much - just saying stay safe out there people ……
Manage your expectations on accommodation - think Premier inn then work down from there –however you are not in the room very much.
Leave plenty of time to get in and out of your snow suits and boots.
Do not go on this holiday if you cannot bear to hear Jingle bells, see Christmas jumpers, hate cold or snow or generally dislike Christmas or joining in on package tours.
Mumsnet was invited on this press trip for the purposes of review. For more information go to http://www.santaslapland.com/Read moreLess
"Magical - worth every penny…"
Lapland is magical, there is simply no other way to describe it.
But to start at the beginning, Mumsnet was invited to attend on a three-day trip to Lapland and I was lucky enough to be picked. We had to pull names out of the hat as so many of us wanted to go. I took my 7-year-old son Richard and we went the week before Xmas.
The flight is really really early so do be prepared for this, especially if you are travelling with really little ones.
The flight isn’t too long. I did panic when the Air hostess said we were now all going to sing carols as group participation isn’t me thang but in fact it was so sweet with all the children on board singing renditions of whatever their school nativity play had been. Bit like Nativity 2 but on a plane.
We arrived just before lunch but at this time of year Lapland only has five hours 'grey light' and darkness. You don’t need to bring your snow gear as all of this is provided for you by Thomson either at the airport or at the hotel.
You are met at the Airport by your 'elf'. Ours was called Snow Berry and I have to said probably the best elf I’ve ever met. Bit of a dude really, who then surfed in the Summer. The children in the group adored/worshipped him and just followed him like the pied piper.
The Mums just couldn’t remember his name and called him Beetle Juice/Berry Juice/Elf, all of which he took in his stride.
We were staying in the Snow Princess, which Thomson describe on their website as basic. It was basic, but actually very warm and cosy. Our room was larger than average with an upstairs mezzanine so a family of four would have been comfortable. It didn’t have a bath but it DID HAVE A SAUNA – how cool is that?
The only downside was the food. Extremely hit and miss, especially the children’s selection. Breakfast was fine with waffles you can make yourself and a good selection of various goodies but the rest of the meals, not so good.
Each day there are various activities dependent on what you have booked.
I have to say I would recommend them all.
The best was the Lapland experience. It was so interesting to learn more about the customs and legends of the indigenous Sami people. We also went on the Husky Trailblazer; I now have a new dinner table topic on driving Huskies, how cool is that?
I asked Richard what he liked best and he said it was the Ice hotel. This is an evening trip to the Ice hotel which, as the name implies, is a hotel completely built of ice. I liked its bar with the glasses made of ice for your vodka but I don’t think this is what he meant. It is a wonder and should definitely be on your life list.
Richard also loved the activities you could do there, such as snowmobiling for the kids and sledging and a ski taster for the little ones.
So on to the main event, that was the visit to Father Christmas. The children just lapped it up and were so sweet. Father Christmas was, well, just Father Christmas, simple as that. The children were enchanted. After your visit you can then go sledging, meet reindeer and go for a sledge ride. It's all very Christmassy and lovely.
When you are not out on trips there is the opportunity to play in the snow. Richard had never ever seen so much and really enjoyed just building snowmen, snow ball fights and sledging. The Snow Princess is near to town and there are a few good shops there. I noticed that whilst there were lots of Grandparents and big family parties, it worked as a holiday whatever your age.
We had the most amazing time, when we got back I looked up going back with my DD and DH and saw that already the hotel was getting full for 2013.
It was also the first time I’d travelled with Thomson, I’ve always shied away from the whole organized holiday thing but I was really impressed. The trip was very very well organized and the reps at the holiday were really nice. Not in your face in a red coat kind of a way, just fun to talk to and great at sorting things out which is really all you want. On the first night they organized sledging and marshmallow roasting at the hotel which was so so lovely.
Reading my review back I realize I have said lovely, enchanting and magical a lot but that is exactly our experience.Read moreLess
"OK - it was about 7 years ago now, but…"
OK - it was about 7 years ago now, but it was one of the most magical experiences ever. It was more than we would normally pay, but worth every penny. My daughter found an invitation to visit him from Father Christmas in our fireplace because he had heard she had been kind. We also took letters from all of her class when we visited him -so there was lots of preparation all adding to the excitement. I also particularly liked the fact that Canterbury Travel place a financial limit on what you can buy for FC to give to your child so that no child is seen to receive more than others. FC himself really did have twinkling eyes and he had the letter that my daughter had sent him (handed to the reps on arrival with the present)and although the elves were patently young adults with very rouged cheeks my daughter was totally convinced they were elves.
The activities were wonderful, no they didn't last long but were enough of a taster and the sort of thing that you would never do anywhere else, to be exciting. The whole trip was made worthwhile to us when my daughter said , when asked why she hadn't said anything to Father Christmas " I couldn't, I was too busy smiling inside."Read moreLess