A visit to Lapland is hard to beat as the ultimate family trip

This is a trip tailored for kids, but naturally for the accompanying grand dads, grannies, mums and dads, uncles and aunts too.

As short breaks go, a pre-Christmas package to Lapland is very short, just shy of 36 hours, but given the lack of sleep time and the go-go-go nature of the trip it seems much longer.

This is not a trip for the shopaholic; it’s not a trip for the late night reveller, for stag or hen parties.

This is a trip tailored for kids, but naturally for the accompanying grand dads, grannies, mums and dads, uncles and aunts too.

Check in time for the Sunway flight from Cork Airport on December 17 was 4am — not long before the fun was to begin at the start of a memorable journey to a winter wonderland unparalleled this far south.

There wasn’t to be much sleep, not even the possibility of a short nap en-route because this was to be an Aer Lingus flight unlike any other where cabin crew were dragged into the spirit of this Christmas trip and had to party along.

For the vast majority of a group of 200 it was the trip of a lifetime. 

Yes, there were hiccups; for instance, a couple of family groups of four found it hard to comprehend that the rooms at the Scandic Hotel could not accommodate more than three in comfort.

The complaints were justified but the same people hadn’t a single one about the rest of the itinerary.

Simply, this journey north to see Santa in the weeks approaching Christmas has to be one of the great travel experiences.

Ireland isn’t on the Arctic Circle, it doesn’t have the guaranteed snow, the huskies, reindeers, or elves. And it doesn’t have the real man of the moment either.

Reindeers in harness in Lapland in the Arctic Circle.
Reindeers in harness in Lapland in the Arctic Circle.

So it was that we all boarded the aircraft in the ungodly hours to take on a real challenge.

Accompanied by my grandson (Kealan Susuico), who had already decided that his trip mission would be to stuff litres of snow down my neck, the singing started about 90 minutes into the flight.

“Katy Perry” — real name Rose — was to be a magnificent host, working as an entertainment officer. A little before eight, the thoughts of a bouncy, enthusiastic singing/all action MC didn’t quite hit the right notes.

But adults of all ages weren’t going to be given any say in the matter. Katy and the kids ruled from that time on, right until arrival back in Cork sometime after 5pm on Sunday.

We arrived in Rovaniemi before 12pm just, we were told, a couple of hours before darkness fell.

December is a time of few daylight hours in Lapland, so shortly after 1pm we saw the setting sun and it was pitch black an hour later.

First stop en-route to an outdoor adventure playground — all of the facilities were part of the package — was to change into outdoor thermal clothing and boots at a warehouse.

Then it was on to a snowmobile experience that veered through a forest and onto a frozen lake before heading back to base.

The snowmobiles had room for two, each adult got a chance to drive and the smaller kids had their own chauffeur driven tour.

There was a hosted lunch before a four-hour blast of outdoor activities.

This was the busy season and it could easily have downloaded into chaos given the number of people visiting.

But, hey, this is Lapland and Santa’s elves clearly have had a good training. With one group going one way, another was headed another, and so queues were minimal.

When one group were finishing a magnificently enjoyable reindeer trip, there was an automatic transfer to going on a short husky ride.

In between, the kids played ice-hockey, barrelled around in the snow, tasted some hot berry drinks around a camp fire and then scooted off for another trip on mini snow mobiles they were allowed to drive themselves.

After that, there was a visit for individual groups to see the man himself, Santa, who gave time to everyone but re-iterated that the main presents would have to be left to the big day itself, making a small but very much appreciated gesture to all of the excited children.

Our overnight stay at the Scandic Hotel in Rovaniemi was fine, and dinner was very acceptable at this three-star establishment.

Our twin bed room was good and breakfast the following morning excellent.

The group moved on to Santa Village on the Sunday and that’s where opportunities — the only opportunity really — arose to buy some souvenirs.

Santa’s Village is a commercial outlet. Whereas everything the previous day was free, Santa’s Village charges for rides and it would be quite easy to spend up to €200 depending on family size in the couple of hours that overnight stay groups will be given there before departure.

But that’s part of the price you’re going to pay for a visit to Lapland, and it must be said that a visit to Santa’s Village has to be part of the experience.

Lapland is not a cheap holiday break given the price of near €900 for an overnight, but there is a lot included, and for adults that takes in the joy one got from watching the reaction of the kids.

The snow, the vistas, the activities, the shopping even, and, let it be said, the delightful entertainment from Katy Perry, made this a trip for all to savour.

Kaelan summed up beautifully the journey to this magical place: “The best weekend of my life.”

Other little ones enthusiastically nodded in agreement.


Barry travelled to Lapland with Sunway Holidays on the one-night Santa’s Sleepover trip from Cork. 

Sunway offer one and two-night trips to Lapland with direct flights from Dublin, Cork and Shannon. 

Prices start from €899 per adult and €799 per child for the one night Santa’s Sleepover trip and prices for cabin accommodation on the two-night Sleighbell Spectacular trip start from €1299 per adult and €1059 per child.

Packages include direct flights, 20kg baggage, hotel on a half board basis, arctic clothing and a Lapland activity programme. 

Visit www.sunway.ie/lapland for full details on Lapland or call 01-2311800 for reservations or more information.

Flight Time

Three hours from Dublin, three hours fifteen minutes from Cork.

What to bring

Warm fingered gloves and tight-fitting woolly hat, although mittens are provided along with thermal clothing and snow boots. 

Some layered thermal underwear wouldn’t go astray as temperatures, usually around minus 10, can dip as low as minus 30.


Allow about €100/200 for gifts/rides in Santa’s Village on second morning prior to departure home.

All meals are included, breakfast on outward flight, lunch and dinner on day one, breakfast on day two and hot meal on flight home.

Expect to pay about €7 for lager, while wine is particularly expensive, pitched at €12 a glass/€40 a bottle in hotel.


Bundle of energy “Katy Perry” had the kids eating out of her hand from start to finish. She was an inspired choice of host from Sunway.


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