How to plan a DIY Lapland with kids trip
25th May, 2023
If you are considering booking a DIY Lapland trip then it is either because you love to organise things yourself or you have seen the INSANE prices that major tour operators charge for a trip to Lapland with kids!
I knew a long time ago that I wanted to visit Lapland with the kids, but I just couldn’t justify the prices that I saw online, which during the Christmas period were as much as £12,000 for a four day break! Whoah. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience of travel planning and I was quietly confident that I could get those prices down significantly, however, whilst I generally find planning my next trip enjoyable and relatively simple, planning our DIY Lapland trip was definitely one of the most challenging travel itineraries that I have put together.
Visiting Lapland with kids is a market that travel agents have definitely capitalised and to my surprise, I found little information online about how to book my trip to Lapland, which resulted in many hours of searching through forums and social media and a lot of ‘I will find out where we get there’ notions. So, in light of this, I have put together this article to outline how I planned my DIY Lapland trip to help others plan this magical once in a lifetime trip, without having a re-mortgage their homes!
So, lets get into it- here is my DIY Lapland itinerary and top tips for visiting Lapland with kids.
- How to plan a DIY Lapland trip
- DIY Lapland- the best places to stay
- The best things to do in Lapland with kids
- See the Northern Lights
- DIY Lapland packing list
- DIY Lapland- Useful things to note
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How to plan a DIY Lapland trip
Planning a DIY Lapland trip isn’t the easiest trip to plan as there are so many things to consider, the main things being-
- Where in Lapland should I visit?
- How will I get to Lapland?
- Where should I stay in Lapland?
- What are the best things to do in Lapland?
- What should I pack for my trip to Lapland with kids? (this one is super important given that the weather can reach lows of -20 degrees!
In this article I will cover each of the topics listed above, so make sure that you read right through until the end so that you don’t miss anything!
DIY Lapland- where is the best place to visit?
The first things that you will need to decide with planning your DIY Lapland trip is where you want to go. To begin, many people do not actually know where Lapland is exactly! We all know it is cold and somewhere near the North Pole, but this isn’t much help when booking flights!
Lapland is located in the Arctic area in the northern part of the three Nordic countries, Sweden, Norway and Finland and the Kola Peninsula in Russia. Lapland is a region, not a country and it makes up about one-third of the total area of Finland, which is officially the home of Santa, which is why most people who visit Lapland will choose Finland as their country of choice.
But the decision doesn’t end there, there are several parts of Finland that promote themselves as holiday destinations, so which one do you choose?
These are six major resorts in Lapland and each of them offer something slightly different, as outlined below.
Ruka was out choice of destination for our DIY Lapland trip.
Ruka is a ski resort that is awesome for beginners and kids. Perfect for a trip to Lapland with kids, you can spend one day in the Rudolf and Rosa’s kids park riding up the rainbow-themed magic carpets and down the gentle beginner slopes and the next riding a husky-pulled sleigh or feeding reindeer at the reindeer farm. Santa has a cottage just a few minutes drive away and if you drive a bit further (around two hours) you can visit Santa’s Village, which we absolutely loved!
This article will be largely based on visiting Ruka, which was the destination that I found to be the best for our DIY Lapland trip based on my research, however, I will also tell you about the other resorts briefly here, should you think that these places better suit your needs.
If you are tight on time then a trip to Rovaneimi may be the best option for you. This is where Santa’s Village is located so you can literally fly into the local airport, spend a couple of days soaking up the Christmas vibes and then head off on your way. Personally, I would recommend spending longer in Finland to get to see the country a little, but I understand that not everyone will have time to do this.
Levi is another ski resort in Finland that is a similar distance from Santa’s Village as Ruka is. Similarly to Ruka, it offers all of the traditional winter activities such as husky sledging, reindeer rides and snow mobiling and is a highly rated ski area. Whilst Levi sounded great, the reviews for Ruka were also very good and Ruka was easier to reach for us from the UK.
Saariselkä is the northernmost Lapland resort in Finland, situated near the top of the coubtry. Saariselkä has a ski area as well as a Lapland winter activities centre and a Santa’s cabin. Saariselkä is a popular tourist destination due to Urho Kekkonen National Park, the indigenous Sámi population, the Lapland scenery of Kaunispää and Iisakkipää fells, the Northern Lights and the famous glass igloo hotels.
Another Finnish ski resort, Yllas boasts a traditional Finnish Lapland. It is one of the more northernmost Lapland resorts and is close to Snow Village, where visitors can enjoy ice sculptures and a range of constructions made from snow and ice.
Luosto is a picturesque ski village located in the northern part of Finland. It is located close to Pyhä-Luosto National Park, also known as ‘Santa’s forest home’. There are frozen lakes, snow covered fells and frosty forests alongside the ski resort here.
