Marrakech with kids, is very easy to do and a wonderful experience for families. From…
Lapland with kids
Our Lapland Experience
Lapland with kids can be an amazing experience! If you are planning your Lapland holidays 2019, read on to find out details on how to get there, the best Lapland tours for kids, all about Santa, Lapland reviews, what activities we recommend, and more!
We never realized there was an official Santa Claus Village until we had people mentioning it on one of our local facebook groups. We looked into it and behold, there is an official Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finland. It is basically THE North Pole, Finland! How had we not heard of this place before? We knew we had to visit Lapland and help others plan their Lapland experience in the future, because it took a lot of work to plan our DIY Lapland trip!
Time in Finland: 5 days
Locations: Helsinki, Rovaniemi, Katkavaara
Lapland Accommodation: Santa Claus Village
Location: Rovaniemi, Finland
Type of trip: DIY
Transportation: planes, trains and automobiles to get to our destination. No car rental at stay. We relied mostly on public transportation and two required taxi rides (due to bus schedule).
Traveled with car seats: No. We did not do a car rental and tour companies we booked with provided car seats for both children
We realized rather quickly that this was not going to be a cheap trip, however, we were going to try to make it more budget friendly by using money saved for trips avoiding third party travel all-inclusive travel companies and using a variety of travel methods, but also preserving the essence of why we were going to Lapland: to see Santa.
Where is Lapland?
Lapland is a region that stretches across the three Nordic countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Santa’s Lapland is considered Rovaniemi, Finland, the official town of Santa Claus.
Flights to Lapland
If you are flying from overseas, there are numerous connecting flights to Helsinki as well as some direct flights from certain locations straight to Rovaniemi, the official town of Santa Claus. For flights to Rovaniemi, you will likely be connecting out of Helsinki.
We flew from Munich to catch a flight to Helsinki. When we purchased airfare in August it was 100 euro roundtrip per person. The carry-on sizes for Finnair are generous but we ended up paying 40 euro roundtrip to get a checked bag for one person due to all the snow gear. We strongly suggest checking a bag if you are going in winter, if you have kids. We ended up checking our cabin bags for free at check in due to limited space and only carried on one bag onto the plane.
Finnair is a typical commercial flight. You get drink service and can purchase snacks at an additional cost. They also have duty free shop, and it’s tempting to purchase things as you fly to Finland. However, you will find everything much cheaper at kiosks and gas stations. Fazer chocolate is the Finnish chocolate and its everywhere. Licorice candy and ice cream is also a must if you like licorice (nothing like Twizzlers in the US).
Traveling with A Baby to Lapland
When we travel on flights, I am lucky to be able to breastfeed my infant on takeoff and landing and pretty much every other time. If you breastfeed and are flying overseas or within Europe make sure you know how to successfully travel with breastmilk, if you plan on bringing it.
Lapland is cold. Especially in winter. And babies can’t tell us how hot or cold they are. The basic rule of thumb is to have an additional layer for babies than you would for yourself. In this case 3-4 layers for baby in the winter months is ideal for Lapland winters.
Traveling with a baby doesn’t have to be hard either, particularly if you’re a mom. Check out some great travel gifts for mom before traveling to make it just a bit easier.
Arrival in Helsinki
The flight was about 2.5 hours, no delays. Once we landed we had three hours to get to our overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi. Once at the airport, we followed signs for the local train and there were plenty of people on the platforms to assist. Our destination from the airport was Helsinki (Helsingfors), the main train station to catch our sleeper train to Rovaniemi. The train ride is 28 minutes and each stop is displayed on a screen along with the time of arrival so no worries about missing any stops.
The main shopping street is a 5-minute walk from the train station, and there is plenty to do. A huge shopping area is across the street from the train station with numerous food options, though be aware of which day and time you are traveling because our arrival on a Sunday meant a lot of shops closed at 18:00 if not a bit earlier.
We spent about 2 hours exploring the local area and got on our 18:14 overnight train to Rovaniemi. If you are lucky and have more time, check out this great way to spend one day in Helsinki.
The Finnish sleeper train
We opted for a sleeper train as we’ve never experienced this before and it sounded fun. Departure was Helsinki with Rovaniemi as the destination. The train runs at approximately 18:45 and 21:15 to Rovaniemi with a total time of 12 hours on the train. The train can be very exciting, so gauge when your kiddos go to bed to make the best decision on when to leave. Keep in mind, if you catch the earlier train, you have to wake your kiddos up before 07:00 the next morning to get off the train.
The train compartment is small, it is a bunk bed style and holds a European twin on the top and bottom. We had two adults, an infant and a 5 year old and we managed to make it work with all the beds. They have power outlets and hooks for coats. There is one pillow and one set of comforters on each bunk with a set of small and large towels and a bottle of water for each bed. Most luggage will fit under the bottom bunk. You can ask the reservation line what the available height is from floor to bottom bunk to determine whether your luggage will fit.
