When you have got a family with kids, it is all about them, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to share these magic moments? We invent traditions, we celebrate Christmas and New Year, we make us all believe that magic is around us. But what if we could actually show it to our children? We have discovered a way how to visit Santa in Lapland on a budget.
As you all may know, there is an area called Lapland where the residence of Santa Claus is. Nowadays, there are hundreds of companies that will sell you an entire family package to go to Lapland with kids, including transport, husky, reindeer, and horse rides; trip on a snowmobile to the forest; Aurora Light hunt experience and meeting real Santa with his elves in their residency. Sounds super exciting and I am sure you are already checking on the flight. There is one problem though – these packages are extremely expensive. In fact, we believe £3,000 GBP per person is just an astronomical number and we would rather spend it on something more relevant.
- Pick the town resort you would like to visit
- Book your flights to Lapland with kids
- Book your accommodation in Lapland
- Book your activities and visit Santa in Lapland
- Book and check your local transportation
- Travel insurance
- Weather in Lapland
- Get the right clothes when traveling to Lapland with kids
- Pack right to Lapland
- Food in Finland
- Some more tips & tricks when traveling to Lapland with kids
When I saw how much it costs to let my family experience magic, I refused to believe it. Instead, I was determined to find a way to visit Lapland on a budget. So, I made the research and came up with a 100% DIY trip to Lapland with kids.
Guess how much does it cost to go to Lapland on a budget?
In total, it cost us less than £2800 GBP (around $3500 USD) for a 2-week trip visiting Sweden and Finland for a family of three. We went to visit our great-grandparents in Sweden and stayed a couple of days in Stockholm too. So, imagine if you decide to spend only one week in Finnish Lapland? I bet you will save even more. This is three times cheaper compared to ready package deals.
Now, let me tell you exactly how we achieved these numbers and made our magical trip to Lapland with kids come true.
It is also important to note that Scandinavian countries are very fluent in English, very welcoming, child-friendly, and safe. Apart from us, there were lots of families who organized their trip to Lapland on a budget. There are absolutely no issues with making it DIY. Shall we begin to reveal the secrets?
Pick the town resort you would like to visit
First things first, before securing the flight ticket, decide which town in Lapland you would like to go to. This mainly depends on your budget, flight availability, local transportation, and the range of activities you would like to do. For example, would you be fancy skiing or seeing Aurora Lights?
Let’s take a look at all your options.
Rovaniemi with kids
Rovaniemi is the capital of Finnish Lapland. It is the largest town and so it attracts more tourists. There is an airport in Rovaniemi and an overnight train to Helsinki which is convenient.
Rovaniemi is also an official hometown of Santa Claus, so to go to Rovaniemi with kids is quite common and popular among all trips to Lapland that are organized by families. There is a huge variety of things to do in Rovaniemi too.
Ylläs is a smaller town and you will have an option to ski.
Levi is the largest ski resort in Lapland, so you may stay a bit longer to enjoy a variety of winter activities.
Saariselkä may check out all the boxes as you may spot Northern Lights and enjoy skiing. This is due to its most northern location.
Ranua is one hour drive away from Rovaniemi. It is a fairly small town, but it has a wildlife park with arctic animals which was one of the highlights of the trip. You could also rent a car for 1-2 days and stay in one of the igloo accommodations.
Luosto town is more for skiing, but there is also an Amethyst Mine that you can visit.
Ruka is a small traditional Finnish town that lies on the edge of National Park and that has a carbon-neutral ski resort.
As you may see picking the right resort to visit Lapland is important. We chose Rovaniemi as it was more convenient for us. We flew into Rovaniemi airport, and it took us 10 minutes to get to our igloo home. Local transportation was quite convenient, so we could avoid expensive taxi rides. Renting a car is easy to visit another town such as Ranua. Besides, the train station is located in the city center, so it took us 12 minutes to walk there and take an overnight train to Helsinki.
