Fairy Travels

Santa Claus Village -a view from the inside

santa claus village cabins

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

Ever since our visit to Lapland in November/ December 2018 we have quite literally been obsessed about returning. We have been fortunate to have travelled to many countries all over the world but none capturing our hearts in the way Lapland did. If you asked me exactly what it is about Lapland, honestly id struggle to put it into words. There is a magic about it, being in the home town of Santa Claus. Perhaps its seeing the magic of Christmas through my kids eyes.  Last year we stayed at Santa Claus Village and despite my intention of it being a “once in a lifetime” trip we have booked to go back this year later in December.

Since our return, I have shared my trip report and some tips and advice on dressing for lapland  and I have got tonnes of emails and DM’s with questions. I am always happy to chat about my favourite place and happy to answer any questions or queries people planning to visit this wonderful destination have.  The concluding comment of one email I received via my trip report really resonated with me. The query itself was about Santa Claus Village and the email concluded with “can you just imagine working there? How amazing would that be?”.

Santa Claus Holiday Village is run by Marko and Inga and they very kindly took the time to answer some of the questions that I (and many other!) have about running and working in what is probably one of the best known, most magical places in the world.

Our Q & A

Tell us about a typical day at Santa Claus Village

santa claus village at at night

Pic Credit: Marko @ Santa Claus Holiday Village

Well, typical day at Santa Claus Village. I guess we must concentrate on the winter season because that`s our high season. Weather might be little bit chilly, very unusually too cold but plenty of snow. Everything is covered pure white snow, trees are like frosted piece of art statues.  Guests wake up in cosy n warm cottages and go hurried for breakfast, to Christmas House restaurant or Three Elves restaurant, depends on accommodation type which they have booked.  After they have enjoyed typical Scandinavian buffet breakfast, many of them will be waiting booked safaris in the lobby. Some goes for Reindeer Sleigh ride safari and some for Husky Sleigh ride safari or Snowmobiling or some other from our famous excursions.   During the day time we used to have quite a lot day visitors in the Village from other accommodations of Rovaniemi and from around Lapland. They come to meet Mr. Santa Claus and send Christmas greeting cards from Santa Claus Main Post Office and for sure making shopping of very special gifts and souvenirs which we have great selections in the shops of village.

In the afternoon, our guests start to return from safaris and excursions. Many of them go to enjoy in the private sauna in the own cottage and that`s really pleasure after spend chilly day in the winter activities.   In the evening we have delicious dinners available in our restaurants. For coming winter season we will have third restaurant. Restaurant Santa Claus Village, it has 140 seats and shape of teepee.

If the weather looks to be clear for coming night, lot of our guests will be going for different kind of Northern Lights search programs, like Aurora Reindeer safari, Northern Light search in private wilderness or Northern Light search and dinner.

Can you tell us a little about the history of Santa Claus Village

We can think about that story begins from 1950 when city of Rovaniemi built a cottage for Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt when she came to visit in the Arctic Circle.

All the way until 80th  century, tourism was here more or less only summer tourism. Guests from Europe come to visit in the Arctic Circle and was going to North cape, northern most point of Europe. At 80th century Mr. Santa Claus decided that he need a place to greet guests from all over the world and he chose Arctic Circle.

Does Santa ever get a holiday or does he meet guests all year round?

He meet guests here every day for the whole year. In the Christmas Eve he starts he`s journey around world to delivery gifts but he have his magic things in his office, he can stop time for a night and that`s how he have time to make a trip around whole world and Christmas Day morning he will be back in the village greeting his guests.

Where do most of your visitors come from? Europe? or further afield?

Our guests are definitely really from all over the world, I would say that there is not any continental in the earth that we wouldn’t have had guests. It happened some years ago the that we had in the same time in house, without knowing each other, 3 families from New Caledonia. Further than that you can`t come if someone does’t live in the moon. But a lot comes from Europe because it`s not so far away.

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Fairy Travels

Stena Line – Ferry travel with kids

Dublin port

Departing Dublin Port Pic Credit: The MammaFairy Blog

Long before kids arrived into the Mamma Fairy house we used to travel quite a bit to Holyhead from Dublin. My sister attended University in Bangor in North Wales so we loved popping over for the weekend.  We hadn’t taken the kids on a ferry so there was mega excitement when I told them Stena Line were very kindly taking us and our car to Wales. One of the things that stresses me most about holidays is the airport, the volume of people, the queues, getting myself and the kids through security! The stress levels until we are sitting at the gate are usually pretty high!! Having taken our car on the ferry many times I knew what to expect! Much less stress – literally drive on drive off!

