Things You Should Do and Tips For: The Netherlands and Amsterdam

Good morning! We recently spent a long weekend away in The Netherlands, which you can read all about HERE, and this morning I am going to talk about some of the tips/tricks that we learned and what I would recommend you do as well as maybe some things that are maybe a little over hyped.

As always, this will heavily depend on your own interest, how you are traveling, and the time of year that you are going. This is the first (and only) time that we have been to The Netherlands and we went to see two spots, Amsterdam and the Tulip Gardens. We were only there for 3 nights total, so we didn’t get to see everything that we had wanted to. We also traveled with our two young children, which as with Berlin, factored into what we did and didn’t do. I am going to do these as two separate sections, one for Amsterdam and one for everything else, that way if you are only interested in Amsterdam you can only read that part or if you are only interested in the Tulips you can only read that part. It is also too much and too different to try and consolidate into one long recommendations and tips section.

Recommendations for Amsterdam

It may seem overly touristy but take advantage of the boat rides along the canals. To be completely honest this is one of the best ways to get an overall look at the city, the canals, the different “high points”, but without all of the tourists. You aren’t fighting a crowd to look at a church or tower. It also gives you a unique point of view from what it would have been like in history.  If you take the train in, you can find plenty of options all along the exit of the station, as well as options all throughout the canals. Depending on what you are more interested in, you’ll find a boat tour that will meet those needs (we saw everything from a romantic cruise, to all about the alcohol, to a standard hear the history and nothing more). We didn’t originally plan on doing a boat ride, but our older son insisted, and it didn’t look too bad when we got out there.

I would also recommend heading over to Dam Square. This is the main town square and there is usually always something going on. From here you can get a good view of the exterior of The Royal Palace, see The National Monument, and the Nieuwe Kerk Church. There are also a couple other spots right off the square if you’re interested, Madame Tussauds and Ripley’s Believe It or Not. We did not go in either of those, but we did go inside the Royal Palace. I’ll be honest, The Royal Palace tour is not a necessity to a trip to Amsterdam. If you are interested you can certainly do it, but it is not like a “must see”. I really enjoyed it, but I am a royal fan and think that seeing different palace’s and other type of government buildings is really interesting.

A couple of the spots that I wish we could have gone to, that were on our list but didn’t end up being an option, were: The Anne Frank House, Foodhallen, and The Rijksmuseum Amsterdam. I’ll get into The Anne Frank House in my tips/tricks, the Foodhallen is a food court that came highly highly recommended to us, and the Rijksmuseum as a lot of Dutch history that we wanted to learn about.

I’ll touch on one more spot as I feel like I need to make a note on this because to be honest, not a lot of people talk about Amsterdam without talking about The Red Light District OR the booming cannabis market/options. We walked through the Red Light District and I found it to be just like a regular stroll (in a weird way). Here’s the thing, first off you cannot take video or pictures in the District. This is to protect the workers that are there, and I can completely understand. These are regular people who are doing what it is that they do. Just because it is not something that we see every day, or something that may not be as popular or destigmatized in our area of the world, does not mean that they need to put in a spotlight situation. If you choose to stroll along the District, do not leer, do not linger, just be respectful. These are people just as we are, and they are doing what they choose and want to do.

 Tips for Amsterdam:

Tip #1: Bikes have the right of way and they will exercise that right of way whether you are aware of that or not. Amsterdam (and The Netherlands in general) has a huge biking community, it’s how the majority of their population gets around. Most places will have designated bike lanes, so don’t hover in those lanes and make sure that you are aware of where they are when there are no designated lanes.

If you want the true experience, there are so many different bike rental spots!

