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Help planning BeNeLux trip :)

Help planning BeNeLux trip :)

Old Jan 30, 19, 5:49 pm
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Help planning BeNeLux trip :)

Hello,

Want to turn to the FlyerTalk Family to help planning our next trip, this one is new for us as we have never traveled intercontinental with our 18 month old. We are arriving in AMS, departing from BRU and we will have 12 days. Plan is to start off in Amsterdam (base) and travel to Rotterdam and Hague as day trip. Then go to Brussels as base and go to Gent, Brugge, Antwerp, Maastricht, and Luxembourg day trips. Will only have a car for 2 days probably (to see Lux and country side).

Would love advise! Is a train the best method of transportation in the region? Do you recommend a euro pass for the time we are there? Is there a better base than Brussels? Anything we should know about driving in that region?

Thank you all !
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Old Jan 31, 19, 3:07 am
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For two people (the 18 month old rides free), trains are usually cheaper than rental car plus fuel; add in parking (especially in NL) and driving gets expensive fast.

Domestic train tickets in all three countries are fixed-price, though Belgian tickets are cheaper on weekends there's never a discount for advance purchase. Crossing the border, advance purchase gets you a discount (exception: Belgium to Maastricht on Belgian trains is a fixed--though quite high IMO--price). From Amsterdam to Brussels you can take Thalys or the "regular" IC train. Thalys is faster, the IC is cheaper.

You can look up the 'regular' prices on ns.nl and nmbs.be and compare, but the Eurail Benelux pass is bats... insanely expensive. Brussels to Maastricht is €39 r/t, €22 on the weekend. Destinations within Belgium are cheaper, especially on weekends and you can use a Belgian "pass" to get ten single rides anywhere in the country for €83.

What I might do is travel by train up until the end of the trip, then rent a car in Brussels, drive to Luxembourg and spend a night or two there, then drop the car back off in Brussels and fly home. There's a lot of pretty countryside and cool towns between Brussels and Luxembourg. Also, if you want to visit Bastogne--sort of on the way--although it's theoretically possible to get there on transit, driving is far better.
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Last edited by der_saeufer; Jan 31, 19 at 8:14 am Reason: fixed train fares for Feb '19 fare change
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Old Jan 31, 19, 6:46 am
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This is a good site to find all kind of information re train travel: https://www.seat61.com/Europe-train-tickets.htm
Trains are easiest the best way to go around both The Netherlands and Belgium, efficient and get you right into the center of cities.

Don't miss out on a daytrip to Utrecht when you are in The Netherlands!

As for a base in Belgium you could consider Antwerp over Brussels.
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Old Jan 31, 19, 7:02 am
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I would echo train over car whenever possible, and don't get the pass, it will be too expensive.

I actually think Brussels makes a good base for seeing Ghent and Bruges, or alternately stay in Ghent. But I think I'd consider renting a car for Luxembourg, and staying one night there before driving back. As others have said, it's a nice drive, and you may want to make stops and take your time along the way.
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Old Jan 31, 19, 8:53 am
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That was kind-of the plan, rent a car in Brussels for 1 day, drive to Lux, stay a night and drop the car off the following day before flying home. Do you recommend to staying in Gent vs Brussels? Also, is there no kind of pass for trains covering the area?

Lastly, any other cities you would add or omit?

Thanks!
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Old Jan 31, 19, 9:08 am
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Based on what I'm reading, Rotterdam isn't really worth going if we have only 12 days. Do you guys recommend Utrecht instead? or should we just spend more time in Amsterdam before going to Brussels/Ghent/Antwerp/Maastrich? We have 12 days with a baby. Want a realistic itinerary, but we travel pretty "quickly"

If we have 12 days... I was thinking 5 days in AMS (2-3 in AMS, 1 day in Hague, 1 day in Utrecht). Then 5 days in Ghent base (2 in Brussels, 1 in Maastricht, 1 in Brugge, 1 in Antwerp). 1 day in Luxembourg.

Would you do less days in AMS and more in Ghent/Brussels/Antwerp? Is 2 days in Amsterdam enough or we need 3? Extra day in AMS vs Utrecht?

Need guidance! thank you all!

Last edited by TravelDoorsOut; Jan 31, 19 at 9:58 am
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Old Jan 31, 19, 12:01 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelDoorsOut View Post
That was kind-of the plan, rent a car in Brussels for 1 day, drive to Lux, stay a night and drop the car off the following day before flying home. Do you recommend to staying in Gent vs Brussels? Also, is there no kind of pass for trains covering the area?

Lastly, any other cities you would add or omit?

Thanks!
I suggested Ghent simply because it's more central to the places you want to visit in Belgium. Just an option if you want something different than Brussels. The train rides are pretty quick and easy between your Belgian destinations.

