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32 tips for visiting Lapland with kids

There really is no trip more magical than visiting Lapland – the snowy landscapes, the chance to meet Santa, to go husky sledding. But that means most of us have never taken a trip quite like it – which is why I’ve pulled together my top tips for visiting Lapland with kids.

My daugher sits on a hill of snow in Levi with snowy trees and pink tinged clouds in the background - my top tips for visiting Lapland with kids including what to pack

I’m all prepared for beach breaks but have spent fewer holidays in the snow, and this was my first with my daughter. And while packing lists for Lapland holidays are always handy, there’s more to it than simply remembering your thermals, as I discovered on our four-night break in Levi.

Tips for visiting Lapland with kids: before you go

Choose your dates carefully

The earlier you go, the more light you get and the warmer it’s likely to be. 2018’s unexpectedly high temperatures meant there was much less snow than usual in November, and while that’s rare, the weather will always fluctuate during the six week season.

Travel later and you might fit it into school holidays (we had to request a leave of absence to get away earlier) and you could even travel over Christmas Day itself, but it will be darker and probably colder.

Check what’s provided

If you’re travelling on a Santa break package, as we did, you’ll get a thermal suit included which makes a huge difference.

We also had boots included – but bear in mind that you’ll be walking down snowy steps from the plane to the airport and onto a transfer before you get the boots, so you’ll need something to cope with snow (the same goes for having gloves, hat, ski jacket and warm layers on the plane).

My own pair were also warmer and a better fit, although my daughter wore her two pairs interchangeably.

Consider what’s included

With a few main activity and tour providers in locations like Levi, you may find that the excursions are similar whether you’re travelling on a package or independently.

For our Santa Break with Inghams, we had a visit to Santa’s Workshop and a gala dinner with Santa at the end; you can book any other excursions separately, although our husky and reindeer sledding, and snowmobiling were both booked through the company too.

Other companies include more excursions. And if you arrange any independently, don’t forget you may also be responsible for your own transfers (either at an extra cost or hiring a car to drive in the snow).

Read more about our activities on our Levi Santa Break here

What age is best?

Lapland is magical at any age (I was in my 30s when I first visited) but when the focus is on visiting Santa in Lapland, it pays to time it right if you can.

Most companies advise you travel with kids aged 4+ and thermal suits and boots aren’t usually included for under-threes. But wait too long and the Santa magic is probably gone once they’re too old.

Age 6-7 is ideal although having said that, we saw families with toddlers and teens too.

How long to go for? 

It depends partly on how much you want to fit in – there’s anything from one day trips to Lapland to week-long breaks.

Most tend to fall somewhere in the middle: shorter is cheaper but you’ll need to be prepared for busy days or fewer excursions and any flight delays will have a bigger impact.

We went for four nights, which felt perfect – it gave time for an excursion every day as well as time for ourselves, and we never felt rushed (plus we got back on Sunday rather than midweek), although you could still have fitted everything into a three-night break.

Personally I think a one-day trip would be very full-on with young kids and risks tired meltdowns as you finally arrive and get to meet Santa – flights to Lapland are three and a half hours, so you’ll have an early start and a long day.

If you’re planning to ski as well as the excursions, or you wanted to venture further afield or try a Northern Lights tour, you might want longer.

Tips for Lapland with kids: what to pack

Choose merino wool

It goes without saying that you’ll need thermal layers to keep out the chill in the Arctic Circle.

We took two sets of long-sleeved tops and leggings each, mostly of merino wool, which was fantastic – it’s thin and lightweight, dries quickly but also keeps you beautifully warm.

Pack lots of layers

Take lots of layers to stay warm rather than one thick layer, as it’s easier to adapt to the different temperature.

On our first day, the temperature was around -6C, by the end of the trip it was down to -15C and friends who visited the year before were met with -32C, so this way you can layer up or down depending what awaits you.

Click here to see what we packed and to get my downloadable packing list

Pack different weight layers

There’s a limit to just how much can fit underneath a thermal suit (and choosing a bigger size would have swamped my daughter entirely), so I quickly realised that there was no chance that we could zip it up over both her ski jacket and thicker hoody (plus thermals).