However, we did not explore a ski resort option this year.
Book your flights to Lapland with kids
Now when you know where you are heading, you are ready to book the flights to Lapland.
Flights may not be as expensive if you, of course, book them in advance. The high season starts from Christmas and lasts up to the 5th of January. To visit Lapland on a budget, consider a slightly lower season. Both accommodation and flights are fairly cheaper either before Christmas, the end of November to the beginning of December, or right after the New Year, mid-January – February.
Another trick is the time your flights arrive and depart, so basically taking a 6 am flight to Lapland is way cheaper. The same goes for your return home. Normally, late flights are less expensive.
Check if it is more convenient for you to take a direct flight or stop in Helsinki. You can actually take an overnight train and save on one night’s accommodation. See below for more details about trains.
Book your accommodation in Lapland
It is entirely up to you which accommodation you would like to pick. However, if you decide to stay in Lapland with kids, it is worth booking at least one or two nights at the igloo resort. You can choose to stay in an igloo hotel, or a cabin with a panorama glass roof. Besides, you will have a fantastic experience filled with winter activities, husky and reindeer rides. You can also try out a sauna made of ice and drive deep in the forest late at night to search for the Northern Light.
We have stayed at Apukka Resort near Rovaniemi which was a highlight of our trip. It is located around 9 miles away from Rovaniemi city. We took a taxi to the resort straight from the airport (this was our only time to get a cab, they are very expensive there). This cost us around 40 EUR for a 15-minute ride. When we left the resort, we took a local bus to Rovaniemi city which we booked online. The bus stop has no proper marking, you will just see a tiny sign in the middle of the highway. Don’t get surprised, the area is not cleaned from snow. In fact, it is covered with snow up to your knees. We came 15 minutes earlier and the bus was 10 minutes late. Imagine how cold we got. Our son Teo drank all the hot tea from a thermal travel mug (a must-to-have item when you travel to Lapland with kids). Anyhow, important to note that the bus that came was an actual black minivan with no signs whatsoever. You will never guess it is a bus until you hop in and see loads of tourists.
Back to the Apukka resort. We have stayed there three nights and two and a half days. We got an amazingly beautiful cabin with a panorama glass roof, so we could actually admire the arctic sky and Aurora Lights spending the whole night in a warm bed. Consider this type of igloo hotel if you still wish to visit Lapland on a budget. They are the cheapest! This is indeed one of the most unique experiences you can have in Lapland with kids.
The restaurant Aitta offers a great Swedish buffet. What we liked the most were the rocking chairs covered in fur next to the fire. It was so relaxing to have a hot chocolate in the afternoon warming ourselves after a day full of activities.
Also, Apukka offers all the winter activities. We have picked ice sauna, husky, and reindeer rides. Next to the main building, you will see loads of sleighs and a small snow mountain. It is so much fun to actually jump in snow and have the whole day outside sliding. It was really the best time for us to spend in Lapland with kids.
The best time to reserve all the igloo accommodations is early October – November. Not only do spaces for Christmas fill out quickly, but also prices for one night can jump from £200 per night to £600+.
In Rovaniemi City Centre, we stayed at Scandic Hotel. The location cannot be perfect. It has a supermarket across the street, loads of cafes and restaurants, and a bus stop that will take you to Santa Park and Santa Village. You can also book tours there if you feel you have missed something. Another great thing is that they offer a Finnish sauna in the hotel which was super relaxing in the evenings. And if you are about to take an overnight train to Helsinki, there is a train station only 12 to 15-minutes’ walk away from the hotel. This hotel also offers a variety of sleighs but I think this is more of a norm in Lapland rather than an add-on. You will find sleighs everywhere you go, even on the streets.
Book your activities and visit Santa in Lapland
So, let’s think about the activities.
Here is the list of activities and things to do in Lapland with kids that you may wish to consider.
