Vacation Planning II – the Netherlands and Belgium

Vacation planning can be fun, but sometimes frustrating. There is a lot of information, and when you know nothing about the place you are traveling to visit, lots of reading to ensure you are prepared.

When I travel, I like having a more personal experience so I try to use boutique hotels or bed and breakfast places. These kinds of lodgings tend to be much more personalized than a big “brand name” hotel. Large hotels have an anonymous, often sterile quality that I don’t prefer when I can stay in someone’s home whose whole occupation is hospitality and making sure you have a great time in your destination of choice.

I found out B&B’s in Amsterdam book up quickly. If I’d been better prepared (2 months advance notice) I’m sure I could have scored fantastic, reasonably priced B&B lodging in center city. However, since I only have about a month, I had to spend time figuring out which B&B’s were booked (most of them!) and which were still available. I found two lovely B&B’s close to Amsterdam’s “Central Station” and while I’m paying a bit more ($120+ euros /night), I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it. (Both of these B&B’s are still less than the brand name, ‘anonymous’ hotels.)

Travel note: From what I can tell, all B&B’s in Amsterdam require all cash payment. I have not even seen one B&B that accepts credit cards.

Travel tip: When booking a B&B in Amsterdam, if you want a simple room for under $100 euros a night including breakfast, book well in advance! ($100 euros is $130 US dollars.)

Lonely Planet suggests: Hotel Brouwer, Sebastian’s, Chic and Basic Amsterdam or Hotel Residence Le Coin. All of these places were fully booked when I checked with them, a month in advance.

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OKAY… so, lodging for the Amsterdam part of my trip has been booked, and I’m satisfied I’ve found great places. You’ll know in a month in more detail about the places I stayed and how it went.

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Planning Phase Two: Here’s how it looks…

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Days 1, 2, 3: Amsterdam

Days 4, 5 6: Travel to multiple cities

Days 7, 8, 9: Return to Amsterdam (including a Saturday night!)

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After doing intensive research and investigation of all the places I could have gone, I’ve made decisions about the cities I will visit in my three days of wandering outside of Amsterdam.

Day 4 will be spent traveling about three and a half hours by train to get to Bruges, Belgium. Bruges is a medieval city that has maintained itself for centuries and looks gorgeous.

Day 5 a very short distance from Bruges, is Ghent, another small medieval city in Belgium. One of the cool things about Ghent is that it is home to SMAK, a large Contemporary Art Museum which is on my list of things to see.

Day 6 it will take me about two hours heading back towards Amsterdam to get to Delft, Netherlands which is also 10 minutes distance from The Hague so I will plan to see both Delft and the Hague on Day 6. Most importantly to me is the Mauritshuis Museum in the Hague which houses Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, as well as other important Vermeer and Rembrandt works.

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Lodging in all of these places was easy to find, and it’s less expensive than Amsterdam for nicer accomodation. I’ll be staying in some charming places overlooking canals and such while being in the center of the action. Again, I’ll share more about the places I go and how it went in future posts.

Thankfully, one nice Dutch young lady who booked my room in Delft advised me to purchase “Hispeed” (High Speed) rail tickets in advance to get from Amsterdam to other locations. This is a great idea, because I can purchase the tickets online, and I can just print out the ticket and bring it with me.

Okay, that’s it for now… I’m pleased I’m making progress.

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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for sharing your planning tips, Carol. I’m a bit phobic about planning travel, but I always like it once I get there. Your careful planning is inspiring!

    • It *can* feel overwhelming to make decisions about where to go, how to get there, and where to stay… but think of that as the “big boulders” in the decision making process. Once that part is figured out, you don’t necessarily need to plan much further than that, unless you like a defined itinerary.

      Just take small steps, and give yourself ample time to make the big decisions.

      Other than that, it’s wise to figure out the “big attractions.”

      For example, if you are going to see a museum and you’re only in that place one day, you have find out if it’s open, and/or if you need advanced tickets, otherwise you may be in for a disappointment.

      I was happily surprised to learn the Van Gogh museum is RE-OPENING in May 2013! I’ll get to see over 200 Van Gogh works, because I’m lucky enough to be going to Amsterdam after the re-opening.

  2. Speaking of “checking” …

    I just checked on The Girl with a Pearl Earring, and she is traveling! She’s in the United States, in the art museum located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park until June 2nd, so I won’t be able to see her in the Netherlands while I am there.

    I also understand she will then travel to New York City to the Frick Museum to visit us here… so I will have to try and see her in the United States instead of during my travels.

  3. Ghent is beautiful. I just came back from there. A word of advice about the trams – you have to have exact change to buy a ticket from most of the machines (1.20 euro) and a few others (the one outside the train station) will only take bills up to 5 euros or bank cards. However, some of the machines don’t work. You’re supposed to be able to buy from the driver, but the drivers I encountered refused to sell them to tourists.

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