Personally, I would omit Rotterdam. I would add Haarlem, which can easily be done for half a day while you're in Amsterdam. You could also combine Delft with The Hague.

Originally Posted by TravelDoorsOut View Post
Based on what I'm reading, Rotterdam isn't really worth going if we have only 12 days. Do you guys recommend Utrecht instead? or should we just spend more time in Amsterdam before going to Brussels/Ghent/Antwerp/Maastrich? We have 12 days with a baby. Want a realistic itinerary, but we travel pretty "quickly"

If we have 12 days... I was thinking 5 days in AMS (2-3 in AMS, 1 day in Hague, 1 day in Utrecht). Then 5 days in Ghent base (2 in Brussels, 1 in Maastricht, 1 in Brugge, 1 in Antwerp). 1 day in Luxembourg.

Would you do less days in AMS and more in Ghent/Brussels/Antwerp? Is 2 days in Amsterdam enough or we need 3? Extra day in AMS vs Utrecht?

Need guidance! thank you all!
It depends on what you want to see and do in each location. If you are interested in Amsterdam's excellent art museums and want to visit Haarlem too, you'll need at least 3 days in AMS (as one example). For me, there's not much I'd want to see in Brussels, but I do enjoy the food and beer there (Ghent is similar for me). I haven't been to a couple of the cities on your list so can't really critique your full itinerary. I'm sure someone else can help with that.
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Old Jan 31, 19, 3:38 pm
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Which time of the year you are travelling? If it is any of the warmer months, how about making a stop in some seaside resort? Apologies that I cannot name any specific place outright (except perhaps Texel, but that island might be bit off from the planned route of yours), but since you have a kid in tow, I would assume that most young children might value a sand beach more than for example rooms full of works of Dutch masters.
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Old Jan 31, 19, 4:36 pm
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Originally Posted by Hezu View Post
Which time of the year you are travelling? If it is any of the warmer months, how about making a stop in some seaside resort? Apologies that I cannot name any specific place outright (except perhaps Texel, but that island might be bit off from the planned route of yours), but since you have a kid in tow, I would assume that most young children might value a sand beach more than for example rooms full of works of Dutch masters.
We are traveling in mid-march, so doubt the seaside resorts would be a good idea. My 18 month old just wants to be on the move, regardless of where he is!
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Old Jan 31, 19, 5:30 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelDoorsOut View Post
That was kind-of the plan, rent a car in Brussels for 1 day, drive to Lux, stay a night and drop the car off the following day before flying home. Do you recommend to staying in Gent vs Brussels? Also, is there no kind of pass for trains covering the area?
There's no day or multi-day pass on the Belgian rail system (other than for commuters). There is a "rail pass", which is the 10-ride card for 83 I mentioned before; since it's a flat-rate it's more of a deal for longer distances--but only if you'll actually use all ten rides. For reference, Ghent to Antwerp is about 10 each way for regular tickets, so the trains are not particularly expensive here. On the other side of the border, tickets are more expensive but still not bad--Amsterdam to The Hague is 12.20 each way (Dutch day passes start at 41).

Originally Posted by TravelDoorsOut View Post
Based on what I'm reading, Rotterdam isn't really worth going if we have only 12 days. Do you guys recommend Utrecht instead? or should we just spend more time in Amsterdam before going to Brussels/Ghent/Antwerp/Maastrich? We have 12 days with a baby. Want a realistic itinerary, but we travel pretty "quickly"

If we have 12 days... I was thinking 5 days in AMS (2-3 in AMS, 1 day in Hague, 1 day in Utrecht). Then 5 days in Ghent base (2 in Brussels, 1 in Maastricht, 1 in Brugge, 1 in Antwerp). 1 day in Luxembourg.

Would you do less days in AMS and more in Ghent/Brussels/Antwerp? Is 2 days in Amsterdam enough or we need 3? Extra day in AMS vs Utrecht?
Ghent is a good base--Antwerp and Brussels are each ~45 minutes away and Brugge is ~25. It's also a fun town to wander around. I agree with JBord on Brussels--we have some good food and beer here, but so do Ghent and especially Antwerp. Brussels has some interesting museums and the city center is worth seeing, but it's not the most interesting city around.
If you're staying in Ghent, Brugge is a great partial-day trip; it has a really well-preserved old center with some cool stuff to see (and a great brewery), but otherwise it's all "crap chocolate and beer" to quote one of the Flemish newspapers--I think that's a little harsh, but it is more of a theme park than a city. So after you've checked out the belfry and had some Brugse Zot, you can take one of the 3 or 4 trains per hour back to Ghent and find a restaurant that's not 95% British and American tourists.

That said, Brussels is a much bigger city and one that gets a lot more visitors, so you may end up deciding that the better hotel options make it worth staying here over Ghent.

