(Flickr) Lapland is a magical place for kids (and BIG kids - yes Dads I mean you!) – whether visiting Santa at his traditional home, or just enjoying the snow, reindeer and the northern lights. Although it's expensive reputation precedes it, Lapland on a budget is possible or an unforgettable family winter wonderland break.
Need to know
The traditional home of Father Christmas is in Finnish Lapland, at the Korvatunturi Fjeld in Savukosko. The Disney alternative is the Santa Claus Village, a mile from Rovaniemi Airport and short bus ride from Rovaniemi city. However, you’ll find reindeer and northern lights throughout Finnish, Swedish and Norwegian Lapland (and the chance to visit/stay in less commercial places with cheaper prices). Bear in mind that due to extreme cold, Lapland is not suitable for toddlers or babies.
Before you go
While it’s beautiful and snowy in Lapland in December, it’s also freezing; down to -20C. A ski jacket and thermals are essential!
There are many companies offering last minute cheap flights. A day trip to see Santa could be cheaper than a short break, basic packages include flights and a visit to Santa’s Village. Some day trips include husky and snowmobile and sleigh rides and Santa visit with limited free child places available.
If you’re not bothered about Santa (We know it’s unlikely - but we had to mention it!) but just want to enjoy Lapland on a budget, try Swedish Lapland instead – a marginally cheaper destination (if you’re on a budget, avoid Norway – the most expensive of the Scandinavian countries). Fly to Stockholm, then take a cheap domestic flight to Lapland gateways such as Lulea or Kiruna.
From Lulea, you can travel by train to Abisko. It’s the best place in Sweden to see the Northern Lights, Lapland’s most impressive – and free – attraction. Just look up!
If you’re visiting independently, then look for special weekend rates that reduce prices to around half the normal weekday rate. Even without discounts there are bargains to be found for families – for example in Kiruna, the Yellow House has simple rooms, all sharing a kitchen and sauna which can be an exhilarating experience. (Flickr)
Food and drink
In Sweden, the dagens ratt (‘daily special’) is the best-value lunch deal. You’ll get fish or meat and potatoes (and plenty of it), with bread and coffee thrown in – specials are advertised outside on blackboards; get there early or miss out.
Out and about
Booking packages that include things such as snowmobiling and dog sledding works out cheaper than arranging them while you are there. If you are booking in situ avoid booking through your hotel and ask the tourist office for a local operator instead, who can undercut these prices.
Remember when seeing the man in red, make sure you take plenty of pictures. Seeing your childrens face light up in the presence of Santa makes the cold nose well worth the visit and is something to be captured forever! (Flickr)