Northern Lights, Igloos & Tantalizing Tallinn

Feb 18 – 25, 2023

 Small Group 

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Can you say Aurora Borealis three times fast? A glistening Arctic kingdom of snow and ice awaits for what will be your coolest vacation ever! This trip to the Top of the World is one that AFS clients constantly beg us for a repeat but this time, we’re doing it even cooler with off-the-charts scenery and large fun for what is truly an Arctic Disneyland for adults to defrost your hearts.  You’ll witness the mesmerizing Northern Lights dancing across snowscapes as only part of this bucket list trip that also includes snowmobiling, dogsledding, and woodland saunas. The frosted fairyland that is Finland’s Lapland is truly a Winter Wonderland.  It’s the land of thrilling escapades in the snow with eye-popping scenery in an untamed wilderness with nature in its purest form. Winter in the Arctic Circle is high season here as it becomes a playground of adventure. Thermal suits are provided to ensure you’ll stay warm and cozy while taking in the pristine scenery that was the basis of Disney’s acclaimed movie “Frozen.”  Our past 5 AFS groups loved it all. We fly north from Helsinki to Ivalo, the ultimate destination for those who truly want to experience winter fun.  Our home is the unparalleled Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort, with its stunning glass igloos that allow you to stargaze and watch dancing Northern lights from your own bed!  These are the original epic igloos that other properties try to copy but can’t compare.   Our Snow Safari begins with an adrenaline rush by donning snowsuits and zipping through the shimmering snow-blanketed arctic forest on snowmobiles. The kid in you is sure to come out as we visit with the true Father Christmas and his elves. And just when you thought you couldn’t have enough fun, you’ll meet dozens of happy huskies at the Husky Farm for dogsledding across frozen rivers and fields. You’ve never breathed air so crisp and clean.  Enjoy Lappish cuisines, a reindeer experience, horse sleigh rides, snowshoeing and more.   Each evening on our Arctic Adventure, we have the chance to see those magnificent Northern Lights as they shimmer across the night sky.  We’ll return to uber-cool Helsinki and explore this ultra-modern Finnish capital.  For more diversity, we then ferry to the country of Estonia to explore the fairytale-like Medieval capital of Tallinn. You’ll wander the cobblestone streets of this distinctly Eastern European city and feel you have been transported to another world.  Don’t miss this AFS Arctic Blast, limited to just 24 people.  Lapland is a costly destination, but we negotiated a great price for you.  Awaken your child-like spirit of adventure and exploration. Come join us to witness a magical place like no other. It’s a once in a lifetime Snow Safari you’ll treasure forever!  

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Our Glorious AFS Itinerary

 Click for a printable PDF itinerary 

Feb 18  Fly USA to Helsinki.   Plenty of airline choices. Air and trip details coming soon and AFS Trip Tips.  

Feb 19 – Arrive Helsinki   Tervetuloa Suomeen! Welcome to Finland! We arrive at Helsinki’s ultra-modern Vantaa Airport in the morning and head to our hotel, Scandic Helsinki which is at the airport next to Terminal 2 and can be reached through a partly covered walkway. So convenient for any air arrival times! The Finnish capital of Helsinki is known for its great mixture of neo-classical buildings, orthodox style churches and chic bar and restaurant scene. Alvar Aalto, a world-renowned Finnish architect and designer has contributed to much of the functionalistic architecture in Helsinki that is loved and hated by so many. This is a walking city with heated sidewalks in the main pedestrian area! There’s so much to do in this cool capital, you may want to extend your trip pre-or post. Your afternoon is free but this evening we will get introduce to your fellow group members followed by a Welcome Dinner.

