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Amsterdam airport/itinerary/hotel help needed

Schipol question: Is the baggage depot area some place I can get to without having to go through security? I don't have a PIN for my credit card so we will need to pay cash at the baggage depot as opposed to storing our luggage in a locker at Schipol. We want to go to Keukenof Garden directly from the airport I believe storing our bags there is our best bet. If we went to the hotel/B&B directly from the airport we would still need to arrange transport to Keukenof Gardens. Am I right in assuming the gardens are easier to get to if we go directly from the airport?

Now I just have to decide on a place to spend our RS pre-tour nights! I just saw Hotel Alexander. I know the rooms there are smaller but it is minutes to Leidseplein and I know a bus can take us directly from/to the airport cheaper than taking a train/tram.

Does anyone have recommendations for accomodations? I like the location of Hotel Alexander but I like the fact that Hotel Grouwer and Heren B&B are on a canal. And I'm enamored with the idea of staying in a 17th century building such as Hotel Grouwer.

Here's our plans:
Arrival day: do Keukenof Gardens, then relax at hotel that night. (jet lag)
Day 2: I would like to maybe rent bikes and/or just walk around checking out the sights without any rush. That evening I think a night-time canal ride would be fun.
Day 3: Next morning we eat breakfast and have a leisurely morning (may check out Van Gogh museum or Rembrandt house as these two items are not covered in our RS tour). Then travel with our bags to Haarlem by 2pm to meet up with our 21 day tour folks. We do a walking tour with the group of both Amsterdam and Haarlem and we visit the Rijksmuseum and Anne Frank House with them as well.

What else am I missing that we can see those first 2 days? Is there someplace else I should be looking at staying? We've never been to Europe before so I really want this trip to be special (and I know it will be regardless of where we stay and what we do those first 2 days).

Thank you for any help/advise!

Posted by
8387 posts

I have not been to Keukenhof but I have flown to Amsterdam, lol. I am not sure I would be up to a major site away from town on my arrival day. I would walk around Amsterdam so if you feel pooped out you can go to your room and rest for a bit then head out again. I would do the gardens on your full day.

Also I am not a bicyclist but I would encourage you to do some observation before you decide on bike riding in Amsterdam. It does not appear to be for the faint of heart. If you stop to go in somewhere lock up. In about a 4-hour period on a Sunday afternoon my brother and I observed 3 bike thefts. The MO was the same each time...a guy would ride up on an old beater bike, park it and casually walk down the line of bikes at the rack and ride off on the first one that wasnt secure. Amazing to watch, really.

Posted by
698 posts

Oh, Pam. We are not bicyclists either! Maybe we'd be better off walking. :)

Where have you stayed whilst in Amsterdam? I hate being indecisive and clearly I am obsessing over this!

Posted by
43 posts

Here is another suggestion. Why not get to your hotel in Haarlem, check in, have shower, change clothes etc., rent bikes and just cruise around Haarlem for the afternoon and evening. Its a lovely city. and riding a bike along the canal is a wonderlful way to get rid of that devil jet lag.The next day, you can take the train to Amsterdam and visit the Gardens - they are beautiful - the swans are absolutely delightful, feeding the ducks while eating lunch around the little river etc.

Personally I would find it much less hectic to arrive at my hotel and spend the day leisurely, have a good nite sleep and be ready the next day for the gardens.

As far as biking is concerned - lots of fun, but not for faint hearted as previous poster stated. We biked around Amsterdan avoiding rush hours - be sure to wear a helmet.

Have fun - Holland is a beautiful country. One of my favourite.

Posted by
8387 posts

I like Holly's suggestion of staying in Haarlem. I hate to post incomplete or heresay info but I feel like I remember there was a transportation arrangement to the gardens from Haarlem but I don't have personal knowledge of same. Perhaps someone will see your post and add that.

I wound up staying in the non-charming but nicely air conditioned Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam in June and then also stayed at the tour hotel the night before the tour started in August. It is very easy to take the train to Amsterdam from Haarlem.

Posted by
26017 posts

Is your tour in April or May next Spring? The Keukenhof is only open with the tulip show in April and May, and the end of March.

I've stayed in Haarlem numerous times because I find it nice to get away from the hustle and bustle of Amsterdam where I spend part of my days.

On the other hand you may prefer the hustle and bustle and dislike the quiet smaller town.