Tip #2: Make it an Adult Only or Girls Trip. This one is going to be a little bit hard to explain, or maybe it won’t, but I think Amsterdam would be so much different if it was just adults. I don’t say this for any “content” warning for what is in Amsterdam or for any lack of enjoyment reason. We loved (and do still love) taking our kids out throughout the world, exposing them to new cultures, places, people that they would not otherwise get to experience. HOWEVER, Amsterdam is so packed with people that you are spending a good amount of your time just shuffling along with the crowds and worrying about being separate from those you are with, until you get out of the main area. I think I worried a little bit more than normal with having our kids there.

Tip #3: Look at staying outside of the City Limits and taking the train in. Amsterdam is quite expensive and staying in a hotel in the city is very expensive. It is also, once again, full of people and traffic. We stayed outside the city in a little town and took the train in to Central Amsterdam. We were able to book a little cottage on AirBnB for a very reasonable price and it gave us a little breathing room. We didn’t have to worry about fighting traffic in a car or finding parking for the day. I am already a really big believer in public transportation, and this weekend away really confirmed that for me.

Recommendations for Tulips/Flower Season

As for how I would recommend you approach the tulip season that is going to depend on what you actually want to see. If you want to see just the Tulip Fields, there are a couple of different farms that you can go to. Lisse is the most popular spot and has the largest amount of options to see Tulips. MAKE SURE that you check my Tips out though, because there are some rules you will want to be available of. You can also see the Tulips just driving along the road and throughout train rides. I believe you can also see them from the sky, but I couldn’t confirm that.

We went to Keukenhof Tulip Garden, which is one of the more famous well-known spots for the Tulips. I knew that I wanted to see a bit of both the Tulip Fields AND the more manicured growing plots. Keukenhof has the best of both worlds for that. They boast about 7 Million Bulbs are planted and grown in their garden and I would believe it. Plus, believe me when I say there is something for everyone here. They have a kid’s area in the center where there is a playground, petting zoo, and park to eat at. There is also a maze for the kids to run through. There is a windmill that gives you a view over the fields, water, and gardens as well as two other overlook spots. Finally, you also have the indoor flower shows that follow along with themes for the year (one changes weekly). They have a unique planting and growing system that allows them to have blooms for eight weeks, so you have plenty of time to check them out.

My other recommendation would be to bike through the countryside. This is an excellent way to not only see the beautiful countryside of The Netherlands, but also see the Tulip Fields, the windmills, and be true to how the people get around. It is such a fun way to get around and see the country.

Tips for Tulips/Flower Season

Tip #1 (Possibly the Most Important One): DO NOT just go traipsing through the tulip fields all willy nilly to try and get the perfect picture or see them better. The Tulips are not only part of The Netherlands and the culture, but it is also a HUGE business for them. They work incredibly hard to grow and maintain the tulips and walking through the actual field itself ruins the flowers and the field. Only do this at the land owners permission (and if you’ve paid for it).

Tip #2:Go as early in the day as possible. No matter when you go or how you choose to see the Tulips it is going to be crowded. We went the peak weekend for the blooms, which also happened to be Easter Weekend and I didn’t feel like we were fighting the crowds until the very end of our time in the park. We went shortly after they opened and a few hours later everyone else seemed to start coming in. So, go early!

Tip #3:Just enjoy the beauty around you. I am a big one for documenting everything, taking all of the pictures, capturing every bloom and even I had to take a step back and just enjoy the sheer beauty around you. This is such a special place and time and honestly, not to get hokey, just take a step back from the camera/phone and enjoy the moment.

And on that note…

Those are all of my Things You Should Do and Tips for Amsterdam/The Netherlands! We do hope to go back and see some other area’s in the country one day, but this was one of the best trips we’ve taken. If you have any specific questions I will try to answer them in the comments below and if you have any of your own tips, please leave them below!

Travel Trips – Traveling with Toddlers

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Keeping those smiles strong!

Good morning! I figured this morning I would take a minute to talk about some of the things that I’ve learned over the past month about traveling with toddlers. If you’re new, we recently moved from the US to Germany, which included a total of 53 hours of travel (by the time we checked into our hotel) and I learned a lot. Some things I had already known would be a “thing” (rather they are kind of common sense), but others kind of took me by surprise.