Igloo Resort to watch an open sky filled with stars right from your bed
This is simply romantic to stay in one of the igloo hotels. Once kids are far asleep, open the bottle of wine and enjoy this enormous incredibly beautiful sky.
Husky, Reindeer and Horse rides
There are many options to ride huskies, reindeer, and horses in Lapland. You can book it online via one of the tour companies, through the resort you are staying in, or if you chose Rovaniemi city, you could have all this fun in Santa Village.
However, we found that the best way to experience these rides is when you are at the resort. You will get into the real forest, views are outstanding, reindeers and huskies look wilder and healthier too. We also found out that it is better to have a separate tour rather than a combo. For example, instead of taking a husky and reindeer tour, it may be more interesting to take a husky tour only. With a combo tour, these animals will give you a ride for 500m, so it takes about 5 minutes. Whilst individual tour offers an hour of a ride with the possibility to ride huskies by yourselves. You will also get a half-an-hour training course.
Authentic Finnish Sauna experience
If you travel to Finland with kids, you cannot forget about the real Finnish sauna. This is a must to try out. Sauna is in Finnish people’s hearts, kids start going to sauna from their birth, so there are no age restrictions. I wouldn’t say it was too hot at all, but maybe these are just my Russian roots that got used to 100 degrees Celsius and above. Here Finnish saunas offer 80 degrees tops unless you ask for more, so there is nothing to worry about.
In Apukka Resort we booked an Ice Sauna experience – another highlight of ours. This is an actual sauna that they make from ice. To make such a sauna (that also will be delivered to your Igloo cabin’s front door), builders need the whole week. However, due to the poor quality of snow (basically it was not sticky enough), we were informed that an ice sauna was not available at the time of our stay, but we got a place in wooden saunas. One sauna was indoors and included a shower room, the other wooden one was outdoors. Plus, we were offered an open-air jacuzzi free of charge. Have you been in a jacuzzi under the clear night sky with a temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius? This jacuzzi experience was our son’s highlight, so he couldn’t stop asking for more even after we got back home.
Check our first Finnish sauna experience on our Youtube channel!
Snowmobile tours and safari
We were lucky to be offered one for kids. You should have seen the 4-year-old in the helmet driving on an actual snowmobile! Oh, wait, here is the photo. It was a blast!
However, there is a variety of snowmobile tours including night safaris to see the Northern Light, snowmobiling, and ice fishing.
Hunting for Northern Lights in Lapland
Not only you may see Aurora while traveling in Lapland with kids, but you also can book a night tour driving far outskirts to get even a better view.
Santa Park – visit Santa in Lapland
Santa Park is a major activity when you travel to Lapland with kids. To visit Santa in Lapland is perhaps one of the main reasons to go travel there in the first place. Why? Simply because Santa Park is the main residence of Santa Claus and his elves.
Santa Park is an indoor activity. Although it is not as big as we imagined, it has gathered all activities that your kids need to experience.
Meet and talk to real Santa
Ride a magic train into the forest where Santa’s toy factory is hidden. You will find loads of elves working there non-stop
Make some crafts with elves
Go to Elf school and get a certificate of completion
Decorate your own ginger cookie and enjoy some hot chocolate break
Watch the acrobatic show
Enjoy delicious buffet lunch (it is a good idea to include lunch in your ticket!)
Visit Ice Sculpture Museum (jackets are provided)
Create and send a Christmas card to your dearest friends, relatives, and family right from Santa’s Main Post Office
Don’t forget to check upstairs and get on a ride with Santa traveling the globe in one night
The ticket to Santa Park is valid for two consecutive days. Our son asked us to go there again the next day, so it actually may be worth checking on in it twice.
The best time to visit Santa Park is early in the morning. Try to catch the first or the second bus. The reason for it is to avoid massive queues to visit Santa Claus or get a magic train ride. The place tends to fill in by midday, whilst in the morning we had visited Santa Claus twice and who knows how many train rides we took.
