Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How to do Lapland on a Budget & Make it Feel Like Anything But! (Part 2)

Welcome back to our epic adventure to Lapland on a budget. Thanks so much to each and every one of you who contacted me over the last week to say you’ve booked or will be booking a magical family trip to Lapland. I’m truly over the moon to help people see more of the world without spending a fortune.
Lapland isn’t just for kids; we saw lots couples or groups of people visiting without kids, they even went to see Santa! In total we spent 3 days and 2 nights in Rovaniemi. This week I’ll tell you about our Airbnb and the 2 days we spent in Santa Claus Village.

Where to stay in Rovaniemi:

There are lots of places to stay such as hotels, chalets, Santa Claus Holiday Village, The Tree House Hotel you can even stay in an Igloo at Snowman World or you can use Airbnb like we did to find accommodation that suits your budget.
In my original post I mentioned an Airbnb that I tried to book but it fell through so I had to book a different apartment. I booked this (https://www.airbnb.ie/rooms/14519564) 1 bedroom apartment directly across the road from the train station. 

There was an extra large sofa bed that comfortably fit 4 of my little ones (aged 10, 10, 8 & 5) while our 2 year old slept in a cot in our bedroom. The apartment was spotless and had everything we could have possibly needed, just a word of warning though the cooker doesn’t have a child lock or mains off switch; we narrowly escaped disaster with our 2 year old. The total cost was €219 for two nights including all taxes, fees and charges.

Public Transport in Rovaniemi:

To collect the key for our apartment I needed to go into Rovaniemi city centre, I didn’t fancy the 20 minute round trip walking so I left my husband & our children with our luggage in the warmth of the train station while I hopped in a taxi from the rank at the station. I paid €10 for the round trip.
Our Airbnb was perfectly located as the number 8 Santa Express bus left for Santa Claus Village, Santa Park, the airport & Rovaniemi city centre from the train station every hour. Tickets are priced at €7.20 per adult return, €4.00 per child return, under 4’s travel free.

Stone Travel Tip: Take a photo of the bus timetable on the bus stop that way you’ll always have it to hand.

What is Santa Claus Village?

Santa Claus Village is a Santa experience Village located 8km north of Rovaniemi; this is the same place you’d go if you went on a day trip to Lapland with a travel agent. Entrance to the village is free but you pay for each activity separately. For more information visit www.santaclausvillage.info

Stone Travel Tip: Plan to arrive early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds as the tour buses arrive from the airport at about 10.30am.

What’s in Santa Claus Village?

Lots, there’s certainly enough to keep you busy for two days if you choose to do some activities such as a Husky or Reindeer safari, Snowman World, Snowmobile park, visit Santa or a visit the Post Office to send some postcards home. 

There are a few restaurants dotted around the village and a small shopping centre with another restaurant upstairs. Our children absolutely loved the little plastic sledges that were free to use while at Santa Claus Village, they probably had more fun on them than anything else during our stay.

Reindeer Sleigh Rides:

With thanks to Visit Finland we got to experience a Reindeer sleigh ride as soon as we arrived at Santa Claus Village. We were ushered over to three beautiful handmade wooden sleighs lined with reindeer fur and a large fur to use as a blanket, we were glad of them as the weather had dipped to -16°C. 

We had only set off on our sleigh ride through the snow covered forest when the silence hit me, we slowly made our way around a vast still forest the only sound was me singing Jingle Bells quietly into my 5 year old son’s ear as it was just us in the last sleigh. It was utterly magical and it didn’t end there, after our sleigh ride we got to roast some sausages over an open fire (while the baby cried as he was over tired and refused to sleep) we were also treated to some hot glögi (non alcoholic mulled wine) to warm us up. Prices start at €18 per adult and €14 per child for a 400m sleigh ride. For more information see www.santaclausreindeer.fi

Snowman World:

No visit to Lapland would be complete without a visit to Snowman World! As you enter the building there’s a small cafe, gift shop, reception area and loos. You don’t need to book in advance just pay on the day. Once you’ve bought your wristband you are free to come and go as you like for the day having as many goes on each of the activities as you wish. As we exited the main building into an IGLOO our kids were thrilled to see a small ice slide just outside the door so they had to have a bazillion goes on that before we could move on!

