How To Travel With Grown-Ups

Actually, I’m looking for the opposite in advice, but now I’m reminded of this book (cover illustration here, for some reason doesn’t show up at the link), which was a regular childhood read – less for the text (which, if I remember, was quite sensible), more for the illustrations, which contained a lot of shenanigans and annoyed parents.

Anyway, I was going to make a request to the readership here on ideas on travelling by car in Finland with three children and a tent, but I’ve been outvoted, and it looks like we’re going to try for Poland (the Tatra Mountains, to be precise!) sometime in August. It’s much farther but also much cheaper (so I’ve been explained to).

But what the hell, I’m curious now and I still want some answers for future planning: what is worth seeing in Finland? How might you plan a(n affordable) trip with a timeline of 3 – 4 days? With a small flock of children that need (a) entertainment (castles, animals, food and such are good) and (b) activity (anything that can be climbed is a bonus, this category includes trees, mountains, large rocks, etc.)? Google insists on showing me All the Interesting Things and I don’t have a good grasp of distance and travel time way up North.

(Also any advice on Poland is great, too, although we have a few experts available on location here.)

Not the Tatra Mountains, obviously. © rq, all rights reserved.

(The thematic choice, obviously.)


  1. Ice Swimmer says

    I’m not very knowledgeable about activities, but as far as medieval castles are concerned, two of the castles that are more than just ruins, Hämeen linna in Hämeenlinna and Turun linna in Turku are the closest to Helsinki. Hämeenlinna is 100 km northwest of Helsinki and Turku is 150 km west of Helsinki, and there’s a motorway (mostly 120 km/h) to both cities/towns. Olavinlinna in Savonlinna is some 330 km from Helsinki and less than half of the route is motorway.

    The town/city centre of Hämeenlinna, has been infamous for being difficult to navigate through with a car unless one knows the place, as there are a lot of one-way streets..

    Then there’s the 18th century Suomenlinna Sea fortress in Helsinki. There’s a lot to see there, including a toy museum. Public transport (HSL) boats from the Market Square are cheap.

    I’ll write more comments later, but this is a start.

  2. lumipuna says

    Then there’s the 18th century Suomenlinna Sea fortress in Helsinki. There’s a lot to see there, including a toy museum. Public transport (HSL) boats from the Market Square are cheap.

    Well, not cheap considering how short the ferry trip is, but you can use the same tickets for other public transport in Helsinki.

    I think the one landscape feature in southern Finland that’s clearly different from Latvia is the small rocky islands littering the coast. Suomenlinna is one such island group, combined with historical attractions (with bridges connecting the islands; full exploration takes a day and requires good hiking shoes). Some other ferry-accessible islands are basically just pine forest and rock, good for picnics.

    Generally in Helsinki area it’s easy to find small rocky outcrops covered by fragments of original pine forest, serving as public outdoor areas. These can be nice for climbing (safest in dry summer weather) and mini-hiking. For any actual mountains, you’d have to fly to the far north and rent a car there (there’s also a more visibly northern environment, few people, few attractions other than the wilderness).

  3. rq says

    I was not expecting that! All I got out of it was ‘pony trekking’, and that doesn’t even show up on any official lists! (Had a good giggle, too.)

  4. Ice Swimmer says

    In the east-west direction southern Finland is a bit but not much wider than Latvia, but the north-south direction is quite another matter.

    There are amusement parks in Helsinki and Tampere, (160 km NNW from Helsinki) but I think they are quite expensive for a Baltic budget, the pass wristband for all rides is about 33 -- 43 euros/person and single tickets for one ride are 8 or 9 euros (entry and a few rides are free in Linnanmäki in Helsinki, not sure about Särkänniemi in Tampere).

    Helsinki Zoo in the island Korkeasaari costs 12 -18 € for adults and 6 -- 10 € for kids aged 4-17. The island has both a bridge (buses go nearby, parking facilities are quite limited near the island) and boat (7 €/adult, kids for free) connection to mainland.

    Sightseeing cruises in Helsinki archipelago are something like 20 -- 25 €/person and there’s canned guidance in multiple languages (Finnish, English, maybe also Russian or German). The ferry-boats to islands are usually cheaper, up to 10 €/person.

    I haven’t done much traveling by car, but I think that going much farther afield than Turku, Tampere, Lahti, or Kotka will probably take too much time if your point of entry is Helsinki and the fuel is expensive here (about 1,6 €/l for 95E, 1,7 €/l for 98 and 1,4 €/l for diesel). Turku (the old capital, before Russians changed it to Helsinki), Helsinki and Kotka are on the sea shore. The city centre and the oldest parts of Tampere are on an narrow isthmus between two big lakes and Lahti* is next to a bay on the southern end of a lake**.
    * = The name means bay.
    ** = Vesijärvi, literally “water lake”.

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