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holland/belgium 2016 tour

Yeah - the 2016 tours are out. I am looking at the April 27 to May 7 dates. So you RS seasoned travelers, when would you suggest getting airline tickets (We want plenty of leg room seats), how many days early would you arrive or how any days would you stay afterwards to see places on our own and what airline do you like best? Right now, United has the best prices and schedule. This would be my second RS trip. I had a successful trip on the Best of Ireland 14 day, in 2014. It was easy to figure out the timing on the Ireland trip (3 came 3 days early but left the next day). I don't know what else to see in Belgium/Holland area, IE: is it worth going to Luxembourg or Copenhagen or just stay around Brussels. Any helpful suggestions or what have you done. Thanks

Kim

Posted by
9692 posts

Well, part of the airline piece depends on where you are flying from and what convenient flights you have from your nearest hub airport. I've looked at this tour as well and hope to do it next spring too. For me, I can fly in to Amsterdam because there is an excellent direct flight from Seattle which is convenient from my local airport (essentially I can get flights to Seattle or SLC). Or Perhaps I will fly in to Paris (direct from SLC), spend several days there ahead of time, then take the Thalys train to Brussels for an extra night or 2. Or, perhaps I will fly in to London (direct from Seattle) for a week or so, then take the Eurostar to Brussels. Since the tour ends in Amsterdam, it might be easier for me to fly in somewhere else and then fly home from Amsterdam. My airline of choice is Delta because it flies out of the local airport.

I will probably stay a couple of days in Amsterdam after the trip. There is so much to see there that we will not scratch the surface.

I will wait until I get back from my Fall trip to make plans for my next one. I will watch fares in to several places and make a decision probably 4 months or so out.

I also have GAS on my radar screen and thought I would do Luxembourg before that one as it looked like it would not be too bad to get to Trier from Lux.

In general I like to fly in 3 to 7 days ahead of time. I'm retired so I have the time available. This fall I'm flying in 7 days ahead of the Best of England tour. Minimum time would be 2 days before for me.

This looks like a wonderful tour and I want to do it when Keukenhof is still open!

Posted by
524 posts

Kathy, When I did this tour it started in Belgium. Now it begins in Ghent.
My flight was to AMS, then I took a city hopper to Brussels.

Coming form Oklahoma I’d suggest you fly into AMS, then continue by train to Ghent (less than 2.5 hours) train ride. Ghent is easily managed and a lovely place to walk around.

This extra day helps you with jet lag and on Day 1 of the tour you’ll be wide awake to enjoy this first full day. It also allows you on Day 2 to stay on in Brussels after your tour time and not feel rushed to get back to Ghent. Train back to Brussels is around 35 minutes. There are 4- 6 trains within each hour to get you back to Ghent.

After the tour you could stay in AMS a couple of extra nights and do day trips to some of the smaller towns and see more of Amsterdam. Your Museumkaart (Museum Card) issued to you by RS is valid for one year. So say on Day 10 you’re musuemed out after the Rijksmeuseum, you can now visit the Van Gogh Musuem on another day.

I stayed a couple of extra days and visited the Dutch Resistance Musuem and the Jewish Historical musuem (located in same area). Another day I explored the Joordan and did some canal walks. I was too chicken to rent a bike, maybe next time.

I’m so happy you got this tour date as I know hom much you wanted to see Keukenhoff. We had a rainy on and off day there but wow- the beauty of it all makes you forget the weather!

I have my notes if I can of further help.

Posted by
3491 posts

I usually like to arrive at least the day before a tour is scheduled to start which allows for any air delays in getting there. I usually go home the day the tour ends. Still working a full time schedule, I just don't have the luxury of extra days off. When I was on this trip, it started in Brussels and I took the train in from London arriving two days before the tour officially started (was already in London for work and the schedule just fell in place). Enjoyed wandering around Brussels eating mussels and waffles (not at the same time). Did have to return on the last day of the tour, so didn't have much extra to plan for.

I am always cautious about booking flights this far in advance. Airlines these days seem to really like changing their schedules, planes, and other parts of the trip to make what appears now like the perfect flight into a nightmare of connections and lost seat reservations.

