Monday, January 12, 2009

The Netherlands

The Netherlands

Time Frame: April, 3 nights and 4 days


Type. With three kids, especially in Europe, we are generally required to get two hotel rooms. Sometimes, we can get one room (if the room limit is at least 4 people), since our youngest is still in a port-a-crib. We were lucky to find a great hotel in Leiden, Netherlands. The Holiday Inn Leiden, offered us a double room (two double beds) and even included a port-a-crib (so we didn't have to bring our own).

Cost. We decided to go with the Keukenhof package that the hotel offered. That only covered the first night lodging (with breakfast and tickets to the Keukenhof Gardens), but I was able to contact the hotel directly and add on two additional nights (with breakfast) at a discounted rate. Our total cost for the room (and all the "add-ons") was about 366 Euro (about $550).

Amenities. The room had two standard full sized beds, a desk, a TV, a closet, two chairs, and a bathroom (with tub, shower, toilet and sink). The hotel had a restaurant (which served dinner and breakfast), a bar, a swimming pool (which was actually open quite late), and a children's play area (which included legos, video games, a play house, and other toys). The hotel also had a parking lot which was free for guests. The hotel also offered a week day shuttle from the hotel to the central train station in Leiden (which offers trains to places like Amsterdam, the Hague, and other points in the Netherlands).

The hotel offered an AMAZING breakfast buffet every morning. It was included in our package, but I believe that you were able to purchase it separately for around 16 euro per person. It had cereals, breads, fruits, meats, a variety of juices and drinks...we never left hungry and we usually had a little something for the road (like an apple or a pastry).

Other. The hotel was well located in Leiden, and was within walking distance to the city center. The trains station was withing walking distance, but was pretty far (we managed it with a bike stroller and carrying the bigger kid).

Kid Friendly Rating: I would give this hotel four stars (****) for kid friendliness.


Driving. We drove from our home in Germany, and it took us around 6 hours. Driving in the area was pretty easy, and the hotel did offer parking. We did drive to some of the excursions (The Keukenhof Gardens), but choose not to drive to others.

Public Transportation. There are buses in Leiden (and other cities in the Netherlands), but we did not use them. They have a great train system, which we did use. It cost us about 11 euro per adult to go from Leiden to Amsterdam by train.

Walking. Most cities in the Netherlands are set up for walking, and most have pedestrian "lanes". They are also very, very friendly to cyclists. Most cities have speciall "roads" (two laned) for bicycles, and you will see many of the Dutch out on bikes. There are also many places from which to rent bicycles (even ones that can acommodate children) and most ran between 10-20 euro for the day.


Luckily breakfast (which for me is the hardest meal to deal with when traveling) was provided at the hotel We ate heartily, which helped us last until we could find lunch.

Fast Food. The Netherlands is home to many of those restaurants which we know and love (McDonalds, Burger King, etc). They also have several that are more cultural. They also have a healthy supply of Kebab stands (yummy), Crepe stands, and other European style fast food options. We didn't have a problem finding places to eat (other than making up our minds).

Sit Down. There were a large variety of sit down restaurants ranging from casual cafes to upper crust fancy places. Our favorite was the standard crepe/pancake cafes.


The Keukenhof Gardens

Times: Mid March to Late May (check each year at their site for exact dates), 08:00 - 19:30


Adult ticket € 13.50
Children (4 - 11 years) € 6.50
Senior citizens € 13.00
Groups (from 20 persons) € 11.50
Parking ticket € 6.00

Comments: The Keukenhof is one of the largest flower gardens in the world (and the most photographed). It is only open for about 8 weeks in the spring, so timing is everything. Most of the displays in the gardens are done by different gardens, growers, or bulb suppliers. The flowers don't bloom on cue, and are heavily affected by the weather, so don't be surprised if all the flowers are not in bloom when you go.

There are several play areas for children, a windmill to visit, a petting zoo, plenty of water features (even some beautiful swans swimming in the canals), a bazillion flowers, several indoor flower displays (think orchids, which was my fav), a variety of restaurants and ice cream vendors (yummy), and plenty of places to stop and rest along the way.

Make sure you have extra batteries for your camera on this one, there are a million things to take pictures of (and my camera ran out of power). There are also bulbs for sale (inside and outside the gardens), and plenty of souvenier shops (selling all kind of Dutch items, I almost bought a pair of wooden shoes).

Parking was about 5 euro and is separate from your ticket. Everyone is required to have a ticket, even kids (who are free). You can also rent bicycles outside the gardens and ride around the gorgeous tulip fields which surround the gardens. If you are feeling like having fun, you can also take a short "canal" tour inside the gardens. The Keukenhof offers a short boat trip on the canals that crisscross the gardens.

Plan for a full day here as the ground are immense, and if you love flowers, there is plenty to see. Make sure to dress warmly though (and bring some rain gear), as this area is still cool in the spring, and you are likely to experience some rain.

Amsterdam's Red Light District

Times: Pretty Much all the time, all year round.

