There are a couple of things in which we Finns are exceptionally talented. For example, not minding the weather, making cinnamon buns and enjoying stress-free family holidays.
The traditional Finnish vacation includes packing all family members into the car and driving to the cabin for the whole duration of the holiday. That is often as long as four weeks in the summer. Yup!
I have written this Finland with Kids Guide to help you experience Finland as a family with less hassle and more fun! I’ll be sharing my lessons learned when traveling with three kids.
Oh, I’d love it if you would follow me on Instagram! That way I could easily add more Finland tips to your life!
So what’s in this guide?
First, a few words why Finland is such a fantastic destination for families. I’ll continue with some family holiday planning tips and share some Finland details you are happy to know in advance.
Then, I’ll dive into family-friendly destinations and how to do a Finland family holiday on a budget. Lastly, I’ll talk about kidswear during the wintertime.
Table of Contents
- 1 Seven Reasons Why You Should Travel to Finland with Kids
- 2 Planning Your Trip to Finland with Kids: Five Essential Tips
- 3 Nine Things to Know Before Traveling in Finland with Kids
- 4 How to Do a Family Vacation in Finland on a Budget
- 5 Destination Ideas when You are in Finland with Kids
- 6 Winter Clothing Tips for Kids
Seven Reasons Why You Should Travel to Finland with Kids
#1 Finland is exotic.
For me, traveling is learning. Learning about the destination and learning about myself. Finland can give your family wonderful discussions. The arctic nature and the local lifestyle will spark questions and curiosity.
#2 Finland is safe.
Finland ranks very high in many metrics, including safety which is an essential factor when traveling with kids. Last year, Finland was named the safest country in the world for tourists by a biennale report by World Economic Forum.
#3 Finland is clean.
Air quality in Finland is the best in the world, according to WHO. As Finland is ‘the land of a thousand lakes,’ it isn’t a surprise that our tap water is top-class. In fact, Finnish tap water is cleaner than bottled water.
#4 Finland is delicious.
Food in Finland is fresh, seasonal and full of flavors. Discover all the traditional Finnish dishes in cafes and restaurants or try a Finnish recipe yourself!
#5 Finland is child-friendly.
The facilities and infrastructure make it super easy to travel with kids.
First of all, walking with a pram is effortless in Finland. In general, towns don’t have many stairs, hills or cobblestone. If you are traveling with a baby, it’s great to know that nursing is okay everywhere.
At grocery stores, there are fantastic baby departments full of organic and healthy ready-made foods, diapers, feeding bottles and other practical products.
Toilet facilities are enough spacious and kept very clean. You can find a baby-changing station almost everywhere. I always keep a disposable diaper changing matt with me, just in case.
#6 Finland is easy.
It’s comfortable to move from place to place with excellent public transport and no-jam roads. Communication is easy because Finns understand English extremely well.
#7 Finland is punctual.
Travel planning and sticking with your plans is a breeze because everything works as agreed. Period.
Planning Your Trip to Finland with Kids: Five Essential Tips
Know Your Vacation Goals and Budget
I know that sounds business-y, but when you think about it, you always have a goal of some sort when you travel.
What is your goal for this family holiday in Finland?
Are you trying to show your family the Finnish lifestyle?
If so, then your budget can be relatively small. The Finnish lifestyle type holiday includes a self-drive, self-catering destination with a lot of family time playing games, reading and relaxing – all inexpensive hobbies.
Or, do you want to see the best of everything in a week in Finland?
Then your trip might involve two destinations: maybe Helsinki and a more northern destination to which you fly. You might want to try some unique activities like snowmobiling, husky rides, and amazing Finnish local cuisine.
Whatever your plan, make sure you know it. Then crunch numbers and make a rough budget.
Start the Preparation Early
Stress usually arrives when you have too much to do and too little time.
Add huge expectations (Often set up by yourself, nobody else) of organizing the perfect holiday and BANG, you’ve got SUPER stress… Does this sound familiar?
Don’t try to double check all arrangements and pack the last day.
There’s a lot to remember: flights, accommodation, transportation, printing of all kinds of papers (maps, reservations, etc.), passports, travel insurance, money, credit cards and packing.
Finish One Thing Before Starting a New One
When the kids are running around and screaming, completing a task from start to finish sometimes feels as unlikely as winning a marathon.
But in travel planning, finishing a task is crucial. You save time when you only do things once and avoid the disaster of forgetting.
Here is an example. Last spring, before our vacation in Lapland, I almost, unintentionally, canceled our rented cabin because I forgot to pay the separate ‘end bill’.
When I booked the cottage, I paid 20% of the rental fee and the company sent me a bill via email. I read the email thinking that I should pay it immediately. Next minute, I started playing with my daughter and had forgotten the whole thing.
