best santa experiences


New Website:


For advice on the best Santa visits at home and abroad – visit the only website that matters –


Click the link and say ‘hello’ at

With Christmas just over 60 days away, its time to start planning your Santa visit. I decided I’d launch another website to help, to help make this year’s visit – one of your Best Santa Visits ever 🎅. The reason behind this website is help you find the best Santa visits around the country and further afield. The site is split into various forums that you can subscribe too, comment on, ask questions and advise others on all aspects of Christmas. My aim is that this will be the tripadvisor for Santa visits!

best santa visits

I have brought my kids to wonderful places to see Santa but I also have been somewhat disappointed too. Ok so my trip to see Santa in Lapland, was probably the icing on the cake but I also loved my Santa visits in Fota Island Resort and Aillwee Cave. The website is simple to use, just register and then log in. Post your topics and questions in the appropriate forum and lets see if anyone can help. If you can think of additional forums that could be added, please let me know. The short video below will show you how to register and start contributing.


I look forward to reading your advice, your comments, whether good or bad, naughty or nice! The most important thing is that you are honest in your reviews so that they can help others plan their Best Santa Visits 🎅.



Thanks as always for the support.


Sarah x

The Travel Expert

DestinationsEuropeFamily Holidays

Why Lapland Is One Of The Most Magical Trips You Will Ever Take

santa in lapland

I have teamed up with Sunway, who offer more packages to Lapland from Ireland than anyone else. Our Sunway holiday to Lapland was magical. I still vividly recall my son lying with his ear to the snowy ground, telling me he could hear the elves making toys underneath…..


It’s been nearly four years since our visit, but it might as well have been yesterday. Our photo with Santa is still perched right in the centre of our living room and when a new visitor comes into the house, irrespective of the time of year, they inevitably hear how ‘we saw the REAL Santa’.

packages to Lapland from Ireland

Words that we learned during our trip are still recounted in high pitched Finnish accents four years later, particularly ‘Joulupukki’ (Santa in Finnish) – if only they remembered their Irish words so well! We have been very fortunate to go on many great family holidays, but Lapland is still the most talked about trip in our house. We took a short video while we were there and it is religiously watched every year after we put up the Christmas tree and again on Christmas Eve. It’s part of our ritual now, along with putting out the milk and cookies for Santa before bed time.

People often say to me about the cost. I know it is expensive. You could easily get a week in the sun for the same price, but ask yourself which will the kids remember more? Will they talk to their kids about the week they spent in Majorca when they were 8? I don’t think so. I have no doubt that my kids will share their memories of Lapland with their own children one day. It is lifetime memories like this that are priceless.

packages to Lapland from Ireland

We travelled with who have sent thousands of families to Lapland over the past twelve years  – suffice to say they know what makes the perfect Santa experience. They offer one and two night trips to Rovaniemi and three and four night trips to Kittilä. Sunway have packages available from Dublin, Cork, Shannon, Knock and Kerry. It is important to note that they have payment plans in place, so you don’t need to pay in full at the time of booking, a deposit of €100 per person will secure your place. If you can’t afford it this year, don’t worry, you can even book now for 2019 at 2018 prices!

packages to Lapland from Ireland

Believe it or not, the magic actually starts long before you arrive in Lapland. Imagine your kids faces when you tell them they are going to see the ‘real’ Santa? That’s when the fun starts! This is enhanced further when you arrive at the airport and see the  ‘North Pole’ as the destination at the check-in desk. It seems every child is wearing a Christmas jumper and Sunway’s elves are on hand with goody bags for all the children. It is a magical start to the journey and is typical of the attention to detail and service that Sunway provide throughout all of their packages.

packages to Lapland from Ireland

While a private meeting with the ‘REAL’ Santa might be the reason you book a holiday to Lapland, it is not the only thing that is memorable about the trip. Just being in a winter wonderland, with snowy forests all around, is something pretty special too. All of Sunway’s trips offer husky and reindeer rides, as well as snowmobiling and a trip to Santa’s village and Santa’s post office  – not your typical holiday experiences!

packages to Lapland from Ireland

Which package to choose?

Sunway offer four packages to Lapland from Ireland. If you are short on annual leave or if cost is a factor, the one night Santa’s Sleepover trip, priced at €979 per adult and €819 per child. may suit you. This is available from Dublin, Cork, Kerry, Knock and Shannon airports – you can see details here.


We went on the two-night Sleighbell Spectacular trip, currently priced from €1329 per adult and €1129 per child from Dublin airport. This includes a snowmobile safari through the forest, a visit to Santa’s command centre and elf school, tobogganing, and a festive dinner with a show. This show is a great opportunity to meet Santa for a second time and get a souvenir photo – just in case the first one didnt work out so well in the command centre! See more details here or read all about our trip to Lapland here.


packages to Lapland from Ireland


For those who want to experience the winter wonderland for a bit longer, Sunway also offer three and four night trips to Kittala from Dublin airport. These include all the favourites as the other trips but you will have some more free time to build snowmen, go skiing or simply relax and take in the magnificent surroundings. You can read all about them here.


packages to Lapland from Ireland


When looking at the costs note that all of above prices include flights, accommodation, transfers, all activities, meals and arctic clothing. You really only need spending money for souvenirs. And if this year is too soon to travel, why not want to plan now for 2019? Simply place a deposit now to secure your place at this years prices and talk to Sunway about their payment plans. For more details on how to plan this trip of a life time visit


Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. This post was sponsored by Sunway but all views as always are my own.



