Lapland: Walking in a Winter Wonderland.

A magical Winter-Wonderland in the North of Europe, Lapland, is an exciting place to spend a winter holiday – a place that I myself visited in December 2016.

Having been a good boy all year I was not hesitant about meeting Santa at all! I was, however, hesitant about the trip to Lapland in general as I figured it would be queues of people for everything, terrible food and accommodation reminiscent of a stable (which was fairly apt for this time of the year) – however I was totally wrong!

My 3 days, 2 night adventure with Santa’s Lapland Tours (which you can now book with me for a discount) was all set to depart out of Newcastle on a direct flight to Ivalo on the 22nd December, meeting the BIG man himself on the 23rd – the night before he was due to drop off presents to boys and girls all over the world!

I arranged to meet my colleague, Ben, who was traveling with his 10-year-old son Oliver, who still believed, which was perfect, as I also got to see the trip through a believer’s eye.

Ben only told Oliver at the airport where he was actually going on his winter holiday and his face was a picture – trying to be a cool 10 year old but you could see he was even more excited than I was!

We arrived after a direct, 2 and a half hour flight over the Arctic Circle into Ivalo airport. It’s tiny but very well set up for the plenty of charter flights it receives during the 6 week rush for Santa and the occasionally flight to and from Helsinki, Paris, Frankfurt etc.

Whist waiting for our bags, we were greeted by Elves singing carols and ushered onto coaches as we walked past Rudolph and his reindeer friends, handled by guys in traditional Lapland costumes. It was the perfect start and just a taster of what was around the corner.

We all boarded our buses and took in the scenery for the 25-minute transfer to Saariselka. It was like driving through Narnia; snow everywhere, fur and pine trees fringed with more powder-white snow, the occasional cabin in-between the trees with fairy lights twinkling away.

Upon arrival into the resort, we were ushered to a store to do our best Michelin man impressions as a bunch of elves took one look at us and gave us a suitable suit to keep us warm for the next few days – how they actually did it was unbelievable, one glance and we were given a massive overall, thermal socks, boots and gloves! Other than the one-minute walk from the airport to the coach you are not exposed to the winter elements, so there’s no need to go out and spend a fortune on clothing before you go.

The art of keeping warm under the suits is layers. You will just need leggings, thermal long johns if you have them, a vest, T-Shirt, a sweatshirt and a jumper underneath the thermal snowsuit you are issued with and you will be as warm as toast!

The resort was made up of a few hotels, gift shops for the kids and a couple of restaurants and bars (for the adults!) There was no such thing as cars there; instead your chosen mode of transport is plastic toboggans, which are everywhere for anyone’s use. The kids loved it – being towed about everywhere – in fact Oliver found it difficult to actually walk anywhere when we got home! But if riding around in a toboggan all day doesn’t get you excited then there is also a toboggan run situated in the corner of the resort – great fun for kids and adults alike!

The first afternoon was free – and with the snow all around you it’s enough for the kids to do for a couple of hours. Prepped in our winter thermals we played around in the snow for hours without feeling the cold too much – there are people everywhere doing snow angels, sliding down the slopes, tobogganing or just enjoying the fresh air and snow in general.

Be aware there is little light during the day in Lapland. We arrived around 11am but it felt like 7 in the evening, and by around 5pm (still before dinner), you feel as if you should be going to bed! Maybe it was Lapland telling us we needed to be asleep before the big day tomorrow.

We were given a bit of time before we departed for the day, so we had an early breakfast – which, like the dinner the night before, was nothing to shout about, but nothing to complain about either. There was a small selection but something for everyone at least. And then we boarded our bus to be given a full briefing on what to do and how best to utilise our time when we got to the Arctic Circle centre.

(Kids don’t read this!) Adults can also remain in the bus, to be informed how to give their prewritten letters to Santa so it looks as if they had been posted. Meanwhile the kids are outside singing Christmas carols with the elves.

We headed down to the centre to do some ice fishing and play ice hockey before waiting in line for about 10 minutes (the only time we had to wait for anything) to board the sleighs where we could explore the Finnish wilderness on our search for Santa.

As we rode through the forest we passed an upturned sleighs with presents that had fallen out – Santa obviously had too many Sherries! We quickly arrived at a little cabin, covered in snow with excited elves prancing around outside.

We walked through the door to see him, sitting in a rocking chair with a raging fire in the corner, big red and white suit hanging on a hook and a magical Christmas tree, along with a pile of presents wrapped in blue or pink wrapping paper for obvious reasons.