Weeks later, the situation occurred to me when I applied my method of “double checking everything early.” Oh, the amount of cold sweat on my back when I made this discovery! Luckily the date of the bill was on the same day.
So, in any task, follow up the whole process at once if you can. Set calendar reminders for things you can’t do immediately so they don’t slip your mind.
How to Choose the Activities for Your Finland Visit
In my opinion, there are two rules here.
The first rule: don’t try to do too much. The second rule: pick the activities according to kids’ age.
There are two clear signs when you have planned too much. Either:
You’re an evening zombie. You are so exhausted in the evening that after the kids are asleep, you only have the energy to hang out on social media or watch TV. Don’t forget your spouse on a family vacation!
You’re an annoyed martyr. You get irritated when your family cannot stick to your plan. In resentment, you think that they are missing out on stuff you so carefully planned.
Don’t plan too much!
Now, about the second rule; picking the activities according to kids’ age.
If you’re traveling with a toddler, animals are a sure trick to make one happy child. In Finland, we have a lot of petting zoos and farm parks scattered across the country.
When traveling with school-age children and teenagers, I recommend renting bikes or going to adventure parks. There are many adventure forest parks in Finland where you get to climb on trees with sky tracks and zip-lines. I think my hubby and I love them as much as the kids.
Did you know that most Finnish cities have inexpensive city bikes during the summer? Also, many hotels rent or loan bikes!
Make a Packing List
This is my engineer side talking. I honestly think that if you can outsource anything from your brain, you should.
That’s why, a travel packing list is a no-brainer (hahah). Most likely, you’ll need it pretty often and it’s risky to rely on your memory to remember every tiny detail. Especially if you are packing for yourself and the kids.
Furthermore, you can use the unoccupied brain power to connect with your family, stay present or solve more fun issues.
Lastly, it saves you a lot of time in destination when you have everything with you. Just consider the amount of stress that hits you when you realize that you have forgotten the pills for your motion sick kid and are just about to hop on a cruise boat.
Nine Things to Know Before Traveling in Finland with Kids
As a parent, these tips are great to know before you visit Finland.
#1 Personal space
Finns give plenty of personal space to both adults and kids. We love children but keep our distance unless the children in question are members of our family.
#2 Road safety
When you are walking or cycling with kids, it’s important to know that Finnish drivers might not stop when they see a pedestrian near a road crossing. It’s not uncommon that you have to wait for a car to stop.
The law requires that all kids under 135 cm must have a child car seat. The only exceptions are taxis and buses. If you want, you can pre-order a taxi with a child or baby car seat for a special price (z. 10€).
Note that not all Finnish long-distance buses have seat belts. You can take your own child car seat with you but there’s no guarantee that you can attach it to the seat. Usually, Finnish families with a baby take the train because of the toilet facilities and comfortability.
Credit card works in 99% of places so don’t change a lot of money. Also, tipping is not expected in Finland. You can read more about tipping on this post.
#4 Accommodation and sauna
Due to our summer cottage culture, Finland is a dream for self-catering vacations. Cooking your own meals and living the local lifestyle can be the most fantastic family holiday ever!
A rented cottage can have a baby crib and toys, just ask to make sure. Naturally, most cabins include a sauna in Finland.
The Finnish health officials instruct that babies under the age of one should not go to the sauna. To my understanding, this is because they aren’t able to sweat properly yet. When a kid is older, it’s safe to go.
#5 Public transport in a city
If you are using a pram, the public transport inside a city is usually free for the pram passenger and one adult. For example, in Helsinki, all trams, buses, and metros are free of charge for the kid in the pram and one adult!
#6 Finnish kids
If you want your kids to play with Finnish kids, take the initiative. Ask the parent and most likely they will encourage their child to play with your kid. Finns probably wouldn’t suggest this because we don’t want to disturb you.
#7 Tap water
You can safely fill your water bottle from any tap, except in a train and bus.
#8 Childcare facilities
Many public spaces, even some restaurants, have a microwave and a snack area for you to use.
For example, I love how Helsinki City Museum and Oodi Library, both in Helsinki city center, have excellent facilities for kids.
#9 The polar night in Lapland
I like to read travel forums to see what questions and comments travelers have about Finland.
There aren’t many negatives, but one thing pops up regularly: the darkness of the polar night. I’d like to address this because many families travel to Finland in December due to Santa Claus.
The polar night is most likely a weird, new thing for most travelers. So yes, it’s true that in December and January in Lapland, you only have a couple of hours of twilight midday, around 10 am – 2 pm. So spend them carefully!