Our Ferry journey with kids

driving onto a ferry

Boarding time!! Pic Credit: The MammaFairy Blog

We were on the 8.10 Stena Adventurer heading over from Dublin to Holyhead on a lovely bright Friday morning in June. Being a Dublin resident I knew how bad Dublin traffic could be so we allowed ourselves extra time just to be sure and I am very glad we did. An incident at Port Tunnel saw the tunnel temporarily closed so thankfully we had time to go the alternative route. Check in closed 30 mins before departure but my advice is to get there early especially if you are travelling in peak work day traffic.

Check in was smooth, we had our boarding passes printed off, we were told which number queue to join and there we were in line to board the Stena Line Adventurer. The absolute squeals out of the kids as we drove onto the boat!!! Once we boarded we were guided into position,  we parked up and took the hyper gang up to the passenger decks. Another tip is to make sure you take everything you need with you as you can’t return to your vehicle when the ferry departs until the ferry docks again.

On board

Good bye Dublin Pic Credit: The MammaFairy Blog

I think one of the first thing you will notice is just how big the ferry is! We had taken the Superfast ferry in the past and the Adventurer is noticeably bigger.  On board the Adventurer there are:

  • En-suite cabins available from €30, might be handy if you have very young kids, for us with older (hyper with excitement) kids it really wasn’t necessary for the short 3 hour crossing. I believe the cabins go up to 4 berth which could be very handy for families.
  • A Hygge Lounge which is a relaxing, peaceful environment if you want a total chill in a large comfy reclining chair as you gaze over the Irish Sea. The cost is €9 per person but you must be over 16 years. If we didn’t have the kids id be in there in a heartbeat. Right up my street!!!
  • There was a restaurant, bar and coffee dock on each passenger deck serving hot and cold snacks and the usual beers and spirits. It was really busy initially on both legs of our trip but the staff were very efficient and the waiting time was short and a lot less busy once the initial rush was finished.
  • There is also the Stena Plus Lounge where for €20 you can avail of complimentary drinks, snacks, newspapers & magazines as well as free wifi, waiter service and comfy seating. We didn’t do it this trip but in the pre kids days we always frequented the lounge, it is really good value and nice and relaxing, a good option for the 3 hours ferry. The was a ‘Family Meal Deal’ on board 2 adults and 2 kids for £23 really good value and you can pay in either € or £.
  • For kids there really is plenty to do; located on each passenger deck is a small play space, for older kids there is “Teen Town” with some arcade games. Much to the kids excitement there is a cinema with free entry. This is a really good option to pass an hour or so especially with younger kids.

Our crossing

Our ship departed on time, boarding was smooth, the sail itself was smooth and the disembarkation was efficient.  What more could you ask for?! To keep the kids entertained I took sketch pads and their trusty twistables! While there is plenty on board to keep them entertained the play centres can get busy so worth having a few of their favourites to keep them occupied.  We took some of their own snacks with us while we ordered coffees, toast and scrambled egg to go with them. Thumbs up for Stena’s scrambled egg.

Our plans

As our trip was so short I had done lots of research before hand to maximise the time we had in North Wales. Full blog post on our activities but for now a very sneak peak…..

Day 1 -We drove to the picturesque town of Llanberis were we stayed on night after our journey on the Snowdon Mountain Railway. We reached the top of Snowdown Mountain literally surrounded by clouds which they kids thought was “epic” the last bit  is a little steep but oh so worth it. Be warned even in summer it can get cold up there so our trusty Reima winter gear came in useful again.

Day 2 – We drove further into Snowdonia to Llechwedd near Blaenau Ffestiniog. Llechwedd is an old slate mine where you can go 50o metres below ground into a deep mine.  I’ll keep you in suspense a little longer for my full review but suffice to say this place left a lasting impression on both us and the kids. Rich our guide a 7th generation miner himself was what made this tour for us. His unique insights, his respect for the heritage of the area and the contribution to mining brought a tear to my eye more than once.

Day 3 – Before heading back to Holyhead we spent a day and night in Llandudno, an old school sea side holiday resort.  While here we also took a quick visit to the Copper mines for a unique self guided tour of 4000 year old mines!!!  We loved our chilled out day here, kids will forever remember playing football at the beach at 10pm then running back to the b&b soaked, tired but happy.

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Fairy Travels

Itinerary ideas for Iceland

Since our trip last September to Iceland lots of people have asked for tips and advice on what to do to Iceland, sample itineraries, “must see” attractions.   I knew a few of my fellow blog buddies had been to Iceland I thought i’d reach out and get a variety of ideas on their top picks.

waterfall

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

For many people and particularly given just how expensive Iceland is, their preference would be to book via website who can help you book the entire trip in one place.  With WowAir now defunct, there are less flight options for getting to this wonderful destination therefore I can really see how using the services of a site to assist you to book the entire package would be very appealing.  One option im aware of is the Voyage Prive website where they describe themselves as  “a members only luxury travel club, offering unforgettable getaways, at unbelievable prices“.  I love a deal and I know a lot of people like the security of having a packages as opposed to DIY, so well worth checking out and not just for Iceland, there cover worldwide holidays from ski trip to luxury resorts to city breaks.

