Last December we were able to make our family dreams come true with a visit to see the man himself – Father Christmas. A long dreamed for holiday like no other we had a real sense of getting it right. Many an hour spent researching this magical wonderland and with so much to choose from I felt the pressure! Day trip or longer stay, Sweden or Finland, remote or resort and the decisions went on….. like with every travel choice its personal and depends on the needs and desires of your own individual family. Let me share with you some of the discoveries I made along the way.
Day Trip v Longer stay?
This was a tricky one, was there enough to keep the family interested for more than one day? Would it be so cold that we didn’t want to hang around too long? Could we justify the expense to extend the trip beyond a day after all it’s per night probably the most expensive family holiday we will ever do?! All these questions raced through my mind as I browsed posts, holiday websites and spoke to friends who had been to Lapland. In the end we opted for a three night stay for a number of reasons – I was keen that we experienced the whole Scandi adventure not just seeing Father Christmas (although this was the highlight:), when I researched the trips there is so much to do and thinking that we would probably only ever do this once it was great to have the time to pack more into our adventure too. The last and probably weakest point was I am not great at early starts and the idea of grumpy mum and tired kids on the day trip did not appeal. That said I know that many friends have had fantastic one day experiences and honestly at the end of our Day 1 I would have happily said “what an amazing time” because the magic sets in immediately! So think about what you want to do out there, what your budget allows, the age of your kids when deciding duration of stay. And don’t worry that there won’t be enough to fill a longer trip – because there is plenty of magic to experience!
Destination Lapland – but where?
Despite studying Geography for three years I am ashamed to say I didn’t realise that there is Finnish and Swedish Lapland. And within these regions a wide range of Lapland adventure destinations from the more remote and secluded locations far beyond the Arctic circle to south of the circle too. I had been to Sweden before so we opted for Finland and a location called Levi, a wonderful resort in the province of Kittilä. It’s an all year round resort but most famous for its ski slopes. It’s definately more commercial than some more remote locations but that suited us with access to a wide range of facilities and hotels but still having a real sense of isolation. Our flight into Kittilä airport being a wonderful reminder that we really where in the Arctic wilderness.
Package v own steam
It’s rare we take a package holiday, I love the act of planning a holiday nearly as much as being on it but this time package felt the right option. Unsure of the logistics of a holiday north of the Arctic circle I was probably a little less confident than when I embark on other trips. Now we have experienced it I probably would consider putting the various pieces of the holiday jigsaw together solo but actually for once structure and certainty allowed us as a family to really indulge in the sheer magic of the experience. There are a wide range of travel providers – from high-end bespoke offering small group based packages in accommodation ranging from luxury cabins to igloos to familiar package travel operators. In the practicalities of budget and logistics drove our decision but we were not disappointed. We travelled with Monarch on their Ready Steady Snow package from Manchester. Direct flights (many go via Helsinki), a great range of hotels (we chose the Levi Spa hotel in Levi) and a lovely mix of activities across the four-day stay at a sensible pace to enjoy and not tire. The package offers a selection of taster experiences of reindeer sleigh ride, husky sledge, tobogganing and snow mobile with the opportunity to book in resort for longer sessions and other excursions. I had been warned that the temperatures get very low and that longer experiences for younger children could be challenging so having the tasters with an opportunity to upgrade really appealed. As it happened that was enough for us and with an excursion to Santa’s village to make gingerbread cookies, visit Elf school and Santas Post Office topped off by a fabulous gala dinner at the hotel on the final night and a visit for the man in the red suit himself we couldn’t have asked for more!! The Monarch team were fantastic from the carol singing for kids on the aeroplanes tannoy system to the resort reps keeping spirits high on the coach excursions my natural tendency to shy away from organised fun disappeared – the magic of Lapland had worked it magic.
Whats a Girl to wear ? (and the precious brood)
Over the years I have got packing down to a fine art! Whether that be for a Scottish wet Easter break to a sweaty summer in Mallorca but Arctic conditions – well that’s another challenge altogether!! Here are my top tips for your Artic family adventure:
- Unless you are seasoned skiers don’t spend a fortune on ski wear for the trip. Most package deals include snow suits for adults and children. It will depend on the temperatures when you are there whether you need to wear them over ski wear or you can just wear the snow suits. We planned for the worst conditions and bought all of us some basic ski jackets and sallopets. Mountain Warehouse do a great range of starter kits including jacket, trousers, hats and socks.
- It’s all about the layers – start with some base thermals, then a longer sleeve t-shirt, a fleece, ski suit and if required a snow suit. (bear in mind I feel the cold!)
- When it comes to hats, let practical trump fashion! I had visions of some lovely cool bobble hats or fake fur ski hats but the way forwards is a balaclava and a casual bobble hat on top. We also found little silk neck scarves a great idea too.
- Socks, socks and more socks – layer again.
- Gloves – I read that silk inner gloves are a good idea so we purchased some on amazon, again didn’t go high-end but they made a difference on the colder days when we were outside for longer
- Foot wear – I couldn’t believe my eyes when we were dropped at our first location on the trip to get our ski suits and a lady tottered out of the coach in a pair of high heel boots. Now I like a nice heel but seriously on many levels this is not the way forwards… not least from a safety perspective but also you will find in the evenings after a long day out in the wilderness a comfy pair of relaxed flats or pumps is the answer for everyone. Again we all invested in some basic snow boots from Mountain Warehouse but we found that these were provided by Monarch with the snow suits so don’t need to be purchased if you don’t want to.
- Many people swear by hand and foot warmer inserts – we managed without!
- Be warned it will take you ages to dress a family in the morning so do plan in time to do this before you go on your adventures! Don’t cut corners to aid speed, we found you pay for it later when one of the kiddies is too cold!