Our first adventure as an "expat family" with lots of misadventures and cold weather!
As far as trips go, this trip started out in PROBABLY the worst possible way. One in which we had to purchase three additional flights due to mishaps in getting on our original flights, forgetting passports, forgetting house keys, lots of trains and then Dad having to come save us. BUT to hear me complain about that is not why we're here! We had five days in The Netherlands and I'm here to share with you what we did!
DAY ONE- AMSTERDAM
Flying into Amsterdam is a great way to start your adventure in The Netherlands. If you have a short amount of time, you HAVE to go see the Anne Frank House. Unfortunately, a lot of people have the same idea so you have to book tickets far in advance. Make sure you do! This is not to be missed.
If you have a little bit more time in Amsterdam, I would recommend a canal boat tour. Super tourist-y, but a fun way to see the city. VERY kid friendly which is a huge win-win. Click here for the company we used.
You could spend more time in Amsterdam, but from here we were following Dad's work schedule which was taking us to The Hague.
Trains- Easy to use and everything was available in English. There are kiosks at every train station and they were very user-friendly. If you are unsure about booking tickets at the train station, you can download the "Trainline" app and book from your phone. Also, if using the tram or buses- buy tickets at the train station before leaving. We found it difficult to find tram and bus tickets at the smaller stops. You can purchase them with the driver as you get on... but that stresses me out because I usually don't have exact change!
DAY TWO- THE HAGUE
A kid-friendly activity that was a blast for all of us was Madurodam. I was SO skeptical when someone recommended this to us. A "mini version" of the Netherlands? Yeah... that sounds... so fun? But it was! The five year old kid was very entertained the whole time. There were movies, interactive exhibits, water games and a lot to explore. We stayed there for three hours and some of the attractions were closed due to the weather. January in the Netherlands y'all... the weather is no joke. We did have some melt downs at the beginning of this day on account of being too cold. I learned that we were very under-prepared in the layering department.
Warm layers for kids- Europe in January is just cold. Nasty, wet, biting cold that goes through everything. We weren't prepared for it, but I have since learned some things. Kids need a base layer. Moisture-wicking wool layers that lay tight to the skin are the best. Middle layer- clothes of any variety. Top layer- waterproof shells. This could be pants and jacket, or just jacket- but waterproof is key for keeping those kids warm. And believe me, no one wants a grumpy cold kid when needing to be out all day.
DAY THREE- EINDHOVEN & NUENEN
We stayed the night in Eindhoven, but didn't do much there besides eat breakfast... and it was a DELICIOUS meal!
I have to recommend this place because it was the cutest shop/cafe I have ever seen; Dille & Kamille. The shop is full of home goods and it is all made out of sustainable materials. We spent a lot of time looking around at their kitchen ware, garden supplies AND their wooden toy selection. *Swoon* We also had breakfast here and it was very small and intimate with a chef cooking right behind the counter. The kiddo enjoyed her crepes with redcurrant and blackberry on top!
We didn't find much in the way of "kid-friendly" activities in Eindhoven, so we decided to catch a bus and go beyond the city limits to Neunen. Neunen is a quaint town on the outskirts of Eindhoven and their claim to fame is Vincent VanGogh. They have several sites still standing in the city that he painted and have a VanGough museum with "kid-friendly" activities. These activities were a little bit too hard for a five year old, as they required a lot of reading, but we still had a good time wandering around, learning about VanGogh's life, and seeing some of his brilliant paintings. One of the most exciting things (for mom) was seeing this house directly opposite the museum... and then seeing his painting of the house. It made him seem so real!
Art Museums- Keeping kids engaged in art museums can be a challenge.
One thing that has worked well for us, is I allow her to use my phone with the instructions to take pictures of things she finds beautiful or interesting. This helps to keep her looking at the art and stay engaged! Afterwards, perhaps on the bus ride home, we go through the pictures and talk about what she has seen. Try it and let me know if it works for you!
DAY FOUR- UTRECHT AND KINDERDIJK
You may get to Utrecht and think you've arrived back in Amsterdam with all of its canals! It has a extensive canal system, just like Amsterdam, and is even lovingly referred to as "Little Amsterdam". We stayed the night in Utrecht and wandered around a little bit the next morning, but our main goal was to get to the central bus station to catch a bus to UNESCO World Heritage Site- Kinderdijk. This part was a little bit stressful, as we missed one bus and decided on another route with a different bus... but we ended up making it there after a couple hours. Our whole time in the Netherlands, thus far, had been cloudy, cold, and a bit dreary (weather-wise) but when we got to Kinderdijk, the clouds lifted and the sun peeked through. It was incredibly beautiful.
Kinderdijk is a system of 19 windmills that were built around 1740. In fact, one of them was built in the late 1600's! This group of mills is the largest concentration of old windmills in the Netherlands, and is one of the best known tourist sites. It was still incredibly cold while we were there but here is my hot tip... buy a ticket for the BOAT! This was a life saver for us. The boat is
1- a novelty for kids and 2- it was a nice reprieve from the cold as it was heated and enclosed!
Travel Tip- Getting to Kinderdijk from Utrecht was a little difficult because of language barrier and bus changes. It also took quite a big chunk of time. If you DO decide on going to Kinderdijk (which you should because it is incredible) you should try to go from Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague as transportation is much shorter and easier to manage.
DAY FIVE- NIJMEGEN
Nijmegen is the oldest city in the Netherlands which means there were a lot of old buildings and ruins to see! We set out on a walking tour together... which in retrospect... isn't the MOST fun thing in the dead of winter with a five year old. I find that bribing, however, can go a long way.
A lot of the places we walked to were closed inside... winter time. No tourists in the winter- except us! So we admired their beauty from the outside. We walked to Kronenburgerpark, Lange Hezelstraat, Valkhofpark, Grote Markt, and Stevenskerk- all within this area. This took us about two hours, with running around and toilet stops.
We left early afternoon to catch our train back up to Amsterdam to fly out the next morning!
Hop Tip- McDonalds is your friend!! When traveling with kids, I find that a McDonalds is a great resting place. It is familiar, it is warm, it has WiFi, no one makes you leave and is a low-key place to rest. We stopped in at McDonalds many times this trip to catch a break from the cold. It's so silly... but it saved us.