For booking, it is best to call the Finnish reservation line directly. We got quotes for the private bathroom and no bathroom, and found that the price was about the same. The private bathroom also has a shower that is hidden behind the large ceiling to floor mirror/washbin, as it folds forward toward the toilet and a small showerhead is behind it. There is a food car on the train, which contains a small restaurant and seating area. Coffee, tea, juices, pastries, porridge, sandwiches and a variety of other typical bakery items were among the choices.
Tip: With small children, opt for the private bathroom compartment, it helps immensely with children.
Tip 2: Ask for netting when reserving. They will place on a netting on the bottom bunk and straps on the top bunk to keep children from falling out.
How early do you need to book accommodation?
We booked in early August for our late November trip to Santa Claus Village. This was the perfect hotel for us because it is in the village with two Santa’s, a husky park, snowman world and a host of other activities for families. If you want other hotel options, search here –> for hotels in Rovaniemi. If you want to book Lapland in December, we have seen people book a year out in some cases. Lapland travel is very popular in the winter months and especially if you are planning on visiting Finland in December and want to spend your holidays in Lapland.We chose late November primarily because it was close enough to the holidays to get the Christmas feel, but it also avoided the higher costs that begin on December 1, which also require half board (breakfast and lunch). Since we had additional trips in mid-December this would be the best option for us.
However, there are a few caveats with booking at this time of year:
1) Snow. There might be very little, or even no snow. Surprising isn’t it? After speaking to numerous Finnish people, it turns out that late 2018 was the worst year for snow in 60 years. We got about 2 cm of snow while we were there, but definitely not enough for us to continue with some of the traditional excursions the area is known for.
2) Timing. A lot of additional things begin on December 1st, but they were not concerning to us, we didn’t mind. For example, the overnight train from Helsinki has holiday decorations beginning December 1st, but according to the Finnish reservations line themselves, “you will be sleeping, it doesn’t matter when you go, the decorations are just an extra.” Second, the Santa Claus Express bus in Rovaniemi has two additional hours of stops after 16:30. Third, Lapland Safaris, one of the most popular tour companies, does not operate husky and other rides until December 1st. However, lots of other ones do! Click –> here to find activities in Rovaniemi, the same site we used to search, and read on to see which ones we chose specifically keeping the ages of our kiddos in mind and their cold weather tolerance!
Lapland Tours and Excursions
We were going to Lapland with children so we had to keep in mind their ages, attention spans, weather tolerance and general personalities.The main excursions for just a few days stay include husky snow sleigh ride, reindeer ride, northern lights tour, others include snowmobiling, ice floating, ice fishing, snow shoeing. Once you go to the website of one tour operators, you start to see the numerous excursions offered. If you are going for 3-4 days, you will likely get about 1 maybe 2 excursions a day. Why? Sunlight is limited.
In August, after researching and calling places nonstop, we booked a Northern Lights tour, a 45 minute snow husky ride and kennel visit, an ice fishing trip a 3km reindeer ride, and (tentatively) Santa Park in advance. However, various circumstances including lack of sufficient snow and my husbands “why are we taking our 9 month old and 5 year old to see the northern lights at 1am?” question, resulted in us doing a 30 minute autumn sleigh husky ride, a 400 meter reindeer ride, ice fishing and Santa Park. We wanted to make our Lapland experience amazing even if there wasn’t going to be enough snow!
Tip: If going with younger children, 30-45 minutes on the huskies or reindeer is enough for them. Sitting still for longer may not be fun, wind or cold wise for them , and may hamper the experience.
Here are the excursions and activities we ended up doing:
- 30 minute Husky ride and husky kennel visit- Bearhill Husky.
- This was an autumn sleigh (due to the lack of snow), basically a cart for 2 people (1 driver and 1 sitting) or in our case, me sitting with my 9 month old strapped to me in the baby carrier and my 5 year old in my lap while my husband drove.
If there was snow, we would have done this tour company as well. They provided car seats for both my children (rear facing), so this was a sticking point.
- Reindeer ride at Santa Claus Village.
- We emailed the village operators and reserved a 3km sleigh ride originally (about a 45 minute ride I was told). We received an email a few days before we left on our trip and were told that only a 400 meter was available on stored snow. No reservation required. We did this the morning we arrived. It lasts about 8-10 minutes, but it is very nice and sufficient for small children.
- Ice Fishing- Lapland Welcome.
- The company drove us about an hour to the city of Katkavaara where we went out on a frozen pond. They provided an infant seat (though front facing) for my infant, which had me worried for a full hour each way, and a booster for my 5-year-old. I did speak to the owner several times and I assumed he knew the infant car seats would need to be rear facing. However, the car seat was convertible and forward facing, so this was my bad in the end. If you go with this company for anything, you need to demand a rear facing seat for small children. Any child unable to sit up properly would not have been able to go on this excursion due to this oversight. The ice fishing itself was fun. It was catch and release fishing. There was an enclosed area where they brought lots of food to grill.