Instead, we had some thinner jumpers which went under the ski jacket and could put the thermal suit over the top (again with thermals underneath).

The same went for my own suit, so having a variety meant there was always something which worked.

Double layer your gloves

If possible try them on together before you buy. We had thermal gloves and waterproof ski gloves for my daughter to layer up.

But the original thermal gloves we got were too thick to fit inside, and the replacements still needed some tugging to squeeze the second pair over.

As my daughter’s fingers barely came up half-way, a bigger size wouldn’t have worked though.

One of my own top buys for Lapland was some silk glove liners to go under my own thermal gloves – I was constantly having to pull my right glove off, to take photos, to fish tickets out of a pocket, to pull my daughter’s gloves back on (again!) and simply could not do any of it with the thermal layer.

Having the glove liner meant my hand wasn’t constantly in the freezing air but it was thin enough that I could (mostly) even use the touchscreen on my phone.

I bought this pair last-minute from Amazon although if you’re near a Decathlon store, these are touchscreen compatible.

Pack spare gloves

Having carefully thought through the different glove layers, I managed to forget that my daughter has a talent for losing gloves.

Setting out the first morning to explore, we realised her thermal ones were already missing…

Thankfully they’d just been dropped in the hotel lobby at check-in and scooped into lost property, but I was kicking myself for not having multiple back-ups!

Double layer your socks

Surprisingly, the low temperatures don’t always feel that low, especially when you’re bundled up in layers and thermals, as the air is so dry and we had no or very little wind.

So it’s your toes and fingers which feel the cold first. I layered ordinary socks with thermal socks for both of us, within warm ski boots, but still wished for thicker socks myself several times.

Buy more handwarmers

We had two sets of reusable handwarmers with us, which worked beautifully the first time we used them (just bend to snap the metal disc and they heat up instantly).

I then managed to drop one in a snowdrift where it vanished entirely, and when trying to heat them in boiling water to reuse them, one popped, and the other two flatly refused to go squashy again.

Next time I’d take a lot more and go for disposable air activated ones instead like these.

Get a gaiter

I’ve also heard them called buffs and snoods, but whatever name you fancy giving this useful piece of clothing, make sure you’ve got one!

The circle of cosy material is a lot less faff than a scarf, easier to snuggle under a jacket and easy to pull up over your face and nose, especially if you’re husky sledding when we felt the chill of the air far more.

My daughter’s was fleecy and frankly I was jealous enough to try it on to see if it fitted (it did, just – click here to check out the fluffiness) so I have my eye on a similar one like this next time.

My daughter lies in the snow, hat pulled down and fleecy snood pulled up over her face against the snow - my top tips for visiting Lapland with kids including what to pack

Make sure your hat covers your ears

Or consider a balaclava (although when I wore one under my helmet for snowmobiling, I thought my daughter would explode with laughter).

And if your kids are like my daughter, who can lose hats as easily as gloves, take at least two. Tassels can come in useful to tie it under their chin too, although it’s worth knowing huskies like to play with longer tassels…!

Slip in some slippers

Or comfy shoes. I had my own ski boots and was also provided with another set but there’s nothing like pulling on a comfy pair of slippers after a day clomping around in heavy boots.

Thermal socks can be warm but often tight so I was glad to peel those off and this kept me warm without underfloor heating.

My daughter had her slipper socks (along with some fleecy tracksuit bottoms) for the same reason – I was tempted by this fox pair for her as well and this fleece-lined pair for me!

Have a hot water bottle

The apparently thin duvets on our beds were impressively warm, so we could certainly have managed without our hot water bottles.

But there’s nothing quite so comforting as curling up with one when you’ve been cold – I packed this 1 litre hot water bottle with a fleecy cover for me, and a dinky 0.5 litre version for my daughter.

I also threw in this fleece travel blanket just in case: in the end we never needed it, but for a fiver it was great as a back-up.

Pack portable snacks

Chocolate biscuits, fruit leather, cereal bars… I came armed with plenty of snacks for both of us which could easily be slipped into a bag when we were out for the day, whenever my six-year-old needed a high-energy boost.