Iceland “things to do”

The over riding thing I will say about Iceland is that it totally lives up to its reputation as being magical – the scenery is breathtaking, the people friendly and the thermal spas well……you just have to try them. And before you ask……yes it is expensive but to me, and my husband will agree it is totally worth it. It was a bucket list trip for us – a once in a lifetime – but I left a bit of my heart there and I have to go back. We loved it so much

Geysirs in Iceland

Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

Our visit was short and we had young kids (6 and 3 at the time of travel) so we carefully planned out itinerary, for a sneak peak of what we did see our Golden Circle trip here my  kids are still asking to go back to that wonderful Ice cream place before Gullfoss. I really do love looking back at our pics, really does make me want to go and book it again.

We also did Fontana as we booked last minute, the Blue Lagoon was booked out. A top tip if the Blue Lagoon is top of your list is to book early. Please also respect the cultural (and hygienic) advice to shower before entering the thermal pools. It was definitely one of the highlights as it was quiet when we were there, we had loads of time and space and the kids were made very welcome. And try the bread – drooling as I type. Quite  honestly the nicest I have ever tasted. It is known as  Geothermal bakery and the break is cooked in the ground for 24 hours!!

 

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Fairy Travels

Top things to do in the Canary Islands

Many moons ago in our pre kid days we spent some wonderful long weekends in Lanzarote with a couple who we are great friends with. With 6 kids between us and an ongoing vow to return en masse we just haven’t had the change. Skimming my inbox last week a press release from Travel Media really caught my eye “Top ten things to do in the Canaries“.  With kind permission I have included their fantastic guide below. Given holiday season is almost upon it, I thought the timing perfect to share this as no doubt a good percentage of you will be heading this direction over the coming weeks. If there is anything you think missed of the list do send on or comment below.

Get to the top of the Teide Volcano in Gran Canaria

Just after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii, Mount Teide is the third highest volcano in the world. Located in Gran Canaria, it’s tone of the most visited natural parks in Europe and the 8th most visited in the world!  If you opt to take the cable car which travels within 500 meters of the summit – prepare yourself for some simply breathtaking views.

Climbing Mount Teide is also an option as well as a dream for many; ascending the crater and smelling the sulphur emitted from volcanic fumaroles is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  There’s a bar and restaurant area, and even a hotel and a refuge at 3.270 meters.

As the highest peak in Spain, it has been a World Heritage Site since 2007, and the park encourages visitors not stray from the marked paths, enjoy the native flora and fauna of this geological treasure, and not to take stones as a souvenir of the National Park.

Sunbathe at Maspalomas Beach in Gran Canaria

With wind-sculpted dunes with golden sand and clear, crisp ocean – Maspalomas truly is one of the most beautiful beaches on the Canary Islands.   Stretching just over 3km, the beach makes for the perfect place to sunbathe, to take a relaxing stroll or to simply soak up the sunset in the evenings. One of the best spots to see the sunset is the first set of dunes by the Charco de Maspalomas lagoon.

The beach stretches from the beautiful lighthouse to La Punta, the most southern point of the Island. But, it doesn’t end there! It then transforms into the Playa del Inglés, another 4 km of the finest sand in the east.

 Visit the fascinating architectural legacy of César Manrique in Lanzarote  

César Manrique was an artist, architect and environmental activist from Lanzarote. He did not create in nature but rather with it, and his relationship with the landscape was not simply aesthetic but also a commitment to defending the environment.

Jameos del Agua is a volcanic tube opened on the surface where you can admire a natural lagoon of transparent emerald waters which is home to a native species of the island – a minuscule, albino, blind and gleaming little crab of unknown origin.

Mirador del Rio is a building located at 500 meters in altitude at the top of the Risco cliff, hidden beneath the rock and barely visible from the outside, with large windows and exterior balconies that provide a stunning view of Lanzarote.

Visitors can see traditional ceramics and a range of sculptures. The domed main room and cupolas are not to be missed.

Taste volcanic wine in Lanzarote 

The Canary Islands have become an exceptional wine-producing region due to the volcanic nature of their soils and almost desert-like climate. The ash coating retains moisture, protects buried soils from erosion, inhibits evaporation, and traps solar input.

Partially ringed by almond shaped stone walls on tar dark soils, the vine arrays appear hauntingly gorgeous, and many of them are included within Timanfaya National Park in the southwest.

