How to plan a family trip to Rovaniemi, Lapland

In the next few posts we are going to let a friend of the website tell us about something quite magical that I’m sure many of you will want to do too: a family trip to Rovaniemi, Lapland, in the snowy winter to visit Santa Claus.

You already know Javier from when he came to visit me in Finland when I was an Erasmus student. He left us his diary in five parts with his favourite photos.

This time we are handing over the blog to him so that he can tell us how to prepare the family trip to Rovaniemi.

Javier takes it from here.

Family trip to Rovaniemi
Seeing Santa Claus through the eyes of your children: priceless.


In this series of posts my intention is to tell you about my experience travelling with my family to Rovaniemi to visit Father Christmas and to do more sightseeing activities in the snow.

Those who are thinking about making this trip will be able to get some tips or recommendations that may be useful to you. Let’s get started!

Preparing for the family trip to Rovaniemi: what to wear and when to go

The first point to consider in preparation for this trip is to decide when to go.

We went to Rovaniemi during the Christmas holidays, 5 nights the days before and after the New Year in Finland.

At first I was worried about this choice. During this time the cold is intense and the light is scarce. I thought we would be the only crazy ones who dared to travel at that time, as Santa Claus can also be visited in the mild Finnish summer.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. It turns out that, being Christmas, it is high season and Rovaniemi is crowded with tourists regardless of the light and cold. It is arguably the best time to go.

One caveat: travelling at this time of year can, with a bit of bad luck, temperatures fall down to -20 or -30 degrees Celsius. Thus, you should pack very cloths that will keep you warm. And do that in abundance.

Line of the Artic Circle in Rovaniemi
Javier, fully kitted out with all the clothes he needs in Rovaniemi.

What clothes should I take?

If you book your trip with a tour operator, they may be able to provide you with special snow overalls on arrival. You can pack much lighter at home, if that’s the case. However, these overalls are uncomfortable when you are indoors. The reason is that, if you want to take the top off, it will hang down your back.

This was not the case for us, as we booked all our reservations separately and on our own.

To survive in Lapland, ski clothes will suffice.

If you don’t already have them, you can buy the warmest trousers and jacket on offer. The idea is to also take thermal tights and a thermal vest. Dressing in layers is the best option so you don’t roast indoors. Thick socks of course are mandatory.

And Let’s not forget the most important: snow boots.

That will be the footwear you will never take off for several days. That is if you want to enjoy the snow without getting wet. Boots should be as waterproof as possible.

Weather in Rovaniemi and daylight hours

As for sunlight, if you check a weather website you will find that at that time the sun rises at 11am and sets at 1pm. That’s two hours of daylight!

If you want to know more about how many hours of daylight there are in different parts of Finland during the year, this is the post for you (in Spanish).

But in the end it didn’t turn out to be so terrible.

It is true that there is homologous daylight for only two hours, although you never get to see the sun because it doesn’t rise above the horizon. The name of this phenomena is Kaamos – the polar night.

A semi-frozen river
The sun threatens to rise but does not.

But the daylight hours were preceded and followed by two more hours of slow dawn and slow dusk. So there was some light from 9am to 3pm.

The other 18 hours it was pitch dark. The Finns have, though, taken care of everything. Every street is brightly lit and the snow acts as a mirror, so the night light in populated areas is brighter than we know it.

Nothing to worry in these regards – clothes and light -, then.

How to get to Rovaniemi from your country

Although this example focuses in Javier’s homeland – Spain – similar tips will surely apply to your country.

To fly there a stopover in Helsinki is unavoidable. Rovaniemi is mainly an airport for domestic flights.

Our flight was Madrid-Helsinki with a duration of about 4 hours and a half, and then Helsinki-Rovaniemi (1 hour and a half). As for the price, it varies depending, as always, on how far in advance you buy.

My advice is to put an alert in a flight aggregator such as Kayak and monitor the prices.

As you have been able to calculate, you will unavoidably spend a day going and a day coming back.

We flew with Finnair and the experience was horrible because of flight departure delays and endless queues to check Covid passports. If you are traveling in contageous season, check the entry requirements, as they can change over time.

Is it easy to travel with small children?

The answer is: it depends on the child. We, for example, had no problems at all. But you know your child best and you should plan accordingly.

Aeroplane flying
Taking off. Source (CC: by)

It was high season so I suppose that at other times the family trip to Rovaniemi would be more bearable.

How to pack your clothes

At this point I want to make the most important tip of all I am going to write here. It is very important that you divide your clothes between your hand luggage and your checked luggage.

Fortunately Finnair allows quite manageable hand luggage sizes (check the website before booking). It is a reality that some suitcases do get lost. This was our case.

We checked in two suitcases and one of them got lost in Helsinki. As we had planned for the worst, this was for us nothing more than a bit of stress on arrival to fill out a claim form and a taxi ride to the airport the next day. The suitcase arrived on the next morning flight, fortunately.

But imagine: what would have happened if someone had carried all their clothes in their lost suitcase in a country that doesn’t get above -1 degrees Celsius? Not something pleasant.

As for the volume of clothes, I took several leggings and thermal T-shirts. I took only one jacket and two ski trousers, though. For 5 nights I almost had one pair of trousers left over clean.

There’s so much snow that if you get a stain on them, they wipe themselves off. And you really sweat the tights, not the trousers. Still, a spare always comes in handy.

So much for this post about preparations. In the next post we’ll tell you what it’s like to go and meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi, with a few useful tips for the whole family.

What would you add to Javier’s recommendations? Is Rovaniemi among the family destinations you would like to go to? Let us know in the comments.