Playing in snow is huge fun, as were all our activities, but it can be tiring so a few treats were ideal to keep her going and Finland is not the cheapest place to buy food.

Stick with your own favourites, although the fruit Bear Nibbles and Cadbury Animal Biscuits worked wonders.

You can never have too much hot chocolate

Ticking the high energy box and perfect to warm us up as we relaxed after a day in the snow, I think I lost count of the number of hot chocolates we had between us.

As we were in a hotel rather than self-catering, I grabbed a handful of different sachets which only needed boiling water – Cadbury, Galaxy, Wispa – and sipped through them all. Yum.

For a bit of extra luxury, a lot of fancy hot chocolates need to be made with hot milk but these Charbonnel & Walker Drinking Chocolate flakes and the Classic hot chocolate from Hotel Chocolat can be made with boiling water.

Bring wine

The bottle of red wine I picked up in Duty Free at Gatwick was only a few pounds more than a small glass in one Levi restaurant (and slightly less than a large glass in our hotel).

You can buy wines at the Alko shop but the one in Levi is a little walk from the centre of town and you can’t simply pick up a bottle in a supermarket.

Take a rucksack

You probably won’t have a huge amount to carry but once you’re in a thermal suit, you have limited accessible pockets, so something to stash the essentials in and keep your hands free to mess around in the snow is useful.

I took my Osprey daylite backpack which had plenty of room for everything, enough pockets to keep it all separate, and a handy compartment at the back to stuff gloves and hats in when we went inside.

Consider how to carry your phone

Even with my glove liners on, my cold fingers managed to fumble my phone and drop it into a snowdrift on day one.

Thankfully the powdery snow meant it emerged unscathed (although the battery level dropped instantly to 3%) but I regretted not taking the waterproof case I own, which hangs around my neck.

Using the phone with glove liners through the thin case might have been tricky but it would also have made me feel safer holding it on our husky sled.

This case is compatible with any phone up to 6.8 inches, including a Samsung S20 and iPhone 12, this larger case for handsets up to 7.5 inches.

Bulk buy batteries

Even if you manage not to drop your phone into a snowdrift (highly advised!), the cold temperatures drain batteries much faster.

Plus you’ll be snapping away at the gorgeous scenery a lot, as well as capturing some fantastic family memories.

So if you’re using a camera, it’s worth having a second battery charged and ready. If you’re using a phone, keep a charged portable battery to hand.

This slimline Anker power bank is ideal as it’s not too bulky but can quickly and completely charge a phone (with power leftover)..

Or keep your phone in the same pocket as handwarmers if it’s starting to get chilled.

Moisturise, moisturise, moisturise

The dry air might mean you don’t feel the cold as much as you expect, but your skin certainly will.

My hands felt as dry as paper, so lots of hand cream is essential – I had my Neutrogena Norwegian Formula hand cream (apt for a trip to Finland!) and super-moisturising L’Occitane Shea hand cream.

Make sure you’ve got plenty of lip balm too: my Elizabeth Arden eight-hour cream was also great for any particularly sore spots on my hands from pulling stiff zips.

The gondola linking Levi Panorama hotel with the town below - my top tips for visiting Lapland with kids including what to pack

Lapland tips: where to stay with kids

Hotel or self-catering?

There are self-catering apartments and chalets as well as hotels in destinations like Levi, so you can choose which suits you best (as well as both half-board and full-board options in the hotels).

It’s worth bearing in mind that food in Finland isn’t cheap, so self-catering may not be as low-cost as other destinations – and that while I’ve had some perfectly nice meals there, you don’t really go to Lapland for the cuisine!

With chips and child favourites like chicken nuggets on the buffet at our hotel, Levi Panorama, there was something for my daughter every evening, plus a couple of stand-out adult options including salmon with dill and a melting beef stew.

If you’re planning to eat out, two big pizzas with drinks at Classic Pizza in Levi cost us around 40 Euros. You can eat more cheaply or easily spend more though.

How far is it to the restaurant?

One thing that’s worth considering is how close your rooms are to the restaurant – some will be in a separate building in the hotel so on cold evenings or if it’s more than a few minutes walk, you might need thermal suits on the way.