Softly spoken with a Finnish accent, he produced the letter that Oliver had written previously – again his face was a picture. When we left Oliver said ‘I know that was the real Santa as he was just like the one on all the Christmas cards” bless him – he even fooled me to be fair!

Meeting Santa at Lapland

Meeting Santa

After Santa, we wandered over to the Ice Bar – an igloo with ice sculptures and of course, a bar for more €5 beers and the chance to thaw out a little. They also served hot chocolate for additional thawing.

We wandered back to the top of the snowy hills as we had a time slot for our Husky Sleigh Ride (the only activity you need a time slot for!) I was in a sleigh with my other colleague Megan and her adorable daughter Lilly, who at 20 months, had been pulled around in a toboggan since our arrival as they are easier to handle than a buggy/pushchair, and besides, the airline had left it in Stansted!

Visiting Lapland was a fantastic experience, for both the adults and children! And it’s easy to see why the locals speak of Lapland’s wilderness as a place ‘of strange magic’. From everlasting daylight in summer to the natural phenomenon, Aurora Borealis, in winter, Lapland is full of magical experiences that everyone in the family can enjoy.

Here are some of the best winter activities in Lapland that you need to try.

Northern Light Safaris

A natural wonder of the world, the Aurora Borealis is one of the massive lures to Finland. It occurs throughout the winter, during November to April, most commonly seen between 5pm and 2am. There are plenty of Northern Light tours to take you away from artificial light and give you the best chance of seeing this natural phenomenon. The tours include everything from evening snowmobile safaris to guided snowshoe adventures, or for those who don’t fancy braving the cold, you can stay in a glass-ceilinged igloo, where you can gaze at the night sky from the warmth of your bed.

Snowmobile Safaris

In Lapland, the locals often use snowmobiles to get around, using the massive network of snowy trails that extend past forests, frozen lakes and over the icy hills. It is because of these extensive tracks that it makes this the perfect way to explore the region.

 

Snowmobiling

Snowmobiling

Dog-Sledding

A far more traditional way of traversing the snow-covered landscape is by sleigh, specifically pulled by a team of huskies that were bread to pull heavy loads in harsh conditions in Siberia. Pairs of dogs, typically three or four couples, will pull the two-man sleigh through the snowy tundra, following the lead slay. It’s an exhilarating experience, hurtling through the snow, but don’t expect peace and quiet! As they run, the dogs excitedly yap and bark, filling the idyllic surrounding with noise.

Dog Sleigh Rides in Lapland

Dog Sleigh Rides in Lapland

Sleigh Rides

For those who prefer the slow lane, a reindeer sleigh ride will be right up your street. Again, reindeer sleigh rides are a traditional way of transport for Lapland locals, who have depended on reindeers to get them around for centuries. In a stately procession, a single reindeer pulls open sleigh while you are tucked up warm in a bundle of furs. While it may not be the fastest of rides, you will enjoy the smooth, quiet and magical landscape from the comfort of your own toboggan.

Santa Claus’ Village

It wouldn’t be Lapland without popping to see the big man himself! The Santa Claus Holiday Village is a unique experience for adults and children alike; from cozy, cabin-like restaurants to exhilarating sledging down the snowy slopes. But a trip to Santa Claus’ Village wouldn’t be complete without knocking on Santa’s office door to meet the man in red.

Do you want to visit Lapland in 2017? I can organise the perfect trip for you and your family next winter. Call me on 07990 018018

Planning the Perfect Honeymoon with TravelSnob

For some couples, often the honeymoon is more important than the wedding itself. Not only is the post-wedding holiday a chance for the couple to rest after months of wedding planning and spend time alone together, but for some it’s the trip of a lifetime! However, it doesn’t take much to turn the perfect holiday into the trip from hell.

Here are my top tips to make sure you have a fabulous honeymoon:

You get what you pay for

After spending huge amounts of the wedding day itself, it may seem sensible to scrimp on the honeymoon budget. Just remember, you get what you pay for!

Don’t let yourselves be suckered in by cheap holidays that guarantee you and your partner a luxury experience. In most cases, it only leads to more problems down the line such as hotel rooms with more stains than a dirty dishcloth or restaurants that give you nothing but a side of food poisoning.

Keep an Eye on the Time

A luxury beach hut in the Maldives, or a resort in the Seychelles is great but if you only have a week to experience it, you will come back off your honeymoon more exhausted than when you left.

