Lapland in December
A trip to Lapland is enthusiastically described on the talk boards as “magical” and “the ultimate once in a lifetime trip” – but it's also very cold and can be pricey. If you're going, chances are you'll only do it once, so read on to find helpful tips from Mumsnetters who have been there and got the (thermal) T-shirt
Where is Lapland?
One of the most beautiful and unspoilt countries on earth, Lapland is located largely within the Arctic Circle and spreads across northern Finland, Norway, Sweden and Russia. Finnish Lapland is the best known part – home to the big man in red, Santa himself.
What to expect
Is Lapland baby-friendly?
Of course people in Lapland have babies, but they are far more prepared for it and won't have spent the best part of the year saving for a trip, only to find said baby doesn't want to spend another minute outside (NB the majority of activities are outside). Many tour operators recommend visitors are aged over four years as the sub-zero temperatures and types of activities aren't suited to very little ones.
In December, daytime temperatures generally range from 0°C to -20°C, but it can fall as low as -40°C during a particularly cold spell. It will be dark too, with what is best described as a dull grey light between 10am and 3pm.
“The temp really does vary, it's been -28°C and -2°C in the same week. Please don't underestimate the cold, if you're doing all the husky dog/Santa's house-type activities, the kids will be sitting around at times outside, especially on the dog sledding, and once they're uncomfortably cold there's nothing you can do about it, so try to avoid at all costs!”
The national language is Finnish, although English is spoken by most accommodation providers and guides and in restaurants.
Food and drink
You'll find international food in most hotels and restaurants although bear in mind food will be imported so choices might be limited. Pack your own snacks to keep your family well fed – cereal bars, chocolate, hot chocolate sachets and a flask, crisps, fruit etc.
It's going to be cold, very cold – so pack accordingly. Depending on your package, you might have a 'gala' dinner included. Don't worry about taking your best frock and heels with you. Jeans and a sparkly top will be fine.
“We took lots of layers including thermal vests, long johns, thermal socks, balaclavas, ski gloves etc plus those hand/foot warmer things. Our holiday provider gave us all in one snow suits and boots and we were never cold, on warmer days we would actually undo the zip at times.”
Flying time: 3 hours from London Gatwick
Time difference: GMT +1
Rovaniemi: Lapland's capital and Santa's home town. There's plenty of accommodation to choose from including Santa's Village.
Saariselkä: Right at the top of Finland and Lapland, approximately 250km inside the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Ocean is just a few hours drive away. Great for winter sports: snowmobiling, husky safaris, reindeer sleigh rides, skiing and tobogganing. A true winter wonderland.
Kittila: Situated a couple of hours north of Rovaniemi, more than 100 kilometres inside the Arctic Circle and home to the largest ski network in Lapland. The main holiday hub is Levi, a compact town that has a similar look and feel to a European ski resort. Yllas is a small village in the Kittila region which only has a handful of shops and restaurants.
“We stayed in Saariskelka – a really quiet resort where the only people you see tend to be tourists dressed like you in their snowsuits. It was lovely to be in such a silent place, toboganning in the dark.”
How to get there
Choose to take a package trip with a tour operator (more on that later) or arrange your own trip, flying into Helsinki and connecting on to Lapland on a further 80 minute flight.
Unmissable Lapland offer three night stays in Ruka village, with return flights leaving from Birmingham airport on 7 December. Prices start from £1,295 per adult and £1,195 per child aged 2 – 11. This includes complimentary snow suits, boots and gloves (as well as a drying cabinet in your room to make sure it's all warm and dry every morning), all your meals, transfers from the airport, meeting reindeer and huskies, a snowmobiling excursion and a private family meeting with Father Christmas.
Unmissable Lapland are also offering Mumsnetters an exclusive 5% discount on their trip, plus some extra perks.
Use code MUMPARK for 5% off and free valet parking at the airport, or MUMSNOW for a 5% discount and a free family pass to the snow park located near the hotel.
