Christmas holidays

Family HolidaysHolidays in Ireland

Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs – Why You Should Visit & My Top Tips

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With 57,600 fairy lights, 90 Christmas trees and 3 tonnes of snow, you can imagine the excitement when we arrived to Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs Longford Forest. 

 

‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas’ was on repeat on my Spotify playlist, and despite the fact that it was only the 8th of November, I was as excited as the kids! We were fortunate to be invited to Center Parcs Longford Forest for the opening in July, and after a fabulous few days we couldn’t wait to return. Temperatures in July were over 20 degrees. During Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs the average was only 4 degrees, but surprisingly that didn’t matter.

 

instagram center parcs

 

The outdoor swimming pool reminded me of the Blue Lagoon – the combination of the hot pool (29.5 degrees) against the crisp cold air was invigorating. Cycling around the resort was just as enjoyable as it was during the summer time, once we were wrapped up with hats and gloves. Even the biodegradable snow suited the temperatures perfectly!
 
winter wonderland at center parcs
 
All we could see from 5pm was thousands of fairy lights lighting up the resort. The whole village was illuminated – it was an amazing sight. Garlands filled with twinkling lights lined the lake, and massive Christmas baubles beamed in the village. The Christmas tree at Santa’s Woodland Workshop is 10 meters tall and has 4,450 lights! The whole experience was magical and one that all of us throughly enjoyed. It was, to coin the phrase from Center Parcs – Epic Family Time. As I write my my 12 top tips for visiting Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, I am already planning my next visit…

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 


 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 

1. If price is a factor, book a Woodland Lodge. 

All of the lodges in Center Parcs are modern, spacious and well equipped. We stayed in a Woodland Lodge during the Winter Wonderland experience and an Executive Lodge during the summer. I found very little difference between the two, especially if you are staying for a short break. The executive lodges have house-keeping services, TV’s in all rooms and all bedrooms are ensuite – but otherwise they are very similar. 

woodland lodge at center parcs ireland
 

 

 

2. Book a lodge close to the village centre

With rain being a common occurrence during Irish winters, I would recommend paying an additional €49 to stay in a lodge close to the village centre. Although we loved cycling, it is nice to walk to the village and the swimming pool if the rain is heavy – wet saddles are not very pleasant either! This is also a great solution for anyone who doesn’t want to rent bicycles.

winter wonderland center parcs

 

 

 

3. Enjoy a cosy night in

Pop down to the Parc Market when you arrive and pick up some supplies and some fire logs – you can buy three for €6. Treat yourself to dinner from the extensive Dining In menu and light the fire! We did this the night we arrived and it was a great success. We ordered four different types of cuisine: Pizza, Thai, Indian and Asian, and all meals were delivered to our lodge at the same time. The pizza was a big hit, and I loved the prawn rogan josh. Prices were reasonable too, you could even order a bottle of wine to your lodge for €13.95! Make sure you order early, as popular delivery times get booked out. 

dining in center parcs
 

 

 

4. Book a Santa Visit

You need to book the Santa Experience separately. The cost is €18 per child and parents are free. Each child receives a gift and a free photograph afterwards. We thought this was great value. Envelopes will be left in your lodge, one for children to write their Santa letters, and another for parents to help keep the Christmas magic alive… There is a post box in Santa’s Woodland Village where the kids can post their letters before their visit.  

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Depending on the age of your children, try to book a Santa visit at night time. The Woodland trail is all lit up and it adds to the experience. If the night time slots happen to be booked out, don’t panic. Santa’s Woodland Village is lit up every night and you can walk through it anytime. The Santa visit lasts about 10 minutes, so if you are booking a restaurant, book the time for a half hour after your scheduled Santa visit.  

winter wonderland at center parcs longford

 

 

 

5. Pre-book restaurants

I tried to book restaurants two-weeks in advance, and still only managed to get 9pm slots. You don’t have to pre-book the Sports Cafè, but it can be quite noisy and I didn’t think the food was as good there as it was in other restaurants. If you have young children it is vital you book restaurants in advance, especially if you want early sittings. The restaurants are extremely family friendly, with kids play areas and great kids menus.

