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Pre-Tour 21 day BOE

It's official, we are off of the waitlist and officially May 2022 tour members. This is our first RS tour AND our first time in Europe, we are beyond thrilled to celebrate our 25th on the road! I have been reading all of the FAQ's and tips with glee and cannot wait to go. Many have suggested arriving a few days early to have time to shake off the jet lag. We are thinking of flying into a different city/area for the pre-tour acclimation. We then would take the train to Haarlem the day of the tour. I would love suggestions on where you would spend this pre-time (2 days), what are your thoughts on Brussels? What are your suggestions on what to see there? Please offer any suggestions that you think may be useful to us. Thanks!

Thank you, everyone! We have decided to stay in Amsterdam and check out sites there.

Posted by
78 posts

Looks like you only have one free afternoon in Amsterdam. Decide if there is more there you want to see and stay there. You will be pretty tired after flight and getting to hotel, so that first day after international flight is a bit rough. Bruge or Brussels would be nice as well as more in-depth Amsterdam.

Posted by
759 posts

You have very little time on the tour in Amsterdam-I'd go there. It is your first time in Europe, I understand wanting to see everything but do not fall into that trap. The RS 21 day is a fantastic introduction to Europe; but it is just an introduction. You need to stop and smell the roses so to speak.

Posted by
3526 posts

Definitely stay in Amsterdam. It is a quick and easy train ride to Haarlem. There is so much to see in Amsterdam that you will have no problem filling up a few days. I’ve been twice, my first trip was one week, my second, years later, was 9 days. One of my favorite cities, and also my first trip to Europe.

Posted by
6931 posts

Congratulations, 25th anniversary, 1st time in Europe, and confirmed off the waitlist - timing is everything.

So another thought, see a bit more of the Netherlands. How early are you arriving - more than one day? Visit Utrecht and/or Rotterdam, then catch train to Haarlem for the tour. You’ll have an incredible time in any event!

Posted by
2680 posts

If you fly into Brussels, you could take a direct train from the airport to Brugge (1h 30m). You’ll then need to take a train to Haarlem that requires two connections, one in Bruxelles Midi (Brussels) and Amsterdam Centraal taking a total of 4h 45m.

Posted by
10342 posts

Amsterdam for sure. We spent a week there on our first trip to The Netherlands, so much to see and enjoy.
Brussels is my least favorite city in Europe except the the mussels!

Posted by
3107 posts

I wouldn't overcomplicate things. Brussels has its charms, but it doesn't really hold a candle to Amsterdam for the first time visitor - IMHO. On this tour, you have very little time in Amsterdam. The itinerary suggests that you choose between the Anne Frank House or the Van Gogh Museum on your free afternoon. There is so much more to see in Amsterdam!

We really loved The Hermitage Amsterdam.

Posted by
2053 posts

Another vote for Amsterdam. Be sure to check the websites for the sites/museums you plan to visit, many require advance tickets. We were there a few years ago and several people just showed up at the Anne Frank House, hoping to pop in. They were denied entry (we purchased tickets months in advance). There were also timed tickets for the Van Gogh Museum. Not sure how things will be handled post-Covid but do some research. Great city, lots to see.

Posted by
6103 posts

Congratulations! We took this tour (for the second time) to celebrate our 50th a few years ago.

I'm going to buck the trend here, and suggest you stay in Haarlem. It's a great place to visit, with wonderful museums, good restaurants, good pubs, and there's always something going on in the main square. The last time we were there we arrived three + days early, and never ran out of things to do. The Franz Hals museum, Teyler's Museum (wonderful science and art), meeting some Forum friends for an evening in a brewpub... And one of the things we did was make a day trip to Amsterdam, to see a couple of things we knew the tour wasn't visiting.

And plenty of chance to rest up from the flight, recover from jet lag (it hits me hard,) and have a stress-free transition should you choose to stay in a hotel other than the tour hotel.

Posted by
495 posts

I'm going to agree with Jane and suggest staying in Haarlem in the RS hotel. You can explore Haarlem and it's easy to get into Amsterdam by train.

Posted by
980 posts

Another vote for Amsterdam. One of my favorite cities. Its got the beauty of the canals, like Venice, but the attractions of a medium-sized city. With only 2 pre-tour days you'll find plenty to do in Amsterdam. Stroll around, visit a museum or two that the tour doesn't, try a raw herring (they actually are pretty good!), do a Mike's bike tour, have a beer in a square such as Leidseplein and people-watch, etc.

One comment on time. It sounds like you are planning on arriving 2 days ahead of the tour, but this isn't likely to be 2 full days of tourism. Your flight arrives, you need to get from the airport to your hotel, register and drop your luggage. Depending on when your flight arrives it may be the afternoon or later when you are actually ready to begin sightseeing your arrival day. And you're likely to feel jetlag, especially if coming from the West coast. If you have the flexibility I'd suggest adding on another pre-arrival day.

An extra day or two in addition to what you've planned lets you do a day trip. Amsterdam is a transit hub with trains and buses all over the country. The Hague and Delft as a daytrip by train & tram is described in the RS book. Or you could visit other delightful towns such as Leiden, Edam, etc.

Posted by
731 posts

You are going to LOVE this tour! It was our first "taste" of Europe and needless to say, it wasn't our last meal :)

We flew in 2 days prior to the start of the tour and stayed in a 17th century, rickety, boutique hotel overlooking one of the canals. I wish I could remember the name of the place. Of course, now it may not even be owned by the same lovely mother and son! We also stayed 2 nights after the tour in a different hotel but fairly close to our Paris tour hotel. I honestly wish we would have stayed in the tour hotel, it was much nicer than the one I chose! You may want to book Eiffel Tower tickets for a night after the tour is over so you don't miss any group activities.

Posted by
731 posts

And I noticed I didn't mention the old hotel was in Amsterdam. We loved Amsterdam and I didn't feel like we spent enough time there.

Posted by
13237 posts

My vote is with Jane and Barbara. Stay the 2 nights (or is it 3 nights?) in Haarlem. Do an easy day trip to Amsterdam OR if you are early May do a day trip to Keukenhof Gardens if it’s still open. Pre-Covid I think there was a special bus from Haarlem to nearby Keukenhof. There is a ton to see in Amsterdam but Haarlem is worth a day as well. I did not give myself a day there and should have!

Another reason in addition is that this tour is fabulous BUT can be quite tiring. You’ve got 2 1-night hotel stays and the rest 2-night stays. Give yourselves a break and don’t add additional hotel changes. Add time in Paris at the end, though!!

Posted by
4362 posts

Listen to Jane as she is spot on. That is exactly what I'd do to avoid having to change hotels unnecessarily.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you everyone! We are also doing our first RS tour and this same trip (although in the fall) so appreciate everyone's advice about when to arrive and what to do pre-tour.

Posted by
8203 posts

@barbmae, you might want to do a separate thread for your question. But I will note that they will send you a guidebook and pre-tour info so you can look at things you might want to see that are not on the tour. Also, assuming you're coming from N America, its always a good idea to come a day early to help deal with jet lag.