Packing for Lapland – the ultimate family DIY adventure to visit Santa and know what to bring

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). 


Mr 4 modelling his base layers and warm socks

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.



Miss 9 wearing her fleece mid layer – perfect for striping down to in a restaurant

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.


Ski jackets and salopettes

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! 



As you can see waterproof is important!

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. 



Buying tips

  • 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.

These snood hat things were perfect for the younger two


  • 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. 

Warming up after a successful Northern Lights hunting trip

Packing list 

  • 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.

Lapland -magical winter wonder

I’ve always really wanted to go to Lapland for Christmas time, even more so once I had kids. So last year, when we hit the perfect age for magic, wonder, awe and amazement aged 9,5 and turning 4 we planned an adventure.

Not being one for package holidays, I of course explored the DIY options. As regular travellers, I wasn’t too worried about any possible challenges, and when I compared the costs I was definitely sold. Price details below, but basically we got 8 nights in Lapland including the full length excursions we wanted for the same price as it would have been to do a day trip from Belfast. Utter madness. Book DIY I tell you, it’s so easy.

A total surprise for the kids, we prepared in stealth many months prior, buying ski suits in the summer sales. Since we met studying a Geography degree, no-one questioned when with authority we declared that it was predicted to be a very cold winter this year. Our kids know that they get the geographical answer to all weather related questions. Suitcases packed, we picked the kids up from school went on an adventure. After check in in Dublin, they worked out the surprise, we were off to visit Santa. Excitement levels through the roof.

Ready to go on the adventure

The flight with Finnair was very straightforward to Helsinki. It was a little delayed and we had a very short gap between our next flight up to Kittila near Levi. Before the flight ended, the gates for short connecting flights were announced and we were given priority to get off the plane. Cue a quick run across the airport, they waited for us, all aboard to Lapland. Our luggage even made it too! Christmas magic at work!

We arrived very late at night into Kittila and got a taxi to our cabin in Levi, and straight to sleep before up to explore in the morning. Little eyes woke up, peered out the window at the winter wonderland and they couldn’t believe their eyes. So much snow! It was pure white, incredible, really deep snow.

I’ve never seen this much snow!

Up quickly, suited and booted up ready to explore. We quickly found the kids land near the Levi Ski resort. A free snowy play ground, perfect for little explorers. We bought a few sledges from the local supermarket, and spend the day up and down the toboggan run, breaking for cups of steaming hot free berry juice in the little cabins. The snow, was soft and fluffy and quite dry – quite different from our snow, and didn’t make snowman in the same way at all! More geography lessons complete! We explored around Levi resort, checking out the Tourist Information, the ski school, cafes, restaurants and shops.
Temperatures were very cold, at the lowest we saw -28 degrees Celsisus. Well wrapped up the children rarely complained. It could be a bit harsh on little faces, we’ve more top tips coming soon in a blog post about how to help with those issues.

Levi Ski Resort 

Levi as a resort is perfect for all needs. It’s a ski resort, so cafes, restaurants , ski equipment are all easily available. We enjoyed exploring the resort, the free Sledging at Kidsland, warming up with free hot berry juice afterwards, taking the ski lift up the mountain, and a day in Levi Spa swimming pool. The outdoor warm hot tub in the freezing temperatures was a hit. Plenty to keep us busy and active. The girls enjoyed trying out skiing and took to the slopes well, although it was our coldest day at -28 degrees C! There was more than enough to keep us busy.

We stayed in a cabin that had a drying cupboard and sauna in it. Perfect for warming up after the cold days. We were a 5-10 minute walk from the ski slope, and bought sledges to pull around the kids when legs got tired. We had access to laundry facilities, and the supermarket was across the road. We had a few meals out, but found that with the lack of light, the children thought it was much later than it was, and with the active nature of the holiday they were in bed early. Great for some mulled wine, a sauna and relax with nice food picked up in the supermarket.

Winter wilderness with huskies

True love

Our middle little adventurer is obsessed with husky dogs. Her dream is to be a musher. So going to visit the huskies and experience a sledge ride with them was top of her bucket list. We went with Tundra Huskies for a 5km ride. Initially we were given a safety and information briefing all about the dogs, and sledging with them. Then off we went into the darkness across a frozen lake. The kids went with the owner in his sledge and led the way. We took turns in driving our one. It was harder than it looked. They are powerful, focused animals. Gazing up at the pitch black sky on alight with the stars is something I will never forget. We then got to meet the dogs, and Miss 5 dreams came true. Following this we warmed up in a little hut with sausages cooked over the fires (well that was everyone bar Miss 5 who spent all her time with the dogs!) We also learnt why you don’t play with yellow snow!!