Overnight at hotel Scandic Helsinki Airport (1 night)         D

Feb 20 – Fly to Ivalo Lapland!  After breakfast, transfer to Airport for our morning to our flight north to magical Kakslauttanen in Saariskelka arctic wilderness. We’ll go directly to our magical Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort so we can check out our Glass Igloos!  Years of research went into this marvel of development on these futuristic domes, the coolest igloos on the planet. Polar nights are magical here, one of the world’s best places to watch the Northern Lights! These sparking domes provide a unique opportunity to admire the Northern Lights and the millions of stars of the crystal-clear winter sky while enjoying a comfortable room temperature of about 70°F. Built from a special thermal glass, the temperature inside the Igloo always stays at a normal level. It also prevents the glass from not getting white frosted, hence keeping the view clear even when the temperature outside drops to under -20°F.  (We recommend that you bring only the essentials to the igloos because of their size. While there is a toilet and sink, the showers and saunas are shared and nearby.)  On arrival you’ll be briefed with a presentation of activities here like a Reindeer Safari with herders, horse-drawn sleigh rides, ice fishing, the Sami experience, planetarium and more. A very Finnish thing to do it to enjoy and evening sauna. Finns take saunas seriously for the healing warmth and brings both physically and spiritually. There are 3 different smoke saunas here, one is the largest in the world holding over 100 bathers at a time, each with a fireplace and dressing rooms. Afterwards, you can take a dip in the cold spring water pool for total rejuvenation. There is an Ice Bar and 2 restaurants offering local Lappish cuisines of the freshest fish, salmon, reindeer and local delicacies. Also see the new art gallery and gift shops for local handicrafts.  This evening we will depart for Aurora Hunting on a 2-hour adventure to see the Northern lights. Seeing these dancing colorful lights casting their magical glow across the Arctic sky is always an unforgettable sight.  There’s no guarantees with nature but studies reveal that late February to early March are your best chances.  Dinner is served at our hotel. LaplandOvernight: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort           B,D  

 

Feb 21 – Snowmobile Safari + Visit to Santa’s home   After breakfast, head out on a thrilling morning Snowmobile Safari through the arctic forest. The best way to see the fell landscape in Lapland is by zipping across the frozen landscape with a snowmobile. We’ll be taken to the activity location and provided with instructions as well as thermal outfits to keep us toasty. Each snowmobile sits two with one driving and other on the back, but feel free to swap drivers halfway. There is an option to have the snowmobile all for yourself, or if you can choose to ride in the back of a sleigh (for extra cost). Head into the wilderness with a bit of adrenaline and get immersed into the arctic nature. After the ride, we’ll have some hot juice and a Finnish treat together before heading back to Kakslauttanen.

Later in the afternoon, it’s time to drop in on Santa. Young or old, a visit not to miss!  Mrs. Claus will greet us by the reindeer fence for great photos and then take us into Santa’s cozy and beautiful crafted home where guests can experience Christmas around the year!  Meeting Santa in person is a moment to that will bring out the kid in all of us. Selfies are a must! We head to the impressively decorated Celebration House to enjoy a hot drink. Along the way you might see some elves as well!  Our dinner will be back at our hotel. Overnight: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort         B,D

Feb 22 – Husky Safari   After breakfast, get ready for today’s Husky Safari – an unforgettable journey through breathtaking winter scenery. Mushing is a must here. These dogs love to run!  Again, we will be provided with thermal outfits at the husky farm. Then it is time to meet the friendly dogs who are eagerly waiting in front of the sleds. Husky dogs can’t wait to get going! You’ll hear them barking in anticipation as you arrive. Our guide will give instructions on how to stop, turn and drive the husky sled pulled by the team of dogs. The sled is for two people unless you wish to have your own alone (for extra cost). One person is seated in the sleigh while the other is standing and mushing in the back, you can swap drivers halfway. You will enjoy riding in the wintery forest as much as the dogs! Then we return to the farm and thank our dogs for our adventure together, it’s time for a hot drink and some husky stories. The rest of the day at leisure.  There’s plenty of choices for your free time at the resort like the Ice Pool challenge, more snowmobiling and horseback riding through a snowy forest. Buses run regularly to nearby Saariskelka with its Ski Center and Finnish spas. There’s miles of Nordic cross-country skiing trails and lessons, tobogganing and snow tubing. Overnight: Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort  B,D

Feb 23 –  Farewell Lapland, Hello Helsinki! After breakfast, we head back to the Ivalo airport our Finnair flight 10 to 11:45 AM back to Helsinki where we will enjoy a 3-hour guided City Tour. This comprehensive tour will introduce us to the most important and interesting parts of Helsinki, such as the Helsinki Cathedral at the Senate Square, the Presidential Palace, City Hall, the Parliament building, Finlandia Hall, the Opera House, the Helsinki Music Centre, and Central Library Oodi. Our hotel is the Crown Plaza Helsinki Hesperia is in a great location with plenty nearby to see and do. So much to explore here… Book a Taste of Helsinki Foodie Tour, Instagram Tour or the Red Rib Survivor Experience if you like! There’re sauna tours, museums, heated outdoor pools, ice bar bars and more.   Helsinki Overnight: Crowne Plaza Helsinki Hesperia (2 nights).  B  

 

