Hey all! I’m Sam Kieft, wife of Zach Kieft. When we first met I had never traveled, that was more of a Zach thing. So once we began to travel together, I began to help plan for those trips. Whenever it’s been awhile since we’ve traveled last I usually feel overwhelmed, stressed, and brain dead just trying to plan out the perfect trip. I know that those feelings can begin to make us want to just give up or make an excuse to try it for a different time. Luckily I have Zach with me to help push me forward and remind me that once we are actually on the trip, I won’t even be able to notice if it’s working out perfectly or not. So all that planning we do ahead of time is super important but it doesn’t have to be such a dwelling feeling.
For those that are beginning to travel for the first time and just want to make sure they aren’t forgetting anything, I wanted to make a blog series to help you plan for everything you’ll need to have a perfect trip!
So let’s get to it – let’s plan this trip to Amsterdam together!
The best thing to remember is all you really need at the end of the day is how to get there, how are you getting home, where are you sleeping at night, and how do you want to get from place to place? So once you have your flights, hotel, and rental car you’re pretty much 80% done!
1. Get Your Passport
Going international means that you’ll need a passport. Depending on the country, you could also need specific shots or visas to visit. For Amsterdam you just need a passport. It can take up to two months during high volume seasons so plan accordingly.
Follow the steps outlined here
2. Choose Your Dates
Sometimes this is easiest to do while booking your flight if you don’t have specific dates that you have to be there. Something that we take into consideration is the price of flights. Prior to doing a google search, open up a private browsing window – this stops companies from being able to save your search which can lead to them upping the price when you later search the same trip.
Another thing to consider if there are any local events that you want to see in that country, that can help you decide which month to go. Examples: Kings Day in Amsterdam; St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland.
If you google “flights from BLANK to Amsterdam” google will show you flight results that look like this:
Once you hit on SHOW FLIGHTS, it’ll load it to a full page. At that point, click on the departure date & it’ll show you prices per day:
This is how we usually pick our dates. It’s showing you the cheapest option you’ll have for the round trip. Sometimes that lowest price is for a longer duration flight so prices will go up from there, but it can also show you cheaper date trends.
Google is also awesome because they’ll always have a price graph that tells you if the dates prices are normal or not for that time of year:
From all of this, you should be able to choose the dates that you want
3. Plane Tickets
Plane tickets are straightforward once you choose what company you want. What I’ll share from our experience is we usually use Delta for our international flights along with KLM and British Airways. We have used American but they do get delayed sometimes while with Delta, we’ve never experienced that. I feel that Delta also does more to take care of their customers. We’ve recently done another international flight (summer 2021) and went thru American and they didn’t have much food to choose from. On our flight back home, they actually had no food at all, not even to purchase. So we did a 11 hour flight with no food – not fun.
What to expect for an international flight?
International flights come with a lot of extras that domestic flights don’t! They’ll usually pass out headphones, eye cover; Delta passes out a sheet that can be used for a blanket, and a little pillow!
When booking your flight, they’ll ask you for meal dietary restrictions because international flights will usually come with 1-2 meals. If they don’t ask for dietary restrictions during booking, they’ll ask you while handing out the food on the flight “chicken, beef, or vegetarian?”
They also have unlimited flight snacks that you can ask for, as well as beverages (Delta did thru our experience).
All the international flights that we’ve been on always come with tv’s on the back of each chair so you can watch shows, movies, or play games through the tablet during your whole flight! Due to covid, I’d ensure to pack a pair of headphones with the original headphone jack output because some companies have stopped passing them out.
4. Choose Your Hotel
Amsterdam has lots of hotels to choose from as well as different parts of Amsterdam that you may want to consider while booking. You can stay closer to the airport if you are there for a short trip, or you could stay more central near Amsterdam Central which is their main train station as well as a downtown area with shops, restaurants, and near a beautiful library. Or you could stay closer to Rembrandtplein aka Rembrandt Square which is one of our favorite areas of town. It has a beautiful Starbucks, an amazing old dutch brewery with some great foods, and a good/clean/safe nighttime vibe that we seemed to also want to go back to.
$ Hotel City Garden Amsterdam
Close to Vondelpark (beloved large park by locals).
Close to Amsterdam Central.
Around $180/night. Close to Anne Frank’s House.
It’s close to the Amsterdam Central area of town.