The same goes if you’re planning to eat out and will be walking from your hotel. After a fun day out in the snow, I was very pleased to take off some layers and just hop into the lift to get to ours.

Central or secluded? 

Levi itself isn’t huge – and the same goes for many of the other main Santa break destinations – but with snow, thermal suits and cold weather, if you’ve got a 15-minute walk to get anywhere, you’ll quickly get fed up of that with tired kids.

On the plus side, if you’re a little way out of the main town, you get unspoiled snow to explore.

Levi Panorama is linked to the town by a gondola, and I was in two minds whether I’d love it or whether it would be an added faff.

Happily, it was the former – we had snowy woods to wander through, the gondola was only a minute or so away and left us right in the heart of Levi, and my daughter and I loved the views as we were carried up and down the mountain.

We never had to wait more than about a minute for it to arrive and never failed to get a seat either (and tickets are free if you stay in the hotel).

It runs from 9.30am to 9pm which worked well, as we weren’t out exploring earlier or later.

Look for the extras

There are a few bonuses for Lapland hotels which you won’t find in most accommodation – for starters, a drying cupboard is fantastic when you’ve found yourself covered in snow.

Inside a thermal suit, you’ll stay relatively dry but as well as soggy gloves, hats and socks, we ended up with wet cuffs and hems at various points, which this sorted out superfast.

Some hotels even have a mini sauna in the room (not advised for children under 12) as well as communal saunas – men and women’s are separated but you’ll be expected to go in naked in Finland.

After a freezing day, it can be blissful (especially if you’ve got someone else to look after the kids as you gently toast).

Even in freezing temperatures a swimming pool can go down well, especially when it’s too cold to go outside for long or if you’re unlucky enough not to get much snow – although my pool-obsessed daughter managed quite happily without a swim on this trip.

My daughter in the snow with the gold of sunset at around 2pm - my top tips for visiting Lapland with kids including what to pack

Tips for visiting Lapland with kids: when you’re there

Take it slow

Allow extra time for everything here. There’s no question of simply grabbing a coat and popping out (not that there usually is with kids!)

In Lapland, you need to factor in extra time to get into thermal suits, to pull gloves over gloves, then to walk through the snow.

Factor in downtime

Having a thermal suit to wear is a huge bonus, keeping the snow out and keeping everyone warm, but they’re not lightweight.

Wearing one can be surprisingly tiring, even for adults, let alone kids, especially when you’re clambering over the snow and fitting in all kinds of fun activities.

At the end of the day, as we got back to the hotel, I was glad to unzip mine, take off my boots and just chill out. (This is where the hot chocolate and slippers comes in too).

This Lapland children’s activity book and journal is great for when you’re kicking back after your day out, and makes a fun memento too.

Remember the dark

When we visited in early December, there’s only about two hours between sunrise and sunset. By mid December, it’s the polar night and officially dark all day.

On the plus side, we had the most beautiful light in the middle of the day, a pinkish gold shade, and the slow dawn and dusk means you do get some daylight before the official sunrise and sunset.

There are also plenty of streetlights and the snow reflects to give a half-light later than you might expect. However, if you are heading off the beaten track, take a torch.

Waking up in the dark and it being full dark by mid afternoon definitely confuses your body clock though, especially on the first day with a two-hour time difference and a very early start for the flight. Be prepared to think it’s bedtime by 5pm!

You might not need all your layers

I was so geared up for the low temperatures and determined the cold wouldn’t stop us that it came as a surprise to discover we didn’t need our thermal suit every day.

On our first day, the temperatures hovered around -6C – not exactly tropical, but thermal layers, a thick hoody, ski jacket and ski trousers, plus ski boots (and hat, gloves etc) kept us toasty warm.

My daughter’s thermal suit was too warm for the heated pods when we went snowmobiling too!

Download an Aurora app

I’ve visited the Arctic Circle three times and have still yet to see those amazing swirling green Northern Lights.

Unfortunately the cloud cover meant I was no luckier this time, but to save hours spent outside staring hopefully at the sky, I downloaded My Aurora Forecast app (click here for Android) which lets you know your chances and the best times to spot them.