Winter sleigh ride

After our tundra horse journey, needing to warm up.

Little man turned 4 during the trip, and enjoyed a sleigh ride with the black beauty horse on the frozen lake on his birthday. It was fast paced through the frozen tundra forest, no sign of lights nor any sounds over than us cutting through the snow. Cold but magical! Heated up afterwards in a warm hut learning all about the Lappish culture.

Northern Lights Hunting 

We saw glimpses of the Northern Lights from around Levi, but Miss 9 and I decided to head away from the light pollution to see if we could get a better look. We booked transport with a local tour company in Levi, and headed about 20 minutes outside the town to a frozen lake. We were appreciative of the igloo with a heater that meant you could wait in it at times to warm up. The lights came out to play! The photos don’t really capture the magic of it, and I think you really need more than a smartphone to truly capture them. Nonetheless wondrous, magic for both me and Miss 9. She’s now an expert on the aureolas borealis.

Santa Claus himself


The day we had all been waiting for a visit to the big man. We visited him at Santa Claus Levi and it was the magic we had been hoping for. We got picked up at Levi Tourist information, and dropped off at the end of the snowy forest lane met by an elf.

Guiding the way to Father Christmas

Our elf guided our way, past some reindeers and horses until we found a little opening with some houses. They divided us into two groups to go around the activities separately. We enjoyed just our family with our own personal elf. We didn’t even see the other family until the journey back to Levi.  First, we attended elf spy school to find out all about how they learn to be secretive and spy, then we crept across to try and spy on Mrs Claus. She spied us, and invited us in for warm berry juice and ginger cookies. We learnt all about how they have lived there for 700 years, and that Santa works hard with the elves to prepare the gifts to deliver across the world. We saw Santa’s writing desk where he reads all the letters, and we learnt all about Mrs Claus looks after him. Santa was resting.

Then we met the main man himself, the one and only Father Christmas. The children could barely speak they were so taken with it all, he knew their names, chatted to them about life and school, told them all about Lapland and told them stories of the antics of the elves. Everyone got a hug with him, as many photos as we wanted. Then a small gift of a Lapland elf was given to each of the children and has been greatly cherished for the past year. It was magic!

After our special meeting, we attended elf school, learnt some Finnish, saw the elves at work in their toy factory, and learnt how baby elves come from wishes into pine cones – we even wished a few ourselves and put them in elf nursery for next Christmas. We then got to meet the reindeers, and experience a sleigh ride with them. We learnt all about what they like to eat, how they survive in the harsh winters and warmer summers, and what they like to eat on Christmas Eve.

We ended the visit with playtime in the snow sledging with the elves, and a snowball fight back to our pick up point. It was authentic and magical. We never felt rushed nor part of a commercial experience. All elves, Mrs Claus and Santa took all the time in the world with the children, and we came away awe that we had met the real one!


Lapland is much more than Father Christmas. It is a winter wonderland of scenery, adventure, culture and relaxation. We enjoyed the Finnish experience, and for our first Winter holiday has given us a flavour of skiing and snow that we will undoubtably do more of in the future. For us, it was a once in a lifetime experience for the Santa aspects, but I would consider a Winter or even Summer return to see what else Finland has to offer. Thanks for all the magical memories Lapland.

The kids thoughts:

Miss 5 – ‘The huskies were really cute. Riding on the sleigh with the huskies was the best thing ever. It was very cold.’

Mr 4 – ‘I liked seeing Santa Claus in his house. I loved turning 4 in Lapland. I liked the cutie pie huskies. I was so cold I wanted to jump into a house sometimes.’

Miss 9 – ‘It was great fun because of the snow. I loved seeing that much snow. Seeing Santa and skiing were my highlights. It was one of the best holidays ever!’

The booking details

  • Dates were 15th December to 24th December 2017
  • Dublin to Levi via Helsinki with Finn Air – these flights cost £700 for all 5 of us.
  • Cabin in Levi – booked through £700 for 8 nights included a sauna and wonderful fire.
  • One nights accommodation in airport hotel – we had a late arrival into Helsinki and early flight to Dublin on way home. We could have sat in airport, but thought with 3 little people and arriving home on Christmas Eve it was £150 well spent.
  • We booked 3 excursions through Levi Tourist Office – Santa Visit, Husky trip and Horse Sleigh – it cost £800 for them all for the 5 of us

Other costs:

  • Private ski lesson and day ski hire for the girls  £120
  • Northern Light Hunting tour – 2 of us did this as late and cold-  £50 in total through local company in Levi

Total: £2520 for 8 nights arriving home on Christmas Eve compared to £500 per person for the day trip! Easy win for the DIY. Message me if you have any questions. Go, you won’t regret it! Pure magic.