There isn’t evening entertainment in the resort, with the exception of live music in Cara’s Restaurant every Saturday and Tuesday at 8.30pm. We booked Cara’s for Saturday night and really enjoyed listening to The Dixie Micks. The menu was limited, but the food was very tasty.

caras restaurant at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
We also enjoyed Bella Italia. We dined there twice and found the food great, and reasonably priced. There is a wide selection of pasta dishes, and not just the typical spaghetti bolognese. The Cacio e Pepe pasta: a mix of roast chicken, pancetta and pecorino cheese in a tasty wild garlic and black pepper sauce, is delicious. I had this during the summer too! I also love that they have a Piccolo kids menu for 3-6 year olds (€6.95) and a Grande kids menu for for 7-11 year olds, (€8.95).  I’ve been told that the Carbonara isn’t great so maybe avoid that! 

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

6. Pre-book activities

Popular activities like the Aerial Adventure, where you Zipline across the lake at Center Parcs, get booked out very early. We did this during the summer and loved it – well it scared the hell out of myself and Cormac, but the kids loved it! Luke and Alex wanted to book it again but it was booked out throughout the weekend – I can’t say I was too disappointed…

center parcs longford forest ireland
 

 

 
Festive activities like the Festive Pony Rides and Festive Chocolate Chefs (age 3-7) are particularly popular with younger children and also need to be booked in advance. You don’t need to pre book too many activities though, one or two activities should be ample on a short stay, as you will probably spend a lot of time in the pool.

winter wonderland at center parcs longford
 

 

 
We really enjoyed the Festive Treasure Trail. It is a super family activity and one I would encourage all families to do. We were given a map with nine wooden markers to find around the forest. There were clues on each one and once we had all nine, we had to report back to the booking desk to collect our prize. We were competing against lots of different families and I was surprised how competitive we all were. However despite racing around the forest in just over an hour, we came 4th! It was a simple but very enjoyable family activity and a great way to explore the whole resort. Price is €5.50 for children under 12 and €6.50 for 12+years.

treasure trail at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Luke and Cormac loved the Laser Clay Shoot. It was Luke’s first time to try this and he was a natural. He not only came first place within the group, but he set a new record score for Center Parcs Longford Forest – he was delighted with himself. I have no doubt it was due to too much Fortnite, but it was a great achievement nonetheless! Price €27 per adult, €23 per child.

laser clay shoot at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 
Myself and Alex opted for the Festive Roller Skating. It is a handy indoor activity if the weather is bad. I didn’t find it particularly festive, but I was delighted that despite being 30 years since I has last on skates, I was able to keep up with Alex! Price €9.50 per person.

roller skating at center parcs longford forest

See more info on activities and restaurants in my Ultimate Guide to Centre Parcs Longford Forest

 

7. Don’t miss the Light and Sound Show

The Winter Wonderland light and sound show takes place over the lake every Sunday and Wednesday evening during Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs. Unfortunately it was lashing rain during our visit, but nevertheless, the 9-minute animation was really impressive. There are animals, fish and even snowmen projected on to the water, with the North Pole and Santa Claus in the finale. It takes place right outside The Pancake House so it might be an idea to pop in for one of their delicious ice cream sundaes before it starts! I am told they have mulled wine and mince pies too.

pancake house at center parcs longford forest

 

 

 

8. Check out the shops

I was really surprised by some of the prices in the shops. Luke picked up a Harry Potter Lego set in JustKids that was cheaper than Smyths. I bought a lovely Christmas decoration in The Store Room – it wasn’t particularly cheap, but was a lovely souvenir. You may not have considered it, but you may pick up some Christmas gifts in Center Parcs. Ask about the 10% off promotional evening – this is on twice per week.

christmas at center parcs
 

 

 

