The Netherlands, oftentimes called Holland, brings to mind windmills, wooden shoes and tulips. Yet families that venture to this flat, low-lying land in search of these images are likely to come away disappointed. Wind turbines outnumber windmills. The Dutch rarely wear clogs. Tulips bloom but one month a year. That said, the Netherlands has much to offer both adults and children. And it's the personal discoveries - slanting houses of Amsterdam, curious sightings of cyclists, Rembrandt's use of light and dark, van Gogh's short brushstrokes, cobblestone streets of Haarlam, medieval heart of Maastricht, Delft pottery, dune-studded shoreline, offshore islands, cycling flat roads, skating on frozen canals, and elaborate system of polders and dykes - which make any visit here memorable.
The Netherlands is easy to reach by road, rail, sea and air. Long distance bus companies connect fourteen Dutch cities with more than 500 destinations in Europe and Morocco. The Netherlands has high-speed train links to Germany, Belgium and France and overnight connections to much of Europe. Ferry companies operate regular sailings between the Netherlands and the UK and France. The Netherlands has five airports with passenger service - Amsterdam Schiphol, Rotterdam, The Hague, Groningen Eelde, Eindhoven and Maastricht Aachen. Schiphol Airport, located 14km from Amsterdam, is the country's main airport and third busiest in Europe. Moreover, low cost airlines have made it cheap and easy to fly to the Netherlands from many points in Europe. Family Travel Tips: European airfare consolidators, such as Momondo, are oftentimes more competitive than their American-based competitors for flights within Europe. Flying can be cheaper than the train. Schiphol Airport is connected by rail to several Dutch cities including Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Utrecht and The Hague.
When in Holland do as the Dutch. Walk, bike and take public transportation. Train travel is efficient and affordable and the well-developed rail service links cities of all sizes. Buses and trams crisscross Dutch cities. The Netherlands is so equipped for cycling that not only do most roads have a cycle path, bike lanes have their own set of traffic lights and, in some places, their own roundabouts. What's more, the terrain is flat, long distance routes are well-signed, and bicycles are permitted on trains during off-peak hours. Family Travel Tips: Intercity bus service is limited. The Netherlands has a dense road network but motorways are heavily trafficked.
A valid national identity card is required for citizens of the 25 European countries - EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Switzerland and Norway - that are party to the Schengen agreement. A passport, valid for at least 3 months beyond the period of stay, is required for all other travelers. A visa is not required for stays in the Schengen area of up to 90 days in a 6 month period for citizens of Australia, Canada, and U.S. The 90 day period begins when entering the first country in the Schengen area.
The climate of the Netherlands is maritime temperate. The weather is drab, damp, mild and breezy. It rains on average 217 days a year. It's consistently humid. Summers are cool; winters are moderate. It's windy year around. The warmest months are July and August with an average temperature of 17° C or 62° F. The coldest months are January and February with an average temperature of 3° C or 37° F. The driest month is March. July and August are the wettest but boast the most days of sun. The peak tourist season is April through August. Spring is best for flowers. Summer is chock-a-block with events. Pack for all seasons in summer and plan to dress in layers whether traveling in June or January.
While there are no specific health risks or vaccinations required for family travel to the Netherlands, all travelers should be up-to-date on routine immunizations prior to traveling abroad and travel insurance is a smart thing to have. Petty theft - pick pocketing and purse snatching - is commonplace in central Amsterdam. Take sensible precautions and be particularly aware on trains, trams and buses. Stow cameras after use. Safeguard valuables including passports and money. Keep a firm grip on daypacks and handbags. Better yet, hold your daypack where you can see it and wear your purse over your head so that the strap crosses your chest.
The Netherlands is a very child centric society and tops the UN league table for child well-being. Kids are welcome in all but formal restaurants and a select few boutique hotels. Most restaurants have high chairs and many have children's menus. Most museums have children's programs and many offer free admission for kids.
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