Santa Village is one bus stop away from Santa Park, and you also have an opportunity to visit Santa in Lapland there. Since the bus ticket is so expensive, besides you always end up waiting for buses, you may as well walk half-an-hour to Santa Village.
Tip: Take a sleigh from the hotel, so it will be easier and faster to transport your kids.
If you stayed in one of the resorts, experienced various animal rides, snowmobiles, and visited Santa Park, then you may as well skip Santa Village, as it will be all offered there.
Santa Village is a good option when you stay in the city center and do not have that wild experience described above.
Santa Village is great to visit in the afternoon as it lights beautifully. Many travelers would visit Santa Park in the morning and then leave for Santa Village by 3 pm. Both places work until 6 pm, so you have got time.
It is important to note that Santa Village is an outdoor activity, so you will need to spend the entire time outdoors which may be a bit chilly for your little ones.
Another important reason to visit Santa Village is that you will find there an Arctic Circle! There is no other place nearby to explore it.
Arktikum is a science center and museum that lets you experience northern nature, culture, and history. If you get some spare time and do not know what to do, it is a good idea to stop by. Arktikum museum is located in Rovaniemi city center. It is not as big, so you won’t need the whole day for it.
Ranua wildlife safari park & zoo
As mentioned above, Ranua is a town located one hour away from Rovaniemi. This is where you could get that unforgettable experience of arctic animals and see them in the wild. You can rent a car and take a day trip or actually spend a night in one of the igloo hotels in Ranua. What can be better in Lapland with kids?
Book and check your local transportation
We have already established that cabs are expensive in Finland.
In Rovaniemi city, there are two to three bus companies that pass through the city center, Santa Park, airport, and then get back to the center. The whole ride takes about 15-20 minutes and costs you around 4EUR per adult and 2EUR per child. If you would take a cab from Rovaniemi city center to Santa Park, you would pay around 25 EUR, so do the math.
Every hotel has a bus schedule printed on a sheet of paper, however, the reality was that we never knew when the bus was coming. The last bus departs at 5:30 pm from Santa Park, so try not to miss it. However, there are lots of Finnish taxi companies that you can call and book a cab. You won’t be able to find a cab on the street.
If you need to go back to Helsinki, the best option is to book an overnight train. They are spectacular and extremely modern! Click to book tickets.
Book a private cabin with two beds if you travel with one or two children. Children under 10 years of age travel free in Finland. Once you have booked the train, call their customer service (number can be checked online) and ask to issue a child’s train ticket. They will be sending it to your email within 10 minutes. Everyone speaks good English, so communication is just so easy in Finland.
Travel insurance is something to think about. Anything can happen during your trip to Lapland with kids, especially taking into consideration that you will spend a lot of time having fun in sleighs. Plus, it is worth considering if you chose one of the towns with a ski resort.
There are multiple travel insurances on the market that you can choose from for a very reasonable price.
Weather in Lapland
Weather can be very different in Lapland, however, it is not necessarily freezing cold as many people would imagine. Typical temperature in December varies from negative twenty to negative ten degrees Celsius. January is considered to be colder reaching up to negative thirty degrees Celsius.
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will be spoilt by the amount of snow.
Get the right clothes when traveling to Lapland with kids
The right clothes, especially the clothes for your kids, when traveling to Lapland, I believe, is critical. Make sure you get to the right store to get all the winter clothes essentials.
We have prepared a special blog about how to choose winter clothes for kids in the correct way. There are things that you should keep in mind. The golden rule is not to wear a lot of clothes, it should not be bulky or uncomfortable, but to get the right material, a correct number of layers, and it does not need to be expensive.
Read More: What To Pack For A Ski Trip And Snow Fun
What I am concerned the most about is the child’s health. The amount of knowledge we got from the experts who professionally ski and snowboard when we were preparing this article is priceless. I strongly advise taking a look at it because undercooling or hyperthermia in kids can happen in a split of a second that may lead to serious problems during your trip to Lapland with kids.
