You've always wanted to see the magical Northern Lights for yourself. And you're sure your kids will love the experience just as much as you. But the Arctic Circle is a cold and dangerous place, there might be quite a lot of waiting around to endure, and you need to be aware of how to keep your children stay safe, warm and entertained on free child place holidays far north. Here's our family guide to the ultimate Northern Lights trip.
The Arctic is a remarkably safe place, with very little crime. The hospitals are excellent. And that means your biggest enemy, when travelling with the kids, is the cold. As long as you keep them warm and cosy, your children will have the most amazing time way up north.
The Northern Lights appear after dark, after bedtime for small children and toddlers, and that in itself is really exciting when you're little, when midnight is a magic hour that you might not have experienced for yourself before. As a rule the older the child, the more they appreciate the aurora. Really little ones tend to remain pretty unimpressed by the phenomenon, a sight which renders adults speechless and leaves us awe-inspired.
One way to get smaller children interested and keep their levels of enthusiasm up is to spend time talking about the trip beforehand, show them pictures, read about the place together, find out about the animals and the people. You might want to stock up on drawing materials so your kids can draw the reindeer, Santa, the Sami people and anything else that fires their imagination.
Even if you're a seasoned skier, you'll notice how much colder it is here than in, say, the French Alps or the Rockies. It's properly cold, and that means you need to take great care to keep the little ones warm. Snow boots and layers of wool socks, thinner next to the skin, are essential. You'll need long johns or thermal undies. Polyester sweat pants make an excellent under-layer. Either ski pants or salopettes are perfect over that, on top of a good basic thermal layer next to your torso. Add a fleece top or shirt then a 100% wool jumper. Put a snow coat on top of all that, add a scarf, hat and gloves, and they should stay good and cosy. Keep checking in case your children are getting cold, and if so bring them indoors to warm up.
Even if you're here for the lights and only the lights, travelling with little ones means basing yourself in a town provides more options for entertainment. The capital, Reykjavik, is the perfect choice, vibrant and lively with plenty to do.
Head to the far north east and you might struggle to entertain the little ones, let alone find your way from A to B. You have to have a licence to drive a snowmobile, and little kids can’t do cross-country skiing. And that makes the far north east, in all its extremes, a destination best reserved for grown-ups.
Most towns and resorts provide fun activities like making snowmen and visiting Santa, perfect for children aged 2-6. Older children love reindeer sledding, tobogganing and building igloos from blocks of snow. Teens adore the challenges of cross country skiing. And children of every age are happy simply playing in the lovely, powdery snow for hours on end, enjoying completely natural outdoor fun.
People of every age love the gentle reindeer with their big, brown, thickly-lashed eyes, friendly faces and funny flat feet designed for walking on soft snow. Combine these delightful creatures with the enormity, the drama, the sheer spectacular vastness of Lapland's wonderful winter landscapes and it's a trip everyone will remember. You'll zoom past frozen fjords and vast snow-covered peaks, through fragrant, silent pine forests and along deep, white river valleys. And you'll meet the extraordinary Sami people, who have lived comfortably in this incredibly cold place for millennia.
Husky dogs remain one of the fastest and most reliable ways to travel the snowy landscapes. No wonder dog-sledding is a such a popular attraction for visitors, something people never forget. Imagine being pulled at high speed through the icy snowscapes by happy dogs who love their job. You'll navigate ice-covered lakes, dodging snow-dusted tree branches in the thick forests and even taking your Northern Lights tour via husky sled. This is great for teens, who can have a go at driving the sled. And everyone falls in love with the dogs themselves, such dedicated, clever, friendly animals.
Our Winter Wonderland day break whisks you to a remarkable place set deep in the snow-covered wilderness, truly remote and empty. Your friendly Transun Representative will take you through snow-covered forests and past fairytale frozen lakes to a scenic winter wonderland, a place where action-packed fun is the name of the game. Your final destination is Santa’s hidden cabin, the ultimate highlight of this extraordinary day trip.
Many of us, of course, travel to Lapland specially to see Santa, every small child's dream. In some areas of Lapland it's the festive season all year round, which means you don't have to visit at Christmas. Your child will be able to meet Father Christmas at any time of year, and that's proper magic when you're little. The Finnish town of Rovaniemi is a popular destination for Santa visits, the place your kids' letters end up when they write to Santa.
Everyone loves the amazing, uniquely thick and powdery snow you get far north, perfect for playing in and brilliant for both building and digging. While guided tours and activities are great fun, sometimes it's lovely to be able to just play in it, enjoying the kind of snow we never, ever get in the UK. To get even more creative with snow, hire a local guide to show your little ones how to do cool stuff like dig a snow cave or make a massive snowman.
Most Northern Lights trips involve a wait of around two hours, sometimes more, in the dark and cold. And that's something most smaller children won't enjoy much, especially if they get chilly. Choose a trip where you can build a fire – something every child enjoys – and take a sledge for them to play with, plus anything else you can think of for them to play with – a bucket and spade, maybe, since snow acts very like sand and makes brilliant snow castles.
It's more than likely that your trip to see the aurora will involve a bus journey, and while some stop en route there are few places to stop at, it's so remote and empty. Make sure you go to the loo before you leave the bus terminal, just in case there are no stops, and dress your kids in clothing that you or they can undo easily without freezing their bare skin.
The cold weather means you'll be hungrier than usual. Take some snacks with you and take money along just in case there's the chance to buy hot drinks and more snacks along the way. Some tours stop, others don't.
Small children might fall asleep on the journey, so make sure they'll be comfortable if they want to drop off for a while. While the bus might be nice and cosy, it's still nice to have something cosy to snuggle into, maybe a blanket. And it isn't always easy to relax when you're wearing layer upon layer of warm clothing. A warm coat and a blanket each might be more comfortable on the bus than loads of layers and no blanket. Just make sure you have choices.
You'll be outdoors top see the aurora, not in the bus, and now you need warm clothing. It's incredibly dark and extremely cold, so you'll probably need thermals, gloves,thick socks, hats, jumpers and coats. Your kids might find they have to hop on the bus now and again to stay warm, in which case a tour guide will be happy to stay with them while you photograph the lights.
Your hands are particularly vulnerable to the cold, and hand heat packs make a huge difference. You'll need steady hands to take photos and video, so stock up on hand heat packs beforehand. Photography after dark is tricky, requiring a long exposure to capture the lights. And that means you have to stay still while the camera does its thing. You'll find it a challenge with the shivers, another reason to do everything you can to prevent cold hands. A tripod will help you capture the magic without wobbles.
You need to be seen, too. You don't want to get separated from your party or find yourself lost. High visibility is an advantage in the pitch dark, so take a high vis strip to stick on your coat or buy high vis vests to wear on top of all your other layers. High vis hats might be the ideal solution, and it makes sense to provide every family member with a small LED torch to keep in their pocket, either wind-up or battery-powered.
It's impossible to imagine how cold it is until you get there. Some people can't stay off the bus for more than a few minutes at a time, it's so incredibly cold the wind simply roars through your clothing. This is an extreme environment, and an experienced guide knows best, knows exactly how dangerous it can be out there. Listen carefully to everything they say, especially the advice they give about staying safe and warm.
Book your Arctic adventure now and take advantage of special free child place holidays offers. We'll see you soon!