There are a few other resorts in Lapland too, that you may wish to research further. These include:
- Enontekiö & Kilpisjärvi (Finland)
- Kemi (Finland)
- Kemijärvi & Suomu (Finland)
- Muonio, Olos & Pallas (Finland)
- Pello (Finland)
- Posio (Finland)
- Pyhä & Luosto (Finland)
- Ranua (Finland)
- Salla (Finland)
- Savukoski & Korvatunturi (Finland)
- Sodankylä & Sompio (Finland)
- Syöte & Pudasjärvi & Taivalkoski (Finland)
- Utsjoki (Finland)
- Alta (Norway)
- Kirkenes (Norway)
- Arjeplog (Sweden)
- Arvidsjaur (Sweden)
- Kiruna (Sweden)
- Luleå (Sweden)
- Piteå (Sweden)
- Skellefteå (Sweden)
DIY Lapland- how to get there
First things first- you need to figure out how you will get to Lapland.
Flights to Lapland
The most obvious and simple option would be to fly direct from your local airport, but chances are that that either isn’t an option at all (because the airport is tiny and has only a few flight arrivals) or that the flights are horrendously expensive.
When I began to research my trip to Lapland with kids I quickly found that the direct flights with TUI from the UK were extortionately priced and at over £2000 each, I couldn’t justify the cost. However, a quick search on Skyscanner brought up flight from London via Helsinki for just over a quarter of the price of a direct flight, saving us almost £4000! That’s whopping!
Unfortunately we had a long lay over at Helsinki of five hours on the way there, which wasn’t ideal- but we made the most of it and bought lounge passes so that the kids could nap, we could charge our devices and I could sit and drink wine and indulge in the delicious Finnish salmon soup! On our return from our DIY Lapland trip we had a three hour layover and the kids played in the cute Santa’s cabin that was free to use and filled with arts and craft- it was a great way to pass some time!
Trains to Lapland
Another option that I seriously considered for our DIY Lapland trip was to take the train. This would have enabled us to break up the journey a bit and would have also allowed time to explore Helsinki. However, as it was an overnight train I decided not to choose this option. Whilst I am not opposed to sleeper trains, If there is the option to fly I prefer this as it causes less disruption to the kids’ sleep schedules.
Driving to Lapland
A third option to reach Lapland with kids is to drive. This is the most popular way to get to Lapland for the local, Finnish people, who actually made up the majority of tourists in the area.
If van life is your thing, then driving from Helsinki to Lapland could be a great option for you. I was surprised to see hundreds of campervans parked close to the slopes in Ruka, so this is clearly a popular choice.
The drive from Helsinki to Ruka takes around 9 hours without stops and whilst the roads will likely be snowy, the driving conditions are actually ok (the Finnish cope with snow an awful lot better than the Brits do!).
DIY Lapland- the best places to stay
When planning a DIY Lapland an important consideration is where you will stay.
Apartments in Lapland
If you are on a budget then I recommend renting a self-catering apartment. Apartments are a lot cheaper than cabins and you can save money by cooking your own meals. We stayed at the Rukariutta Apartments, which actually felt more like a cabin than an apartment (which I loved).
The apartment had everything we needed and was super warm and cosy and it even had its own private sauna! You could step straight outside into the snow too (no apartment buildings, corridors, lifts etc), which was lovely. It was also conveniently located close to Ruka Village, where there are several restaurants, the ski lifts and a large supermarket and alcohol store. You can drive to different parts of the resort from here too.
You can book your stay at at the Rukariutta Apartments here.
Chalets in Lapland
If you have a bit more money to spend then you may wish to rent a chalet in Lapland. There are a range of cabins within the area, although most of these will require a short drive to the centre of the resort (because they are located in the forest- so picture perfect!). Chalets vary in size- some are designed for many people to stay and will have multiple bedrooms and others are designed for small families.
My favourite is UnelmaVeska– all you need to do is look at the photos to see why these chalets are almost always booked up months in advance! With ample room for a large family or two small families, all the mod cons and a cosy Finnish traditional style (including a sauna and sun terrace), it is hard to see why you wouldn’t love this cabin.
You can book your stay at UnelmaVeska here.
Hotels in Lapland
If you are looking for a hotel in Lapland then I recommend booking one that is ski in ski out. Not only is this convenient for skiing, but it also means that you will be based at the centre of the resort, where all of the shops, restaurants, play areas, bars etc are.
The Hotel Arctic Zone is in an excellent location, situated in Ruka Village. The views here are amazing and the hotel is conveniently located right by the restaurants, shops, ski rental shop and two chair lifts. There is also a bus stop and a large car park right outside.