Call 020 7428 1221 and quote your code of choice to book, or take a look at the Unmissable Lapland site for some more information.
Santa's Lapland (Esprit Ski)
Santa's Lapland offer three or four night stays with flights from London Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh, East Midlands and Bristol. Accommodation is offered in Saariselkä (see above). The price for three nights starts from £5,036 for a family of four (two adults and two children). This includes return flights, accommodation on a B&B basis with half board available, an outer snow suit, transfers in resort, activities, plus a private meeting with Santa.
TUI offer day trips to Kittila plus three and four night stays in Levi, Pallas, Luosto, Saariselka or Yllas. Day trip prices start from £450 per adult and £450 per child. The price includes return flights and, on overnight packages, accommodation, an outer snow suit, a gala dinner and range of activities is also included.
Day trips to Rovaniemi are available from six UK departure airports. Prices start from £400 per person and include thermal snow suits and boots, plus entry to the parks, lunch and activities. Overnight stays are based in the holiday resort of Levi with five different hotels to choose from. Prices start from £757 per person and include return flights, self-catering or B&B accommodation, thermal snow suits and boots and a selection of activities.
Canterbury offers day trips as well as longer trips ranging from two night Santa tours to six night New Year stays in Lapland in the resort of Luosto. Prices for a three night trip start from £1402 per adult and £1302 per child aged 2-11 years. This includes return flights from either Gatwick or Manchester airports, accommodation on a full board basis including a Festive Gala dinner on one of the evenings, thermal snow suits and boots, a range of activities, plus a private family meeting with Santa.
Day trips are also available from various regional UK airports, priced from £575 per adult, £510 per child aged 4-11 years and £490 per child age 2-3 years.
“I will always remember riding on a husky-drawn sledge in the dark, cuddling my daughter and seeing a shooting star.”
What to do
The main draw for a visit to Lapland – so it's essential that you know how you'll meet him. On some day trips Santa meets all the children at a dinner, others organise a one-to-one family meeting, either at a hotel or at the end of a Santa safari. If you're booking an organised tour, check exactly what is offered. You don't want to unexpectedly find yourself at the end of a 100 strong queue to meet the big man.
There are a number of other options including a visit to Santa's home town of Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, where you can meet him at his office or at Santa's Park or head out on a private tour to Joulukka deep in the Arctic Circle.
Santa's Post Office, Rovaniemi
Another option to meet Santa, and the key thing here is to arrange for him to send your child (or others) a letter complete with a Lapland postmark and stamp.
You think it's all about Santa, but when you get there you soon realise it's not – it's all just so magical. The thick almost constant falling snow, the real reindeer with snow covered antlers, the picture postcard snow scene surroundings…
Crossing the Arctic Circle
Marked out in Rovaniemi, this is fun for children to cross and a good photo opportunity. Some tours provide a crossing certificate.
This is best seen in rural areas with little light pollution so head outside of Rovaniemi. The small ski resorts work well for northern lights trips as there are snowmobiling/ snow shoeing tours straight from the resorts into the wilderness.
Snow mobiles, husky sleigh rides, reindeer sleigh rides, ice-karting, ice fishing, snow shoeing – there are, naturally, plenty of snow and ice based activities. The tourist board is a good starting point for information or check with your operator.
The ski season in Finland runs from late November until early May. The best ski resorts for families are:
Pyhä-Luosto: An authentic unspoilt Lappish resort situated just north of the Arctic Circle and surrounded by Finland's oldest national park. Recently voted Finnish Ski Resort of the Year.
Ruka Ski Resort: Located in north east Finland and one of Finland's major ski resorts. Surrounded by stunning wilderness, the resort offers a variety of trails, adventure slopes and quieter slopes. Ruka's ski school offers private tuition with English speaking instructors.
Lapland is a special window in every child's life where the magic is REAL! Before all the children at school ruin the magic they can go and have a once in a lifetime brilliant experience!
Mumsnet carries some affiliate marketing links, so if you buy something through our posts, we may get a small share of the sale (more details here).