White wines are predominant in the Canaries and are often opulent and full, sometimes with a citric precision.
Whereas red wines often have a Burgundian heft of pepper and complex darkness-leather, mocha, black fruit, caramel and even diesel.
Several wineries across Lanzarote offer both wine tastings and visits.

Try an aloe vera wellness treatment in a Canarian spa in Tenerife 

The spa centres in the Canary Islands are well-known and make full use of all the natural resources provided by the Canary environment. Plenty of unique treatments are offered such as thalassotherapy, geotherapy, wine therapy or aloe therapy.

The spa of the Iberostar Grand Mencey in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is set over 4500 square meters, and facilities include everything from a dynamic heated pool with bubble beds, whirlpool sections, and aqua-massage swan necks, to saunas, a foot spa, and a steam room. Sounds like my ideal kind of holiday!

Watch the stars from a world class observatory in La Palma

The sky of La Palma is one of the best places to observe the stars, and the Roque de los Muchachos observatory at 2.396 m. above sea level is home to one of the most extensive fleets of telescopes to be found anywhere in the world.

It boasts a breath-taking view of a giant volcanic crater 1,500 metres deep, covered in trees and with volcanic rocks in amazing formations.

The observatory organises visits to its facilities, and there are stargazing tours by La Palma Astronomy Tours which even include a ‘Tapas and Stars’ experience. The experience combines tapas and a glass of red and/or white local wine with an introduction to the astronomy and the orientation of the sky through constellations as well as insider information from guides.

Eat at a Michelin star restaurant in Tenerife

The stars in the Canary Islands are not just in the sky: Tenerife has six Michelin stars spread across five restaurants. One starred NUB occupies a beautifully restored colonial building and the tasting menu fuses Italian, Chilean and traditional Canarian flavours.

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Fairy Travels

Dressing for Lapland – what to wear

After writing this post on our guide to our Lapland DIY trip last year, I received a lot of messages on dressing for Lapland. Even some asking where fluffy pjs were a necessity! In this post ill go through what we wore and where we got the items.

I think it easier to put it all together in one post as I know before we went I did a lot of research to make sure the kids would be nice and toasty. For context we went end November into December so temperature range for us was -6 to -12 and there was snow.  Visit Finland has a brilliant informative video which is well worth a watch.

Ill focus on the kids but you can take it that adults broadly similar. However I did adopt the adult plus one thinking. As in what we wore plus a layer!

So…starting from the feet up.

  • Wool socks – a must! We went for pure wool, just one pair not too tight and they were prefect. I purchased our via Ali Express

    snow gear kids

    Kids in their Reima gear Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy

  • Boots – goes without saying. Comfortable and waterproof. Make sure to try on with your wool socks before you go! A family in the cabin next to us were left with too small boots with the socks on. Luckily they could rent the boots on site. Ours and kids were Campri from Sports Direct, purchased this time last year in the sale.
  • Thermals – Don’t scrimp on these as you will were them all the time. Again try before you go. Kids wore Reima and were fantastic, soft and a great fit
  • Regular top/ long sleeve t – shirt  – self explanatory!
  • Fleece – This was the kids extra layer, myself and the Dada Fairy didn’t seem to need this layer but the kids did and both had hooded fleeces from Reima, again, couldn’t fault the quality and functionality.
  • Jacket – As with the boots this is your first line of defence! Ensure its a good fit accounting for the extra layers and it has a good hood and waterproof! Kids again had Reima and the jackets were exceptional. The fit, the hoods and the ability to withstand the temperatures at -12 and not a moan or a groan. No mean feat for my kids who leave the heat. Yes they are a little pricey but you get what you pay for and I really didn’t want to go all that way for the kids not to enjoy due to the cold which they weren’t accustomed to. The kids wore the jackets all winter here and was sorry to retire them to next year. They are safely put away until our adventures in December.
  • Ski trousers – As with the jacket, these are a necessity. There is snow! Kids being kids love to roll in it, make snow angels etc! They will get wet! And nobody wants to sitting in wet clothes. Kids decked out again in Reima no leaks, no wet trousers, no moans. Full marks from us.
  • Hats/ snoods – Very important, particuarly the snood and your neck can be exposed and the skin there is quite light and can really feel the cold. All of ours from Regatta

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Fairy Travels

Junior Explorers at Croke Park

Croke Park Junior Explorers

Super excited for the Junior Explorers tour

One chilly Saturday morning a couple of weeks back we were invited to Croke Park to experience their Junior Explorers tour which runs Saturday mornings at 10.30 until 18th May.  Coming from a family of GAA fanatics I was so excited of this tour. Croke Park for the GAA fanatic is iconic.  The very notion that I would get to explore the dressing room, the players lounge, get to walk out the players tunnel was like fulfilling a childhood fantasy.  My husband brought my back to Earth quickly…this tour was for the kids!!!