9. Come early and stay late

Although the official check-in time to your lodge is 3pm, you can access the resort from 10am. Similarly on the day you are leaving, you need to vacate your lodge by 10am, but are free to stay and enjoy the facilities as long as possible. We did the later and enjoyed a fabulous day at the pool…

swimming pool at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

10. Spend your last day at the pool

We loved the subtropical swimming pool during the summer, but it was equally as good this time. We tried all the slides numerous times but our favourites were the Wild Water Rapids (need to be a competent swimmer), and Tropical Cyclone – a tube ride that we could all go on together, (minimum height 122 cm).

winter wonderland at center parcs
 

 

 
Once you have checked out, you can leave your suitcases in your car, return your bikes and walk down to the pool. The pool is quieter on changeover days too. You can shower afterwards, dry your hair in the vanity room, and leave for home feeling refreshed. There is a cafe beside the swimming pool so you can even pick up lunch there. The chicken wraps and burgers were tasty – as fast food goes, it was pretty good. 

cafe at center parcs longford forest

There are large cabanas in the Subtropical Swimming Pool. These are equipped with TVs, towels and soft drinks. Priced from €50 for three hours, they can be a great help if you have a small child who needs a nap, and older children who want to stay at the pool. 

cabana at center parcs longford forest
 

 

 

11. Bring warm clothes and a back pack.

Remember just because you are on holidays, don’t forget you are in Ireland! Gloves and hats are a must if you are cycling, and don’t even think about wearing skirts on a bike…Most people tend to dress casually, even in restaurants. Backpacks are a Godsend for the pool and are easier than hand bags when cycling.

winter wonderland at center parcs

 

 

 

12. Just book it!

If you haven’t already booked it – do it! Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs is an amazing family experience and one that all the family will love. If price is an issue, check out the prices for midweek (Monday – Friday) rather than weekend, (Friday – Monday).  Winter Wonderland short breaks start from €459 for a family of four in a 2 bedroom Woodland Lodge. Christmas and New Year short breaks are also available – you can dine in the resorts restaurants, or even cook a turkey in your own lodge! However if you are unable to go this year – all is not lost! You can book Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs for 2020 already. For availability and prices visit CenterParcs.ie

winter wonderland at center parcs lights
 

 

 

Like this post? You might like:

How to claim money back with the Spend & Save scheme

Ultimate Guide to Center Parcs Longford Forest

How to save money at Center Parcs Ireland

 

** Edit – Please note this review was written in December 2019. There may be restrictions to activities including the swimming pool due to Covid-19. Please check if there are any updates to activities with Center Parcs directly, before making a booking. 
 
 
Note we were guests of Winter Wonderland at Center Parcs, but all views, as always, are my own. 
 

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

 

 

 

Holidays in Ireland

Christmas time at the Connacht Hotel, Galway

Connacht hotel

We had the pleasure of spending an overnight in the Connacht Hotel in Galway recently. Our annual Santa visit took us to the Aillwee Cave this year so we decided to overnight in Galway the night before.

 

We set off on Saturday from Dublin and were there within 2 hours. The rooms were bright, modern and very spacious. Although we were only staying for one night, there was a separate living area with a kitchen which was ideal for a longer stay. WiFi is fast and free too! We dropped the bags, decided to have a quick wander around Galway and avail of the hotel’s facilities in the evening.

Connacht Hotel

The centre of Galway city is a 25 minute walk or €10 in a taxi so if you don’t fancy driving, it is easily accessible. Once you arrive in Eyre Square the lights are dazzling. Christmas market stalls are everywhere and the atmosphere is terrific. Many are happily shopping for Christmas decorations and gifts while others enjoy the hot food or mulled wine. We decided to do all of the above! The fun fair had some great rides including a large ferris wheel as well as some money making stalls like ‘ how to knock the elf off the shelf’. My kids were intrigued but despite watching for 15 minutes, not one person managed to do it! As the light fades the Christmas lights are even more impressive. Shop Street is pretty cool at any time of the year but at Christmas time it is magical.

