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21 Day BOE Tour May 29th leaving general questions.

Hey going on this tour solo and have a couple question.
1. What did you think of the pillows? Should I bring one, heard they can be bad is that true?
2. Do you bring all your med bottles or just one of those M-F ones?
3. Has anyone taken the bus from the airport in Amsterdam, heard it's a 40 minute ride into Haarlem? Is it worth it or just use cab?
4. Is there soap and shampoo in all the hotel or at least the first ones, hoping to not bring bottles in bag?
5. Did you purchase euro's ahead of time and how much would you suggest? My bank Wellsfargo said I can order them here.
6. Is there bathrooms on the bus and can you leave things on the bus?
7. Did the rest breaks take coins to get into the stalls? If so how much so I can get some.
8. How many just used their iPhones verses my Nikon or similar brands? I have the new iPhone x and am wondering if I should bother with bringing that bag.
Thank you for all of your help. :-)

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
5212 posts
  1. What did you think of the pillows? Should I bring one, heard they can be bad is that true?

-->I didn't have a problem with the pillows but I'm not particularly sensitive. Frankly I wouldn't want to add the extra bulk to my luggage altho somehow, RS guide Sarah Murdoch does a light packing seminar and actually packs her own bed pillow, lol.

  1. Has anyone taken the bus from the airport in Amsterdam, heard it's a 40 minute ride into Haarlem? Is it worth it or just use cab?

-->I didn't use the bus because I was in Amsterdam, but I would just take the bus. It really is very easy.

  1. Is there soap and shampoo in all the hotel or at least the first ones, hoping to not bring bottles in bag?

-->Yes, soap in all the hotels. Probably shampoo but I am sensitive to shampoos so I bring my own. I have short hair and decanted shampoo into a 3oz travel container at home. You have plenty of time to do this now at home and see how many days 3oz gets you. I did learn to use less shampoo, lol! Many hotels did have shampoo because I used it to wash my clothes.

  1. Did you purchase euro's ahead of time and how much would you suggest? My bank Wellsfargo said I can order them here.

-->I like to start with 100-200€. Others are fine using an ATM at the airport but I always feel like I am too fuzzy with jet lag to manage this. Now I make sure I bring back about 200 whatevers as a starter for my next trip.

  1. Is there bathrooms on the bus and can you leave things on the bus?

-->Yes, there is a small bathroom but you are asked to use it only in emergencies. The bus driver is the one that has to clean it and he (or she) can't dump it until they get back to their home base in Belgium at the end of the trip. The bus stops every 1.5-2 hours so most manage to make it from stop to stop. Yes, I left things on the bus during the day. Generally, if you are going to leave something on the bus you'd put it in the over the seat rack where it wouldn't be seen. I take a bus bag on every tour. Usually a small backpack or tote with my rain jacket, iPad Mini, water, snacks, guide book, etc. I leave it on the bus during the day but take it in at night.

  1. Did the rest breaks take coins to get into the stalls? If so how much so I can get some.

-Generally you pay to enter the bathroom - not just the stall. The amount varies. Just start saving coins from small purchases and hoard them. I take a small ziplock bag to put them in and just carry that in my pocket. If you've got extra coins you can be generous with your tour mates and they will help you out if you are low!

  1. How many just used their iPhones verses my Nikon or similar brands? I have the new iPhone x and am wondering if I should bother with bringing that bag.

-->I'm not a photographer, just want to post stuff on FB so I just use my phone. It depends on what will make you happy.

What you didn't ask:

-->This is a great tour for solo travelers. Because it is 3 weeks, everyone bonds pretty well.

-->Do some research ahead of time on what you will want to do in your free time, particularly in Venice, Florence, Rome and Paris. There is a little free time in Amsterdam but for us it was the end of a long day and everyone just sat on the museum terrace and had something cool to drink!

-->You'll have free time in Switzerland but your guide may offer some optional experiences such as offering to take anyone that wants to go up the Schilthorn or hiking on one of the trails. DO IT!!! Don't even blink at extra transportation costs.

-->There has been a discussion elsewhere on taking a small bag in to Venice for the 2 nights. I repacked in Reutte and put clothes for the 2 nights in a packing cube along with minimal toiletries then put it in my bus bag. Hauling a suitcase - even a small roller over the bridges in Venice is hard. They are actually steps not ramps so you have to carry it up and over.

Have fun!

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
5212 posts

Well, I maxxed out on my length and was not done yet, hahaha!!

You will already have gotten your flights so I hope you are going in at least the day before to Haarlem? If so, this is a good time to start saving up change for the bathrooms once you get on the tour. Have coffee or a meal in a cafe, make a small purchase, buy some fruit in a grocery store, etc.

