I recently returned from a six night trip to Belgium and Amsterdam. We (my sister and my niece) stayed in Ghent for two nights and made a day trip to Bruges and Ostend. We then took a train to Amsterdam where we stayed on a houseboat for four nights.
There were several inspirations for this trip including fond memories of a brief business trip to Amsterdam back in 1992, the movie Bruges, and a conversation with a former coworker who spent three weeks in the Low Countries with his fiancee. I had been mentally "planning" such a trip for a long time, and I decided that it would make a nice high school graduation present for my niece. Her mother decided to tag along. I have shared many domestic and international travel adventures with both of them, and we are still on speaking terms.
My preparation for this trip was influenced by many informative posts on this website, and I’m writing this report with the hope that it might contain useful information for someone else who is contemplating a visit to these wonderful places.
Our flight reservations were open jaw into Brussels and out of Amsterdam via Icelandair. We were able to get an impressively low fare for the Minneapolis to Brussels leg of the trip that had an additional fee for checking a bag. Icelandair is now prominently displaying their size and weight restrictions for carry-on bags, so this trip was a test of our light packing capabilities. The return fare from Amsterdam included one checked bag for each of us, so I packed a spare bag for souvenirs.
Our travel model is to plan for one site/activity each day, and keep a list of “nice to do” items if we have additional time and energy. I made a list of potential sites and activities and submitted it to my niece and sister for their input. They selected the Anne Frank House and the Van Gogh Museum. and generously left everything else up to me.
I struggled with the number of nights to split between Belgium and Amsterdam, and I vacillated about our home base in Belgium (Bruges, Ghent or Antwerp). It was difficult to find a comfortable room for three adults and there were limited options available in Amsterdam with a 10-week lead time. So I ended up reserving a houseboat in Amsterdam (limit 4 nights) and a triple room in Ghent (for the remaining 2 nights). We were very pleased with both locations.
I made timed reservations for the Van Gogh Museum and the Anne Frank House (thanks to the RS forum I knew to keep trying when tickets became available), and I filled in the remainder of our itinerary with a day trip in Belgium and a walking tour in Amsterdam.
And then it was time to go.