Connacht Hotel

After a thoroughly enjoyable few hours we went back to the hotel for a ‘promised’ swim.   The swimming pool at the Connacht Hotel is fantastic. There are jacuzzis, swim lanes and ample room for adults and children to swim. Incidentally the hotel attracts many sports groups. The Treviso Rugby team were staying there when we were there, suffice to say it is very well equipped for sports enthusiasts. Not only is the 20 metre swimming pool impressive but they have fantastic fitness and exercise studios ( 40 classes each week) and a 24 hour gym.

Connacht Hotel

The family facilities at the Connacht Hotel are excellent. There is a wide selection of activities at various times during the day. From arts and crafts to talent shows, Wii games to movies, there is plenty to keep the kids happy. The Friendly Fellows kids club opens until 10pm and there was a movie on from 8 while we were there. It’s a great option for kids who don’t necessarily want games or arts and crafts, but just want to chill out and watch a movie. There is a play area for younger kids but parents need to be present.

Connacht Hotel

We dined in the hotel that evening and this was another welcome surprise. If you book a package including an evening meal, the menu is very extensive. Not a buffet in sight (my pet hate at dinner time!). Everything is included in the cost, with the exception of the 10oz sirlion steak which carries a €6 supplement. I went for the chicken curry while my husband had the beer battered cod and chips, both were really tasty. You can eat in the bar or restaurant and both have a great lively atmosphere. If you want a quiet romantic meal for two, go elsewhere! Live music started at 10pm but an Irish take on Garth Brooks wouldn’t be my choice, so we opted for an early night. Breakfast was excellent, lots of choice, pancakes to Irish pudding, we checked out quite content!

Connacht Hotel

The Connacht is a great choice for a family vacation at Christmas or any time. They have large family rooms and apartments on site, a host of activities for kids and a great family fun atmosphere. For prices and availability on the Connacht hotel click here.

 

Like holidays in Ireland? See more here.

 

Sarah

The Travel Expert Sarah Slattery

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Puerto Rico For New Year, 29th December, 1 week, €584!

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Bag yourself an early booking bargain to Puerto Rico for New Year with this amazing deal including flights and transfers for only €584!

 

Puerto Rico is one of the sunniest resorts in the Canary Islands, so if you are hoping to get some sun at Christmas time, then this is your best bet! Originally a small fishing village, it has been transformed into a lively holiday resort which offers all you need for a fun filled holiday. Purpose built, Puerto Rico is set into the hillside so sea-views are available from most apartments. There is a stylish marina, a sandy beach, two shopping centres and a wide choice of bars and restaurants. It is not all about the sun. You can go dolphin watching, try surfing, scuba diving or take a stroll along the coast to the upmarket resort of Amadores.

Terrazamar Suites, Puerto Rico holiday deal

The resort comes alive at night time with a wide selection of bars and clubs. If you fancy a quiet night, you can always try Europe’s only permanent open-air cinema. Enjoy the latest movie with wood-fired pizza and a selection of drinks, as you relax in their comfy sofas. Water taxis are available to the nearby town of Mogan. Often described as ‘little Venice’, this is a must see while you are there.

Terrazamar Suites, Puerto Rico holiday deal

I found a great deal to the popular Puerto Plata apartments. These spacious apartments are centrally located and only a ten minute walk to the beach. Fly from Dublin on the 29th of December and enjoy a seven night stay for only €611 per person including airport transfers! Use my exclusive discount code and enter TRAVELEXP10 in the promo code box and you will receive a further €30 off the price, making the total just €584 per person!

Click here for more details:

 

Prices are correct at the time of issue but are subject to change. Note some of the links in this post are affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.

 

Sarah

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Gran Canaria All Inclusive Family Holiday, 29th December, 1 week, 2ad & 2ch, €2999!

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Enjoy this Gran Canaria all inclusive family holiday and beat the post Christmas blues! With all meals and drinks included in the price, this is the perfect way to ring in the New Year!

