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Critique My Itinerary

Background info - I will be visiting the Netherlands for about a month starting early July. I will be traveling with my wife and four kids, ages 8 - 14. We will be staying in 's-Hertogenbosch. In my planning, transport has consistently been my main financial constraint. Even though the 8 and 10 year olds can travel on discounted Railrunner passes, round-trip tickets for the other four people in our family from Den Bosch to different day trip locations can add up quickly. For this reason, I am trying to use the Discover Holland day trips as much as possible, which, if I understand correctly, provide round trip train tickets from anywhere in the Netherlands to certain locations.

I have appreciated the very thorough advice given by locals in this forum. If you see any places or regions that I'm missing that you highly recommend, please let me know, as I am looking to start finalizing our itinerary. Our main objective is to just have an enjoyable time, discovering the country. I guess we prefer less crowded, picturesque places. Modern architecture is not a big priority, so I plan to skip Rotterdam. We will probably buy the Museumkaart and go to museums in whatever town we end up visiting.

Den Bosch - we will obviously spend quite a bit of time discovering the city and the surrounding region

Amsterdam - we will visit the major tourist sites

Haarlem - Corrie Ten Boom house, National Park Zuid Kennemerland

National Park Hoge Veluwe

Nijmegen

Utrecht - including Kasteel Den Haar

Maastricht - I am particularly interested in the caves

Arnhem - I would like to visit one of the outdoor museums. I picked this one since it is closer than Enkhuizen

Den Haag - will probably visit Madurodam since we will use the Discover Holland passes to get here, the Humanity House also looks very interesting

Kinderdijk - we will also try to visit Dordrecht on this day

Efteling

National Park Veluwezoom - hoping to catch the heather bloom before we depart

Specific Questions:
1. Is it wrong to skip Delft?
2. There is a Discover Holland day trip to Giethoorn, but the hordes of tour groups sort of scared me off. Is it really worth going there?
3. I am interested in the Hanseatic cities, but transportation is my main issue. A car seems like it would be ideal, train seems expensive and somewhat limiting since we're trying to just do day trips. When I looked into it, it seemed like renting a car was quite expensive when it needs to seat 6.
4. There is also a Discover Holland day trip to Groningen that is fairly inexpensive. Is that worth it?

Posted by
5010 posts

You say "Early July" - as in this year, in less than 2 weeks? If so, YIKES.

If that's the case, then OMG I would drop everything else 9and I do mean everything - work, sleep, meals, etc.) and get going on nailing down your accommodations, like, yesterday! At the peak of peak season, and needing rooms for six - ouch...much work to do here.

Posted by
8 posts

We have accommodations lined up. :) Just looking for input on where to visit other than what I listed, since I know there are a lot of knowledgeable posters here.

Posted by
11182 posts

First, are you aware of the recent changes in the Museumkaart? It's only for five museums when you buy it. If you register it, they then mail you a permanent card good for unlimited museums. So, in a month, you may be able to make this work, if you can figure out where you will be to receive the mailed permanent card. If this won't work, you have to figure out if the first five museums you are seeing justify the price of the card.

I really like Utrecht, so I'm glad you're going there. For me, highlights included the Centraal Museum, the railway museum, the museum of music boxes (you take a one hour docent-led tour where they are demonstrated), and walking around the center, with its unique two-level canal system (a boat ride on these canals was also fun).

Is it wrong to skip Delft? - not for me. I was not nearly as taken with it as others are. But again, that's a minority opinion. I preferred Leiden and Utrecht, if you're looking for cities.

Posted by
175 posts

Some of those Discover Holland trips do look like a good deal. You might also consider to rent a mini-van for a few days and knock off the 4 or 5 more expensive or more difficult routes in the same week. We have done this with our large family. Kayak says you can get a mini-van in Den Bosch for about $300 from Monday to Friday, July 9-13.

If your wife doesn't mind driving, you could grab two smaller rental cars inexpensively for excursions on a one-off basis, for some of the more expensive or more-difficult-to-reach places. Nearly every place you mention is within a 2-hour drive from Den Bosch.

Take the trains and buses for the easy routes and closer destinations.

Posted by
142 posts
  1. No

  2. Several of the Hanseatic cities are easily reached by train, like Deventer, Zwolle and Kampen

If you can, visit Deventer on July 7th-9th for "Op Stelten" (https://www.deventeropstelten.nl/index.php/english)

Use the DiscoverHolland deals wisely :) You are allowed with a railway ticket to make a (or more) stop(s) along the way. As you are staying in Den Bosch (or 's-Hertogenbosch) a ticket to Giethoorn (for 23 euros) or Groningen (for 19 euros) allows you to stop in Deventer and/or in Zwolle. You dont even have to travel all the way to Giethoorn/Groningen.

@Arnhem: I like the open air museum in Arnhem better than the one in Enkhuizen. Enkhuizen is about the region around the IJsselmeer where as Arnhem has buildings from all over The Netherlands (and their neighbours are one of the best zoos in NL)

Posted by
8 posts

Floris, I was under the impression that the group tickets can only be purchased by locals that have a personal chipcard, and that you needed to have a Dutch bank account to purchase these tickets. Am I wrong?

I will have a Dutch address, which is how I plan to register my Museumkaart (to answer Harold above), but not a Dutch bank account.

Posted by
306 posts

It sounds like you have a certain agenda of what you might like to see but you have four kids to keep happy.

