BBC Radio 2 presenter Jo Whiley kicked off the festive season with a magical trip to Lapland with her eight-year-old daughter Coco – here she tells HELLO! all about the exciting day out, including their meeting with Santa…
"Lapland is quite possibly the most magical place on Earth. It's where Santa lives and where his elves beaver away for all year long in preparation for the big day. It's also somewhere that any parent dreams of taking their child so they can experience the true magic of Christmas. For years I've been hoping to take my 8-year-old Coco so this was a VERY big deal to us! In the days leading up to our day trip to Lapland she was fizzing with excitement and on the night before she was fit to pop.
"Our flight left at seven in the morning and the adventure begins as soon as you arrive at the airport. At the check in desk everyone's wearing Santa hats and reindeer antlers and being super smiley - everywhere you look there are people turning up in Santa suits and Christmas jumpers. I opted for my best Billy Murray Christmas jumper - Scrooge himself. The plane journey - described by Coco as the 'best flight EVER!' - was enormous fun. Again - the stewards were dressed up and had Christmas names - 'Jo Jingle' 'Bauble Ben' etc and we simply sang all the way to Lapland. It was a short two hour flight and when we landed to a white snowy landscape and arctic cold conditions it only added to the kids' (and adults) excitement. Santa's home was just a short ten minute taxi ride from the airport so we arrived very quickly to a warm welcome from our elves.
"Once you arrive you go down a long dark atmospheric walkway to Santa's world where you get kitted up to venture out into the winter wonderland. This was probably my favourite bit - walking for ten, maybe fifteen minutes through the snowy woodland - it was unutterably magical. The elves were on hand at every point with hot berry juice which did the trick of warming us all up. Coco loved the elves - they were very smiley and dressed in traditional elvish clothes full of lots of questions for the little ones about what they'd say to Santa when they met him. The elves had answers for all the kids' curious questions. No question is too tough!!
"After walking through the snowy trees we came upon a clearing which is where all the fun outdoor stuff happened. These were probably the highlight of our trip - we absolutely loved the huskies - racing through the snow at high speed to squeals of delight from the kids (and parents). After that we had massive fun on the snowmobiles - initially we were going to hop on a sleigh together but then I decided it would be way more fun to drive the skidoo myself. And it was! I'll never forget bombing through the snow on a track which was lit by flaming torches to the sound of Coco singing Frosty the Snowman loudly in my ear.
"Once we'd disembarked I was hit by a flying snowball launched by Coco and we had a massive snowball fight followed by making snow angels in the snow. My abiding memory of taking Coco to Lapland will be that we laughed A LOT - just the two of us playing in the snow, packing as many experiences into one day as we could.
"Lapland at this time of year only has two hours of daylight and you get cold VERY quickly so after saying hi to the reindeers and being taken for a short ride through the snow by then, we warmed ourselves by a fire and headed inside for our appointment with the big man himself.
"Before that we managed to squeeze in watching some acrobatic elves perform an athletic and actually rather poignant show, decorated some gingerbread snowmen and experienced the ice cave where Coco was enraptured by the ice sculptures of woodland creatures.
"Our other favourite bit was the elves' workshop. We had to duck down into a short corridor which lead to where the elves worked, slept and played. Two of Santa's elves then talked to the kids about all the mysteries of Christmas and how they deliver the presents without being seen. They were very funny and quite brilliant. This really was a spellbinding experience for the kids (and parents) and it was hard to tear ourselves away from their cosy workshop.
"After this we were introduced to Santa who was everything you'd want him to be - he was jovial and his eyes twinkled and he chatted to Coco about her year and what she was hoping to get in her Christmas stocking - by this point she was completely exhausted from the day and I suspect she'll look back and wondered whether her meeting with Father Christmas was really a dream or whether it actually happened!
"After this it was time to head back to our plane to be greeted by the same flight attendants who taken us to Lapland - they couldn't have been nicer and were keen to hear from the kids how their day had gone and what Santa was like. I'd travelled with my friend and get 15-year-old son and I was slightly anxious that his trip might have been tainted by the cynicism that comes with age so the best thing I heard as we sat in our car was Torran saying 'Well that was magical' And THAT pretty much sums up the whole experience for us all!!"
The Search for Santa Day Trip to Lapland is packed with outdoor adventures from start to finish. Jo travelled with Thomson – for more information please visit http://www.thomson.co.uk/destinations/europe/finland/lapland/holidays-lapland.html