 

With average temperatures over 20 degrees and miles of soft sandy beaches, Gran Canaria is a great choice for some Winter sun. The area of Maspalomas is close to the lively resort of Playa del Ingles and the upmarket resort of Meloneras, so it really offers the best of both worlds.  In fact Meloneras is considered the most sophisticated resort on the island. Complete with five star hotels, stylish shops and trendy bars its perfect for an afternoon’s shopping or some al fresco dining. It is also home to the magnificent sand dunes, which have been declared a nature reserve and cover some 400 hectares.

Gran Canaria all inclusive family holiday for New Year by The Travel Expert
The Turbo club, situated in Maspalomas, is a quiet low rise family complex with three swimming pools ( one heated ) and extensive gardens. It is within walking distance to the amusement centre Holiday World and the popular shopping centre Faro II, and a short bus ride to the beach (courtesy shuttle provided). If you want to make the best use of the all inclusive package you can choose to stay on site and avail of the many facilities on offer. These include a jacuzzi, tennis court, mini golf and a children’s mini club, as well as regular evening entertainment.

Gran Canaria all inclusive family holiday for New Year by The Travel Expert
Fly from Dublin with Aer Lingus to Gran Canaria on the 29th of December and enjoy seven nights all-inclusive at the Turbo Club for €2999, based on 2 adults and 2 children. The apartments receive great reviews on tripadvisor and are a good choice for a value New Year break.

Click here for more details:

 

Prices are correct at time of issue but are subject to change.

 

Sarah

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AmericaDestinationsEuropeRest of the World

Top Five Places To Holiday After Christmas

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When the turkey is eaten and presents are opened, it’s great to have a holiday to look forward to! Check out my guide of the top five places to holiday after Christmas. 

Whether it’s colder or warmer climates that you’re after, there are many places to holiday after Christmas. Skiing the slopes or topping up the tan could be a nice change from a dull Irish January – don’t you think? Hopefully one of my top picks will kick off your new year in style.

 

 

 

 

 

Canary Islands

Fuerteventura, one of the best places to holiday after Christmas by The Travel Expert

If you are looking for some sun, it is hard to beat the Canary Islands. There are plenty of direct flights to Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Tenerife from Ireland. Choose a short five to seven day break for New Year, or stay longer for even better value. With kids back in school in January, you may find that it is cheaper to go away for two weeks rather than one at this time.

Check Out HotelsBook Your Flights
 

 

 

Dubai

Dubai, one of the best places to holiday after Christmas by The Travel Expert

Dubai is another great place to visit if you want sunshine, but it is also packed with things to do. You can try a desert safari, go to the top of the world’s tallest building, ski in the worlds largest indoor ski slope, or simply relax on one of its stunning beaches. We visited Dubai last year and loved it, check out my top things to do in Dubai here:

Top ten things to do in Dubai

The best family activities in Dubai

View hotel hereBook Your Flights
 

 

 

Copenhagen

Copenhagen one of the best places to holiday after Christmas by The Travel Expert

Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens is one of the few Christmas markets that stays open after Christmas. If you want to prolong the festive mood, it is one of the best cities to choose for a holiday after Christmas. The gardens come alive with over 500,000 Christmas lights and there are plenty of activities to keep all the family happy.
 

 

 

Copenhagen is also one of Europe’s top ‘foodie’ destinations, so why not indulge in some tasty meals before the New Year resolutions kick in! For more information, check out my blog on Copenhagen.

Check Out HotelsBook Your Flights
 

 

 

Edinburgh

Edinburgh's Hogmanay, one of the best places to holiday after Christmas by The Travel Expert

If you are looking for a holiday after Christmas with a party atmosphere, then look no further than Hogmanay in Edinburgh. With celebrations that start on the 30th of December and last for three days, New Year is celebrated more than Christmas in Edinburgh. Top bands provide fantastic entertainment and the fireworks displays are some of the best you are likely to see.

