Last chance Lapland: how to do a Finnish day trip with preteens

Last updated 20th January 2024

Searching for Santa on a Lapland holiday is one of those dream family experiences. Jo White and family went to discover if the once in a lifetime trip is worth it with pre-teens or is it too late?


Elves, Santa’s Post Office, Lapland

Real snow quickly sets the Lapland holiday mood

“Eden, look! Proper snow” shouted Logan excitedly. He had just walked off the plane and was somehow already armed with the first of the many snowballs he was going to throw at her that day.

The instant rush of the cold Arctic air had hit us all. It hadn’t felt much like Christmas when we left Gatwick three hours earlier, but now we found ourselves in the global epicentre of Christmas and mere minutes away from Santa’s mystical Lapland home.

I have two step-children, Eden (12) and Logan (10), and I had always dreamed of experiencing this magical break with them. Over the last eight years, I have brought them into my travel world, but when it came to a Lapland holiday, we were running out of time. It was now or never. 


Jo and family with Santa, Lapland holiday

No trouble getting kids to get up early for this adventure

We were on the day trip to Enontekiö, in Finland, with award-winning Canterbury Travel, the Lapland holiday specialists. They offer an impressive collection of day trips and short breaks from a variety of regional airports, so it was a joy to fly from Gatwick, so close to where we live.

It wasn’t difficult to get the kids up at 4.00 a.m. for our journey to the airport. They had received their personal invitation from Santa a few weeks prior, praising them for being good this year, and were counting down the minutes. Their branded backpacks and water bottles were by the front door, and we were on our way on time, for once.

Greeted by friendly festive staff at check-in, we were instantly thrown into a merry frenzy, an energy that would be maintained throughout the day.

The excitement on our festive flight to Enontekiö Airport was out of this world and we were still singing carols as we began our descent over the glistening, frosty Finnish landscape.

Despite the months of waiting, we were finally in the icy winter wonderland: the cold, fresh air made everyone stop in awe at the sparkling vistas that welcomed us. The kids were all eager to get started on their Lapland holiday with a search for the Big Man in Red, and the magnitude of where we all were hit. So we knew it was going to be a very special day.


Traditional transport, Lapland holiday

Speeding through Lapland’s snow covered woodland

Boy were they expecting us at Enontekiö. I have never disembarked a plane so quickly as we did on this Lapland holiday. We were through passport control in minutes and guided by energetic Elves into a separate building where we were all swiftly kitted out in snow suits, hats, gloves and boots. 

Rows of sleighs (pulled by snowmobiles) were already lined up for us and before we knew it, we were snuggled under blankets and whizzing across the endless snowy woodland, the fresh falling snow sprinkling continuously down on us.

I could hear Eden squealing in the back, excited by the pure thrill and speed of the 15-minute journey to Santa’s Village. Although she’s a non-believer now, being almost a teenager, she was instantly swept up into the magic and without her phone (we had left it in our storage sack back at the airport) she was almost childlike again.


Logan and Eden with Santa, Lapland holiday

The search for Santa is the real reason for a Lapland holiday

“It’s your lucky day”, said a cheery Elf as we (I mainly) clambered out of the sleigh. “You are the first family to go and see Santa. Please follow my Best Elf friend here”. 

The suspense was real as we walked up the lantern-lit pathway of steps to Santa’s log cabin. An Elf was waiting by a fire pit, so Logan put the snowball he had been working on down immediately and walked slowly towards the cabin. He opened the door and instantly froze, gazing in astonishment. We had found him! That must be some kind of a Canterbury Travel record for finding Father Christmas.

Sitting either side of Santa in his toasty cabin, the kids delightfully told him how good they have been this year. Even though Eden knows the truth, she still seemed innocently keen to impress Santa. And he had plenty of time for them; softly asking them questions and trying to get to know them a little.

At the end of our time with the star attraction, Santa gifted both of the kids a Christmas present, a cute, cuddly reindeer that they both loved and will cherish forever.