Croke Park Junior Explorers

Having a nosey at the Dublin jerseys

The tour stars with meeting Cluasóg the Irish hare who greets you upon arrival. Following this you begin your tour experiencing behind scenes of this stadium. First up the dressing room with the county jerseys all hanging neatly along the walls. The kids despite being Dubs made a beeline for the Donegal jerseys much to their fathers delight!! Next up was the players lounge which houses a mighty impressive Waterford Crystal chandelier. It’s seriously wow.

Next up we saw the warm up area and then the kids (and my) favourite part…..run out pitchside through the players’ tunnel. The look of sheer excitement in my oldest’s face will stay with me forever. He went back and did it many times. Its the stuff dreams are made of. Its given him incredible focus to one day tog out in his county colours and run out on the pitch. The sheer scale of the stadium can only really be appreciated from the pitch side. Looking up from the tunnel sent a shiver down my spine.

Croke park Junior explorers tour

Pitch side – in the words of my oldest “epic”

Hand on heart in the words of an almost 7 years old this was “epic” the boys loved every minute. Tours lasts approx. 1.5 hours (including time in the museum and a meet and greet with Cluasóg) and the route is fully accessible for buggies. Advance online booking is recommended. Free parking is available which is a mega plus!

Honestly you wont regret it. Tour participants can explore the museum afterwards with their  Junior Explorer Passport so they can follow clues throughout the Museum  including some very fun interactive features. We rounded our morning off with a tasty coffee at the Blackthorn Cafe.  Tour prices are below and its recommended to book in advance:

 

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Fairy Travels

Eclectic Edinburgh — 10 travel tips

Edinburgh

Pic Credit: Pixabay

For many visitors, Edinburgh is Britain’s most beautiful city and one of the most scenic capitals in the world.  With an elegant Neoclassical New Town and historic Old Town crowned by a castle perched atop a volcanic rock, it’s no wonder it impresses.  But away from the picture-postcard sights, Edinburgh’s a diverse city with working-class traditions which have fueled and enriched its cultural output and reputation.  If you’re ready for an eclectic Edinburgh tour, here are 10 travel tips.

Trainspotting walking tour

A Trainspotting walking tour with Brit Movie Tours takes you to the real-life filming locations of the cult film in areas like Leith, which are slightly off the typical tourist track. You’ll also learn vital insights about the seminal Irvine Welsh novel that started it all.

Hibernian FC

Known as ‘Hibs’ or ‘the Hibees’ to fans, Hibernian FC are Irvine Welsh’s favourite football team and feature heavily in all of his literature. Catch a game while you’re there and soak up the atmosphere.

Edinburgh Zoo

Edinburgh Zoo is located in Corstorphine, just outside the city centre and it’s home to the UK’s only giant pandas, as well as countless other cool creatures. Well worth a visit.

The Bongo Club

You’ll find The Bongo Club in the city centre’s Cowgate — a cultural hub with live music and comedy venues aplenty. If you want to groove to roots reggae music, Estonian hip-hop or UK Garage, this is the place to get down.

Brew School

Most Scots enjoy their beer, and if you like a tipple too, an Innis & Gunn Brew School session allows you to pick up pro tips from master brewer’s and take home a five litre mini keg of a beer you’ve created yourself.

Scottish Rugby Union

Edinburgh Castle

Pic Credit: Pixabay

Edinburgh’s Murrayfield Stadium is the home of Scotland’s national rugby union team and local side Edinburgh Rugby.  Find tickets at scottishrugby.org and take in a game while you’re in town.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is one of the world’s most dramatic and it dominates the city skyline. It’s worth paying for an official tour to learn all about its fascinating history. And if you’re there at lunchtime and hear a loud bang, don’t panic — it’s probably the famous one o’clock gun going off. 

The Scottish Parliament

In Scotland, certain political powers are devolved from the UK parliament at Westminster, so Scottish lawmakers meet and debate legislation at The Scottish Parliament in Holyrood. It’s a marvel of modern architecture that resembles a series of upturned boats.

Edinburgh Trams

The modern Edinburgh tram system is one of the best ways to get around the city and the line extends out as far as the international airport. Book tickets ahead of time on their website.

Edinburgh Airport

Edinburgh is Scotland’s biggest and busiest air hub, with daily flights to countless domestic and international locations. You’ll find Edinburgh airport parking from Looking4.com, popular restaurants like YO! Sushi and boutiques like Michael Kors.

Still looking for more? The Crazy Tourist has a brilliant list of some other tourist hot spots in this wonderful friendly city.