Feb 24 –  A Day trip to Tallinn This morning transfer to Helsinki harbor to embark on a 2-hour ferry ride across the Baltic Sea to captivating Tallinn. The medieval capital of Estonia, the walled city of Tallin is the trendiest part of this region and a world away from the modern sites of Helsinki, Stockholm, Oslo, or Copenhagen. We walk the historic old town, a UNESCO world heritage site with photo ops around every corner. See grand merchant houses, 13th century Gothic Townhall, Saint Nicholas church, Parliament and more. Streets are lined with cozy cafés for special p easant local cuisines and shops filled with Estonian treasures. Prices are so good here, it’s where the Finns come to shop.  Tallinn delights everyone!   We’ll return to Helsinki in the evening by ferry. Overnight: Crowne Plaza Helsinki Hesperia        B

 

Feb 25 – Depart For USA    Today you will transfer to Helsinki Airport to catch your return flight for home.  

 

Land Price $ 2995 + $242 internal air flights (plus $85 pre-paid for licensed guides, drives, and porters) Deposit $600 Based upon 24 participants

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  • INCLUDES  Accommodation on twin / Double sharing room basis at listed hotels above or equivalent
  • Stay for 3 nights in Small Glass Igloos at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Buffet Breakfast at all hotels Welcome Dinner in Helsinki at residing hotels
  • 3 dinners during stay at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
  • Aurora Hunting by Bus |Duration 2 Hours| at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
  • Visit to Santa home |Duration 1.5 Hour| at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
  • Snowmobile Safari |Duration 2 Hours| at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
  • Husky safari |Duration 2 Hours| at Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort
  • Return Ferry ticket from Helsinki-Tallinn and vice versa.
  • A bottled water person per day during the tour in the vehicle.
  • All transfers, sightseeing’s and excursions by deluxe coach.
  • Accompanied Tour director on entire tour. English speaking guides during city tour Entrance fees to monuments as per the given program.
  • All taxes and services charges

 

TRIP TIPS – to be updated soon.

Prepare to be thrilled by a Lapland experience like no other as we search for the Northern Lights.  This is a small group of just 22 solo travelers…After final payments are in, we will send you the contact and room lists.  A private Facebook group like is embedded in your deposit welcome email from Wetravel our booking management platform. First, we thank you for your trust in booking this AFS trip. Together we will adapt to new travel norms for the Privilege of Travel.  We are constantly adapting to ever-changing developments to ensure you’ll have a safe journey.  Carefully read the “AFS Confidence Pledge” below. Our vetted local teams in each city are fully trained in the latest health and safety protocols according to WHO and are happy to greet you.  Things are constantly monitored. Do not Google your destination on State/gov/CDC sites as they are often outdated to the updates our expert suppliers have. Trip Tips are designed to answer trip-related questions. It’s your responsibility to read this information.  Updates and addendums will be posted here.  Check back from time to time. Covid Travel Rules are ever-changing depending on country and time of year.  Therefore, I created a single Covid rule page so everything can be up-to-date for participants on our trips.   Covid Rules Click Here

  • FINAL PAYMENT DUE (16 weeks prior).    Our new data management system allows you to pay by check electronically without a fee. Simply follow the instructions. Credit cards will be assessed a processing fee at time of purchase.  As a small business, this helps mitigate costs and allows us to give you the very best price.   If you prefer to use the mail, make your payment to AFS or Adventures For Solo Travelers, 1907 Daniel Green Ct., Smyrna GA 30080 

Click the bar below to expand the section [/accordion_item] Your fearless GTL (Gracious Trip Leader, not a guide but liaison between our guides and group to ensure things run smoothly.) BIO =======================================================

Trip Prep:

  • Read the revised Heading Abroad with AFS, especially if you are new to AFS.
  • Ensure your passport is valid 6 months after return date with two blank pages.  We recommend renewing your passport well ahead of any planned international travel. Take a photo of your passport to store in the cloud or bring a copy. Scan your important documents – Covid tests, trip tips, passport etc. If you lose your passport, US embassies now except a digital copy from your email folder on your phone to re-issue new one quickly.
  • To speed through US Customs download Mobile Passport.  Look in your App Store for details.
  • Notify bank and cc company of travel dates so they don’t block charges.
  • Vaccines – I got mine feeling it will eventually be necessary for travel. Many countries now are eliminating Covid test and quarantine for vaccinated visitors.  Bring your vaccine card.  Don’t laminate vaccine card as some countries won’t accept it.  You can take photo of both sides and store on phone or copy both sides and laminate the copy.  Login to your trip file booking form and answer question about Vaccine Yes (or will) or No.  Suppliers want this info.
  • All airline Covid rules differ.  It is imperative to read your airline rules to ensure a smooth departure!  Click here for the latest info on PCR tests required to travel abroadLatest Covid Testing Info.  Failure to get the correct test may cause the airline to turn you away.   It’s your responsibility to know the airline rules that can change right up to departure. They won’t speak to us with reservations in your name. All websites post their Covid rules at top of landing page. All airlines in the process of making significant routing and scheduling changes now as they scramble ramping up hiring for the travel surge to come. How to reach them?  Call direct or request a callback time. Check to see if your questions can be resolved on the airlines mobile app or via Twitter or turn to their social media for assistance. Travelers get best results via Facebook message to the airline.
  • The local supplier and AFS may require you sign a Travel Pledge before departure.  If so, we’ll email a form to you prior.
  • No visa, no meds

 

New:  In today’s air & hotel landscape, avoid booking tickets on 3rd-party booking engines like Expedia, Google Flights, hotels.com and more! It’s too difficult getting refund and it’s nearly impossible to change your ticket. Use sites only to view air prices. Then go directly to the airline or hotel website and book through them for your best protection and price.

Airport Transfers-  Our first hotel is at the Helsinki airport Scandic Helsinki Airport.  Check-in any time after 2PM on FEB 19.

Meet Up With Group- On Day 1 a time will be set to meet the group at the hotel for a briefing. More on this later.

Baggage– Think light to ease your burden, not like you’re fleeing your homeland.  You change hotel properties several times. 1 carry-on bag& 1 medium suitcase not to exceed 45lbs – weigh on a bathroom scale – are ideal. This weight limit is set for our porterage and luggage vans.  If you overpack by adding side pre-or post-trip luggage, make prior plans as to where to stow the excess luggage. You may be responsible for any overage charges. So many cool new luggage trackers with GPS available now to prevent lost baggage! Apple AirTags works great to track checked bags when the airline cannot, also good for carry-on.    The new hard cases are difficult to fit in coach storage. Leave space for great souvenirs. Be sure to attach ID to carry-on and bag to assure your bag never gets left behind.

Packing – (Winter vs. Beach) Check Google Weather a week prior to departure. Temps should be in the XXX.  Read Packing 101 in Heading Abroad with AFS Pack your hygiene kit and munchies in clear plastic bags.  Airport and inflight food service may be limited.  This trip is so easy. Simply pack summer clothing with a light jacket for nights and long flights. Think umbrella, daypack, wide-brim hat, sunscreen, comfy sneakers, … swimsuit, beach gear, wet shoes, gifts for local children, etc.) Electric– Don’t forget a portable backup charger, cords, gadgets, etc. Cell phones and tablets do not need a converter; you only need an adapter plug.  AFSers often leave charger cords in room, so be sure to double-check your room before check out. All properties have hairdryers.   See https://www.power-plugs-sockets.com ————————————————————————————–

Money Matters – You will need some cash for personal tipping, meals, and shopping. $500 in cash should suffice. (Venmo may be convenient at home, but useless overseas, ATM may eat your card.  Always bring some cash!  Wise to have new crisp bills.)   Change currency arrival at airport, bank, or hotels or withdraw local currency from an ATM.  Note -independent ATMs are risky due to skimmer scams. Safest ATMs are at airport and banks. Always shield your pin number when entering. Avoid using unless it’s an emergency.  Master Card and Visa widely accepted.  Amex rarely accepted.

Be sure you bring New Bills (dates after 2016) as countries may not accept older bills when changing money. Credit cards are far safer than using your debit card. I convert half of it upon entry. I use my credit card for most purchases.  Many cards now offer no foreign transaction fees.

Gratuities – (Prepaid)  It’s protocol to tip our local guides, assistants, porters, drivers and ground staff. Guidelines have increased globally, but around $10 to $15 per day should cover all for the trip.  A $xx total will be added to your invoice. Please understand this is only the suggested minimum.  For ease of distribution, your GTL will tip the different ground services for the entire group each day. Tipping on own – If service is stellar, feel free to give more directly.  All we tourists leave behind is our reputation. I personally carry a personal stash of US ones in an envelope to draw from as needed. Bell staff/porters – AFSers roll bags to their room.  If you use a porter, please tip $2. Restaurants – 10%. 

For group lunches or dinners, please leave a dollar or two for waitstaff!

