Two years ago, in the midst of a horrible flu, we picked three little explorers up from school and whisked them off on a surprise adventure, to Lapland. It was an incredible, magical adventure, that planning and booking by ourselves was a fraction of the price compared to the tour companies. We spent a week in the North of Finland for the same price as a day trip from Belfast! You can read all about how we did it here. Since writing the blog all about it, and chatting to others, it has been amazing how many people have started to take it into their own hands and get an affordable option of a Lapland experience (some it has become an annual event rather than a once in a lifetime trip!)
One thing we get asked frequently is about what to bring and what to wear so we’ve made a magical winter wonderland guide if you are heading off to Lapland this year.
Consider travelling light (it also saves on the needing to pay for baggage items). Most accommodations (do check it out before you go though) have drying cupboards, which dried the outerwear incredibly quickly. Means you can give base layers a quick wash in the sink and dry if you think you need to.
It is freezing (the coldest temperature we saw was -28 degrees centigrade), you are in the Artic region after all, so it is important to dress appropriately. Many of the tour companies include rental of a snow suit, so check out the prices and think whether you are best to rent or buy. You may be able to borrow from friends, or if you plan to go skiing over the next few years it might be worth purchasing. We bought ours in the summer sales and got them at a good price, the children wore their coats at home that winter, and we sold them on when they grew out, so it worked for us.
Layers are the important bit when it comes to surviving an artic winter, temperatures can vary quite a bit day to day and there’s only a few hours of daylight per day so being prepared to layer up or strip off is a must. You will also be going in and out of warm buildings, so need to be able to strip off quickly if necessary.
Many people also worry about bringing very young children. As long as you are prepared you will have no problems (there are local babies in Lapland after all).
These are basically your thermals layer – leggings and long sleeved tops. Unless you ski and therefore sweat, in the coldness you are unlikely to sweat so they will last a couple of days. We brought 3 or 4 pairs, if I went back we would bring 2 each, one to wear, and one to wash/dry if necessary.
- Do not buy cotton ones, these hold the cold and feel damp, something synthetic, or merino wool (these are pricey, I would only purchase these if you plan to ski/ use them regularly).
- We bought ours in summer sale from Sports Direct and they were really cheap (like £1-2 per top/leggings). Lidl, Decathlon, Aldi all have good options at times, so check them out.
This is the in-between layer – a good fleece top or jacket is a worthwhile investment and something you will likely wear at home throughout the winter. Most days we didn’t need a mid layer on the legs, Miss 11 is always cold and she may have worn this a few times, but the others did not. For our late night northern lights hunting all the layers were required- mainly as we were standing still on a frozen lake.
- Two of these is more than plenty for a week long trip.
- Fleece lined leggings or joggers work as a mid layer.
- For kids fleece pyjamas are a great idea, cheap and they don’t wick in the moisture.
Outerlayers need to be warm, padded and crucially waterproof and snow proof. A decent ski jacket and salopettes are essential. These are bulky items, again, we wore the jackets travelling and rolled up the trousers. You could also use one of the space saver clothes bags and suck out the air with a vacuum, that would make them go much smaller for packaging.
- If buying cheaper versions they seem a bit thin, you can always add more mid layers so you don’t need to worry about having the best gear
- Keep an eye on second hand options, especially for kids, as they grow quickly.
- You may also find a friend has their ski wear in the attic and is more than happy to lend you some!
- TkMaxx, Sports Direct, Trespass, and other outdoor stores can do great clearance deals in the summer. My children did wonder why they were trying on Snow suits in July – but with parents who met studying a Geography degree the line it is going to be an exceptionally cold winter worked well!
Snow boots – you will need a decent grip. We bought our in Trespass sale, (although i’ve seen good options in Lidl this year) and they worked perfectly. We all wore them travelling which saved space in the suitcases- and gave us toasty toes on the journey. We did pack trainers, but barely used them – if you are staying in a hotel you will, but in an apartment or cottage probably not.
- Focus on grips over style
- Buy a size bigger to facilitate a few layers of socks
- Wear them travelling rather than pack and save space
- Break them in before you go, they can be rigid and heavy on little feet so let them try them out a few times (we had some puddle jumping to try and not spoil the surprise before we went)
Socks – along the line of the layering above, it is important to layer socks. A thin base layer – merino wool is the top end, but cheaper ones work well too, and a thicker pair on top. You don’t need a lot, you can rinse them and dry them in the drying cupboard. Lidl, Aldi, and sports stores can have them for a few pounds. It is worth adding a couple of extra layers, as you can be standing about a bit and little toes can get cold.
