By April Drew
I’ve tears building up in my eyes. “What’s wrong mom?” asks Arden, my 6-year-old. “Are you okay? ”
I am here standing in the middle of Lapland (or what we describe as Lapland to the kids for the day that’s in it). It is dark but extremely bright at the same time. There is snow all around us, it is beyond freezing (-28 degrees) and it’s the most beautiful place on earth I’ve ever been, hence the tears.
This place evokes all kinds of emotions and, yes; I had been forewarned, but until you experience it firsthand it is just impossible to know what it feels like! To my right are reindeer, just hanging around waiting to take the next family on a sleigh ride. To my left, and behind the restaurant, the huskys are gearing up to take a family through the woods at high speed. Is this place for real? We have just come out of an ice igloo where ice sculptures made our jaws drop; we had some hot berry juice to warm us up. There was even a bed made of ice to try out. Prior to that Colum (12) and Sadie (10) tested out tobogganing; an activity they have never had the chance to experience before, well because we never get snow like this, white, powdery, bright, sparkling, snow! Up and down the hill they went several times while I took a ridiculous number of pictures.
The Day Trip
Canterbury Travel invited me to join them on their day trip to Lapland on December 12th, 2022, departing from Dublin. Because Riley (our 4th child) was only 1 they advised against him traveling as it would have been too cold and a buggy would have been next to impossible in the snowy terrain. So, John stayed back in Ireland with Riley and I got to take Colum, Sadie, and Arden on a trip of a lifetime. I was slightly apprehensive about taking them to Finland (Lapland) alone for just the day but, boy, was it the most magical, memorable day of our lives.
We stayed at the Clayton Hotel Dublin Airport the night before (cost €146). I decided to park the car at the short term car park at Dublin Airport at the last minute so when I got out later that night I wouldn’t have far to go to grab the car as we had a 2-hour journey home to face into.
Our flight was due to take off at 8am but it was delayed by over an hour because of the ice (it was that week in December when we had –5 degrees). But it didn’t dampen our spirits, we were eventually up in the air and the excitement was real. Arden just could not wait to meet the real Santa and the older two were hopeful there would be lots of snow. We were all served breakfast during the flight and later given soft drinks and water. The flight was 3 and a half hours. We arrived at lunchtime, Finland time.
Upon descending into Lapland all we could see were fields and fields of snow. It was breathtaking. Once we quickly disembarked, we were ushered into the small airport in Enontekio by the Canterbury elves who were fantastic. The airport was no more than a plane hangar which made it super easy to get through. We were escorted over to collect our thermal snow suits, boots, face masks etc. Canterbury provides all of these. (Please see page 32 for tips on what to bring yourself). I was afraid of the cold. -28 degrees is nothing to laugh about but the suits, snow boots and gloves (we grabbed mitten type gloves from the restaurant when we arrived in Lapland itself) kept us nice and snug all day. After about 30-45 minutes of gathering all our clothes and getting changed, we were ready to start the trip.
Sleigh Ride through the forest
Outside the door, a snow sleigh was waiting to take us through the woods to Santa village. This was when the tears started for me. Picture this: a 20-minute sleigh ride through the woods, with a frozen lake beside us, the sky is dark, but the scenery is glistening white. It is beyond cold and even more breathtaking. I snuggled Arden while I cherished this time and ensured this moment would be etched in my memory forever. Colum and Sadie were behind us, and I could hear them saying this was already the best day of their lives.
Once arriving at Santa Village, you are greeted by more elves, fires burning to keep warm, and a total sense of peace and tranquility. In the background, Christmas music was pipping through the forest and fairy lights donned all the trees and huts. It was beyond magical! After getting our bearings we first checked in to book our slot to see the Main Man, Santa, and off we went to explore. We were given a time that was close to the end of the day which suited us.
You are left to your own devices for the 1-day trip which was excellent as we didn’t want to learn how to ride a snowmobile (but others did) but we really really wanted to do a reindeer ride (multiple times).
But first, we popped into the restaurant for some hot chocolate and pancakes and borrowed some mitten gloves (the staff here advise mittens (leather outside, fur inside) as your fingers create heat naturally through friction, if they are separated into digit gloves you will not get this heat and will be cold.)
First up we explored what our surroundings had to offer. It wasn’t a big space, so it was ideal to be able to get around to all the activities within minutes. There was every sort of activity in the snow you could think of, and we had plenty of time to try them all. My gang spent some time tobogganing, visiting the ice igloo, experiencing a reindeer ride through the forest (short) and more tobogganing on the Stiga toboggans (there was a smaller and larger slope for these).
Arden didn’t want to do the Huskey sleigh ride (and because I was the only adult with them the other kids didn’t get to go on but they were not pushed) but the reindeer sleigh ride (which we went on 3 times) was just as wonderful (another teary moment).
We went back to the restaurant for some spaghetti for lunch (you can have lunch at any time of your choosing) The menu usually includes soup, baked potatoes with either a meat or vegetarian filling, pasta and a sweet dessert of pancakes and jam. Soon it would be time to meet Santa Claus. You can stay inside the warm restaurant or be outside, and your number will be called to visit Santa and this is heard throughout the village.
We were driven through the forest again in a sleigh, dropped off at the beginning of a magical path and, to really let the excitement build, we walked another 2-3 minutes in the dark and snow with fairy lights overhead and fires aplenty, to be met by one of Santa’s favourite elves who had a brief chat with the kids until it was time to go inside Santa’s hut (sitting room) and say hello.
Santa was wonderful (because he was the real Santa), and his English was impeccable. We were about five minutes chatting to the man in the red suit. He advised the kids to be good, asked them what they wanted for Christmas, and made some more magical small talk. I got to take some pictures on the phone and they were each given a Lapland teddy. It was short but absolutely wonderful and Arden still chats about it.
So, we had about another 30 minutes to spare before it was time to go back to the airport. We pottered around the gift shop and bought some souvenirs (and a teddy for Riley). There is only a restaurant (with toilets) and a gift shop. There is nowhere else to spend your money and no shop for food, medicine etc so just take that into account. Make sure to bring plenty of snacks in your bag pack for the kids.
The end of the day
After approximately six hours of magic in the snow it was time to say our goodbyes to Lapland and return back to the airport (this time via a warm shuttle bus). We returned all our gear, gathered up our bits, had a quick snoop at the airport shop (super small), and back to Ireland we went with our cups full of Christmas cheer! We were served dinner on the way home. We all slept a little on the flight which helped me with the drive back to Tipperary later that night.
It was, without any doubt, the most magical day of my life. I have never experienced anything like it (and I’ve been skiing several times and lived in New York where we would get major snowstorms) Snow, darkness, lights, Santa, and Christmas music all mushed up together are definitely the recipe for absolute magic! Give it a go!
We didn’t bring any electronics (except my phone) because we didn’t want to leave anything at the airport (where you stored your clothes etc) so the kids had a book each, some card games and colours. They were never bored. Some kids did have ipads etc with them. The youngest child on our flight seemed to be 2 and a half or 3. I would not advise bringing kids any younger.
Canterbury is now taking bookings for 2023. A day trip to Lapland from Dubin for a family of four costs from €2980, and a family of three from €2275. They also have overnight trips available from Dublin for 2023. Prices are all on their website. For a family of four, a 2-day trip is €6,860 and a 3 day is €7,230. Please note there are different locations for different trips. The overnight trips would be to locations with hotels, restaurants, shops etc.
To book, visit www.CanterburyTravel.com or call 1800 827300.
This was a press trip organised by Canterbury Travel for us.