Obviously, here at Best Served we love Finnish Lapland. And having just come back from a recent trip with fellow destination specialist Miranda Berliand, we were inspired as always to share what we love about this place. But when you've visited a place as often as our team has, it can be easy to forget that not everyone knows it as well as we do! For the first-time traveller, there are plenty of things you'll want to keep in mind as you prepare for a holiday to Finland's northern reaches.
Bring boots that are a little bit big
We've said it before, and we'll say it again – winter snow boots that are a size too big are exactly what you'll want when the temperatures dip. Larger shoes allow you to wear thick, cosy socks (or even two pairs) with enough room to keep a layer of warm air near your toes, and leave space to wiggle them and get your blood moving when it's really cold. Similarly, mittens will generally keep your fingers warmer than gloves.
Try your footwear before you leave
Whether you've just purchased snow boots or hiking boots, do not even think of getting on the plane without having broken in your new shoes for a few days at home. For many people, it's already an adjustment to do the amount of walking that we all do on holiday – don't make it harder by bringing painful shoes, too.
Bring an eye mask to the igloos
If you're staying in a glass igloo – one of the best ways to see the Northern Lights, and soak up the landscape without getting chilly – you'll want to bring an eye mask. With such large windows, you may find it difficult to sleep – especially if you're visiting at times of year when it is light late into the night.
Hand warmers are your friends...
These little indulgences become true necessities when you're standing in the far-below-freezing Finnish winter climate, so we recommend bringing a couple sets with you to tuck into mittens or pockets. Single-use ones can run as low as £1 per pair, and reusable ones just a couple of quid more.
...even on snowmobiles
If you haven't driven a snowmobile before, you might not know that they generally have hand warmers in the handles, and toe warmers in the foot bay. Even if it doesn't seem cold before you start driving, it will once the wind kicks up – and you'll want to be sure to turn these on.
Don't wing it when it comes to your camera
Especially if you want to photograph the Northern Lights, be sure to pack a tripod – though this far north, you'll want one for many other shots too, as so much of the year is characterised by a dusky twilight. Be sure to practice with your camera before you depart – the regular point-and-shoot settings won't be enough for the sorts of photos you'll want to take, and there's nothing worse than missing a great photograph because you didn't know how your equipment worked. Or worse – missing a moment entirely because you were searching through the manual!
Bring spare batteries
The cold in Finnish Lapland will drain batteries quickly, so if you're out and about for a day of excursions, bring a spare and keep it tucked somewhere warm, like an inner pocket close to your body heat. The same is true of mobile phones, so you'll want to be judicious about how much you use your devices when far from a charger.
Try the warm room
A lot of what travellers wonder about is how to stay warm... you might have seen the theme here. Don't forget, if you are staying in an ice hotel, each hotel also has a warm room, so if you do find that you're too chilly at night, you can move to a heated space and bring a rucksack with you. (But with reindeer sins, sleeping bags and the right packing, most people will be just fine.)
Write a letter to Santa before you go
Finnish Lapland is the home of Santa Claus, and people here are serious about making sure children's wishes get to the right place. Even if you're not planning to visit, write a letter to Father Christmas and address it to:
Santa Claus Main Post Office
Arctic Circle, Finland
It will arrive in Santa's hands, and you may even get a reply.