Last week we had an amazing adventure in Lapland. It has been a great dream of mine to visit Lapland and last year I persuaded my husband that time was running out for the opportunity to visit Santa Claus whilst Christmas is still full of wonder and magic for both children. He eventually agreed that we could book for December 2019, even if he did nearly cry at the price of the 2 night break. We’ve paid less for a week’s all inclusive holiday, but I sold it to him as a once in a lifetime experience that we will all remember forever, and I was absolutely right. I booked our holiday through Travel Councillors and Diane was wonderful, she even sent us presents for the kids with our tickets. Nothing was too much trouble and all perfectly organised.
So, onto the holiday itself. We arrived at Newcastle airport very early, ready for the 8:30am flight. Our 2 children are very lucky and we often do long haul flights, so the 2 ½ hour flight to Finland was absolutely fine. We all marvelled at the beautiful snowy scenes as we flew over Norway and Sweden. When we landed we were told it was -6 degrees and snowy. The whole plane was excited to be landing on the snow covered runway. On went the hats, gloves and boots before walking off the plane. Although to be honest it didn’t feel any colder than it did at home. Snow flakes were gently falling and this added to our excitement. At the airport, there were some very cheeky elves who were causing mayhem and the children were agog watching them whilst we waited for our luggage. It certainly kept us entertained. Arriving at any other airport in the future will be a disappointing experience.
We were greeted by the Santa’s Lapland rangers who told us which coach we were on and it was all so wonderfully organised. We even got to meet a reindeer on our way to the coach which was just a taster of what was to come.
A short coach ride later and it was like stepping out of the wardrobe and into Narnia. Saariselka is a small ski resort in the North East of Finland. The snow covered firs were dotted everywhere and it really was a winter wonderland. The children were enamoured with the snow as it sparkled like glitter and it was powdery soft. We all found ourselves being compelled to roll around in it and make snow angels. We were kitted out with snowsuits, boots, woollen socks and huge mittens. With the additional layers that we had packed of thermals and fleeces and ski socks, we were ready for the snow. During the afternoon that we arrived, it became stormy with the snow whipping around our faces so we were thankful that we had packed the warm hats and snoods to cover our faces. Even though it was 4pm, the light went and it became so dark, very quickly. The sun wouldn’t rise again until about 10am the next day.
After playing in the snow we took a couple of the readily available sledges and went off to find the toboggan run. It was a 5 minute walk from the hotel and the children loved the fact they could be pulled along. It was the only way to travel for these guys. The run was part of the ski slope and it was busy with families enjoying sledging down the big hills. It is one of our favourite memories of our trip.
The next day was our Search for Santa day, which is when you do all of the fun activities as well as meeting the big man himself. Now it’s important to remember how long it takes to layer up and put on the artic suits. We completely underestimated how long it took and nearly missed our coach to winter wonderland but thankfully we made it and we sang Christmas songs all of the way to the very special place in the forest (about 20 minute drive). We were very lucky with the weather and it was a tropical -1 degrees. The day before there had been a blizzard and we had been told it was -24 degrees in the forest, so we were very grateful and we were able to walk around without gloves on, making capturing the memorable moments easier.
The big five activities of the day were Igloo Fantasia (an amusing cheeky elf show in an igloo), reindeer sleigh ride, reindeer training centre (another amusing show), husky sledding and the biggest one being the snowmobile ride through the forest to meet Santa Claus.
Apart from meeting Santa, husky sledding was our favourite activity. Both Nick and I had the opportunity to drive the sled through the forest and we got to meet the dogs afterwards. The huskies are beautiful and were so excited to see us, they couldn’t wait to get running. They are also very well loved by the staff and I got a few licks before having to drag ourselves away from them. There is the option to spend a full hour with the huskies the following day but for us the taster session was enough.
Meeting Santa was purely magical. I watched most of the meeting through blurred eyes because it was everything I had hoped it would have been. Firstly, the elves are brilliant and make the whole experience fun and engaging. Santa himself is wonderful and authentic. Not a “hohoho” was muttered and he was the most gentle man with an amazing Finnish accent. I just wanted to reach out and touch his beard that curled all the way down to his tummy. The children were star struck and to be honest so was I. Although it didn’t take long for Trudy to find her voice and tell him how naughty the elves were at the airport. Before we had taken our trip, Santas Lapland had provided us with special letterheaded paper for the children to write their Christmas wishlist. We then had to hand our ‘magic ticket’ (being the letters) to one of the rangers as we boarded our snowmobile. Miraculously, Santa took out from his pocket the children’s letters. They were astounded that they had reached him. Thankfully Santa was a wise man and said he would look at the letters with his elves and see what he could do but it was unlikely he would be able to provide everything……. Thank you Santa! The meeting finished with a lovely wrapped present for each of the children, with strict instructions not to open it until they got back to the hotel room and photo opportunities. The photo with Santa has now been turned into our family Christmas card for this year.
After our very busy day, that we will forever be thought of as the best day ever, we had a quick change at the hotel, ready for our Christmas gala dinner. The children had a little party and we all became fully acquainted with the words of 12 Days of Christmas and all of the actions. This has now been incorporated into my festive children’s yoga sessions. We all had a lovely evening and were exhausted when we hit our beds.
The next morning was spent visiting the swimming pool in the hotel which had a waterslide and pool toys so it was a winner with the kids. We also went sledging down the hills surrounding our hotel and buying souvenirs to remember the amazing trip. We didn’t have to hand in our hired suits until we left so we could still play out and be warm. We were then taken on our coach to the airport, we were all sad to be leaving. Ivalo airport is very small and with only one gift shop. Any hopes of some duty free shopping were quickly dashed.
When we landed home, it was with heads full of precious memories (and photos) that we will treasure forever. From the simple pleasures of playing in the snow to meeting the real Santa Claus, it was a trip of a lifetime. I am so pleased that we did it because it has kept the magic fully alive and the children were the perfect age. Sam is 8 years old and Trudy has just turned 5 years. I understand that you can take children from as young as 2 years but I wouldn’t recommend it for such little ones. Sam is at an age where he enjoyed all of the activities, fully understood everything but was young enough to be completely enthralled by the elves, Santa and the whole experience. In my opinion, Trudy was just about old enough to cope with the cold, to enjoy the activities (a little bit small for the skidoo but she managed) and to fully remember our trip.
We booked our holiday through Travel Councillors. The trip was organised through Santa’s Lapland who are operated by Inghams. We stayed in the 4 star hotel Santa’s Holiday Club in Saariselka for 2 nights and 3 days.