Costs: Walking the area is free, but the "services" offered vary in cost.

Comments: This area is not really appropriate for children, as the prostitutes are often very visible and erotic ads and displays are out in the open. That being said, the buildings and canals in this area are beautiful. We happened into this area by accident and only really saw one street of it (we were trying to get our kids out).

Anne Frank House

March 15 through September 14 daily from 9:00 AM - 9:00 PM, Saturdays from 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM.
In July and August the museum is daily open till 10:00 PM.
September 15 through March 14 daily from 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM.
The Anne Frank House is also open on Sundays!

Last Admittance:
Thirty minutes prior to closing.

January 1: 12 noon - 7:00 PM.
May 4: 9:00 AM - 7:00 PM.
August 21: 9:00 AM - 8:30 PM.
December 25: 12 noon - 5:00 PM.
December 31: 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.

Closed on Yom Kippur.

Adults: euro 8,50
Age 10-17: euro 4,-
Age 0-9: free
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Comments: One of the premier stops in Amsterdam is at the Anne Frank House. It is located along one of the main canals, and actually occupies several buildings (the original house and two neighboring buildings house the museum and other displays).

This is a VERY popular stop in Amsterdam, so expect very long lines. You can purchase your tickets on-line which allows you to select your own date and time (but keep in mind you MUST be there for that time slot, no changes allowed usually). This can help you avoid the lines. If you don't want to plan ahead, be sure to be there early in the morning to get your tickets.

Amsterdam Canal Tours

Times: Dependent on Provider.

Costs: Dependent on provider, but range from 7.50 euro (for one hour guided tour) to about 20 euro (for one day hop on/hop off service).

Comments: Amsterdam offers tours on the gorgeous twisting canals that slither throughout the city. They vary in cost and length.

Amsterdam's Dam Square

Times: Open all day, year round.

Costs: Free, but be prepared to pay for any pictures you take of the "living" statues or for street performances.

Comments: This is home to some curious street performers and is one of the largest squares in the city. It is a nice place to stop and people watch (we ate lunch there).

Amsterdam Museums

Times: Vary by museum, please see their individual sites.

Costs: Vary by museum, please see their individual sites.

Amsterdam is home to plenty of museums. If you love impressionst art, you can visit many places such as museums to Rembrandt and Van Gogh.

There is also the Nemo which is a cool science museum.

There is also the Jewish Historical Museum, which is home to a collection of synagouges, has exhibitions on religion, Jewish life and culture, and the Jewish experience during WW II.

Looking for something very Dutch? You can visit the Tulip Museum or the Houseboat Museum (a popular form of accommodation in Amsterdam).

Leiden Town Center

This area offers a wide variety of attractions. You can visit Leiden University (where Rembrandt was once a student), tour the pedestrian zone of shops and activities, walk along the various canals. There are several windmills that you can look at (and photograph of course). There are also a variety of parks and playgrounds scattered throughout the city.

There are plenty of Rembrandt related sites and museums here, as it is his birthplace. We spent a nice evening touring the city.

Hoorn, Netherlands

This is a picturesque town located north of Amsterdam on the IJsselmeer, a large inland lake/sea that connects to the North Sea. There is a beautiful park along the harbour, and plenty of nice cafes and restaurants in town.

The North Sea

We also had a chance to stop at the northern coast of the Netherlands along the North Sea. It was cold and windy, but we had fun for a little while. During the summer, this area is packed and even more beautiful (though the water is still probably freezing).


When you travel with little ones, bathrooms are an important thing to be able to find. Europeans are generally not big on public restrooms.

Availability: Public restrooms can be found, but are scattered and not always easy to find. Your best bet is to make sure to make use of restrooms offered in the restaurants, museums, and other attractions that you visit. Most of the major attractions have restrooms.

Public/Private: Most available restrooms are actually going to be in some type of business, whether it is a restaurant or attraction.

Cost: Costs for restrooms can run from free to around 1 euro per person. Occassionally bathroom attendants will allow an adult to take a child into the restroom and only charge for one person (I did this with my kids, and even when I took both potty trained children, I usually only had to pay for me).

Nearby Amenities

Laundry: We didn't notice any laundry faciilties near our hotel, but scattered around the city we did see some laundry facilities. Ask your hotel where the best facilities are located.

Groceries: There are a variety of grocery stores in both Leiden and Amsterdam. You can ask at hotels or tourist information points for locations.


You can easily see many major points in the Netherlands from a "home base", by using the trains. We loved visiting the Keukenhof. Amsterdam was a fun day trip, but for us (as a family) that was enough time to see what we wanted (except the Anne Frank Haus). Mom and Dad would love to go back on our own.

A lot of the charm of the Netherlands is being able to walk around and enjoy the canals and the natural beauty of the area. So, it is important to be ready for being "out and about".

Trip Highlights

- The Keukenhof Gardens
- Walking the Canals in Amsterdam
- Visiting the beach at the North Sea

Overall Rating

The Netherlands is definitely a 5 star must see location.