You can't get Euro change in the US. The banks won't take it back in in trade and you can't ask for it. If you do go ahead and get some Euro up front, be specific with the teller that you do not want anything over a 20€ note. Don't let them give you 50's or larger. 50's you can probably use for a big meal (altho I never eat this much, lol!!) but the larger bills are difficult to break. If you are going to get money, I would go ahead and do it now just in case they try to stick you with big bills you can say no and have time for them to change it.

If you haven't ramped up a walking program, try to fit in some longer walks now. You'll walk a LOT in Amsterdam and Rome, perhaps other cities depending on your interests and your guide.

When you stop at the AutoGrilles for lunch, the bathroom is usually .50€ (like 50 cents) BUT the machine spits out a 50cent coupon for you to use in the store. You can ~always~ find something to buy! Lots of different chocolate etc! Fun to shop!

This was my first solo RS tour and it was wonderful!

Posted by katsrad
Kansas
149 posts

Traveling alone on this tour is easy. I did it and it was wonderful!!! I met a couple that became my Europe Mom and Dad and that a year later I traveled to England with! Just know that you will make friends on this trip and will have people to hang out with or do side things with and you will also be ok being on your own. Know that this trip is AMAZING!!! You will hopefully have as good of a time as I did!!

Posted by paula.pierce3 OP
8 posts

Thank you so much for all of the great intel. Thought of another question is there outlets on the bus? Trying to determine weather to bring my extra battery packs. Yep have a fitbit so my sister and I urge each other on. Added walking up and down our three flights of stairs. Usually at 10,000 steps or more should I push an increase? Is there a breakfast place near the hotel in Haarlem? Since I'm arriving sort of one day early get in at 8:30pm because of an 8 hour lay over in England wow. Figured since we probably eat the breakfast at the hotel the first couple days I should wander out on that morning. Any suggestions?

Thank you again,
Paula

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
5212 posts

Oh gosh, I found a wonderful cafe for breakfast....unfortunately I am not sure exactly where it was, hahaha! I would walk thru the Grote Markt, and if you don't see something there I'd head down one of the pedestrian side streets til you see something you like. Haarlem is a fun city center to walk around!

I've never had a RS tour bus with WIFI or charging ports BUT I think others have. I might be tempted to bring the charger packs.

If you are going 10,000 steps that is about 5 miles. There will be days that you do double that. One day a week you might try for a 10% increase. Don't do it every day, just one day a week, do a longer walk, then go back to your base mileage. The next week on your long day, add 10% to the previous long day. Wear the shoes you are taking with you!

Posted by Continental
New York, NY
1587 posts

I don't do big bus tours but I can still answer a few of your basic questions.

What did you think of the pillows? Should I bring one, heard they can be bad is that true?

Pillows vary no matter where you travel worldwide no matter what you've "heard". What's a bad pillow? Too fluffy? Too flat? Too stiff? Too hard? Too soft? For a tour like this in which you'll be moving hotel to hotel with rapidity, do you really want to schlep your pillow with you? If the answer is yes, then do it. If you are truly sensitive to pillows, give yourself this little luxury and bring your pillow with you. Why be unhappy?

Do you bring all your med bottles or just one of those M-F ones?

I don't take any controlled substances which may need to be in the original bottle so I take a pill holder and then put the extra pills in a ziplock. I have Type 2 diabetes so I keep my injectable pen (non-insulin) and pen needles loose in a pocket in my purse. Curious, what does M-F mean?

Has anyone taken the bus from the airport in Amsterdam, heard it's a 40 minute ride into Haarlem? Is it worth it or just use cab?

I always use the train from Schiphol airport. There are many trains that go to Haarlem and the ride is maybe 15 minutes? So easy and it's a pleasant quick trip to Haarlem.

Did you purchase euro's ahead of time and how much would you suggest?
My bank Wellsfargo said I can order them here.

Of course Wells Fargo says you can "order" €s from them; they'll make a rich profit off you! You will be ripped off royally "purchasing" €'s from a bank in the US. Don't bother. When you arrive at Schiphol, go to one of the many cash machines (ABN AMRO bank) for the easiest and CHEAPEST way of getting € currency. Rick Steves shows how easy it is on his European Travel Skills 3 part program on "Rick Steves Europe". He also talks about the ease of getting money via cash machines at the airport on his lectures series.

Here you go:


Paula, you asked about batteries and I wanted to share with you what I bring regarding chargers. For the hotel room overnight, I bought this 5 port power charger and it is lightweight and charges my technology QUICKLY. You will need a European power cord which is cheap to get in advance.

For on the go charging, I bought this portable, tiny & lightweight power charger 1 1/2 years ago and it charges my current iPhone and iPad quickly back to back without having to recharge.