That’s our list! Share your own Edinburgh travel tips in the comments section.

 

Note: This is a collaborative post 
Fairy Travels

Top Tips When Travelling by Car With Children

With the rising costs of airfares and package holidays, and the increasing time it takes to get through security at the airports, more and more families are deciding to travel by car for their holidays.  Families are electing to take more road trips, both within the UK and Ireland, and wider afield in Europe. To make your journey easier here are some top tips to remember while travelling by car with children.

Most of us with young children are returning to the days we grew up in, where our holidays consisted of our parents packing up the car with us, bags and other essentials, and setting off to travel within our home country. My parents couldn’t afford holidays abroad, so we often travelled to other counties of Ireland for our summer holiday. I fondly remember a hot week in June spent in Salthill in Galway when I was 15. I also remember the windy beaches of Tralee in County Kerry when I was around 12. There were also regular camping trips to Brittas Bay or Courtown, two seaside towns on the east coast of Ireland. And getting there was a road trip.

As a family we’ve been travelling by car with our son since he was four months old. The first long trip was to Ireland via the ferry from Fishguard to Rosslare. And since our epic two-week USA road trip in 2017, we’ve become huge fans of travelling by car with our son. You can move from place to place and see much more of a country than just holidaying in one spot for a week or two. This is a huge advantage to road trips that we’ve come to love.

But, how can you beat the age-old question “Are we there yet?”, uttered by little people in the back. Well, here are some top tips to help your car holiday go a lot easier with the kids in tow.

Top tips when travelling by car with children  

1 Decide what time of the day suits your kids for travelling.

You need to decide if your kids do better in the early morning or evening hours for travelling? You know your kids better than anyone, so this is really your choice. Some people elect to travel at night when the kids are bound to be asleep. However, you need to ensure who ever is driving isn’t too tired behind the wheel. Others, like us, prefer to travel during the day, taking in the scenery and sharing the driving between the two of us. Whichever is best for your kids, plan your travel to match. For us, leaving early in the morning is best and our son will nap in the car is he gets tired. I’d also prefer us to sleep in a bed and get a proper night’s sleep than try and catch the zzz’s in the car.

2 Don’t leave home without the snacks and drinks.

Make sure to pack some snacks and drinks for everyone in the car. Yes, you might be able to stop along the way, but snacks can calm hangry children and they can also fill a gap if there is a way to go before your next stopping opportunity. Drinks are also essentials, particularly if you are driving during the summer on a hot day.

Stock the car with water or juices and bring snacks consisting of fruit, cereal bars, biscuits, crackers, crisps and even some homemade sandwiches. Keep them handy so you can pass them over without having to stop the car to fish them out of the boot.

3 Bring some entertainment.

Bring some colouring books and crayons or pencils, sticker books, travels games and even electronic devices like Gameboys and tablets. And let the kids use them if necessary. You could even bring personal DVD players and use a mounting brace to mount them to the back of the front seat headrests. Just remember individual headphones if you’ve got more than one child so that you don’t end up with a volume war.

Pic Credit: Passports and Adventures

 I’d also recommend ensuring you have some music that the kids like in the car. We’ve created a playlist on our Spotify account for our son with his favourite songs and we add to it from time to time. This can be a sure-fire way of keeping him entertained for a while in the car.  And you don’t have to limit yourself to this type of entertainment. Playing I-Spy or other games can be fun. We even created a game in America called “Spot the Mack truck” shouting out “Mack” every time we saw a truck that looked like Mack from Disney’s Cars. And a pair of toy binoculars provided hours of entertainment for our son in Yellowstone National Park.

4 Pack an overnight bag and keep it handy.

If you have an overnight stop somewhere, or are only staying a few nights in one location, why not pack a 3-day bag with 3 days’ worth of clothes for everyone in it, rather than packing one individual suitcase for each person. Use colour coordinated packing cubes for each member of the family so every knows where their clothes are.

This is much easier than hauling 3 or more suitcases into a hotel or AirBnB every night or two. You can do this for a road trip that consists of several short stops along the way. It will mean you take one suitcase of clothes in every three days. Keep your family toiletries in one large clear bag so it can be brought in with your one bag.

We did this during our road trip in Central Portugal at the end of the summer. We were stopping at three different locations for either two or three nights each and I packed one 3-day bag for our first stop, rotated clothes for the second stop and then we brought everything into our last location’s accommodation as the car was parked in a shared carpark and away from our accommodation. It made it much easier when it came to empty the car with a boisterous four-year-old in tow.

 

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Home & Interiors

Our sitting room makeover with DFS

Over the last number of years on the blog you will have seen references and posts about our renovation project. We are so very close to completion. The final piece of this mammoth undertaking was the sitting room. We decided that this would be the last room completed. Its the first room you meet when you come in the front door and what we really wanted was a calm, relaxing, clutter free place to chill out together as a family or to entertain family and friends when they called over.  We deliberately took our time on this as we wanted it to be perfect.

