The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) : 2019-11-18

FESTIVE | TRAVEL : 110 : 46

FESTIVE | TRAVEL

FESTIVE TRAVEL LAPLAND FAIRYTALES A nyone who has children dreams of taking them to see the big man at Christmas. We might have some pretty amazing grottoes and experience­s over here, but nothing beats seeing Santa in his homeland. It is, without doubt, the most magical trip every family wants to make – but it’s not always an easy one. Here, we reveal the secrets you really should know before heading to the snowy lands to hunt down Father Christmas... completely numb, and my inner thighs burned like I’d been on the abductor machine. This was the sort of workout you only get in Lapland. Icy snowflakes landed on my face and the wooden sleigh creaked as it was dragged along behind six fluffy little huskies. Any pain I felt as we slid over rocks, skidded passed trees and even took flight over bumps melted away as I heard the sound of my two young daughters explode into a chorus of cackles. Slicing through the icy tracks, we were thrown to the left, bumped to the right and it was everything Lapland dreams are made of. SPEND AS MUCH AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY AFFORD ON YOUR TRIP SKIDOOS CAN BE EXCITING BUT SCARY Seasoned Santa visitor shares her insider tips for a festive Finnish getaway Claire Spreadbury Taking the family to Lapland is one of the most expensive getaways you’re likely to take. But people do. And it’s not just those who have cash to splash – people save up for years to scrape the money together and you’ll discover a real mix of people of there, from your so-called “average” families to Christmas-crazy couples, and lots of grannies and grandpas making memories with their grandchild­ren. There are cheaper (yet still expensive) and more luxe options available, and I would advise families to spend as much as they can afford. The uber-special extras can make an enormous difference to your trip of a lifetime. And even the basics can be game-changing. A more luxury holiday operator might transport all of your kit and cases to your room, whereas a standard one may expect you to drag your suitcases across snow and ice in order to check in. After getting kitted out with balaclavas and helmets, we were given some short instructio­ns about how to drive a skidoo. The track might not have been too snowy, but we headed out for a decent distance and encountere­d other vehicles, hills, slopes and dark skies. Everyone had a whale of a time, but myself and several other parents decided to join the little ones in the skidoo-pulled sleigh, which was super fun. IT’S EASY TO FORGET THE REAL REASON YOU’RE HERE You came to see Santa. But since arriving, you’ve been so busy admiring reindeer, throwing yourself around on the ice, doing activities and making memories, it’s easy to forget about him. When the time comes though, there’s nothing quite like the anticipati­on that fills your heart, and the nervous excitement evident in every child. When our names were called, we climbed into a proper wooden sleigh, pulled by a slow and beautiful reindeer. We were gently pulled towards a little wooden hut where we were greeted by elves. Their strangely infectious, high-pitched little language had the girls in stitches. As we made our way round to the big wooden door, the girls were invited to knock as hard as they could on it. Eventually, an elf creaked it open and we ventured inside. Father Christmas sat, belly undulating, in his chair, clutching two letters written to him – one from Rosie and one from Poppy. He asked them to read their letters aloud. After a short chat and some family snaps, Santa handed over two wrapped parcels containing soft, snuggly reindeer toys, and we thanked him before heading out into the snow. The girls smiled silently, beaming at each other in disbelief. PREPARE YOURSELF FOR AN ACTION-PACKED SCHEDULE It’s likely you’ll need to wake the kids up in the middle of the night to get to the airport in time for your flight. It’s certain they’ll be absolutely shattered when you arrive, and possibly really hungry because there hasn’t been a chance to eat for ages. You might find a window to grab some food after being kitted out in suits and boots, but then find the evening dinner is two hours later. Small tired folk can be pretty challengin­g. Lower your expectatio­ns of this being a perfectly perfect trip. It will be fraught at times, but still amazing. Don’t ruin it by letting yourself get uptight. This year Santa’s train will be here from 30th November, every Saturday and Sunday until Christmas. EVERYONE LOVES THE HUSKIES BOOK NOW AT: As well as Monday the 23rd and Christmas Eve between the times of 10.30am to 3.30pm. Having a husky ride is most people’s favourite part of the trip. If you’re not a dog fan, you might find them loud, yappy and a bit scary, but there’s no denying the beauty in those piercing ice-blue eyes, and the ride itself is so much fun. On my trip, we’re were up and out to the husky farm – a big, snow-covered fir tree expanse – very early. The dogs were leaping and barking and sniffing everyone out from the safety of their lock-ups. After saying hello to the fierce fluffballs, we headed into the nearby lodge and warmed our insides by slurping warm berry juice next to the roaring fire, before being called for our rides. My body felt like it was completing some sort of lower-body workout. My glutes went from feeling tight to being deeside-railway.co.uk HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP THE ROYAL Santa’s Lapland (santaslapl­and.com; 01483 938 483) offers three or four-day breaks to Saariselka in northern Finland, departing from 19 UK regional airports, from Friday November 29 to Tuesday December 24 2019. The Santa’s Aurora programme includes return flights and transfers, accommodat­ion on half-board, thermal clothing, winter activities and a private family meeting with Santa. A three-day break, departing from London Gatwick on Tuesday December 3, 2019, costs from £4,756 per family (based on two adults and two children sharing) staying in the four-star Star Arctic Hotel. DEESIDE RAILWAY Milton of Crathes Banchory, AB31 5QH Santa will give out presents to children on train with hot mince pies and drinks for adults. www.deeside-railway.co.uk