Posted by cgrier0708
1 posts

Hi Paula,
My name is Vickie and my husband, Bucky. We are also going on the May 29th tour and very excited! Looking forward to meeting you! Safe travels.

Posted by TC
Atlanta
2903 posts
  1. Never had a problem with pillows on any RS tour. Taking one is just extra weight and bulk, imho.
  2. To save space & weight consider this. Have the pharmacist print out extra labels. Put the pills in a freezer zip lock and put the extra label on it. Take the original data sheet that comes with the RX with you to show that it is for you. We have been to many European countries and have never had a problem. There are some state laws that require prescription meds to be in original containers, but they are rarely enforced and I can only remember reading about one case in the last 20 years. Liquid meds do not have to go in the 311 bag
  3. Sorry, no experience.
  4. Yes to both.
  5. The least expensive way of getting local currency is from an ATM at your destination. However, it's always a good idea, in my opinion, to have some local currency in hand when you land. Getting two hundred of the local currency from your local bank will cost you a little more, but it eliminates the hassle of trying to find a machine, the stress of hoping it works (they do occasionally malfunction), and doing it all while somewhat jet lagged. To me the small amount extra it cost to have money in hand when arriving is money well spent, and the extra cost relative to the overall cost of the trip is not, in my opinion, that much. Just one point of view.
  6. Yes and yes.
  7. Always try to have small change available for the rest room attendants. Some places have them and some don't. Just buy a coffer or soda and get change.
  8. No experience with the iPhones verses regular cameras. Sorry.
Posted by paula.pierce3 OP
8 posts

-Thank you everyone again for all your awesome intel.

-M-F means Monday thru Friday.

-I actually preloaded my new Rick Steves' backpack and walked for awhile in it this morning just to get the feel of it on me. Even took it up and down our three flights of stairs.

  • So nice to know some names Vickie and Bucky, looking forward to meeting you. I am flying in a day earlier, well with the 8 hour layover in England not really a day. Did reserve the same hotel for the night before as I get in around 9pm I think. Trying to decide weather to spend one or two extra days in Paris which I need to figure out by Wednesday when I purchase my return ticket.

-I will watch the video on money, good idea at airport instead of looking around town.

Posted by Continental
New York, NY
1587 posts

I will watch the video on money, good idea at airport instead of
looking around town.

FYI, not all European airports have local bank cash machines in the terminals. Schiphol Airport however DOES and it's simple to get cash. There is no need whatsoever to let Wells Fargo (or any US bank) take advantage of you. You can get cash easily from ABN AMRO bank cash machines upon your arrival at Schiphol.

Posted by Pam
Troy, Idaho, USA
5212 posts

"Trying to decide weather to spend one or two extra days in Paris which I need to figure out by Wednesday when I purchase my return ticket."

If you have the time and money add 2 days! The one full day you have in Paris at the end is just NOT enough! AND I didn't even like Paris when I started this tour, hahaha!!

Are you then purchasing your tickets each as one way tickets? It's probably too late since it seems you have already done the outbound ticket but it may be cheaper next time to purchase as open jaw - multi-city on your airline website.

If you don't have a round trip ticket you may also be able to get a cheap flight out of your London airport to AMS that will get you there much sooner than your current 8 hour lay over. It won't work if you have checked luggage and it won't work if your flight is booked as a round trip as if you don't show for an outbound segment your whole ticket is cancelled. You would not want to change airports - that just wouldn't be worth the hassle.

Posted by Scott
Everett, WA, US
77 posts

When at AMS, get some euros from a bank ATM, not the exchange places. Bus 300 takes you to Haarlem station for 5 euro if I remember correctly. The driver will know that you are a visitor, and be helpful. From the station, It's about 10-15 minute walk down the main drag to the Grote Markt where I assume you will be staying; just check the map in your tour booklet. As for the rest of the 3 weeks...you will survive !! Enjoy and let us know after.

Posted by paula.pierce3 OP
8 posts

So I booked the extra hotel day in our same hotel in Haarlem and 3 extra days in Paris with Airbnb. My brother has used and is confident with them I guess so here's hoping. Little nerve racking. I've stayed at many B&B's in the states so pretty familiar. Thank you everyone for your feedback. Spoke to my bank and they actually had Euro's on hand and so got $200 here, they only charged me the exchange rate. Also, gave them an update on my travel plans so my card wouldn't be stopped for fraud alert. Also, gave them daughter info for my account incase I died, not morbid just how we plan in the military and had forgotten this step. They also had me order a customized credit/debt card. Then I will have two of the same card in the same account. This way if one gets eaten by a bank machine I will still have one. Yep one of those rare people who don't have credit cards. Thinking of taking a check just in case too. Does anyone still take those? :-)