Posted by
527 posts

I agree that heading to Haarlem to recuperate from possible jet lag is a great idea. It is super easy to walk out of Schiphol, look for a bus that says Haarlem, and hop on. Costs 4 or 5 euro. You can pay the driver. You can take the bus to the train station in Haarlem and then walk to your hotel from there.
Get some cash when you arrive at Schiphol, using your ATM card.
You can always take the train to Amsterdam Centraal station the next day, and go to the museum or whatever.
Oh, and bike rentals are easy at the Haarlem train station. Do be careful and watch where you're going, tho, and don't get in people's way as they're cruising along with their kids and groceries, etc.

I know you'll have a great trip. The 21 day tour is a great introduction to Europe. And you can always go back. That's been our experience. :)

Posted by
665 posts

Since 3 people suggested Haarlem I'm going to disagree with them. Staying centrally in Amsterdam gives you the freedom to pop back in the room when you like. To rest because of jetlag or just tired, to change clothes if the weather changes, to not have to carry everything for the day with you, drop off a souvenir you may have purchased. And after a day walking around we like to shower before dinner, not as convenient if you're in Haarlem and have to take the train there/back if you want to eat in Amsterdam and then walk around a bit or enjoy a drink in Leidseplein (there is also a jazz club "Cafe Alto" near Leidseplein that we love, and everyone we've sent there loves it too). Look, I know RS recommends folks stay in Haarlem. It is quiet. It is a nice town. But we prefer being in the heart of the city we've come to see rather than having to spend 30-45+ minutes each way getting there (when you count time to station, buying a ticket & getting to right track, etc). Think it over and decide what is the best fit for you.

If you stay in Amsterdam, don't worry about whether the hotel is on a canal or not. City is loaded with canals, a few minutes stroll from most places tourists will stay. You can go stroll along one, sit on a bench or have a coffee facing one, anytime you want. And even if you do stay in one that is on a canal, no guarantee your room will face it. Nor, hopefully, will you be spending a lot of time in the room looking out the window.

As for bikes, there are tour companies that will take you on a nice trip. We used Mike's Bikes for their countryside tour.

Just one other comment -- It's easy to think, looking at the list you've prepared (kudos BTW for doing your research!), that since you have an item "Day 3" that you're spending 3 days in Amsterdam. I know I fall into that trap when I write out our plans. But in reality you have 1 full day plus change. Arrival day you're likely to be tired and, unless you have a morning arrival, not really have all that many hours free to explore. The day your tour starts is really just a morning in Amsterdam because you'll need to be heading for the train station in Amsterdam not long after lunch in order to get to it, buy a ticket, travel, get to the Haarlem hotel and check in, then meet the group at 2pm.

Posted by
8954 posts

Schipol question: Is the baggage depot area some place I can get to
without having to go through security? I don't have a PIN for my
credit card so we will need to pay cash at the baggage depot as
opposed to storing our luggage in a locker at Schipol.

There are lockers and baggage storage room in the public area of the airport. Unless there has been a recent change the lockers accept magnetic strip cards. In addition there are lockers at Keukenof which are free. I've visited the gardens direct from the airport a couple of times after a transatlantic flight and it's a great way spend the day and fight back the jet lag.

Haarlem is a nice place to visit as a day trip, boring as hell to stay overnight.

Posted by
698 posts

So many wonderful replies!

Since we are staying in Haarlem for 2 nights at the start of the tour I think we would like to be in Amsterdam for our pre-tour nights.

We have discovered that at least 2 of the hotels we are considering will allow us an early check in time. I think we will go to the hotel upon arrival in Amsterdam (we land at 11:35am). I have heard from at least a dozen people that it isn't a good idea to sleep. I know for a fact that hubby will have slept the entire plane ride, lol! Now I'm questioning my plans to spend that first day at Keukenof. We will indeed be there mid April which should be perfect tulip time and I thought walking out in the fresh air would do us good.....I had also heard something about the tulip blooms maybe not being completely open in the morning but by afternoon would be perfect. Decided against renting bikes in Amsterdam but maybe instead will rent one at Keukenof where we can ride amongst the bulb fields. This is maybe sounding like a good adventure for our second day in Amsterdam, afterall.

I really like the idea of staying at Hotel Brouwer, a 17th century leaning establishment. I like several of our options!