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Communication– Internet is available. With smartphones, be sure to check with your provider for rates and coverage for international phone plans before departure. Data Roaming rates can be expensive. To reach home – Texting, iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook messaging when using WIFI. Be cautious using public Wi-Fi without using VPN. Without VPN never open attachments or view financial or personal accounts on the Internet while abroad.  Phone calls, text messages, and data usage of all kinds, it is crucial to understand that, unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, every use of your phone incurs a data toll. That means that viewing and downloading email, browsing the web, viewing social media, and mapping all incur data charges, as do applications that we sometimes assume to be “free,” such as Skype and WhatsApp. Unless you are connected to Wi-Fi, however, WhatsApp is using cellular data, so you are getting charged at your provider’s international roaming data rate.  Facebook Messenger Phone is an easy free way to make calls. Get Smart: Avoiding Hackers on Vacation.  Thieves not only want your money but also your data.    Change passwords often. Check device security settings before you leave for your trip. Back up, update, and encrypt your devices and data using a virtual VPN.

  • In hotel rooms, hide iPods or laptops to avoid “evil maids” that want to clone your tech.
  • Bottled water is always best abroad, as our gut isn’t accustomed to local tap water. Eat clean food and avoid street vendors.
  • Pickpockets are everywhere now, especially at night.  Never carry your passport outside of the room.
  • It’s wise to grab a business card from the desk before heading out on own.  To get back just show the card to a taxi driver- no memory or English needed.
  • Travel health – in foreign lands, always drink bottled water rather than tap and avoid street foods. Bring Imodium.

Photography – Before taking pictures of locals, know it is polite to ask.  Your AFS Private Facebook Group Page is a great way to share your best shots with each other. AFS loves photos with group participants (not typical churches, monuments, or any shot that looks like you pulled it off of the net, etc.) for our website. The best photos are ones that include a group member with a local, children, animals, or at iconic sites in the same frame!

 

Emergency Contact – AFS Phone 770-432-8225, or email us at https://www.afstravelers.com/contact-us/  and more contacts will be provided with your Final Docs email 2 weeks before departure.Your guide can handle a call home for a true emergency. Do not expect to use your trip leader’s cell phone; you’ll need to use your own cell phone.  3 weeks prior to departure more details on this will be emailed.

Cancellation Penalty –  At booking, we sent you our terms and conditions. Click here for our Terms & Conditions   Briefly, on land packages as of September 1, 2021  will refund your deposit less 50% until 5 weeks prior trip’s final payment due date.   Any cancellation after this date will result in full forfeiture of your deposit. AFS reserves the right to resell or otherwise use the canceled space at our discretion.

Travel Insurance– While travel insurance is optional, in today’s world we highly encourage you to get standard coverage to cover trip interruption and cancellation.  Call to ask what Covid coverage they have.   Some companies cover Covid related issues. Best source for all is www.insuremytrip.com.   CFAR or cancel for any reason covers Covid but is expensive.  Note that no company covers for fear. Preexisting conditions – If you would like the security of travel insurance and have a pre-existing condition (elderly parent, medical, etc.), you must purchase insurance within 15 days from your initial trip deposit in order to assure full coverage.  The trip cost can be amended or adjusted as needed after your initial purchase (eg. like adding an air ticket cost later). You can buy travel insurance at any time, just know that there may be some possible limitations if purchased outside the 15 day period.  We like TravelSafe, World Nomads and Seven Corners.

Travel Psychology 101  – Prepare for your departure joyfully with no contempt before investigation upon arrival. Please understand that with travel, things are not like at home and changes may occur. Great trips work best for those with an open mind, flexible attitude and adventuresome spirit.  If changes occur, embrace them with serendipity. Who knows?… The unexpected may prove to be a better experience.  Adapt and go with the flow with a laid-back attitude.  Be spontaneous. Be tolerant of foreign cultures in respecting their centuries of traditions. Embrace the differences. Be curious, not shy. Smile – locals will sense your energy of kindness and kindness always begets kindness.  Our common goal is to experience different cultures, make new friends, get great photos, have large fun, and return home safely with memories worthy of recollection. The best spirit of an Explorer requires the openness of a child – Suzy “When traveling, remember that a foreign country isn’t designed to make you comfortable.  It’s designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clinton Fadiman Please note that AFS is non-partisan – With our homogeneous groups, we all want to focus on the common denominator – our love of travel.  In today’s divisive world, we suggest members not discuss politics and if you must, please practice my rule of TOK:  Tolerance, Open-mindedness and Kindness.

 

Lapland

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