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Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

Visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

Santa Fota

Visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort was a wonderful experience.  We walked in a winter wonderland, met Santa, Mrs Claus, the Ice Queen, Donner and Blitzen – and we even got a new family pet!


With Santa ‘Experiences’ popping up all over the country, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Since we visited Lapland a few years ago, I have tried to make sure that each year our visit to Santa is a special one. Last year we visited Santa at Aillwee Cave and that was great, but we were really disappointed with Airfield Farm the previous year. I like Santa experiences to last a little longer than a quick visit to Arnotts. I want it to be a Santa visit that my kids will remember, with hopefully a little magic thrown in! I asked people on my Facebook page what were their favourite Santa Experiences and visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort cropped up time and time again. It has also been voted best Santa Experience in Ireland by Primary Times readers and attracts over 50,000 people each year. I had to see if it lived up to the hype!

We had stayed in Fota Island Resort in the summer time and loved it, so I knew the kids would love to go back. The hotel is located only a few minutes drive from Fota Wildlife Park and has excellent family facilities, including a kids play room and an indoor swimming pool. Although technically a five star resort, the hotel has a family atmosphere where kids can play happily throughout the hotel, so it doesn’t feel like a typical five star hotel.

The hot chocolates in the bar are a big hit as they come with a large chocolate on a stick and hot milk, so kids could make their own. However the bar service and dining can be a bit hit and miss, as it is so busy. In fact, I would go so far as to say, I wouldn’t recommend you stay in December if you didn’t have kids!

visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

Fota Island Resort is only a two and a half hour drive from Dublin, and is easily accessible from most parts of the country, making it an ideal option for a quick night away. We left Dublin at midday and arrived just in time for some lunch in the bar, before checking in at 3pm. The rooms are modern, spacious, can hold two adults and two children, and are perfect for a short stay.

Visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

If you are staying longer I would recommend you stay in the cottages. We stayed here in the summer time and loved them – you can read all about our visit here.  When we arrived to our room we noticed two large teddy bears, both called ‘Bea’, a treat that is given to all children staying in Fota Island Resort. Bea was a big hit, especially with Alex, my daughter, Bea didn’t leave her side for the entire trip. In fact we are home three weeks now and she still sleeps with her each night. This set the tone for the trip, Christmas magic was beginning to unfold…

We booked the Santa Experience for 6.30pm, hoping to see the forest lit up at night time. We were not disappointed.  We walked out of the hotel at 6.20pm and there were fairy lights and snowy trees everywhere. There was a carousel in the centre of the village and numerous Christmas stalls, selling hot chocolate, Christmas decorations and even pizza – we were in Winter wonderland!

After a quick wander around we checked in at the meeting point to see Santa. The whole experience ran like clockwork, there were no queues at any time. We were met by one of Santa’s elves and brought through the snowy elf village, straight to see the main man in Santa’s grotto.

Santa had a large physique and long white beard, he looked just as we had hoped. He greeted us all enthusiastically and knew all about Luke and Alex, and what they had on their Christmas lists. He commended Alex for doing well at camogie this year and Luke for getting on better in school. We got the obligatory family photo, some substantial presents and eventually said our goodbyes.

You have to pay an additional €10 if you want a family photo, but you are also welcome to take as many photos as you like with your own camera. When we left Santa we were able to choose the best photo from eight different shots that were taken and we were given a framed photograph, which I thought was excellent value for €10.

Visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

After our Santa visit, we popped in to say hello to the reindeers, Donner and Blitzen, who have taken up residency at Fota this year. We also had a chat with Mrs Claus, who kindly gave us some reindeer food to leave out on Christmas Eve. We then walked through the snowy forest, down Candy Cane Lane before going down two large slides which brought us to the Magic Mineshaft…

We stepped inside the mineshaft and were greeted by two elves who told us we were going underground to the Snow Kingdom. This was extremely well done and the kids were sure we were going down in an underground lift. We stepped outside and entered the Fairy tunnel which was lined with ice covered walls and moving icicles. Another friendly elf greeted us and guided us through the tunnel and into the Snow Kingdom, which was full of activities for all the family.

Visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

Alex learned to ride a sleigh and got her drivers license to prove it! We got photos with the Ice Queen at the Ice Palace, had fun playing in the elf tunnels and ball pits, while Luke loved the free ice cream! You can also post letters and spend as long as you like in the Snow Kingdom. We stayed about a half hour, making the whole Fota Beyond experience about 70 minutes, but you could easily spend longer. The way the experience was organised, seeing Santa first, meant that you could spend as long as you wanted in the village and Snow Kingdom. 

When we left Fota Beyond, we strolled back to the hotel, just in time for dinner in the Fota Restaurant.  The timing was perfect. We were able to chat all about the experience over a nice meal,  it was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

The next morning we went to Fota Wildlife Park and tried the VIP family experience. We got up close to lots of animals and learned all about the Wildlife Park’s conservation project. The highlight for my son was feeding the giraffes, penguins and monkeys! What a way to end a fabulous 24 hours!

The Fota Beyond experience is the best Santa experience we have been to in Ireland, and I would highly recommend staying over-night in the hotel to prolong the magic. The hotel is decorated beautifully at Christmas time and has a wonderful family atmosphere. The addition of Bea, our new family ‘pet’, will ensure that this experience is remembered for many years to come.

visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort

Each year the woods at Fota Island Resort are transformed into a Christmas village with a different Santa experience, so visiting Santa at Fota Island Resort is unique each year. Wonder is the Santa experience for 2019 and you can read all about that here.


The Travel Expert




Note: Fota Island Resort gave me a complimentary stay but all views, as always, are my own.

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