We warmed up at the Ice Bar with a hot chocolate priced at €3 each and then we had a look at all the bedrooms in the Igloo Hotel. The ice sculptures were beautiful and the hand carved motifs on each bedroom wall were out of this world. We also had a nosey around the Ice Restaurant, lunch is served between 12pm-3pm, Salmon Soup for a mere €19.50 and Sautéed Elk with all the trimmings for €25.50.  

Out the back of the igloo is a huge ice side that you fly down on large inflated donut shape tubes and a small ice rink. We could not get our 5 year old off the slide he must have gone down it a hundred times, I had to have a few goes too and it was brilliant. If you look at my Facebook page Stone Travel you’ll see a video of him in all his glory! We paid €20 per person with under 3’s admitted free of charge.

Husky Safari:

Again with thanks to Visit Finland we received complimentary entry to Husky Park and a husky sleigh ride. Unfortunately as we arrived after 3pm it was dark so I’ve very few photos from out on our Husky ride. You can visit just to see the dogs and have photographs with them for €10pp or €20 per family ticket. As we arrived there was a gentleman leaving asking for a refund and I can see why because it’s outside it’s very dark with poor lighting. 

I can also see the other side as it’d be very uncomfortable for the huskies to be sat under flood lighting for hours on end, my advice if you want to visit just to see the dogs arrive between 12-3pm during daylight hours.

Even writing this I’m still torn as to which was the better experience the Reindeer sleigh ride or the Husky safari, I think it might just be the huskies! You could see the staff really cared for the dogs as they switched out some of the dogs after each outing they were rubbing them and talking to them. When it was our turn the dogs were jumping & yelping itching to get going, the sleigh is like a toboggan whereby you sit one in front of another and lie back on the person behind you. I was in the back with my 10 year old daughter Orla in front of me 8 year old Seamus in front of her and 5 year old Cillian in the front seat. Our Musher was very friendly she told us all about the Huskies during our ride, my kids really loved it.

 As we were dashing through the snow in the forest I took a moment to look up at the dark trees towering above us when all of a sudden we whooshed out into a vast snow covered field beautifully lit with the reflection of the moonlight on the snow, the only sound was my children giggling in front of me. I’ll remember that moment for a long time to come as it was simply amazing. Prices depend on the length of safari you wish to take starting at €30 per adult and €15 per child for a 500m safari. For more information visit www.huskypark.fi


To be honest there’s no need to book in advance just keep an eye on the queue as you pass to decide the best time to jump on the end. We visited at 10am and walked straight up and in to see the big man himself with no waiting at all. Your visit is broadcast live on santaclauslive.com so try to get family or friends to record it for you. Our kids were amazed to see that he was the real Santa, the one from Portable North Pole that’d been sending them videos for the last few years.

Taking your own photographs is strictly prohibited if you want a photo you must buy one, they are priced from €27 depending if you want just a photo or the video and all the photographs on a USB. We opted for just the one printed photo. If you want a snow globe (my Mam collects them) buy it in the gift shop here for just €10 everything else was on par with all the other gift shops in the village.  

Eating and drinking at Santa Claus Village:

It’s expensive, very expensive, lunch consisting of just a main course and a drink for us cost me €97 at the Reindeer Café Restaurant so for the second day we went to the supermarket and made rolls in our Airbnb to bring with us for lunch.

Santa’s Post Office:

We visited so we could send postcards to friends and family at home, postcards start at €1 each and international stamps are from €1.30 each. There are lots of tables and pens available to use and it wasn’t that busy when we visited. Every item sent from this post office is stamped with the official Arctic Circle Santa Claus Village post mark. It took just 3 days for them to arrive back in Ireland. 

You can also order an official Santa letter for your little one for the following Christmas priced at just €7.90 each.  Here you can buy a Santa Claus Main Post Office writing set for just €4.95 I recommend you pick one up so ‘Santa’ can write to your little ones over the years. I bought a spare one to give away so keep an eye on my Facebook page over the next few days if you’d like to win it.

Are you still with us? Sorry that was a long one! How is it so far? Have you been to Lapland & if you have, do you have any tips to share?

Check back next week when I’ll share our experience from Santa Park located just 2km from Santa Claus Village.

*** Disclaimer: As advised above we received a complimentary Husky Safari and a Reindeer Sleigh Ride. As usual all thoughts are my own, I was not asked to write this review. As ever, neither free services nor payment would ever sway my opinion. ***