Tip: Lapland Welcome will provide food for those with dietary restrictions.
Here is what we booked originally:
Northern Lights Tour with Lapland Welcome. They had among the highest reviews on Trip Advisor, they would provide an infant car seat and a booster for my 5 year old, and the length of the tour provided the largest window of time for viewing the northern lights. We cancelled because the tour would last until about 02:00 and we didn’t want to risk not seeing the lights and have our young kiddos frozen and out so late. If we had older kiddos we would likely do this tour with this company.
45 minute Husky ride with Fee Lapland. This one provided a husky kennel visit and a 30-45 minute snow sleigh husky ride. However, this tour company does not provide car seats, and we were originally going to bring them with. In hindsight, due to the lack of snow and us going with Bearhill Husky, we didn’t have to bring any car seats. If you do bring seats, this company and Bearhill Husky should be considerations.
Tip for Northern Lights: Download the Aurora app. Also do some research into when you are going. Lights will be visible beginning in late autumn through late spring. However, we are currently in a minimus for the aurora so chances of seeing them are generally smaller, but still very possible.
We also heard great things about the tour operator Lapland Safaris, however, they do not begin many of their tours until December 1st, so this was a no go for us.
This is a must do for anyone with small children. It is in an underground bunker. Times are 10:00-17:00 (5pm) every day. If you go after December 1, you can catch the Santa Claus Express back to the village. Otherwise the taxi ride is about 10 euros. The village is a 4 minute taxi ride away. Tickets are good for 2 consecutive days. They have a VIP option, which I don’t recommend. Even after you add up all the extras, it is so much more expensive.
Lunch buffet was about 17 euros/adult, and the best food we ate during our entire stay. They have a Santa show and an elf school (both last about 20 minutes and have posted times).
The Santa visit is great, you can take videos and pictures on your own phones/devices. You can also purchase the photos and videos they have taken. Lines were very short when we went, experience was great. Santa asked a lot of questions and engaged very well.
How much sun is there in Finland in winter?
There is sunlight in late November. Beginning around 09:30am is when you started to see light, 10:30am was sunrise, and the sun started to set around 14:00 (2pm) and the last rays of sunlight were around 15:30 (3:30pm), though it starts to get dark around 15:00, you still have some rays until 15:30. The sunset lasted over an hour and a half one day, it was a brilliant sky with red, oranges and pinks for well over an hour. So there is light during this time and while it’s not sky high, it peeks over the horizon and there is plenty of sunlight from sunrise to sunset to do activities.
Santa Claus Village
This was a bit costly. Beginning December 1 for any given year, if you book a classic cottage, they require half board which increases the price. Since we went end of November, we only had breakfast included, got a classic cottage (no cleaning services during stay) and paid 657 euros for 3 nights. If you book between November 1 and March 31, it is non-refundable and no cancellation. They do have several options for staying at the Village including extra for cleaning service and even winter packages.
There are several restaurants on site, one of which is included in the breakfast portion. Upgrade to Three Elves restaurant is available for an extra fee.
Santa’s Village is the best option if you want to ensure you have a Santa Claus experience and that you get transfers with companies for activities (many of which are included). If you ever only go to Rovaniemi once, this is the best option. However, if you plan on going more than one time, it may be wise to see if there are any Airbnb’s in the area. Also, if you are traveling with a baby and considering a cot, check out this guide on some of the best baby beds for travel.
Meet Santa in Lapland
There are two Santa’s at Santa Claus Village, one Santa at the Main Post Office located in the middle of the village. For this Santa, you may pre-purchase a toy from a list the staff can provide you with before you meet Santa.
The second Santa is located at Christmas House. The Santa at Christmas House was by far the best Lapland Santa experience we had from 3 Santa’s that we saw (including Santa Park). We had pre purchased our own gift at the Christmas House gift shop and stealthily slid the gift over to the elf helper before our meet and greet. NOW, lots of folks had varying experiences, this may be due to who is on duty. It isn’t something they announce, but they seemed much more helpful at Christmas House. Christmas House is probably the best place to see Santa in Lapland.
Tip: If you are staying at Santa Claus Village, be sure to show your room card for additional discounts at the gift shops at the Village!
Dressing for Finnish Winter
If you are going to Lapland,figuring out what clothes to wear, how many layers and how to dress a baby was an experience in itself. We are doing a whole separate post called “Dressing for Cold, Skiing or Arctic Weather” to help guide you. It took a lot of research and trial and error on our part! But, if you want to dress a baby for Arctic temperatures, this post is for you!
Want to head somewhere warm?
If you are looking for a warmer getaway consider taking a look at our Marrakech with Kids post to get details on how to get there, where to stay and more!
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