Generally my house is like any home to young kids full of toys, food stains. I had the kids well warned in advance that the new sitting room would be a food free zone!  There are plenty other places to eat in the house, the sitting room just wont be one of them.  Life in the Mamma Fairy is hectic, from full time work, to school work, to kids sports/ activities and day to day living therefore quality downtime is paramount, that’s time to chat, converse and enjoy each others company. I suppose in reality the sitting room is the heart of our home. If I was on Home of the Year I would be putting the red circle here as my favourite spot.

Here a little pic of the before, there wasn’t anything wrong with it as such but it didn’t invite or encourage that vibe that I wanted to create.  The wallpaper  had got to the stage I pretty much couldn’t look at it any longer, I was so sick on my second wee man that I spent days on end staring at that while on bed rest.  The mere sight of it brings back those emotions.

The Dada Fairy is in the construction business so he is mega fussy and incredible safety conscious about all work that goes on in the house and products we buy. Quality products are of paramount importance and he knows quality when he sees it 🙂

The products

A little drumroll please……………………and here is the finished product. I love love love it, its exactly the vibe I wanted to encapsulate, calming, welcoming, soft natural tones.

Panelling

The panelling was completed by Customised Creations by John O’Shea.  We paid for this ourselves, not sponsored or gifted in anyway, we are just extremely satisfied customers. The carpenters who were on site with us were professional, discrete, and so tidy in terms of cleaning up after their days work. The spent some very long days and nights here to get finished up in time for Christmas and we are very grateful for that.  Honestly, would have no hesitation in recommending them. We have had them back since to do built in wardrobes which I will also be sharing on the blog when completed.

Sofas

I’m not sure many purchases generate as much argument debate than the purchase of the sofas in a house.  I really thought I wanted leather, thinking about the kids and cleaning the inevitable spills etc, however a visit to DFS provide a wealth of valuable information.  You can get the fabric sofas coated with a stain proof prior to delivery to overcome this very obstacle.  We fell head over heals for the Zinc collection, fitted my brief perfectly, natural tones, relaxed yet stylish.

However one of the lesser known facts about DFS sofas are that have been awarded the BSI Kitemark indicating they reach the highest possible standards and are guaranteed for 15 years.  That to me shows a dept of confidence in their brand. 15 years of bottoms on seats, of kids jumping around and they are willing to stand over their product for 15 years?? To my mind that shows trust in the quality of their brand.

DFS has was the first and only UK and Ireland furniture retailer to be certified to the BSI Kitemark™ for upholstered furniture.  The BSI Kitemark is one of the most established and  recognized symbols of quality and safety throughout the world thus giving consumers an independently verified quality seal of approval.  Interestingly as a result DFS factories will now receive annual audits to ensure this consistent high standard is met.

 

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Fairy Travels

Lapland on budget – a how to guide

santa claus village

Accommodation at Santa Claus Village Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

Last year we ticked one item off our bucket list when we visited Iceland. Little did I think a mere two months later we would have managed to tick another one off the list – an ultimate dream come true….Lapland. It cost us a fraction of the price that tour operators were quoting for our two night stay therefore I though id set out just how we did it including costs.

 

Feel free to comment below or DM/ email and im more than happy to answer any questions or queries:

Flights

We weren’t overly keen on the over night train, I know some people love it but my thinking was tired kids = nightmare! Therefore we knew without booking with a tour operator we were limited to connecting nights flights so off we went researching.

  • We flew Dublin to London Gatwick, Cost €9.99 per person each way with Ryanair
  • London Gatwick to Rovaniemi £35.99 each way with Easy Jet

They above were the cheapest I could find anywhere and I did buckets of research in terms of timing I booked in August for December 2018. You also need to factor in the cost of an overnight stay in the airport as the Easy Jet flight is 6.20!! A very early flight!! We booked the Hilton Hampton airport hotel via booking.com for £90 b&b for the four of us. Nothing overly exciting but did the job and its literally next to the Easy Jet check in desks.

santa claus village resturant

Lunch time at Santa Claus Village Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy blog

santa claus village

Santa Claus Village at 4pm Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

There is also the option of flying with Norwegian or Finnair from a few of the UK airports. The alternative is to go via Helsinki from Dublin, think its around an hours turnaround in Helsinki so tight but doable im informed. Of course the overnight train is an option if you fly from Dublin. Sign up to their newsletter for and discounts.

