If you are looking for a special family holiday that’s different from the usual sun holiday or city break, look no further than a trip to see the Northern Lights. If you are unfamiliar with the Northern Lights, I will tell you a bit about them and some tips for planning your family holiday.
What are the Northern Lights?
The Northern Lights are caused when protons and electrons stream out from solar winds and come into contact with Earth’s magnetic field. The electrons are attracted to the poles because of their magnetic fields. The particles are charged and they move in spirals along the magnetic field lines and mix with gases in the atmosphere, causing the gases to glow.
The Northern Lights are known as ‘Aurora Borealis in the north. Aurora was the Roman goddess of dawn and Boreas is the Greek name for the north wind.
Throughout history, many legends have been formed about the Northern Lights. The Vikings thought the Northern Lights were caused by shiny immortal warrior swords. The Alaskan Inuit people believed the lights were the souls of salmon, deer and other animals. The Menominee Indians thought the lights were the torches of giants living in the North.
When you stand and see the Northern Lights for yourself, you are seeing something truly unique, beautiful and part of legends; one of Mother Nature’s greatest treasures.
When and where is best to see them?
It might surprise you to know, that spring is a fantastic month to take your family trip to see the Northern Lights. Spring brings improving weather, warmer temperatures, clearer skies and longer days. There is excellent snow cover this time of year too so you can get in your fun winter activities during your stay. Conditions are great for dog sledging, cross country skiing and snowmobiling.
Many locals in Finland, Sweden and Norway take advantage of the spring weather and longer daylight hours to head North during March and April.
In terms of being in with the best chance of seeing the Aurora, it is often said that the period around the spring equinox (approximately 21 March) brings greater solar activity which results in an increased frequency of Auroral displays. Couple that with clearer skies of spring and you can see why it’s a great time to travel.
Popular destinations to see the Northern Lights in spring include Finland, Sweden and Norway. Of course, there are many options to visit in the Winter as well and enjoy the lights then.
Preparing for the trip
I recommend some preparation before any family holiday to make things move smoother during your travels and stay away from home. If you are travelling with kids ten and younger, check out my tips for flying with kids. It includes lots of ideas to make your flight run smoother, such as:
having lollies and gum to help ears for take-off and landing
pack sippy cups for the plane, you can fill them with drinks onboard
explain weeks in advance about going on an aeroplane, and what they can expect from the flight and also in the airport
packing a plastic bag to manage rubbage
packing small toys and snacks for the flight
Regardless of your kids’ ages, it’s good to include them in the trip preparation and to pack them each a small bag with activities and snacks for the plane. I pack snacks, gum and books for myself too – so don’t forget about nice things for yourself for the flight.
It’s always good practice to make a packing list. And remember lots of warm layers and outerwear for exploring in the cold temperatures. It's also helpful to have a backup battery supply such as a motive lithium-ion battery power supply for when you are exploring.
Enjoying the trip as a family
A trip to the Northern Lights means staying up past bedtime and heading off into the night on an exciting adventure – which, of course, will be super exciting for the family. During the day there is time for fun activities. Children and teenagers will have a blast husky sledging, snowshoeing, building igloos or simply sledging down snowy slopes.
If you want to enjoy activities and daytime trips, consider staying somewhere that accommodates activities, but not in a city or else it will be more difficult to see the lights over the light pollution. And also check out the resort guides and what knowledge they have before you book up. It’s worth having someone who knows where to go and can help you travel to see the lights.
A trip to see the Northern Lights would be a fantastic adventure that the whole family would enjoy and always remember. With a little bit of planning and preparation, you will be ready to set off to see one of nature’s most beautiful sights.