Lapland comes into its own in December, but you may have to sweet talk the school secretary, writes Jeremy Gates.
It seems even Father Christmas is feeling the age of austerity ahead of this year’s festive celebrations.
In any year, the Lapland high season has the pressure of lasting for barely four weeks – from December 5 until just after Christmas. But in 2013, it is being squeezed by another two factors.
Firstly, schools across Britain are cracking down on parents if children take time off in term time – especially with nativity plays in full swing.
Secondly, there is now a wide choice of day trips to Lapland available from several regional airports: at the Holiday Hypermarket, day trips from £369 have been slashed by £180-plus. They cram a lot in too: there’s a chance to meet the locals and experience Lappish culture, there’s mini skidoo rides, helping Santa’s elves to make gingerbread, and a ride on Santa Park’s train for a behind-the-scenes visit to Santa’s toy factory.
That said, the more time you spend in Lapland, inevitably, the more you can fit in, and it’s still well worth looking at longer breaks – as long as you are a bit wary and research your deal carefully.
Rob Goodwin at Cosmos, which is offering three-night breaks from £549, says: “Know what sort of resort you want to stay in: Rovaniemi is mass tourism, Olos is a really small resort – just a hotel on the edge of a spectacular national park really, while Levi has turned into a delightful, top-end, chic village.
“Many people like to keep this sort of holiday on a small scale, with families sharing log cabins with open fires and private saunas. Levi has great skiing, because it is so uncrowded.”
Goodwin adds that it is risky to head to Lapland on holiday packages where not everything is included.
“Prices in Lapland are so high that steak and chips can cost 30-45 euros (about £25-35), and extras like hiring the required winter clothing and boots can be pricey too, when it is not included in the package.”
Moira Clarke at Santa’s Lapland offers similar advice: “Always look behind glossy brochure spiel. Ask about the length of activities promised – how long is the husky sled ride and do you get the chance to drive it yourselves?
“Where will you see Santa – after a magical ride through forests or after a quick walk to a busy cabin with a long queue? We include full-length activities on all trips, so nothing ‘extra’ needs to be bought.”
Santa’s Lapland is currently offering a family of four the chance to save more than £1,000 on a two-day half-board break at Saariselka, including flights departing on December 9.
Santa’s Lapland (01483 791945 and www.SantasLapland.com); Cosmos (0844 573 4261 and www.cosmos.co.uk/holidays/lapland); Holiday Hypermarket (0800 916 5100 and www.holidayhypermarket.co.uk).