Now that I have said that, if you find something that works for you and you like the price, book it. Will prices go down? Will there be better availability for frequent flyer redemption flights? Who knows? The price of fuel is at a decades long low right now, but prices seem to keep going up on air tickets. I am going on a RS tour next month and I will be paying nearly double what I did last year flying between the exact same two cities on the same airline to get there.

Posted by
14898 posts

As Pam notes, both the start and end points of the tour are well-connected to other major cities and to each other. If you want to fly open-jaw, the world's your oyster. You could also fly round-trip Brussels or Amsterdam.

I looked at the RS tour page for the itinerary, the April 27 tour is already wait-listed. The April 20 tour is filling fast. The April 13 tour is plain old "sign-up". Those are the only ones that include the Keukenhof Gardens.

Posted by
902 posts

Thanks all for your input... Good new is that I got signed up in time, so I am on the April 27 to May tour, WOOT WOOT. I have been spot checking flights and right now they are close in price whether I book in and out from Brussels or Amsterdam or in Brussels and out of Amsterdam. I think I have decided to come 3 days early and 2 after. I have already been to London, Paris, Italy in 1996, 2006, 2007 (all school related trips). So I really don't have a need to go to those locations. This will be my husband's first overseas trip. He is very flexible, so I probably will investigate cities/countries around Holland and Belgium that I have not been to. I have been to Holland with my family & grandparents when I turned 4 during the summer. Needless to say, I don't remember a thing. I do have my grandparents address where they used to live in the Hague, so I will be curious to see if their place is still there. Thanks

Kim

Posted by
14898 posts

Hi Kim,

Whew, I'm glad you are booked on the tour! When I saw it was full, I felt bad for you.

The Netherlands has a lot more to offer than what you'll see on the tour. Amsterdam has great museums, like the Dutch Resistance, and the Maritime. Check to see what exhibition is on at the Hermitage. Rent bikes to ride around the city and you'll feel like locals. There's more to The Hague than you see on the tour (Madurodam is fun for kids and grown-ups) and can even be a better base for day trips, like Rotterdam and Utrecht, since it's smaller and cheaper than Amsterdam. It's only about 10-15 minutes more on the train to get to the airport.

Posted by
526 posts

I took this tour last April, sadly the fields had already bloomed and the blossoms were gone. However, the flowers in the garden were spectacular. This day was the sole reason I went so early.

I usually start looking for flights as soon as I book my tour. If the price is what I am comfortable with, then I go ahead and book. I try not to check fare prices afterward, but on occasion I have and I have never found the fares to be less. I try to select only non-stop and I do like a few extra perks. I have been booking premium economy and enjoy the extra comfort. Once, I was pleasantly surprised to be upgraded to business class. Most enjoyable flight ever!

After the tour, my husband and I stayed in Amsterdam for several days. I found this great WWII walking tour. The gentleman, Peter, who led the walk was very interesting. It was a very rainy day, go figure, and my husband and I were the only two on the walk.

On another very rainy day (again, go figure) husband and I took this bike ride. This company does both small group and private rides. The bikes were in excellent shape and they provided waterproof ponchos. (By the way, I'm mid 50's and husband is mid 60's, age not a factor for this ride.)This was so much fun, that I have scheduled a bike ride while in Rome.

I hope you enjoy the tour, happy trails.

Posted by
9692 posts

Debra, thanks for the link. That looks like a wonderful walking tour!

Posted by
4984 posts

Howdy, Neighbor! We took this tour a couple of years ago, and had a wonderful time. We did stay on an extra three full days in Amsterdam, and could have stayed longer. I don't know what your interests are, (other than gardens), but may I suggest you visit NEMO, the science museum? It's aimed at children, but we spent a great afternoon there, until they finally ran us out. (We weren't misbehaving; they were closing.) Seeing the East Indiaman ship at the Maritime Museum was also a treat. You will not run out of things to do in Amsterdam.

Posted by
902 posts

I was in madurodam that summer I turned four. Have a pic of me standing by one of the buildings. I do want to go there and Rotterdam so I will look in to a day trip back to the hague.