I'll defer to others who've spent more time 'above the rivers' on Amsterdam/Utrecht/Haarlem.
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Old Jan 31, 19, 6:04 pm
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Originally Posted by der_saeufer View Post
There's no day or multi-day pass on the Belgian rail system (other than for commuters). There is a "rail pass", which is the 10-ride card for €83 I mentioned before; since it's a flat-rate it's more of a deal for longer distances--but only if you'll actually use all ten rides. For reference, Ghent to Antwerp is about €10 each way for regular tickets, so the trains are not particularly expensive here. On the other side of the border, tickets are more expensive but still not bad--Amsterdam to The Hague is €12.20 each way (Dutch day passes start at €41).



Ghent is a good base--Antwerp and Brussels are each ~45 minutes away and Brugge is ~25. It's also a fun town to wander around. I agree with JBord on Brussels--we have some good food and beer here, but so do Ghent and especially Antwerp. Brussels has some interesting museums and the city center is worth seeing, but it's not the most interesting city around.
If you're staying in Ghent, Brugge is a great partial-day trip; it has a really well-preserved old center with some cool stuff to see (and a great brewery), but otherwise it's all "crap chocolate and beer" to quote one of the Flemish newspapers--I think that's a little harsh, but it is more of a theme park than a city. So after you've checked out the belfry and had some Brugse Zot, you can take one of the 3 or 4 trains per hour back to Ghent and find a restaurant that's not 95% British and American tourists.

That said, Brussels is a much bigger city and one that gets a lot more visitors, so you may end up deciding that the better hotel options make it worth staying here over Ghent.

I'll defer to others who've spent more time 'above the rivers' on Amsterdam/Utrecht/Haarlem.
Thats all great info, thank you! Seems like Ghent is a great base, plus the hotels are nicer and cheaper when compared to Brussels. I always thought Brussels would be the "go-to/must-see" in Belgium, so I glad I asked my FT family!

Based on what youre saying, is it better to stay in Antwerp then, instead of Ghent?

Last edited by TravelDoorsOut; Jan 31, 19 at 6:16 pm
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Old Jan 31, 19, 7:25 pm
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Originally Posted by TravelDoorsOut View Post
Based on what youre saying, is it better to stay in Antwerp then, instead of Ghent?
Antwerp has a good train connection to Brussels, Zaventem Airport and Ghent/Bruges and is closer to Amsterdam. Given the limited time, you could do Ghent and Bruges in one day.
So making Antwerp you base could work out well. I would pay attention to booking a hotel close to the station as it will make your day trip easier, there are plenty of options. In Antwerp, you have the added benefit of gazing at Europe's most stunning train station daily!
Rent a car in Antwerp for the trip to Luxemburg. Alternatively, train to the airport, rent a car, drive to Lux, return car and fly out. Mind the traffic, it is one of the most congested areas on earth.
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Old Feb 1, 19, 5:26 am
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Antwerp or Ghent are the nicer places to stay. I'd say one day in Brussels is plenty.

Rotterdam is interesting if you like modern architecture as it was bombed to bits during the Second World War (Brussels was also damaged quite a bit). The Hague has the seat of government and is quite pretty but since it's March you won't visit the beach, I'd pick Rotterdam over The Hague or even do both in one day, Rotterdam is only 15 mins by train from The Hague (with Dutch trains do pay attention that you take the "intercity" trains. Don't take a "sprinter", they take forever as they stop everywhere). Also, the Hague has two main stations: The Hague Central is best for the center of town.
If you are interested in art The Hague does have the excellent Mauritshuis museum, which is small but has an amazing collection incuding Vermeer and Rembrandt.

Utrecht is only 30 mins by train from Amsterdam and really very pretty once you've walked through the shopping mall that connects the station to the medieval city center. One day is plenty. Haarlem is pretty as well.

Have a great trip!
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Old Feb 1, 19, 3:34 pm
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Seems like much better hotel options in Ghent... would it be worth staying in Antwerp despite poorer hotels (for booking with Chase UR, there aren't many good options).
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Old Feb 1, 19, 4:31 pm
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I spent a week in Belgium in December and divided my nights between two cities: the first four nights in the Marriott Brussels and then three at the Hilton Antwerp.

The Marriott was a great location and an easy walk to Central Station. I made day trips to Ghent and Brugge while I was based in Brussels. I added an additional night in Antwerp because from there, I was going on to Paris for another week and was going to need to get my laundry done. I'd found a cafe/laundromat that was very close to my hotel and spent my last afternoon getting my clothes clean while sipping hot chocolate.

I can't address the car vs train issue because as a non-driver, renting a car wasn't an option for me. But the trains were inexpensive and efficient. The only annoyance was that the ticket machines won't accept a signature credit card, only chip and PIN, so I had to wait on line to buy tickets. Otherwise, I found it very easy to get around with public transportation - but I didn't have a small child with me.
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