I would not worry about your travel expenses; don't skip a town or site because it is too expensive to get there.
Let everyone help to choose a site/city and let them research it. Then everyone has a stake in the holiday and each family member can actually serve as your family tour guide. Then make your selections and a reasonable tour of the country. You cannot see everything you want to see and satisfy four children.

So much for the practical advice.

If you prefer picturesque and quiet, we enjoyed the Royal Eise Eisinga Planetarium in Friesland when visiting this past April. Quaint town and worth the visit.

Living museums like Enkhuizen and Zaanse Shanse have something for adults and children of all ages and both attractions are worthy of a visit. Enkhuizen is more educational; Zaanse Shanse is more commercial but there is something for everyone; don't miss the wooden shoe demonstration. The cheese shop offers samples and there are farm animals for the viewing.

Unless everyone is into art, go to the Rijksmuseum and pay for a guided tour and consider it a day. I learned more in one hour than wandering around the museum all day on my own. Consider visiting the Kroller-Muller Museum if you want to see Van Gogh near Arnhem.

Good luck, have fun and remember you can always find and Albert Heijn or other grocer to fill backpacks with snacks.
Enjoy the frites with mayo - nothing like it!

Posted by
142 posts

Group tickets are sold online and can either be printed or dowloaded into the NS app. NS has entered the 21st century a couple of weeks ago and now accepts credit card payements on their website.

Posted by
8 posts

Harold - Thanks for the Utrecht tips. We hope to be able to register our museumkaarts, and we will try to check out those museums!

bradleysmith1212 - Thank you! I will have to look at car rentals again. Part of the problem is that I never learned to drive a car with manual transmission, so we couldn't rent two cars - my wife would need to drive. :)

campbelldp - Thanks for the advice. You are right, it will be helpful to share trip planning responsibilities with the kids.

Floris - I emailed the Discover Holland people but they told me that I could not do as you suggested and get off the train mid-route. Maybe I asked my question the wrong way - if we could get off the train and then get back on afterwards, that definitely makes Groningen and Giethoorn more attractive! You made my day with the information regarding the group tickets! That is going to save us a ton of money! Thank you.

Posted by
142 posts

Officially you have to make the exact journey as stated on the ticket. However when using a day return (which the DH tickets are) you are allowed to break your journey. That means leaving a station is allowed as long as it is on route between departure and destination.

Lets say you travel from A to C and B is in between those two. You are allowed to leave the station at B both on the trip to C, but also on the return trip back to A.

Using a paper ticket, there is no way to proof (by you or staff) that you in fact have (or havent) reached destination C and that you are on your way back to A from C when you board the train again in B.

However as you are travelling with 4 persons older than 11 the group ticket is usually cheaper than deals on DH. Biggest disadvantage of the group tickets is that you are not allowed to use it between 1600 and 1830 ( on Mo-Fr).

Posted by
20 posts

Another train ticket option is the special that Kruidvat (chain of drugstores) is running since June 18. If you buy 3 or more NS Dagkaart tickets, they are EUR 13.99 each. The same time restrictions as mentioned above apply, but they are valid for the whole day on weekends. The biggest difference with a group ticket is that on a Dagkaart (day ticket) an unlimited journeys are allowed within one day, so you are not locked into one destination. Might be worth it if you are planning multiple destinations on one day. I know this link will say that they are 15.99 each, the 13.99 price is for 3 or more. There are many Kruidvat stores all over the Netherlands, chances are you will find one close by your accommodation.

https://www.kruidvat.nl/ns-treinkaart/p/2082039

When you are exploring the neighbourhood of Den Bosch, you can visit Heusden, a well preserved 17th century fortified town. Easy to reach by bus line 135 from the Den Bosch station in half an hour. If you are driving there, please make sure to select the correct Heusden on your gps, as there are several towns with that name. You'll want Heusden (gemeente Heusden) and not Heusden (gemeente Asten). The National Park Loonse and Drunense Duinen is also nearby.

https://www.hbtheusden.nl/why-to-visit-heusden
https://www.holland.com/global/tourism/destinations/provinces/north-brabant/loonse-and-drunense-dunes.htm

Nijmegen is also a nice town, only 30 minutes by intercity train from Den Bosch. The Vierdaagse is July 17-20, which is massive 4 day hiking event. Associated with that are numerous festivities and a festival, all free (but very crowded).

https://www.4daagse.nl/en/
https://www.vierdaagsefeesten.nl/english-2/
http://www.valkhoffestival.nl

Posted by
11182 posts

"Part of the problem is that I never learned to drive a car with manual transmission, so we couldn't rent two cars - my wife would need to drive. :)"

Contrary to some rumors, you CAN rent a car with automatic transmission in the Netherlands (and other European countries). However, these are most readily available where North Americans are likely to rent - major cities and airports. So, Amsterdam or Schiphol will definitely have them, while other places may not. It will also be more expensive than a stick shift.

If you look at AutoEurope or Kemwel, you can specify an automatic, and see what rental locations and prices come up. Or you can look at rental car companies themselves (Hertz, Europcar, Sixt, etc).

I have no idea whether a car is helpful or not for the places you want to go, but don't let the old "you can only get stick shifts in Europe" stop you from looking!

Posted by
8 posts

Floris - with the group ticket, I'm assuming that I load it onto the Reisplanner phone app. Will that be okay for the four people in our group? Or do they need to each have their own device?

Posted by
142 posts

The 4 or 5 tickets can be loaded into one app on 1 device. At stations with ticket barriers you need the QR code to open the barriers.