Finland money

Travel on the list of things to do in Finland

PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — I admit it was a crazy trip! But I had little time to play and was traveling solo. I didn’t mind layovers either as it was cheaper and I can still use the lounge for editing and working! So this is it.

Go (and return)

Stages 1 and 2: Phoenix RELEASED London-Heathrow

Unfortunately, American Airlines suspended its direct Phoenix-London flight when COVID-19 hit. It just resumed this week. Anyway, I took a one-way ticket to LAX and walked across the pond from there. Because I had a little time, I headed to the living room to watch the Super Bowl. The One World Lounge at LAX is very nice! My favorite lounge there, Qantas (which I can also use as a One World Emerald member), hadn’t reopened yet and the US lounges at LAX are usually packed. I found a cheap round trip on American from LAX to London Heathrow for $645. I chose this route to use my system-wide upgrades to get into business class both ways. (I To do likes an elongated seat and refuse spend the money on one. So I still use the whole system or miles).

Stages 3 and 4: London helsinki Kiitila, Finland

I used AA miles (only 22,000) to travel from London to Kiitilä, Finland via Helsinki. I had to spend the night in Helsinki (I arrived 45 minutes before they got rid of the negative COVID test requirement, which I brought with me anyway.) I stayed at the airport Hilton (great breakfast!) and took the morning flight to Kiitilä on Finnair. I booked everything on American because Finnair is a partner.

Back home

I set it up to spend the night in Helsinki after Kittila, then flew back to London via Finnair using my US points. I spent a few days in London – of course, heading to the Ted Lasso pub – then back home.

There is a direct flight from Los Angeles to Helsinki on Finnair, which is a One World airline. It would have been much easier, but I wanted to use my miles/systems to upgrade to business class. I could not do this on the Finnair flight as it is operated by Finnair not American. I chose to upgrade and have a stopover in London. It’s the only thing that bothers me. I have only paid for business class once in all my years of travel. But I do international business all the time using miles/system wide. I am also flexible enough to be able to choose the flights on which I can guarantee an upgrade. I knew I would be spending a few nights in London on the way back, so it made sense to stop by Heathrow. There is a British Airways (also an American partner) direct flight from Phoenix, but I always try to fly with my preferred airline.

where i stayed

Levin Iglut! The place was created by Tauno Mäkelä, a father with incredible vision. His four daughters are now taking part in the operation. I emailed them to hold the only igloo they had left. I didn’t want to book yet as I still had to confirm that I could pull this all off. I got an amazing response from Katriina, one of the girls. Turns out she was an exchange student at Glendale years ago! She agreed to hold the igloo for a few days to give me time to book my trip. She was surprising. Her sister Marita joined her when I arrived and we became friends. Katriina helped me plan my itinerary during my stay. I fell in love with them and their place. One of the suites became available on my first night so I got to experience the suite and their usual igloo – both fantastic.

Levin Iglut during the day(Tara Hitchcock)
Levin Iglut at night
Levin Iglut at night(Tara Hitchcock)
My new best friend from Finland, Katriina Moksi
My new best friend from Finland, Katriina Moksi(Tara Hitchcock)

What I have done

I packed a ton in three days! It all started with a visit to Samiland, where I met Ante Aikio, one of Finland’s best ‘Yoik’ singers. Its mission is also to educate people about the indigenous Sami culture. Katriina, Marita and their nephew Aleksi (whom I hired to shoot a little video this time as I didn’t want to rely entirely on my iPhone footage) joined me for a meal at their fantastic restaurant in Levin Iglut, Restaurant Utsu. This is actually one of the best places in Levi for a meal.

The next day we spent the day at Reindeer & Fishing, a traditional reindeer farm where we sled and learn about reindeer. We were also able to ice fish and snowshoe. It was a busy day and Petra our nature guide was hilarious and amazing. That evening, the sisters wanted me to experience another authentic Finnish dinner. There are two seats and the meal also includes a Sami performance.

Feeding Mozart(Aleksi Kylmalahti)
Get shot by Mozart
Get shot by Mozart(Tara Hitchcock)

My last day was dedicated to snowshoeing – this time with the traditional wooden snowshoes – in Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park. It was a VERY snowy day (as you will see in the pictures). James, who started the GreenTrek Lapland company with his wife, was an amazing resource and guide. He even did flapjacks to give me energy at the end of the morning hike. I had just enough time to get back to the hotel and change into the Finnish smoke sauna and ice swimming! In Finland, it’s a big problem – going from hot to cold. They put our cold dives to shame! Immel Kartano is where I went. I had a good time, but that was the the coldest the water I’ve ever been in! Although I didn’t see the Northern Lights (we got close, but the full moon may have affected things.), I would go back in a heartbeat.

Snowshoeing "traditional way" with GreenTrek Lapland
“Old School” Snowshoes with GreenTrek Lapland(James, GreenTrek Lapland)
Ice swimming at Immel Kartano
Ice swimming at Immel Kartano(Marita Oksman)

Thank you, Katriina and Levin Iglut (and everyone I met along the way) for an amazing three day trip! And thank you, Aleksi, for documenting most of it!

Aleksi Kylmälahti may already be fed up with me!
Aleksi Kylmälahti may already be fed up with me!(Tara Hitchcock)
Aleksi doing his thing
Aleksi doing his thing(Tara Hitchcock)

More pictures!

Feeding Mozart at Wolverine Fell Wilderness and Nature
Feeding Mozart at Wolverine Fell Wilderness and Nature(Tara Hitchcock)
I may need help here!
I may need help here!(James, GreenTrek Lapland)
Reindeer herder Kari Siirtola and his son
Reindeer herder Kari Siirtola and his son(Tara Hitchcock)
Dinner with my new friends at Saamen Kammi in Levi
Dinner with my new friends at Saamen Kammi in Levi(Tara Hitchcock)
Levi, Finland
Levi, Finland(Tara Hitchcock)
Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park
Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park(Tara Hitchcock)
Hoping for the Northern Lights...
Hoping for the Northern Lights…(Tara Hitchcock)
Testing my patience with ice fishing
Testing my patience with ice fishing(Aleksi Kylmalahti)
Selfie on snowshoes with my GreenTrek Lapland guide, James
Selfie on snowshoes with my GreenTrek Lapland guide, James(Tara Hitchcock)
I will miss my new friends (from left to right Marita, Katriina, Aleksi).
I will miss my new friends (from left to right Marita, Katriina, Aleksi).(Tara Hitchcock)
Ante Aikio gives me a lesson in Sami culture
Ante Aikio gives me a lesson in Sami culture(Tara Hitchcock)
The Finnish version of my gutsy vodka!
The Finnish version of my gutsy vodka!(Tara Hitchcock)
Reindeer love lichen!
Reindeer love lichen!(Marita Oksman)
Enjoying my night in one of Levin Iglut's hot tub suites.
Enjoying my night in one of Levin Iglut’s hot tub suites.(Aleksi Kylmalahti)

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