Posted by
4 posts

We just returned from the 21-day RS tour. It was fabulous. We arrived a few days early like you are planning to do. We chose to rent a apartment in Haarlem that came with bikes (booked through airBnB). Although you will be staying in Haarlem for the tour, you will only be sleeping there. The tour starts at 4 pm and then dinner and a walking tour. The 2nd day is spent in Amsterdam. You will return to Haarlem at about 7pm, so you won't see much at all of that city. We loved Haarlem! It is so relaxed. The bicycle paths are so civilized! No helmet required. One day we biked to Zaandvoort beach, and another day we went to Bloemendaal beach. You will easily be able to bike to the gardens from Haarlem. There are no hills in the Netherlands! There is a great cafe culture in Haarlem and we went daily to Brinkmans in the main square. The streets are pedestrian and bicycle friendly. We had no plans to visit museums before the tour because we didn't want museum overload. We just wanted to absorb Dutch culture. It was awesome! I hope this helps.

Posted by
14399 posts

Landing at 11.35 a.m. doesn't necessarily mean having tons of time that day. It takes time to get out of the airport even if you don't have checked bags to wait for. The train station is usually crowded and you may need to wait in line to buy tickets, then wait a few minutes for a train to Amsterdam. If you are taking a taxi to your hotel, I've been told that the cabs nearest the train station are more expensive, and walking across the square to get one is better. Before you do that, you may want to go over to the tourist information (V V V) and pick up a map. By the time you get to your hotel, your room could well be ready.

Posted by
698 posts

I think we will check in at the hotel, which I have now confirmed to be Hotel Brouwer! It feels good to have made this decision. We have time to establish our itinerary but thinking we will put off Keukenof Garden to the next day. We will chill out the first day and probably do a canal cruise. The Grey Line is just a couple blocks from our hotel and I think it will be a nice Intro to Amsterdam. Thank you everyone for your help!

Posted by
333 posts

Hi Kathy,

From what I've read, often the RST tours will take you to Keukenhof instead of the air museum during tulip time- so you might double check with them. I'm taking the 21 day tour in early May just so I can be there before Keukenhof closes on the 17th. When my daughter and I were in Amsterdam two years ago, we rented a room on a houseboat. We were on a very tight budget, but found a studio room in the Jordaan area for a very reasonable price. There was nothing like the light bounce of the water to lull us into great sleep each night. When jet lag kicked in, it was amazing to watch the swans play at night and the other water fowl during the mornings over breakfast. The location let us walk to everything. It's a very walkable city. I'm debating about renting it again in May, as I plan to arrive three days before the tour, just to further explore Amsterdam and Haarlem. On that first day after the flight, we were exhausted, even though we rested on the plane. We managed a canal cruise, the Anne Frank House (two doors down from the canal cruise place) and a meal at the Hard Rock Café. My poor daughter (who was 20 at the time) fell asleep every time she quit moving. She has very little memory of that first canal cruise or the HRC, ha ha! On our 2nd day we took a day trip (through Viator tours) to Zaanse Schans, Volendam and Marken. We saw windmills, tasted (and bought) cheese and chocolate, saw wooden shoes get made- it was tons of fun and not too expensive. We had to grab some FEBO on the way back to our houseboat! We took the all day tour which also took us to Delft where we saw the pottery made and to Madurodam and the Hague. In Haarlem we saw the Corrie Ten Boom house- a must see! We also saw the museum of psychiatry (Het Dolhaus). On this trip I'm planning a day trip to Bruges, Belgium. I also plan to take the Wetlands Safari Tour in Amsterdam and revisit the Corrie Ten Boom House and further explore Haarlem. We only took public transportation for our day trips. Everything in Amsterdam we walked to. We always felt very safe and people were wonderfully friendly! IF your budget allows, stay where you're dreaming of staying. How often do you get to Amsterdam? The great thing is having so many great choices!

Posted by
698 posts

Did you use a specific tour group to go to Delft and the other cities in the countryside of the Netherlands? I will have to double check on the tour going to Keukenof....I haven't heard anyone mention ever doing this while on a RS BOE 21 day tour. I think I will email ETBD just to make sure I'm not duplicating an activity1

Posted by
698 posts

I wanted to let those of you know that I heard back from the RS folks regarding the possible substition of Keukenof Gardens for the Arnhem Open Air Museum. I was told that there is a 70% chance that they would substitute these sites.....since the gardens are only open for such a short time they feel it would be a positive experience for folks on the 21 day tour.....and they are probably right!

It isn't a done deal so the RS representative recommended me emailing again at 30 days out and they should know for certainty at that point........