Is a day trip to see Santa Claus in Lapland an authentic Arctic adventure, or 24 hours of airport queues and frazzled children? Student Nannies finds out…

Written by A Guest Blogger

“Get lost in the magic of Lapland”. That’s what the brochure said and with our nine-year-old still very much a “believer in The Big Man”, we couldn’t think of a more perfect way to get into the festive groove.

The schedule sounded ideal too. Catch an early-bird flight to an exotic-sounding place called Enontekiö in deepest, darkest Finnish Lapland, then fill your (snow) boots with reindeer rides, skidoo driving, ice castles, toboggan runs, all the carbs your stomach can handle and, of course, the chance to visit Santa in his grotto and pick up a very special present.

What’s not to like? Ah, well, there are some flip sides… First, it’s expensive at around £500 per person, especially when you realise it’s only for ONE day. And not a full day either: with the two-hour time difference, we realised we would only get just 4 hours on the ground.

Four hours! OMG! On a scale of bonkers holiday plans, this one made our two-day, washed-out summer camping trip seem like the height of relaxed luxury.

And the trip was not without its risks, either. A flight delay would have serious repercussions on the madcap schedule, not least because there is only about one hour of daylight to enjoy. Too much snow and the activities would be cancelled; not enough and the activities would be cancelled. Aaaaargggggggh! What happens if Santa’s got the flu? What happens if there’s a power cut and the grotto is closed down? More on that later… !

Was it worth it? Let’s start with the good things. We definitely lucked-out with the weather. It was around -12degC, but with no wind and a steady sprinkling of snow throughout the day, it was undeniably magical. The queues were manageable, we saw husky dogs and reindeer, the food was edible and plentiful (never a guarantee on trips like this), it wasn’t overly commercialised and Santa lived up to our son’s expectations, with a fabulous white beard and hair to match.

Any niggles? It’s knackering! With a 3am alarm call, 4am taxi ride and a 3.5-hour flight each way, it’s easily a 20-hour day. We all coped pretty well considering, but some smaller toddlers were ruined on the flight home. Put it this way, it wasn’t the most restful flight we’ve ever had!

Some of the on-site organisation could have been better too, which brings me back to the aforementioned power cut. Halfway through the afternoon the electricity blew in Santa’s grotto, thus curtailing any visits until it was fixed. It took an hour, by which point the backlog had swelled. People were panicking – after all, imagine coming all the way to Lapland to see Santa and not even seeing Santa! They eventually fast-tracked us through, but it was a bit rushed and stressful.

So was it worth it? We had been worried that our 9-year-old son Charlie might be too old for it but we figured it was our last shot given he’s unlikely to still believe in Santa when he’s ten! On this front alone it was a winner – Charlie was enchanted and fell for the whole thing hook line and sinker – it was only us cynical adults who could see the ’set’  in Santa’s cabin. But the magic of Christmas isn’t for adults is it?!

Here are our top tips to make the most of your day in Lapland:

1. Get an early night before the trip – you’ll be up for about 20 hours!

2. Take a portable power charger for phones and tablets because the cold drains the battery in double-quick time.  

3. Visit Santa’s grotto first to avoid disappointment.

4. Don’t underestimate the temperature. Buy a decent base layer kit and mittens.

5. Pack super light. Avoid bulky scarves (snoods are much better) and large cameras – you’ll just have to carry them around all day.

6. You’ll get given a snow suit and boots but make sure they fit. Choose boots one size up from your shoe size to avoid cold feet. Ditto the suit as you’ll be jumping in and out of sleighs and toboggans all day.

7. Don’t try and do everything. Take it easy and enjoy it!