Check Out HotelsBook Your Flights
 

 

 

Skiing

Skiing, one of the best holidays to take after Christmas by The Travel Expert

With snowy mountains and pretty villages, skiing would be my choice for a holiday after Christmas! Austria, France and Italy are the firm favourites but airfares can be high at that time. Watch out for cheap flights to Munich where the transfer times to Austria are similar to that of Salzburg. There are also direct flights from Ireland to Memmingen which has plenty of ski resorts close by.

Read: Skiing in Soll, all you need to know and why you should go

Read: My top tips for family ski holidays

Check Out HotelsBook Your Flights

 

 

Sarah

 

 
DestinationsEuropeFamily HolidaysFeatured

Our trip to see Santa in Lapland

From the moment I told my kids that we were going to Lapland, all they wanted to know was were they going to meet the ‘real’ Santa? I guess it is every child’s dream to meet him and my kids were no exception.

 

 

As soon as we arrived at the airport and saw the North Pole on the departures board the excitement was palpable. We were met by the lovely Tinsel Tina, the Sunway representative who gave the kids goodie bags filled with colouring books, crayons, Santa hats and the very much appreciated Cadburys selection boxes. Not that we need any of them, because we received a lovely hot breakfast free of charge on the flight (a rarity these days).  The flight literally ‘flew’ by as we were entertained throughout with Christmas carols and games. We arrived in Lapland within three hours.

 

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

We were whisked away immediately and brought to get our snowsuits and boots for the duration. This was brilliantly organised, we were back on the bus fully loaded with clothing to combat the cold within ten minutes. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and cleanliness of the clothing. I had purchased snow boots and clothing for my kids beforehand but really there was no need. What was supplied was more than adequate and in retrospect I would have travelled lighter!

We were brought to our accommodation at the foot of the ski slopes which was another welcome surprise. The standard was really high, with a really spacious cabin with all mod cons, including a sauna and most importantly it had underfloor heating! I guess I expected an old cabin where we would have to wear layers in bed but it was the opposite, in fact another place where I could have saved on the packing – no need for the kids ‘onesies’!

Lapland, The Travel Expert

It was then that the adventure began. As the moderate daylight faded, we were brought off in the dark to our our first activity which was snowmobiling. I thought it would be like a theme park ride around a purpose built track. It was the opposite. We were led deep into the snowy forest to meet our experienced guides. We were then given a brief lesson, supplied with helmets and given amazing snowmobiles to ride. It was like a scene straight out of a James Bond movie!

Lapland, The Travel Expert

The adults drove the snowmobiles while the kids were pulled behind in traditional sleighs, lined with reindeer hides. It was magical! We drove deeper and deeper into the dark forest for a leisurely thirty minute drive. It was full of Christmas trees covered in snow, it was like a fairytale. Don’t tell anyone, but I think the adults enjoyed it every bit as much as the kids! We had worked up an appetite at that stage so we welcomed the buffet which was laid on in the hotel beside our cabin. It wasn’t exactly Michelin star quality but there were clean plates all around! We had just enough time then to try some tobogganing before bedtime. Each cabin came equipped with kids toboggans and my two kids loved going down the hill beside our cabin, it was great fun.

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

The second day in Lapland was the big one! Our first port of call was a trip to a husky farm, once again very well organised. Half of the group enjoyed a brief chat about huskies while sipping hot berry juice around a cosy fire. We learned about their role at the arctic circle and had the opportunity to meet and pet some eight week old husky puppies. The other half of the group took a ride in the sleigh pulled by eight husky dogs. It meant no one was waiting in line for too long in the freezing temperatures. The dogs were remarkably fast and it was great that all of the family could go together in the same sleigh and that we could get the obligatory family picture.

Husky dogs, travel expert,lapland,christmas,santa clause

A short drive later and we were at the reindeer farm. This was another beautiful setting at the edge of the snowy forest. Once again, the group was split in two. A brief chat about reindeers and some more hot berry juice was given while the others took the reindeer rides. They are beautiful creatures, almost mystical, but the ride itself was quite slow and not as exhilarating as the previous two. In fact, there was a huge snow slide at the farm, basically a steep hill covered with ice and I think the kids actually enjoyed sliding down that more than the reindeer ride itself. They did receive a reindeer driving licence afterwards, a nice touch and a lovely souvenir to bring home.