*First published 2018, updated 2021*

PIN FOR LATER: TIPS FOR VISITING LAPLAND WITH KIDS

My top tips for visiting Lapland with kids, from what to pack for a Santa Break in Lapland to how long to spend and where to stay, as well as why extra hot chocolate is always good.

Disclosure: My Santa Break was courtesy of Inghams. All opinions are my own, based on our experiences from our trip, including endless faffing with gloves and fumbling with phones. This post contains affiliate links – any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a small commission

Images copyright MummyTravels

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14 Comments

    1. Absolutely – I think it’s somewhere that keeps its wonder, no matter how old you are. Perhaps you grow out of the Santa magic but my first visit was in my 30s and it utterly enchanted me.

    1. Thank you! The glove liners were a tip I got for my first trip to Lapland about 8 years ago but it’s so useful. I simply can’t do anything with thick gloves on, so this is a perfect compromise.

  1. Your photos planted the seed, but now this post has made me desperate to take the boys to Lapland! Such good advice here too that I would not have thought of – like a spare pair of gloves and waterproof casing for the phone. Gutted for you that those northern lights were hidden again. I’m yet to see them too. One day…

    1. I just have to keep going back and back until I see them! Loved your Iceland trip but bet your boys would adore the snows of Lapland too (armed with plenty of gloves)

  2. So many tips here, which would work well for any snowy holiday. You’re right, you can’t get enough of those hand warmers. We ran out on our ski trip last year, and our daughter let us know about it 🙂 I’m heading to snowy Ottawa early next year, so I’ll check back to nab these tips for my own trip. x

  3. Thank you for some really useful tips. Love the idea of taking water bottles and slippers to be cosy in the evening. We go for the first time at the end of this year and are super excited. Do you recommend any footwear to travel in, in particular? Also, did you find your normal iPhone adequate for taking all of your pictures/ videos or did you take (or recommend taking) a compact camera too? How did you get on with a selfie stick? Your tips will be much appreciated x

    1. My pleasure! Really glad they’re useful – and cosy is definitely good after a day of fun in the snow. I wore my own snow boots on the plane (from Mountain Warehouse – https://www.mummytravels.com/packing-list-for-lapland-kids/) but otherwise you just need something which can handle snow. We had to walk down the snowy steps from the plane and into the airport, then out to the coach, then from there to the hotel. You’ve then got a short wait to get your boots. I guess it depends what you’d wear if it snowed in the UK, and how snowy it is when you visit.

      And I took all my photos on my phone – Samsung S8 rather than an iPhone but it takes better pix than my compact and was easier to slip into a pocket too. I did have my DSLR with me but it spent its time sitting in my rucksack as it seemed too much faff to get it out of the case etc with gloves on! I don’t have a selfie stick so not sure about that I’m afraid. Having a case or eg one of those stick on knobs to hold it would have been useful – cold hands/gloves mean it’s easy to fumble and drop it.

      Have a fantastic time!

  4. Thank you for the useful tips. I am planning on taking my girls ages 8 and 9, but we also have a little boy who will be 2 end of January. Any tips or recommendations for having a fun packed day with a toddler? For adventures, where they dont allow kids under 2, or navigating 3 kids to 2 parents (I dont suppose its do-able?)

    1. Glad they were helpful – and I did see families with toddlers there as well as older siblings so it’s definitely doable. I’m not sure about all the activities (so eg meeting Santa would be fine, snowmobiling might be trickier as although they have a trailer for younger/smaller kids, they were all probably about 4+ on my trip).

      But there’s plenty that’s fun for little ones too, just playing in the snow, sledging and there are indoor play areas at Levi Hotel Spa as well as the child pools.

      We needed to factor in some downtime between activities and exploring in the snow, so I’d expect he’ll need even more. I’d recommend getting one of the cheap disposable sledges from one of the supermarkets anyway, as walking through the snow can be tiring so it would definitely be easier if you can tow your boy along.

      If you’re booking with a company that offers snowsuits, they won’t have them available in small sizes so that’s worth knowing too. And lots of treats/hot chocolate went a long way! 🙂

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