What I love about this place is that you’ll be staying in a very genuine Dutch building. Looks so cute!
You can also add on breakfast to your room when booking to get breakfast included.
Around $200/night. Right next to the airport or schipol (dutch word).
You can pay extra to have breakfast included.
Around $160/night. Gorgous building!
Closer to Rembrandtplein area.
You can pay more for breakfast to be included.
Around $250/night. Close to Amsterdam Central.
You can pay extra to have breakfast included.
Gorgeous, older castle looking hotel!
Also has a swimming pool and a good fitness center.
Around $300/night. Close to Amsterdam Central.
It’s an all inclusive boutique hotel, beautiful building, and includes breakfast.
Amsterdam is one of those cities where hotels aren’t that expensive compared to resort areas like Amalfi coast. You can get really beautiful hotels in Amsterdam for around $200-300/night.
Amsterdam has a MASSIVE bike culture that I’m sure you’ve already heard about. If not, you’ll see it when you’re there. That’s how locals get around is usually thru biking. Their public transportation is great though and that’s how we get around when we visit.
They have actual trains that can take you to other nearby countries like Belgium which are more long distance trains. They also have local trains called Trams (in Portland it’s similar to our Streetcar). You can purchase your tickets at the airport prior to leaving so you have it ready. When we visited (prior to covid) you could purchase them onboard if needed with a worker. Most trams have a desk clerk that you can purchase tickets from. When boarding and de-boarding Trams you will scan your ticket on their card readers; you’ll see locals do it and will be able to catch on quickly 🙂
Metros are newer to Amsterdam and are equivalent to our subways. Their ticketing is the same as most European countries – there will be kiosks at each boarding area where you can purchase the ticket prior to your train coming.
Iamsterdam is a great resource for more information not only on transportation but anything Amsterdam related. As far as knowing what transportation to use, just utilize your maps app. Plug in your hotel and where you want to go and it’ll tell you which trams/metros will be good for that trip.
6. COVID Protocols
COVID is consistently changing the game of travel. When we went international in summer 2021, the main changes we saw was that we needed a rapid PCR COVID test prior to all flights that we needed to upload with our pre-boarding info.
There was also more paper work during the pre-boarding process. Definitely ensure that you google for restrictions or rules for Amsterdam and other places you’re traveling to. Sometimes countries have questionnaires that you need to fill out that will be separate from your flight info that you need. Utilize this link and your own search results for up to date info for Amsterdam. Click here for a good resource to begin with.
7. What To Pack
Amsterdam is known for its rain so definitely pack a rain coat. With rain comes colder weather so pack accordingly. We went in September and had to buy big jackets due to how cold it was. Definitely check your weather app prior to your trip to plan accordingly but you cannot go wrong with a rain jacket.
As far as what locals wear – Amsterdam women are more natural there than America. It’s refreshing to look around and see that most women don’t wear make up nor dye their hair. They mainly rock a natural beauty style out there. Lots of jeans, t-shirts, and rain jackets; you will see lots of trench coats in case you want to pack yours 🙂
8. What’s The Culture Like?
Amsterdam is like lots of other cities in the sense that people keep to themselves. They’re super helpful though if you have questions especially if it’s a public transport worker. Everyone that we’ve asked help from were nice and patient. You will also easily be able to get around with just English. On public transit the speaker will mainly be talking in Dutch so have your maps app going to ensure you get your right exits but the locals will all for the most part know English.
& just like lots of countries, they do appreciate it when travels try to speak their language.
Some helpful words to learn:
Hoi (pronounced hoy) is hi
Doei (pronounced dooey) is bye
Dankje wel (pronounced dank ya vel) is thank you
Alsjeblieft (pronounced alls yuh bleef) is please
Spreekt engels (pronounced spraaked angels g sound from guts) is do you speak English
BONUS: Where Else To Visit Nearby
Utrecht is like a smaller, cheaper Amsterdam. If you’re falling in love with Amsterdam and want to move there but can’t afford it, check out Utrecht!
There’s also Rotterdam which is a fairytale looking town with lots of canals and beautiful homes.
Amsterdam is close to our hearts. It’s where my hubby was born and raised till their family moved to America. His family all speaks Dutch when together and it’s a language that I’ve been learning since we’ve been together. Please reach out if you have any further curiosities about Amsterdam, its culture, or language. 🙂
I hope you have a great trip!!