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

It was then time to go to see the man himself, the excitement was exacerbated by the lovely Elphina, on our coach. Elphina was our honorary elf guide throughout and she made each journey effortless, with plenty of Christmas songs and games being played. We also got to learn a little Finnish too. We arrived then at Joulukka and were warmly greeted by two rather large elves. Complete with pointy noses, beautiful clothes and fantastic accents – they were the real thing! We were brought into their village and had lunch in a beautiful elf cabin made of logs.

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

We were served by more elves, all equally as impressive. We then went to see Santa’s secret command centre. It’s hard to come up with words to describe this, suffice to say I believe again! We were shown how Santa receives the letters, how Santa sees the naughty and nice children and where the elves were working underground making all of their presents. One of the elves then asked us to sing a Christmas carol and as my daughter duly obliged, the wall behind us magically disappeared.

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

We peeked around the corner and there he was, the answer that has perplexed us all for so many years, Santa was real! His immense size complete with a beard that touched his knees, you could tell there was something different about him, compared to his helpers that you see in other places. He knew Luke and Alex’s names and what they had written in their letters. The expression on their faces is something that I will never forget, it really was priceless.

They came out of the command centre with a lovely toy husky dog from Santa. Somehow I think that toy will be tucked under sleeping arms for many years to come. As I relived the experience with my husband I turned around to see my once sceptical son lying on the ground with his ear to the snow and ice. When asked what he was doing, he said he could hear the elves underground, making toys – it doesn’t get much better than that!

Lapland

Our day wasn’t over yet! We then went to elf school and learned many tips from how to be kind to others to how to decorate gingerbread cookies. We were allowed bring our iced cookies home to granny, another nice souvenir. It was time to go back to the cabin then for some much needed rest. Although with three hours of free time, you could choose to go tobogganing or in our case build a snowman, a request that was promised to my daughter before we left Ireland.

We were collected again at 7.30pm for a trip to Santa Park. This completed an already fantastic day with a nice meal, a show and another appearance by the man himself. Santa posed for pictures with everyone, which gave you the opportunity to capture another shot in case the earlier one didn’t go as planned. We went on an indoor train ride, made our own elf decoration as well as making a wish by banging three times on the ‘Drum of Dreams’.

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

The last day had come, and time to say hey hey (goodbye in Finnish) to our beautiful cabin in this winter wonderland. We had a final stop at Santa Village where we sent our postcards complete with Santa’s official stamp to friends and family at home. There was also a chance for some souvenir shopping, (the necessary Christmas decoration from Lapland), and a chance to cross the arctic circle line. There were also two ice slides here so it gave the adults time to souvenir shop or grab a hot chocolate while the kids played on the ice with their new found friends. A quick stop to return the borrowed thermal clothing and off to the airport we went.

As we queued to check in, the honorary elf guides played with the kids, telling stories and singing songs. The entertainment continued on the plane home with Tinsel Tina singing more songs and painting faces after our inflight Christmas dinner. Tina then asked kids to go up to the top of the plane, speak into the microphone and tell everyone about their favourite part of our trip to Lapland. While most kids said meeting Santa, as many said ‘everything’ was their favourite thing. This really summed it up for me because while you initially think the trip is all about meeting Santa and the elves, it’s really not. Lapland is about family time, building a snowman, tobogganing, husky rides, snowmobiling, snowball fights and reindeers.

A trip to see Santa in Lapland by The Travel Expert

Lapland is a magical place that until now only belonged in fairytales. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough so try to go before its too late. Sure, you could get a two week family sun holiday for the same price and no doubt you will have a good time, but which holiday will have memories that will last with you for a lifetime?

Sarah

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I went on Sunway’s two night sleighbell spectacular trip. Please email me: sarah@thetravelexpert.ie for personal quotations or  Visit Santa in Lapland with Sunway

 

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