Hello everyone and welcome to another guest post here on the blog while we drive miles and miles of the Pacific North West. This time I am bringing you a post from Ruth of It’s Just a Phase. Ruth is a former journalist turned parenting blogger based in Kildare. She is mum to Aidan and Sarah, and started blogging to feed her love for writing after leaving her journalism role to find a happier work/life balance. She writes about all things parenting including family travel, recipes and just the sheer madness of it all. Over to you, Ruth.
Summer 2017: A family holiday to The Netherlands
Did you miss us? We were off swanning around The Netherlands for the last while and now I have a serious case of the post holiday blues.
So when you hear about someone heading off to Holland on their holliers, a lot of people automatically think Amsterdam, tulips, Anne Frank’s gaff, canals, sex shows and stuff you smoke that you’re not allowed smoke here! Well, we saw none of that. I’m here to tell you that The Netherlands is one seriously great destination for a family holiday.
We had an amazing week that was packed with activity for the kids and chilled out evenings for myself and himself. So, let me fill you in.
We flew from Dublin to Eindhoven with Ryanair, which is in the North Brabant province. We booked well in advance and flew from a Tuesday to Tuesday to keep costs down. In fact the flight came in just over €300, which is pretty good for two adults and two children.
We hired a car for the week and stayed in an Airbnb property we rented. The house was actually in Belgium, just two kilometres over the border and it was huge. It had four big bedrooms, a massive living room, kitchen, utility and had things like a tree house, table tennis and a hammock to entertain the kids. Having been holed up in a tiny wooden house for a week in Spain last year, the house was a breath of fresh air. Both kids had their own bedroom, the garden was great and with electric gates, it was totally safe for Aidan (four) and Sarah (two).
The Netherlands, though densely populated, is a small country so you’re not too far away from any of the big cities really. We were less than an hour from Rotterdam and even closer to Antwerp and Brugge. However we stayed ‘local’ and never really ventured anywhere more than 45 minutes from our rental property.
Breda, a stunning city nearby, was our first port of call. Pre-children myself and himself visited this small city for the annual ginger festival and we totally fell in love with the charm of the place. It’s cobbled streets, big squares and beautiful architecture.
First up we visited a reptile house, where himself got to hold a snake, much to Aidan’s delight! We visited the city’s big park and playground, fed the ducks, walked cobbled streets through market stalls and sat out on the big square with a coffee and ice-cream for the kids. I even managed to sneak off and find some bargains in the sales!
One of the highlights of the week was our trip to the Efteling Theme Park, which I can only describe as a Dutch Disneyland. It was amazing. It was huge. It was the stuff of dreams for the kids and the adults had a ball too. Aidan went on a rollercoaster, we watched the most amazing 3D nature short film, went to a land of fairy tales, sat on toadstools, went on boats, ghost trains and were serenaded over our evening dinner. We were there all day and only got to see half of it. It’s massive. The entrance fee is pricey but it’s genuinely worth it. Efteling alone would make me want to return again next summer. It really is that good.
Another super experience was the Beekse Bergen Safari Park. We got to drive our hire car through the park. The kids were amazed to see giraffe, zebra and rhinos just rambling past the car. After the drive though we had access to the park for the rest of the day, it’s essentially like a zoo but the animals have much more space. There were obstacle courses and playgrounds dotted everywhere and we even had our lunch over looking the baboon enclosure. Sarah couldn’t quite believe they had their pink bums on show! My one tip if you are visiting the safari park is, bring your own lunch. The fare on offer inside is poor to say the least. If you’re in to deep fried frozen food you’ll be fine but if not a picnic is your best option.
Back in Belgium and just minutes from our house, we stumbled across a local amenity called De Mosten, run by local government. It was out of this world. There was a man made beach, two huge playgrounds, a restaurant, big Connect Four games all over, slides in the water, benches galore, green space, volleyball courts, tennis courts and basketball courts. It was so relaxing. The kids had so much to do they didn’t know what way to turn, and myself and himself got to do a lot of relaxing too.
In 2013, a Unicef report rated Dutch children the happiest in the world. According to researchers, Dutch kids are ahead of their peers in childhood well-being when compared with 29 of the world’s richest industrialised countries and I can really see why. There’s so much for kids to do. Aidan and Sarah were greeted with a smile and a pat on the head everywhere they went. The locals seem to have the work/life balance down to a tee. People are so friendly and so relaxed. It made for a dream holiday. If I were to pick one negative, I’d say eating out is expensive, the same as Ireland, if not a bit more. But a few drinks are cheap. Leffe, my favourite beer, is only €1 a bottle and wine is dirt cheap too.
I can safely say that I will never again do the package holiday thing with the kids. I just want to explore more of what the Netherlands has to offer. I would highly recommend it as a family holiday destination.
If you’d like to see my full review of our holiday head on over to It’s Just a Phase or feel free to get in touch if you have any queries. I’d be happy to help if I can.
Thank you so much to Ruth for sharing with us her best holiday with her kids so far. I don’t know about you, but after that glowing review the Netherlands has just winged it’s way onto my must-visit list of destinations.