Those with a limited timescale for their honeymoon may want to look at city breaks in Europe. Particularly perfect for honeymoon couples is Rome, one of Europe’s most romantic cities. Take a stroll down the centro storico where the city is alive in a magical glow as monuments and streets are alight by quintessential street lamps.

Use a Travel Consultant

Using an expert can be of value when planning a trip to a destination you have never visited before. A good travel consultant will take the time to arrange the perfect honeymoon for you, giving you insider information about the destination, hotels and local activities whilst finding you the best rates and securing perks. Equaling a stress-free booking experience for you and your other half.

Need help planning your perfect honeymoon? I’ve travelled to 112 countries, 100’s of hotels and 1,000’s of restaurants around the world so who better to book your trip of a lifetime with? Call me on 07990 018018.

Holiday Help: Packing for Business Trips

As someone who spends a lot of time travelling for personal and business pleasure, I understand that trying to fit everything you need in your suitcase can be difficult. However, if you’re someone like me who often gets the other half to pack your suitcase then you will know that when it comes to packing for business trips on your own can be even more of a struggle.

Over the years I’ve mastered the art of business trip packing and want to share my tips with any other lost packing souls:

Man in Black

Embrace your inner Johnny Cash when you’re selecting your outfit choices for a business trip and adopt the monochrome wardrobe- you know what they say, black goes with everything! You would not believe how long a pair of black jeans, black shirts and black business attire will get your through a long business trip.

Packing Business Suits

Trying to pack suits without getting them wrinkled can seem like an impossible task. The answer is in the folding! In order to pack a suit jacket, you need to fold the jacket in half lengthways before pulling the sleeves inside out so you can see the lining of the suit. The last step is to fold the jacket in half again and place it into your suitcase. Once you have learnt this skill, you needn’t worry about a crinkled suit.

Forget Ziplock Bags

It’s important to buy travel size toiletries before going on your trip to ensure you’re below the liquid limit, but for those essentials like cologne or contact solution you may want to put in small containers. Otherwise, save some space in your suitcase for the more important things and take advantage of all the freebies in hotel rooms.

Choose a carry-on case

Save time and don’t check in your bag, instead use a roll-aboard case that fits in the overhead compartments. Then you don’t have the hassle of waiting and trying to find your bags when you step off the plane! Even better, a hard shell, carry-on case will provide maximum protection for your clothes.

Thinking of booking your next trip, business or personal, why not book it with me? Drop me an email to david@thetravelsnob.co.uk or give me a call on 07990 018018.

Holiday Help: Travel Issues You May Face

When travelling abroad, it can be easy to run into trouble. From stolen belongings to missing your flight, we at the Travel Snob can help you with any of travel issues:

Your purse/wallet is stolen.

 If your wallet is stolen, you will need to contact the local police straight away and make sure you get a copy of statement you made. Once you’ve done that, report any missing cards to your bank. Depending on the bank, they may be able to send you a replacement card within 24 hours to three days to use for the rest of your holiday.

Otherwise, if you are in need of money desperately then contact a friend and get them to send it to you through an online money transfer operator like Western Union where you can collect it from a shop or bank.

You miss your flight.

Missing a flight can happen to the best of us, so first of all don’t panic! There’s no point sprinting through the airport instead with your head hung in shame, you must notify a staff member that you have missed your plane. They will have you “decontrolled” where you are lead through the airport like a naughty school kid to the arrival halls where you have two options.

Now that you’re decontrolled, you must head to the ticket desk for the airline you were flying with and a member of staff will help you to find another flight. Some airlines will help you out and offer a “rescue fee” otherwise you will be paying the full price of a ticket. If you cannot find another flight to your destination then you should check the other airlines for their next flights.

You lose your luggage.

There is nothing worse than waiting for your luggage to arrive on the carousel and it not arriving. If you know for definite that your luggage is not in your destination then go to the airline’s counter to file a report. The airline may offer you a bag of essential items i.e. toiletries and will take your contact details. When your luggage is ready to be collected, you will be contacted but until the time you are reunited, speak to your hotel reception. They may be able to offer you money to buy spare clothes. Once you’re back from your holiday, remember to speak to your travel insurance who should cover your luggage lost with compensation.

If disaster strikes while you are on your holiday, you can count on David! When you book a holiday with David, you will be able to available to catch him on his mobile 24/7. Whether you’re booking a holiday or got a travel issue, get in touch on 07990 018018.