Last year, around August, I got the proverbial bee in my bonnet about doing THE Santa trip. You know, the one to Lapland where they can meet Santa in the Artcic Circle. (Warning this is the start of a rant) Surprisingly, I had quite a few people respond with eye rolling when I told them I was planning this. Said folks thought it was cheesy and not hip, I guess. But I have found that people who obsess about being hip, fashionable or trendy are generally their own worst enemies. They spend so much time worrying about the perceptions of others that they forget to actually experience anything or have any fun. So, if you are one of these people, let it go. (Cue annoying music and end of rant)
The truth is that you have a limited amount of time to do certain things with your kids before they become teenagers and hate you. ( And believe me, you will NEVER be hip enough to impress your own teen. OK OK I’m done.) They will only enjoy a trip to Disney with the family for so long. Soon enough they will simply tolerate family vacations, rather than looking forward to them. And their interest in Santa is even more short lived. You probably are looking at a top age of 9 or 10 for that…and that’s pushing it. So, if you want to have that magical experience of seeing Santa in the Arctic Circle, then you should do it when your children are between 3 and 7. These are the ideal years. So what would stop you from packing your bags this Christmas and hopping on over to Finland? Let me guess it in 2 words: THE COST. Thus, the aforementioned allusion to mugging.
Can You Avoid the Mugging or is it Inevitable? :
When I first started looking at taking the plunge and heading to Lapland, I started with the Internet…as one does. What I found was a plethora of organized trips by large and small travel companies. Despite this plethora of options, there were lots of down side. As previously mentioned the first and most prominent was the cost, which was astronomical with all of them. Some were offering a 1 day offer that was £2400 for a family of 4. Let me say that again. This was a trip suggesting going to Finland for ONE DAY. Would you go to Athens for just one day? No. It’s about the same flying time. Only a real masochist, or someone with a system full of dopamine, would take this on. Of course they did have options for more days which was a bit more economical on a daily basis but was just this side of having someone steal your credit card.
That was the biggest downside, but it wasn’t the only downside. I also found that all these trips, as is true with most organized tourist trips, were packed to the gills with activities that you may or may not want to do. As I hate to be herded around like just another sheep, and I have authority issues anyway, these are not the sort of trips that appeal to me. If you like a cattle prod kind of experience, then this might not bother you but be sure about it before you take the plunge.
The last downside was an availability of dates. Most of the offers fell at times that just didn’t work well for kids in school. It was hard to find Friday, Saturday, Sunday options, or Saturday, Sunday, Monday options. For parents, that’s difficult, as schools are unlikely to balk about your kids missing a day of school, but get more uppity about 2 or more days of unexplained absences. This puts parents in the unfortunate situation of either getting adversarial or making up illnesses, deaths or a number of other creative lies.
But all of this is NOT necessary because there is an alternative to the purchasing an organized trip, which is simply to do it yourself. This is a lot easier than trip organizers would have you believe. In fact, it’s quite simple. The easiest option is the one most of them offer, which is going to Rovaniemi, Finland..the home of the Santa Claus Holiday Village.
So how does one do this?
Step One, you book a cabin at the Santa Claus Holiday Village at a time that is convenient for you and your children’s schedule. These are wonderful little cabins, complete with sauna, that are actually in Santa Claus Holiday Village. You can book this online. There are a number of packages available but if you in early December you can get a decent deal. In fact, you can get a cabin over New Years for £900 for 3 days which includes free Airport Transfer, buffet breakfast and half board dinner.
Step 2, book your own flight. If you do this, you have the option to use air miles or points or whatever. We didn’t have anything that worked for this route so we simply flew with Finnair. Airfares can be reasonable if you are willing to do a little research and put in a little work. For example, we went on the last weekend in November, and we paid around £850 for the four of us.
Step 3, take the hotel’s airport shuttle directly to the cabins. This is easy and impossible to screw up. They meet you at the airport in elf suits with big signs. If you manage to get lost in the tiny Rovaniemi airport with several elfs waiting by the front door with a big sign saying “Santa Claus Village”, then you should never walk out your front door.
Step 4, book your own activities directly through the hotel. This way you can choose your own schedule and only do the things that everyone really wants to do. We booked several activities directly with the hotel, but there is an attached report from my son Lucas coming later, which will explain more about that.
Final Cost. Once we factored in everything, including the purchase of souvenirs, the trip ended up costing us around £2600 for 3 days. Sure, it’s still not cheap, but you have more control over your activities and you feel less like you are getting mugged. So when Santa comes to your cabin to see your kids, everyone is happy to see him, including the adults.
I have said a lot about cost here. But I feel like I should spend a moment on something other than cost. This was a really magical trip for our family. This place is close to nature. Even with the lights and the kitsch and the roads, nature is still in charge here. The air is so pure that it feels almost like a different substance that what we breath on a regular basis. The same is true for the water. The magic for the kids went way beyond Santa. The novelty and excitement of being able to see the line that delineates where the Arctic Circle begins is not to be underestimated in its’ kid appeal. We also sat out in by a fire in the darkness, drank hot berry juice and later watched the Northern Lights flicker in a place with no light pollution. It was a once in a lifetime trip that the kids decided would have to be more than once in a lifetime. In fact, the children loved Finland so much that we went back to Finland the following April to ski in Levi…and without Santa.
So, to give you the good stuff, the next post will be my 9 year old son’s view on his trip to Lapland.