Another thing to remember is that many igloo hotels and resorts that offer additional winter activities, such as searching for Aurora Lights or husky rides, provide you and your kids with special winter clothes, including socks, boots, and a one-piece winter suit/ overall. So, you are covered!
Pro Tips on how to save money on winter clothes and yet visit Lapland on a budget
- If you know you will travel to Lapland with kids, plan ahead and get all the clothes off-season, e.g. in late January- February.
- Another tip that not lots of people know is that winter clothes, especially for ski resorts is very cheap before it gets promoted for the season by the store via ads or social media. So, if you come by November (usually before Black Friday), the chances to get good quality winter clothes with a discount of 40-50% are high. This is what we did.
- Always check on clearance stock. You can find there really nice and super cheap options. You may find out that the new model doesn’t differ that much from the previous year.
Finally, click on the button below to download our super thorough travel packing list, where you can find a special category about winter activities and ski resorts.
Pack right to Lapland
You may think it is similar to the previous point but what I failed with was the number of clothes I took for our son. In reality, neither I nor our son used 75% of the clothes that were packed in the luggage. And you are talking to a minimalist when it gets to packing. But this time, I simply got worried with my “IFs” popping out in the head.
Don’t forget that you have special winter clothing and underlayers, so you would barely use regular clothes. No need to go crazy and pack the whole house. Get everything as it is described in this article or follow the travel pack list.
It is wise to take two pairs of each underlayer if you go for a week or so. Gloves are important! If your child is around 4-5 years of age, mittens as the outer layer are recommended. Plus, you should have at least two pairs of gloves as an underlayer. The same goes for an adult, you should have two pairs of gloves: a thick ski-type one and a thin touch screen type that goes underneath. Socks are important too. But for outdoors we used regular pair and thermal pair of socks. Among the five sweaters that I took for our son, we have used only two and one to go back home.
The bottom line is that you will be very much protected and warm with the right clothing. Every accommodation in Lapland is so warm and well-heated that you can walk naked in the room. Plus, if anything gets wet, it will be dried in an hour once you place it on the heater.
Food in Finland
Food in Finland is expensive. It is expensive anywhere in Scandinavia. The same goes for the accommodation. But the quality of food speaks for itself.
We went to a supermarket, and I saw seafood, fish, and meat products that were of high quality and good price that I instantly wanted to take home.
Of course, it is inevitable to eat out and pay for buffets in the igloo hotels. However, if you get an Airbnb-type of accommodation with the market nearby, you will be able to save a loooot on eating out.
Some more tips & tricks when traveling to Lapland with kids
- This site is great for all tour information in Lapland Rovaniemi.
- If you realized you missed some of the outfits, here is the outfit rental.
- The best and free app to hunt for Aurora Light is called My Aurora Forecast & Alerts.
- Don’t be scared of black dodgy-looking minivans. These are actually local buses that take you from one town to another.
- Remember that daylight in Lapland is limited. Start your day early by 9 am. It gets dark around 3 pm, so this is how much time you have on outdoor activities. But there is still plenty to do in the evenings, such as Finnish sauna, dinner buffet, or hot drinks in one of the cafes sitting next to the fire, night snowmobiling, ice fishing, or Aurora Light hunting. There is plenty of a choice. Besides, all the indoor activities, such as Santa Park, are open until 6 pm.
- If you plan to stay in one of the igloo resorts, it’d be a great idea if you could get some bottles of wine and crackers, snacks, or any food you are fancy that can stay in the fridge for several days. Supermarkets are not available near such resorts, they are just too far. But the restaurants and buffet are expensive. If you wish to visit Lapland on a budget, this hack is worth exploring (which we didn’t think about at the time).
Enjoy every second in Lapland with kids and let us know in the comments below what your highlight of the trip was!
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