Katy Holland: A painful Christmas experience

Are we there yet? Lapland is a tourist trap worth avoiding, but if you insist...
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The Independent Travel

So, you want to take the kids to visit Santa in Lapland? Painful experience has taught me that Christmas is a time for hibernating. But a few of you have dropped me e-mails insisting on learning your lesson the hard way.

I went to Lapland once, and its one tourist trap I wouldn't want to return to. But now I hear there's hope. Companies such as Responsible Travel (01273 600030; responsibletravel.com) are going out of their way to offer a more relaxed alternative to those crotchety queues and coach parties on hectic tours that I remember. Book on to one of its three-night trips this December and you'll be transported, by train or plane, to a traditional guesthouse in the tiny village of Kiruna. The kids can chill with a Sami reindeer herder and test their skills at dog-sledding or snow-shoeing. They get to meet Santa, too, and make (and eat) pancakes with him.

Other firms with a more authentic approach include Activities Abroad (01670 789991; activitiesabroad.com), which offers a family trip to remote Savalen in Norway, where the snow falls thick from now on. See Santa's log house and toy factory, where children get plenty of one-to-one time with Santa. And, when they've finished, there are seven ski slopes to try out.

But why fly to the North Pole when you can see the big man in action in Tunbridge Wells? Lapland UK (0871221 9627; laplanduk.co.uk) is recreating Father Christmas's Arctic homeland in a "multimillion pound interactive theatrical production". Opening this weekend, it promises a traditional Christmas. Meet Santa, decorate gingerbread men in Mother Christmas's kitchen, skate on the ice rink, meet reindeer and listen to Nordic tales. With so much authentic fun out there, I'm losing the urge to hibernate. Almost.