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Reindeer-led sleighs, elves, kid-size snowmobiles, glass domes made for viewing the northern lights, and other things can be found in northern Finns. Santa's place of residence.
This trip embraces Christmas in a way that even Buddy the Elf would appreciate, from the moment the playful elves greet you in Ivalo, Finland, to when they lead you in Christmas songs on buses as you make your way to the Lapland region.
As my family and I went all in on the magic, we booked a package to see Santa in northernFinland last year. The journey to find Santa was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and helped bring some of the holiday magic back that had been missing during the coronaviruses epidemic.
Here are five things you need to know if you are going to face-to-face with Santa.
The part of the world that is remote, harsh and unforgiving is truly magnificent in a way that takes your breath away.
During the winter holidays, the midday twilight shines on a blanket of white snow and is something you have to see for yourself.
You'll find it hard to believe it's real if you go in search of Santa or just want to experience a place that looks like magic.
It was as fascinating as we had expected. We saw and did things that were outside of our comfort zone. We were surrounded by fur and elves.
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If you want to hit the easy button on planning, a tour may be the simplest solution.
Santa's Lapland is a three- and four-day trip from the UK to Finland.
Charter flights from the U.K., lodging and ground transfers in Finland, use of thermal snow gear, and a number of winter activities are included in the package. You will also have the chance to look for Santa's hiding place.
There are many destinations to visit in December.
It's possible to book add-on activities such as northern lights-viewing excursions and snowshoeing to enhance your experience, but if you're packing a lot of extras, you may want to rethink. Since the slopes are close by, I would only add on a few hours of skiing if I had to do it again.
The three-night "Santa's Aurora" journey for two adults and two kids required a little less than 6,000 pounds before we added additional activities, which cost between 25 pounds and 114 pounds per person. One of the more affordable two-day packages starts at 1,100 pounds and is available for children.
You can also plan your own adventure if you don't think shelling out thousands of dollars for a package is the right choice. This is what I would do to save money in the future.
Rather than book a package, I would most likely connect through the city of Helsinki. Last time I used ANA miles to fly business class to Europe and back for 88,000 miles per ticket. The Platinum Card from American Express can be used to transfer miles to ANA.
You can hop on the overnight Santa Claus Express train if you decide to take this route. While there are more budget friendly seats available, I would suggest paying a little more for a cabin as they have beds and private bathroom.
You can pursue any winter activity that interests you. Operators are available for dog sledding excursions. Schedule your preferred activities as far in advance as possible because they can fill up quickly.
The best places to view the northern lights are back.
If you decide to purchase a package to see Santa in Finland, be prepared to spend a few days there. You will know what time of year it is when you arrive and who you are in town to see.
It was obvious when we boarded the Jet2holidays plane that this was not an ordinary flight. Christmas carols were sung on the plane and there was lightning in the sky.
We saw naughty elves laughing and spinning around baggage carts as they sneakily sent our bags back on the belt and out of our sight.
They would throw snowballs and cause a lot of trouble, but it was always fun. You'll enjoy the experience if you lean into it.
If you haven't booked yet, what to do.
You can also book on your own the StarArctic Hotel, which was included in our package.
The Stararctic Hotel is located on the slopes of the northernmost ski resort in Europe.
We tried out two different lodgings during our stay.
The first night of our visit, we slept in an Aurora Glass Cabin that had a lot of windows to view the northern lights. The northern lights didn't show up for us, but we still enjoyed waking up to an unimpeded view of the snow covered landscape.
After a short stay in a cabin, we moved to a suite with a sauna for the rest of the trip. The four of us were a little tight, but it worked out. After an active day in the cold, our private sauna was a great place to relax.
This winter, there are igloo hotels to visit.
I assumed we would be passengers riding under the blankets with an experienced guide at the helm of the dog sled. Was I right?
The Point's Gully is named after Summer HULL.
We were in the driver's seat instead of being in a chauffeured vehicle. My daughter and I went down the snowy trails after a brief lesson. It was frightening and exciting.
Other activities here make them that much more fun to participate in.
We did not just head out on full-size snowmobiles with the kids in a separate cart, we did something else. My 6-year-old was given the chance to drive a miniature snowmobile attached to a pole. My daughter will remember it for the rest of her life.
There are places that feel like holiday movies.
All of our meals were included with the exception of some lunches. They were served buffet style.
The Point's Gully is named after Summer HULL.
The food was okay, but it wasn't the highlight of the trip. Chicken nuggets and french fries are available for kids at most meals, but expect the majority of the options to be more traditional Finn dishes. Salmon is a staple on the buffet.
Pack snacks and make a grocery store run if you have picky eaters in your crew.
Christmas markets in Europe.
Booking a package tour will allow you to be with other families for several days. You may come across a strong personality in your group if you pack a little patience and understanding.
For the majority of the time, this wasn't a big deal for us, as we were just happy to be here.
Everyone understood how unique a trip like this was, regardless of where they came from. They were just as excited as we were to see what we could do.
Here's our guide to 13 of the best holiday light shows in the United States.
You will be able to see Santa's house when you travel to the Lapland region. You will be able to see Santa for yourself.
At the end of a reindeer-led sleigh ride through the snow, we found some elves at an adorable red hut hidden in the trees.
I don't know if the elves were thrilled that we found such a special spot in the woods, but they welcomed us with open arms.
After missing seeing Santa in person in 2020 and traveling thousands of miles to try and find him in 2021, it was nice to be welcomed into his cottage.
As expected, he was kind. He had the letters the kids sent to him weeks earlier, a personalized touch that added an extra bit of magic.
I rearranged my father-daughter trip to see Santa at the North Pole.
The outdoors is not the same as Santa's cottage. It's not until you see the snow in photos that you realize how cold it is.
During our visit in late November, the temperatures were below zero. It was so cold that we only had to walk two minutes across the parking lot to get to the restaurant.
If you book an organized tour, you will get some essentials when you arrive, even if you worry about all the gear.
If you're going to receive thermal suits from your tour guide, be sure to pack good base layers and comfortable clothes. Gloves, hats, thick wool socks, and neck warmers are things you will want to bring.
Even with the provided gear and the layers brought from home, it's still cold at times, but don't let it stop you from having fun. It was possible for my 6-year-old to stay warm for a while.
Your hair and eyelashes will feel frozen, as anything exposed for a long time will become seriously chilled in a hurry.
You have a complete guide to maximize holiday purchases.
We have skied in Canada, visited Alaska and even explored Norway, but nothing compares to meeting Santa in the woods.
This first big trip post-pandemic was truly unforgettable, even though every family trip is special and memorable in its own way. It is forever etched in our collective story banks, because it was so different and unique when we visited it.
If you decide to make the trip on your own or through a package tour, you'll walk away with a lot of memories.