You can book a stay at Hotel Arctic Zone here.
The best things to do in Lapland with kids
When planning your DIY Lapland trip you will want to consider what are the best things to do in Lapkand with kids and what is the best way to book them. Well, you will be pleased to know that there are lots of cool things to do in Lapland (I mean, have you even been to Lapland if you didn’t feed a reindeer and ride a husky sleigh?!).
It is important to note that the best things to do in Lapland sell out quickly during the peak season, so I highly recommend booking in advance- I have added the links below for you.
Go on a husky ride
This was one of the highlights of our DIY Lapland trip!
Get up close and personal with the adorable huskies as you enjoy a trek through snowy Finland. This is such a magical experience- you can cozy up behind a team of sleigh dogs, and ride through the beautiful Finnish forests. You also have the opportunity to learn about the training, breeding and racing of these magnificent creatures.
Interesting fact- huskies must run everyday in winter to keep their joints active!
Click here to book your husky ride (recommended to book in advance).
Visit a reindeer farm
Visiting reindeers is a must-do activity when planning a DIY Lapland trip! You can ride a reindeer-pulled sleigh through the snow and meet these gentle animals at a reindeer farm. You can learn from the friendly herders how they care for these beautiful animals and feed them too- a truly Christmassy experience!
Click here to book your reindeer experience (recommended to book in advance).
See the Northern Lights
Seeing the Northern Lights is a once in a lifetime experience! Unfortunately though, this isn’t usually as simple as looking out of your bedroom window- light pollution and cloud coverage will often impact your ability to see the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora, from the place that you are staying in.
Instead, you have far higher chances of seeing the Northern Lights by going on a tour with a guide- they will take you to the places where you will have the best chance of witnessing this magical night sky!
Click here to book your Northern Lights tour.
Ride a snowmobile
Riding a snowmobile through the snowy forests of Finland is a great way to spend time on your DIY Lapland trip! You can experience Lapland’s wild terrain with a snowmobile safari through its off-road forest trails, gaining a more intimate perspective of the Arctic landscape. You can also absorb views of Santa Claus’ Village against a frozen backdrop, which is just magical!
Click here to book your snowmobile safari.
Visit Santa’s Village
A visit to Santa’s village is the highlight of most DIY Lapland trips! There is plenty to do here including visiting Santa himself, exploring the arctic circle area, meeting Mrs Clause, riding reindeers, admiring the snow and ice sculptures and visiting the arctic animals in the farm. There are also lots of quaint souvenir shops selling all things Santa!
Beware that queues to see Santa can get extremely long and tickets often sell out shortly after lunch time. I recommend that you book in advance to ensure you get a chance to meet the big man!
Click here to book your trip to Santa’s Village (recommended to book in advance).
Stay in a glass igloo
What could be better than spending an evening in the bosom of nature, on the lake, surrounded by forests. Staying in a glass igloo provides a unique opportunity to enjoy Lapland from a different perspective. And if you are lucky with the weather, then looking into the sky you can see not only the stars, but also flashes of the Northern Lights!
Click here to book a stay in a glass igloo.
See arctic animals in the zoo
Animal lovers—this one’s for you! Enjoy a day trip to Ranua Wildlife Park, which is home to polar bears, arctic foxes, gray wolves, and reindeer. As well as the animals, the park has plenty of attractions to explore, including a chocolate shop, a wine shop, restaurants, and more.
Click here to buy your Ranua Wildlife Park tickets.
Visit the Frozen Waterfalls
Seeing a frozen waterfall is pretty cool, right? Here you can venture into the frozen Arctic wilderness and marvel at one of the most impressive sights in the Lappish countryside with this excursion to the frozen waterfalls of the Korouoma Canyon. Strap on boots or snowshoes and hike into the deep canyon to admire the dazzling ice formations created as the rushing river waters freeze in the winter temperatures, then relax over lunch served around an open fire.
Click here to book your frozen waterfall tour.
Go ice floating
Ever fancied a dip in an ice pool? Well, this activity takes that to a whole new level! This tour allows you to see the Northern Lights while floating in a frozen lake in the Finnish wilderness. Don the provided dry-suit and float among the icebergs while gazing peacefully up at the Aurora Borealis.
Click here to book your spot on the ice floating tour.
Go cross country skiing
This tour is perfect for beginners- here you will embark on a cross-country skiing adventure through Rovaniemi’s wilderness, taking in the snowy landscapes and searching for animal tracks. The lesson preceding the tour will be geared to your skills and ability level, and the instructor will remain with you the whole time to ensure your comfort and safety. All necessary equipment is included.
Click here to go cross country skiing.
