It was Friday at last! There was to be no school today. Instead I woke the very excited children up in the middle of the dark, rainy night and we made our way to Liverpool airport. We were off for the weekend to see Father Christmas!
The holiday started the minute we boarded the plane. Our flight, on small planet airlines, was at 6am and Santa himself was the pilot! The cabin crew were elves and even before we took off the children were given candy canes and had a turn at sitting in the cock pit!
We landed at Ivalo airport and were greeted by playful elves who were jumping all over the luggage and causing havoc! Outside was a real reindeer with a Sami man and our coach.
Everyone was allocated a coach, this was the same coach we were to use all weekend. During the journey through the beautiful sunset lit snow we looked out for reindeer whilst joining in with christmas carol singing. The stunning scenery was completely different to any we had ever seen before and incredibly hard to describe. With snow as far as you can see, trees heavy with snow and the sunset causing the sky to errupt in beautiful pinks and purples reflected in the snow. It was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
Our first stop was the center of saariselka, where we were kitted out in boots, socks, super warm suits and gloves before getting back on the coach to our accomodation.
We were staying in Santas Christmas cabins. The cabin was possibly the highlight of our stay. We were sharing with another family, something we had been slightly concerned about but we neednt have worried. Santas Lapland had matched us with a family with similar aged children and we all got on really well. The cabin had 5 bedrooms with ensuit shower rooms, a large living room with an open fire and christmas tree, a dining area, kitchen and sauna.
We were invited into the living room for chocolate log and hot drinks whilst we were told what to expect from our trip and introduced to our cabin host, Max.
Max soon became the childrens favourite person. He made them hot chocolate on demand, taught them origami and provided brand new board games for them to play. He entertained them all weekend aswell as cooking us amazing four course dinners and breakfast to order, making homemade scones and cakes, providing endless cups of tea, turning the sauna on for when we came back to the cabin, producing spare hats and gloves as needed, keeping the fire burning and even helping us to pack on the last morning!
The first evening Max helpfully cooked for us at an earlier time, as we had awkwardly booked a local snowmobile trip at dinner time. We then set off out on our first adventure. The guide picked us up from our cabin and took us to his shop in the center of Saariselka where we were given balaclavas and helmets. We were shown to our snowmobiles and the children rode in a heated sleigh behind the guide. We were led out into the wilderness with the snow sparkling around us, looking for the Northern lights. Unfortunately it was too cloudy to see them that evening but we had an amazing time anyway. We stopped at a tee pee in the middle of nowhere where the guide made a fire and cooked us sausages and hot drinks. He also gave us salmon bread and he had brought kinder eggs and cookies especially for the children. Whilst the children were having the time of their lives throwing themselves into waist deep snow, the guide told us all about his life in Finland, which was very interesting. After we had finished at the camp we drove back to Saariselka, stopping on the way for high speed rides on the guides snowmobile.
We arrived back at our cabin gone midnight and went straight to bed to dream about our snowy adventure.
Early the next morning we were woken to the smell of breakfast and quickly got ready. This was the day we were going to meet Santa! After breakfast the coach came to get us and take us to the arctic circle center. We waved bye to Max and off we went.
At the arctic circle center we were given a time for our husky ride and then left to exolore. There was plenty to do for the whole day. First we tried out sledging, then built a snowman. There were various teepees with free hot berry juice, pancakes and cookies to keep you going and warm up when needed. We played on skis and the kids got to try driving skiddoos. We went on a short trip by reindeer sleigh to some huge igloos. Inside one was an ice bar, we had a quick peek inside but chose not to purchase drinks. Inside another was an elf show with playful elves and there was another lit up tunnel that you could walk through. The children had fun on the ice slide and we spent some time feeding the reindeer.
After this it was time for our husky ride so we made our way back to the start and were given a brief talk on how to drive the husky sled before being shown to our huskies. The huskies were very noisy and excited to be running and we very much ebjoyed our 2km run.
Following this we went inside to have some lunch. Lunch was spaghetti bolognaise with crusty bread and juice or hot drinks. It was actually very nice and a good chance to warm up before going back outside.
After we had eaten we played in the snow some more, tried ice fishing until we realised we wouldnt catch much on a pond with a plastic rod and I got into the queue for Santa while the children played a spot of ice hockey.
When it was our turn to go and find Santa we were loaded onto a snowmobile sleigh and set off on a short journey through the dark forest. We arrived and were greeted by some playful elves who led us to Santas cottage. The children were amazed to find that Santa had their letters that they had sent the week before. He spoke to them for a while and gave them a present each. I liked that I was able to take photos as there was no photographer pressuring you into buying pictures and that we didnt feel rushed.
After we had seen Santa there was just enough time to get a last pancake before getting on the last coach back to the cabin.
That evening Max served us an amazing four course Christmas meal and we all discussed our adventures from that day.
After dinner we decided you only live once and along with our fellow cabin guests we donned all our winter clothes and set out to find the longest sledge run in Europe that just happened to be five minutes walk from our cabin.
Here we stayed until 1am, throwing ourselves down a hill at what felt like 100 miles an hour and having an amazing time!
The next morning Max prepared us all some breakfast then the kids headed back out for a bit of last minute sledging whilst we packed. Unfortunately we took too long and the coach arrived to pick us up for the airport! Everything was fine though as Max and the Santas Lapland staff from the coach helped us to sort the kids out and finish packing and we were given time to say our goodbyes to one of the best places we have ever stayed and to the best cabin host ever!
The children were possibly some of the oldest on the trip that weekend at 9 and 10 but they were also a perfect age for it and the magic was definitely still there.
It was a short and sweet trip that felt like a lifetime as we packed so much into it. The Santas Lapland staff went out of their way to make it a magical once in a lifetime trip and we all absolutely loved every minute!
Santas Lapland with an autistic child?
I personally think Lapland is amazing for children with autism. We made the right decision staying in a cabin and not a busy hotel.
My son loved Lapland. He loved the snow, he loved throwing himself down hills on a sledge, he loved the snowmobiles and the sparkly night time snow. He loved it all and he didnt want to come home!
The only real issues we had were the elves. As they are quite mischievous and playful they like to pull hats off and run away and my son does not like to have his hat pulled off at all! We had to leave the elf show after about two minutes because his hat was taken and it took a lot of distraction to persuade him not to go back in to shout at the elf. On arrival at the airport he was very wary of the elves and when we went to see santa he was quite worried the elves were going to take his hat again.
He loved the reindeer and the huskies and when everything got too much he tended to wander off and dig in the snow for a bit.
The staff were very patient with him and made allowances for us, seating us in a less crowded area at lunch time on the Santa day.
This trip was quite expensive despite shopping around and finding the cheapest way to do it. Though I would argue that for the experience and what is included it is worth the price. We liked Santas Lapland as the company seemed less commercialised and possibly quieter than some of the larger trips and Saariselka was lovely.
The way we managed to afford it was to ring them and put our names down for a deal. This meant being flexible with dates and able to go at fairly short notice as I was rung up a week before we went and offered a last minute deal. We ended up paying less for the catered cabin than we would of done for the cheapest hotel so it was worth booking this way.
The price included flights, transfers, accomodation, sledges, all food (Ive never felt so full in my life), the Santa day and snow boots/suits etc.
Santas Lapland can be found at: https://www.santaslapland.com