Accommodation (3 Nights)

There are a wealth of option to suit lots of budgets and requirements in Rovaniemi. We stayed at Santa Claus Village which yes is pricey but it was so handy to be so close to the airport and all activities were on site from Snowmobiling, huskies and of course the big man himself. We crossed over and under the arctic circle and Santa Claus Village is a 30 min or so walk to Santa Park. (Full reviews on both to follow).

The town of Rovaniemi is really nice and hosts the worlds most northerly McDonalds im told (and 2 Irish bars)!! I know a lot of people like to stay closer to the town for a variety of eating options and to be close to supermarkets etc. As above booking.com and Airbnb are good places to start. Food is pricey so do bear that in mind that you might like the option of self catering to be able to save money and cook at home.

Activities

Santa Park

Santa Park Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

The best piece of advice I can give here is to do your research. My kids are young so seeing Santa was top of the list but that list could be endless, there is just so much to do.  What we did was we decided early what activities we would like and booked and paid for some of those in advance.  Also highly recommended is the Rovaniemi Culture Pass which covers the top 3 attractions in Rovaniemi at €20 for adults and kids under 7 free this works out at really good value.

One thing I must do is commend the staff at Visit Rovaniemi, they are incredibly helpful at assisting with all queries in relation to upcoming visits. I literally spoke to them most weeks in the lead up to our trip and I can say hand on heart it would not have been  half as good without their expert advice and guidance. It can be a bit of a minefield with so much on offer and the sense of wanting to see all that’s on offer in this magical place so do contact them for assistance.

I do have a full review to follow of each of this but I will say some highlights were:

  • We saw Santa at Santa’s Office in Santa Claus Village, just amazing, we went early no queue as the tour buses hadn’t started to arrive yet
  • We did the husky ride at Husky Park located in Santa Park, you get to spend some time at the husky farm before going on the ride which my kids just loved.  The puppies…..so so cute. You can tell the staff genuinely love what they do and have a special bond with the animals
  • Santa Park is about 2km from Santa Village, its a really lovely walk via a forest trail. Id probably say this was the kids highlight. They loved the entire experience start to finish. The entrance alone is pure magic. You walk down this walk way which is all lit up with beautiful coloured lights. Almost like stepping into a fantasy. At Sana Park you can underpass the arctic circle which we all thought was super cool. I can’t recommend Santa Park enough, well laid out and just wonderful.  We only did Santa in one place to stave off the questions so the activities here were really thoroughly enjoyed:
    • elf show – one word mesmerising I could not take my eyes off the lead female, just incredible ,
    • angry birds play space, the grown ups enjoyed a coffee while the kids played over head at the place centre,
    • gingerbread decorating, this was really lovely and relaxing and kids had plenty time to decorate and use all the various toppings on offer,
    • ice-bar
    • train ride

All in all we estimate the total cost for the 4 of us for 4 nights flights bed and breakfast was around €1,000 activities extra bus that’s very much a matter of personal preference. The food is pricey but do factor that into your budget but I would urge you to try some of the local cuisine. Our favourite was probably the dinner at the Nova Skyland yes pricey but yes so worth it.  My kids are snacky eaters so I had lots of their favourites with me when the (hangry) hunger took over!

Mamma Fairy Insider Tips

  • Take snacks!!
  • Bepathan, my kids are fair skinned so I knew the cold would bother them, we used this on their faces and lips and no issues at all, definitely recommend
  • Good ski gear/ cold gear – kids wore good quality thermals and outerwear from Reima boots from Sports Direct and adults Regatta and Sports Direct boots, nobody got wet and nobody moaned about the cold….. winner! (For our full post of dressing for Lapland click here)
    entrance to santa park

    Santa Park Entrance Pic Credit: The Mamma Fairy Blog

    Chat to Visit Rovaniemi they are excellent, I did it via email and definitely made our trip what it was.

  • Whatever clothing you need only take half, we took way too much.
  • Plan and plan some more, know what you want to do before you go and either pay in instalments or in advance makes planning easier.
  • You only have very short day time hours so plan accordingly
  • This year there was much stress about the snow levels so my advice  – book into December. Nothing is guaranteed but it does increase your chances
  • Sign up for all airlines newsletters so you know when flights are released. I understand both Easy Jet and Norwegian will be releasing theirs in April this year.
  • The Airbnb and Booking.com links above will give you a small discount so you are welcome to use them as every little really does help.
  • Savour every minute, honestly its magical.
  • For some top tips on surviving  the winter holidays see this great post from Mother Distracted

Hopefully this is helpful for anybody planning their trip of a life time. Although in saying that im eagerly awaiting flight releases for this year so we can go back and enjoy all that the Official home of Santa Claus has to offer.

Note – since our return we got to interview the GM from Santa Claus Holiday Village who shares a view from the inside with us here

Note: The above post contains afflinks