Tip #1: Don’t lost your boarding pass, but don’t panic if you do. The most common sense tip on my list and the one that might not even matter anymore. This tip might actually be obsolete now in the commercial travel world with technology and smart phones becoming so much more a part of everything, but if you are given a paper boarding pass try your best to hold on to it. You can read all about my fun time losing mine HERE.

Tip #2: When packing your carryon bags, pack appropriately for TSA. When we packed up our carryon bags, we packed them with the knowledge of what we would need to take out per TSA regulations. Liquids in a plastic back in the outside pocket. Electronics right on the inside flap of the carryon (we dressed accordingly as well, but this is more natural than you think). Once we arrived at the gate we repacked our carryon bags to what we wanted while we were flying. By doing this, we not only saved a bunch of time in the TSA line, but we it actually made for a much smoother transition from the line, to the screening, to the gate.

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Andrew using his favorite bear as a pillow.

Tip #3: If you have a child (and are on an overnight flight), pack the blanket and stuffed animal they reach for the most. Another common sense tip, but one of the most valuable one’s I’m offering. We did not put our children into pajamas, and I didn’t really find it necessary (although it may be for some) but having the blankets and stuffed animals helped so much. Not only does it get cold on the planes, so the blankets are good for warmth, but it’s a comfort thing. I know I like to have a little bit of comfort and I figured kids would definitely appreciate it. Plus, it’s a good extra toy to have.

Tip #4: All About Food. Ok, so here are my thoughts on food (I’ll try to keep them short, straightforward, and to the point)…I packed a couple of things, snacks for the first flight for the kids and then purchased a couple of snacks and dinner at the airport. I know that the airport is going to charge more for food and won’t have as healthy of a selection, but the portion size for my children is a lot better and it means I’m not carrying a whole bag just devoted to food. If you are doing an overnight flight (especially if it is military), make sure you purchase extra because where you are going may not have a food option within reason. We found this out the hard way when we landed in Germany. Thankful for the little USO desk!

IMG_1256Tip #5: Car seat Carrier.If you have young children, you know all about the fun that is car seats. Now, you can certainly carry the car seat on the plane and have your children strapped into it (that is the safer thing to do), but we did not do that. We gate checked our car seats and the children each had their own seat on the plane. This worked for us, but even before gate checking, we were concerned about the damage that could be done to our car seats. The last time we gate checked baby gear it was broken in transit and with us needing the car seats shortly after landing I was especially concerned that they not be damaged. Enter a car seat carrier. We purchased two and spent I think about $70-$80 total and they were more than worth that price. They had some points where the bag was dirty and the bottom of one showed a decent amount of wear & tear, but it was the bag, not the car seat itself. They both arrived completely intact with no damage. It also made it boat loads easier to transport the car seats both to the first ticket counter and from baggage claim to the second ticket counter.

Tip #5: For Military Specifically.If you are in the military, check out your USO. A lot of times they are before security, so definitely keep that in mind, but often times they will have snacks, comfy seats, and an enclosed space for kids to stretch their legs. The USO at Baltimore is especially nice, although it can get packed fast. We spent a little over an hour and a half out the USO just relaxing and letting the kids play. It definitely made a difference for us.

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This wasn’t even everything, but it made getting from claim to ticket counter much easier!

Tip #6: Another Military Move Specific Tip.If you are needing to transport all of your luggage from one place to another (and let’s be honest even if you are just unloading a vehicle or transferring flights we’ve all had to do it), do yourself a favor and pay for the luggage carousel. It may be a hassle getting all your luggage to magically balance (and they are definitely overpriced), but it is 100% worth it for the sanity of not trying to wheel all the bags, car seats, kids, pets, etc. through the airport.

Those are my tips! I know a lot of them are just common sense, but sometimes we can forget these things in the hustle of planning trips, moves, or just travel in general. I hope you enjoyed!