Elfing around in snowy Lapland

A winter playground like we have never seen

We felt like we had ticked off the big bucket list item pretty early on in our day, so the playtime part of our Lapland holiday was now on! But first, we headed into the restaurant that offers unlimited buffet food, pancakes, teas, coffees and hot chocolate all day to warm up a bit. Our menu for the day included delicious vegetable soup and pasta Bolognese.  

Once refuelled, we headed out into the wilderness to tackle the different activities.

Everything was in close proximity to the central hub of the restaurant but even so, everywhere where you went, jovial elves showed you the way – apart from the one that was willingly being buried in the snow by about 10 children.

The children have never seen real snow before, at least snow that has settled. After some obligatory snow angels, both Eden and Logan quickly became obsessed with the Stiga toboggans, which the kids can steer themselves. Neither was brave enough at first to go down by themselves, but following a tandem run, they were up and down like yoyos, dragging their toboggans back up to the top of the hill for another go.

My husband and I also had plenty of turns speeding, and sometimes spinning, down the hill. It was exhilarating! Plus, it was a chance for all the grown ups to be free and connect with their inner child too.


Huskies, Lapland

How much did I love being in charge of a snowmobile

The snowmobile experience was my favourite part of the day, although I think Logan is still slightly traumatised by my driving.

Only adults with full driving licenses can drive them and safety is taken very seriously before you’re let loose to do a lap of an enormous field. After a few kangaroo-jumps, I got to grips with the beast and got slightly braver with the speed as we progressed.

The kids can get a feel for driving them too. In the children’s snowmobile area, there are two zones, each with a snowmobile tied to a central pole that the kids can drive round and round in circles. “Eden, hold the handlebar in!”. “Go faster Eden, it’s easy!”, shrieked Logan. 

The six hours flew by! Logan loved the Reindeer Sleigh Ride and being pulled by Rudolph himself. The snow igloo was spectacular, a place of calm with impressive sculptures, and a bar serving traditional hot berry juice.

Eden’s highlight was definitely the husky sled ride, which ventures into the surrounding wilderness.

We got there just as a new pack of dogs was being led down. They were ready and raring to go, clearly very happy and just wanting to run. The ride was peaceful yet fast and the silence of the tranquil wilderness was a complete contrast to the madness of children laughing and playing we had just left behind. Now we couldn’t hear a sound.

We warmed up after the husky ride in a nearby tipi, roasting marshmallows over an open fire. Perfection.


Toasting marshmallows and being kids, Lapland

Is a Lapland holiday worth it with pre-teens?

Visitors had to queue for most of the attractions, but the longest we waited was for the husky ride, arguably the most popular attraction, and that was only 15 minutes. There was also a fire pit so you could warm up as you waited.

Even though there were a lot of families, we somehow spent a lot of time alone, just the four of us, enjoying the attractions or building a snowman in the woods together. It really was a special bonding experience that as a family we have never done.

The activities were stimulating for children of all ages. Eden found them hardcore and she’s no wimp. Plus, the smile didn’t leave her face all day. You could see how swept up she was in the wonder and excitement of it all. Plus, being the caring soul she is, there were times where she helped some of the little ones there too. Logan, complete with perma-rosy cheeks, was just there for the thrills and he was buzzing with adrenaline all day. He could not get enough of the snow or the fast rides.

In fact the only time they were quiet was when they were showing Santa their best selves. The rest of the day was filled with belly aching laughter and endless ‘wow’ moments.

Whatever your family dynamic, if you’re thinking of taking children about the same age, I would highly recommend it. Don’t leave them behind because you think they are too old for a Lapland holiday. Unless they’re on Santa’s Naughty List, of course. 


Santa, Canterbury Travel Lapland holiday

Book your Canterbury Travel Lapland day trip now for 2024

Canterbury Travel’s Enchanting Lapland day trips book out quite far in advance so book now for 2024 to avoid any disappointment. Day trips start from £719 per person. They also offer a collection of three, four and six night short breaks starting from £1455 per person, for those who want to stay longer. 

Find out more and for 2024 now at Canterbury Travel