Last December, we sent 40 lucky families to hang out with Santa and his trusty helpers in Lapland. Here’s how the magical day came about…
At Thomson we believe everyone deserves a break at Christmas, so last week we teamed up with our partner charity, the Family Holiday Association, to give 40 families an unforgettable day in Lapland.
The FHA helps struggling families get away for a few days – but it’s normally to the British seaside. So to celebrate the season of giving, we organised a one-off trip of a lifetime to Santa’s homeland, at the northernmost point of Finland. The entire project was kept firmly under wraps – in fact, we made sure the kids didn’t even know until 4 sleeps before. Here’s what happened on the day…
It all started at 4am – gulp – on Friday, when all the families headed to the airport for an early morning flight. On arrival, we found the usual Thomson Airways plane had been replaced by a special ‘reindeer-powered’ aircraft – antlers, red nose ‘n all.
Up in the air, things got off to an exciting start. We were joined by Family Holiday Association ambassador and singing sensation, Alesha Dixon, who greeted everyone on board and settled in for the flight. The Christmas theme continued as the cabin crew kept the kids entertained. We’re talking renditions of all the classics, like Jingle Bells and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Plus, little ones were invited to sing their hearts out over the PA system. This was all followed by a game of festive-themed bingo and a competition which involved passing lots of Santa and snowman-shaped balloons along the plane.
As soon as we landed at Kittila Airport, the excitement levels sky-rocketed as everywhere in sight was blanketed in snow, and the kids couldn’t wait to get outside. But, not before they’d slipped into their chill-combating suits, as the temperature was an icy -10 degrees.
Our first stop was the Snow Village – home to reindeer, huskies and an impressive ice hotel. This place is as Christmassy as they come, with wintry woods, snowy hills and igloo-like buildings. It’s also where the real fun began. The children zoomed down hills on sleds and made snow angels, and then got to meet Rudolph and his reindeer friends, before hopping aboard for sleigh rides. For an even speedier adventure, there were also some hyper huskies raring to take them on a ride through the snowy forest.
When they’d finished playing in the snow, there were a handful of cosy cabins to retreat to for a spot of cookie decorating and storytelling. Plus, there was time to explore the ice hotel. It’s just like a regular hotel, except for its restaurant, bar and rooms are all made out of carved ice. They have to make it from scratch each year, so it’s different every time.
But, there’s one thing we couldn’t leave Lapland without – a meet ‘n greet with the village’s most famous local, Mr Claus. He lives in a cabin deep in the woods, so everyone boarded family-sized sledges, pulled by Santa’s skidoo-driving elves. Finally, we arrived at his secluded abode, set within a snow-dusted forest. After munching gingerbread cookies and sipping hot berry juice, the children got to sit on Santa’s lap and tell him exactly what they wanted for Christmas.
After an action-packed day, the flight home was filled with bedtime stories and a few snores. And the surprises kept coming back on home turf. As everyone stood waiting in the baggage area, sacks full of presents magically appeared on the luggage carousel – our final gift to wrap up this very special day.