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Sleigh bells ring for trip to see Santa.

ALTHOUGH it may seem like months away, if you're planning a trip abroad to see Santa this Christmas now is the time to think about booking.

Leading operators to Finnish Lapland are trimming prices to win early bookings from British families keen to visit Father Christmas on his home patch.

The Finnish Tourist Board reckons the British book more than 106,000 bed nights during December on Santa's Lapland programmes from as many as 20 operators.

After Christmas nearly 60,000 Russians arrive while a further 15,000 visitors descend during the festive period from France, Spain and Italy.

However, so many UK operators have joined the sector in recent years that Santa is already handing price cuts out of his sack.

Leading operators include Esprit Ski, Cosmos, Transun, Inghams and Canterbury Travel - and Esprit is currently offering 70% reductions on some child packages, with a pounds 170 lead-in for two night Santa's Magic breaks in early December on bookings by October 6.

Esprit day trips, ex-Gatwick and Manchester, start at pounds 379 per adult and pounds 199 per child, and three day breaks from pounds 569 per adult. Some Esprit day breaks currently offer a pounds 50 price cut, down to pounds 149.

Typically, families of four can expect to pay around pounds 2,200 for a three day short break with Santa this winter.

Says Esprit managing director Andy Perrin: "Travellers can choose between traditional Christmas style celebrations, which is our speciality based on the resort of Saariselka, nearly 140 miles north of the Arctic Circle, or a more Disneyland-style experience in some other centres.

"For many children, seeing Santa Claus in his Lapland home and meeting his magical elves is a dream come true. Parents and grandparents, apart from sharing their children's excitement, love the thrill of snowmobiling, husky sledding and reindeer sleigh rides."

Cosmos, with packages to the resorts of Saariselka and Levi this winter, also cut prices this week - and for the first time, it offers ski suits/boot hire within the standard holiday price. Its one day trips - ex-Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham - start at pounds 289 per child, pounds 359 per adult, with four nights from pounds 679 and pounds 895.

INFORMATION: Esprit Santa's Lapland 01252 618 300 and online at

www.esprit-holidays.co.uk Finnish Tourist Board inquiries 020 7365 2512 and online at www.visitfinland.com/uk

Cosmos reservations: 0870 443 1823 and online at www.cosmoslapland.co.uk

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HELLO SANTA: Father Christmas is waiting in Lapland
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 26, 2006
Words:417
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