Go ice swimming and take a sauna
Get off the beaten path to experience some of the best Lappish traditions in the wilderness outside of Rovaniemi. Try out a Finnish sauna, go ice swimming an Arctic lake, then cozy up around a fire in a cozy cottage for dinner. Your guide will fill you in on the cultural significance of all the activities as you go.
Click here to go ice swimming.
Learn to ski
If you are visiting Lapland and you have never skied before, don’t worry! There are plenty of private and group ski classes where you can learn the basics.
Go ice climbing
This one is for the adventurous people! Head out to Korouoma Canyon and get climbing! Your guides will teach you how and all necessary equipment is provided.
Click here to book your place ice climbing.
Go ice karting
This is another adrenaline-fuelled activity! Try your hand at navigating a go-kart modified to take on a frozen Arctic track. The ice-kart is fitted with studded winter tires and takes on the straightaways and hairpin turns of a custom-built winter track. There is also a mini snowmobile for smaller children.
Click here to book your ice karting experience.
DIY Lapland packing list
When planning your DIY Lapland trip perhaps the most important consideration is what to pack because believe me when I say that packing for a Lapland with kids trip is no easy feat! You can literally DIE from weather as cold, as it gets in Lapland in winter, so it is super important that you pack appropriate winter gear.
I recommend the following:
- Lapland travel guide
- Lapland activity book (this is a trip of a lifetime, make the most of it and get the kids to record every detail!)
- Snow boots with fur lining
- Fleece neck warmer
- Hand warmer pads (you can put these in your cloves and in your shoes- you will need to use a few each day)
- Ski jacket
- Kids snowsuit
- Thermal underwear (or thermal trousers and tops to wear underneath your clothes)
- Ski gloves
- Under gloves (yes- you will need to wear more than one pair of gloves!)
- Enough clothes to allow for 3-4 layers per day (avoid cotton as this won’t dry easily if you get wet/sweat)
I also recommend that you buy a warmer for your camera, like this one, as mine kept dying from the cold!
DIY Lapland- Useful things to note
I will end this DIY Lapland guide with a few helpful things that I wish I knew or was glad I knew during our trip to Lapland with kids…
Daylight will be limited
There isn’t much daylight in Lapland during winter. We visited over Christmas and the sun would rise at around 10.30am and set at around 1.30pm. The sun never rose above the trees.
You may wish to consider the lack of daylight when planning your DIY Lapland trip and book activities during daylight hours. Whilst everything does function perfectly well after dark, the photos don’t come out quite the same!
Lapland is expensive
Make sure you save your pennies in advance of your trip! Whilst this DIY Lapland post will surely help you to save some money, there is no getting away from the pack that Finland is an expensive country to travel to.
To give you an idea, I paid 5 Euros for a bottle of coke at the ski resort and meals started at around 25 Euros in restaurants. A Burger King meal at Helsinki airport cost about 12 Euros.
And food isn’t the only thing that is expensive- the activities and tours are costly too. We managed this by asking for them as gifts from family for Christmas!
Lapland can be one of the coldest places on Earth
There is no getting away from the fact that if you choose to visit Lapland in winter it will be cold. It is common for temperature to get as low as -15 to -20 degrees, which is a level of cold that most people have never experienced! Fortunately, I was well prepared from my visit to the Harbin Ice and Snow festival, so I felt well-prepared for the adjustment.
The cold can be managed by wearing lots of layers, purchasing good quality thermals and ski gear and taking regular breaks from the outside weather. Oh, hand warmers are a saviour too!
Some people advise against taking babies to Lapland
Many travel agents will not book trips for children aged below four to visit Lapland because of concerns over the cold. I am no scientist, but I can tell you that I saw plenty of children younger than four during my visit. I can also tell you that the Finnish choose to put their babies to sleep outside in the cold. You can make your own decision about whether to take young children or not.
You can visit Santa 365 days a year
Whilst most people choose to visit during winter, Santa is actually working in his office and welcoming in visitors every day of the year. And it is no surprise that meeting the big dude in red comes with far less queues during summer time!
Everyone has a sauna
In Finland it is tradition to have a sauna in your home, so the chances are that your Lapland accommodation will have a sauna too. We loved sitting in the sauna after a long day outside in the cold to thaw out. It was pretty handy to dry clothes too!
Go to Lapland after Christmas and save money
Naturally, many people want to plan their DIY Lapland trip either before or during Christmas. However, if you want to save money then plan your trip for after the holidays- prices drop dramatically after mid January.
Your DIY Lapland trip will be the trip of a lifetime!
For most people, a visit to Lapland is a once in a lifetime experience and with a little bit of planning, your DIY Lapland trip can be just as amazing as mine was! If you have any questions about visiting Lapland or if you want to see my social media coverage of the trip (there is a lot on my Insta stories!) then please do connect with me using the social links below.
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