I highly recommend planning your activities so that you can enjoy the scenic activities at that time.
As for the rest of the time, let the darkness surround you! Go walking with flashlights, hunt for auroras, play board games, light the fireplace and snuggle on the sofa with hot chocolate. Oh, and, of course, meet Santa!
How to Do a Family Vacation in Finland on a Budget
#1 Travel off-season.
Head to Lapland from April to November. An outdoorsy, winter-loving Finn often picks March or April as the month to visit Lapland.
Our family was in Ylläs last spring and it was a dream. Wonderful sunny weather, heaps of snow and auroras at night!
The peak tourist season in southern and central Finland is from June to August. Also, at that time, Finns are spending their holidays.
#2 Choose a cabin.
There are thousands of cabins in Finland. Camping sites and cabins are great, inexpensive accommodations.
#3 Eat outdoors.
Eating doesn’t have to happen only in a restaurant. Have a picnic in the city park or on the lake shore. Campfire places are awesome too!
#4 Involve the kids.
Don’t plant ideas to their head, instead, casually ask what they would like to do in Finland. Chances are, you’ll get fantastic and inexpensive ideas.
#5 The tiny things.
Even though you paid for an expensive activity the kids wanted to do, in the end, something else may be the highlight of their trip. So don’t worry if you can’t make all their wishes come true.
Seeing the colossal bulk candy section in a Finnish grocery store may be the memory they remember all their life!
Furthermore, it can be the same for you. For me, the best memory of our family vacation was when my hubby’s son babbled so much to his three-month old little sister that she fell asleep in the middle of his talking marathon.
Destination Ideas when You are in Finland with Kids
There are a lot of fantastic places to spend a day with kids in Finland. Here are some ideas for you!
#1 An adventure park
In Finnish: seikkailupuisto. A zip-line park in the forest or park! Our kids love these places more than amusement parks.
Here is a map that has all the adventure parks in Finland. The site is only in Finnish, but I think you can understand the map and place names.
#2 An amusement park
Linnanmäki in Helsinki, Särkänniemi in Tampere, Tykkimäki in Kouvola, PowerPark in Kauhava, Nokkakiven Puisto near Jyväskylä, Santapark in Rovaniemi.
#3 Santa Claus
You can meet Santa Claus in Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi every day of the year!
#4 Snow fun
Visit the Snow Castle in Kemi or Lainio Snow Village near Levi.
In the summer, there’s a Moomin world theme park in Naantali, near Turku. You can also find a Moomin museum in Tampere and a dedicated Tove Jansson exhibition in Helsinki (Helsinki Art Museum).
My favorite place as a kid was (read: still is) Heureka Science Center in Vantaa, near Helsinki. If your kid is like Alex Dunphy in the tv-show ‘Modern Family’, I recommend this place with all my heart.
I highly recommend visiting a Finnish forest at least once. No matter where you are in Finland, if you ask, locals are happy to give you a recommendation which place to check out.
If you are in Helsinki, a fantastic combo is to take a bus to the Finnish Nature Center “Haltia” next to Nuuksio national park and then walk in the national park. The views are stunning!
In Lapland, visiting a fell top is a must!
Winter Clothing Tips for Kids
In Finland, we have a saying: If your feet are warm, your whole body is warm. This is very true.
Proper winter shoes are a must for the Finnish winter. Here’s why: when it’s winter in Finland, the ground can be any of the following:
- Puddles of slush (the winter days with warmer temperatures)
- Ice (standard)
- Slush and ice beneath it (when temperatures change)
- Black ice (especially in the south)
- A layer of snow (standard)
- A pile of snow (until the plough arrives)
- A meter of snow (think Lappish forest)
Babies and toddlers wear warm winter overalls. Finnish little children and primary school-aged kids wear warm waterproof slope sets.
The slope sets are so warm that kids wear just their normal clothes underneath. If it is super cold, they wear a thermal underwear set.
What are your best family holiday tips? I’d love to know, share them in the comments!
Looking for more information about Finland travel planning and packing? Check these other posts:
- Winter Packing List for Finland & Free Printable for You!
- Cold Weather Essentials & Beauty Hacks
- 15 Things to Know about Northern Lights in Lapland
- How to use the Finnish Sauna
- How to Travel from Helsinki to Lapland with Night Train
Ps. Family holiday pictures are precious! The sunny day with my daughter and granny was photographed by Vilma, who is a brilliant family photographer in Helsinki.
Warm wishes from Finland,
After Finnish Culture Compass, you’ll…
...feel connected with the Finnish culture (even if you aren’t in Finland)
...be confident with the Finnish communication style (even when it’s filled with silence)
...be prepared to meet and get to know Finns