- Wool keeps you the warmest, but make sure they are stretchy as you are layering them.
- Useful purchase as they can keep you warm at home too around the house!
Gloves – similar principle to socks, layers is important. The kids had thin magic gloves with waterproof ski ones on top. Little people and gloves tend to be an on off on off experience. It was good to have a few extra of the magic gloves and they did manage to get them soaked/ chew on them and then they froze a few times.
Hats, scarves, neck gaiters, snoods – a warm hat is essential, and a snood worked well for the children, more difficult to pull off and less things to loose if you don’t have scarves and other items. I finally understood what a wonderful intervention a neck gaiter was, it saves your face, lips and lungs from suffering from the cold. It helps reduce your lips getting chapped if you keep your mouth covered, makes your neck warm and reduces the cold air getting into your chest.
- If you’re going to do some skiing, pack a bobble-free hat so your helmet will fit better.
- If you’re travelling with kids, pack distinctively coloured hats for them, lots of little people sledding up and down slopes can make it hard to spot which one you own. Even more important if you rent the outerwear in resort as all the children then look the same!
You don’t need any fancy/ meal out type clothing. You will need to wear your outerwear to go anywhere and then everyone is stripping off inside.
Some people asked me about asthma, Mr 5 was an asthmatic baby and we had frequent hospital visits due to his chest in the first years. He turned 4 when we were in Lapland and had no problems, in fact the air was super clean.
Other things to pack:
Swimsuit – Finland is sauna country and it’s very likely that your cabin or hotel will have a sauna you can use. It is the best thing ever, coming in from the cold into the hold sauna. There’s lots of naked sauna use in Finland, but if you are not up for that you will need a swimsuit. There’s some nice hot tubs and pools at different resorts that you can go to, even if you are not staying there. Levi had a wonderful pool in the Levi Spa Hotel that we enjoyed spending some time in.
Small back pack – with the three little adventurers , I need a constant supply of snacks and water so I rarely leave the house (or cabin) without a backpack. As well as snacks and water, I also packed tissues, lip balm, travel-size hand cream and an extra layer just in case. It is worth making sure it is waterproof for this trip due to the amount of snow.
Snacks – plenty of snacks as always is a good idea with small people. It can be tiring playing in the snow- so pack those high energy snacks. You also can’t have enough hot chocolate to warm up in your room/ cabin after a few chilly hours outdoors.
Battery packs – phone and camera batteries drain incredibly quickly in the cold- like from nearly fully charged to empty in a few minutes sometimes. I found keeping phone in warm of inside pockets helped but sometimes it needed a boost to get turned on again.
Hand warmers – we didn’t use that frequently as the layers did their job but if someone is likely to get cold, they are a handy option, especially for little toes or little fingers.
Marshmallows – nothing beats marshmallows over an open fire for some festive fun! We enjoyed roasting ours over the fire in the chalet and in the little huts in kidsland were you also got free hot berry juice – delicious.
Moisturiser and lip balms – Faces and lips can get sore in the cold- moisturiser and lip balm were essential items for us. Everything freezes- including inside your nose. That’s a weird feeling! I didn’t bother with any makeup but I’m not exactly a make up every day person anyway.
- 2x base layers per person
- 1-2x mid layers per person
- 1 ski jacket and salopettes per person
- Snowboots (plus one pair of other shoes for indoors)
- 1x hat per person
- 1x snood/ scarf per person
- 2x magic gloves / thin layered gloves
- 1x ski gloves
- Hand warmers
- Snacks (you can buy some over there but food can be pricey and you may not get the items you want)
- Hot chocolate
- Marshmallows and something to toast them on
- Normal pyjamas- buildings are very warm, you won’t need really warm pyjamas.
- Toiletries – normal items but make sure to pack the lip balm and moisturiser
- Cameras, electronics, battery packs – we used phones mainly, whatever your electronic device of choice, there is a high chance of battery drain so pack those battery packs.
I hope that has been useful to help you think about what you might need for a snowy trip to Lapland. If you have any questions comment below, and most importantly enjoy, it is such a magical adventure.
One thought on “Packing for Lapland – the ultimate family DIY adventure to visit Santa and know what to bring”
As a Finn, I can say well prepared post!!! Are you again going to Levi or somewhere else? When it happens?
I give one link which tells you the depth of snow in Finland at daily bases:
We have made many trips to Lapland and love it very much! Lapland offers many things which are not known elsewhere very much. Few people know for example that there is world’s biggest snow castle there or that the town of Oulu offers free reindeer rides in February for families, not to talk about free reindeer races for everybody. If interested to know more, my blog tells about them.
Happy and safe travels!