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23, Amsterdam, Alone, & First ever flight

23, Amsterdam, Alone, & First ever flight

Old Nov 7, 12, 6:49 pm
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23, Amsterdam, Alone, & First ever flight

I am a 23 year old lady taking her first major trip out of country and alone next week. This will also be my first flight. Not first international flight but first time ever being anywhere near a plane.

I'll be leaving out of the ATL Hartsfield International airport. I've heard that's it's very crazy and large and annoying. This is intimidating, yes, but nothing I'm stressing over. I'm mostly worried about finding my gate and what to expect and what to do.

I'm not concerned with security. I know the liquids rule, about laptops, etc etc etc....

If anything I think I will be able to make it through the ATL airport better than the Schipol airport. For some reason it scares me because I'll be out of my element. I always rely on a parent or older sister to do everything for me with travel.

Also, I am terrified of the plane ride, period. I am scared of heights and flying over the deep, cold, dark ocean with no one to talk to for me to be calm is freaking me out. I am sitting on the aisle seat so I can get up and down as I please without disturbing someone.

If you have any tips for me at all it would be greatly appreciated. Anything from me not having a panic attack on the plane to how to open the bathroom doors and lock them to where the best places to go in the Netherlands. I won't be just staying in Amsterdam. I will also be traveling to Eindhoven and visiting the theme park Efteling.
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Old Nov 7, 12, 8:54 pm
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Efteling? Interesting choice. Any particular reason?

Flights: if you can deal with ATL, Schiphol will be easy. Just follow your fellow passengers to baggage claim and immigration. Have your passport ready and any form you might have been given on the airplane already filled out. Because of your age you might be asked how much money you have and if you have proof of a way out of the country at the end of your stay (not sure if those questions are still asked, I got them at your age).

Now you should have some euros in hand before you leave home. Your local bank can likely get them for you. Before you go any further, stop a buy a soda or something to get coins and smaller bills for the ticket machine.

Next follow the signs (most have a icon of a train or may say "NS") to the escalators down to the train station, find a ticket machine (tickets at the window w/ live humans cost more) and buy your ticket for Amterdam Centraal if that city is your first stop.

It's when you walk out of the train station toward the Damrak that you need to be concerned, not at the airport. Here I would suggest talking a cab, making sure to get a metered cab. Once you adjust a bit, the buses and trams are easy to use (read your guidebook for ticket info) but not with jet lag and a suitcase and the chaos in front of Centraal Station.

The Netherlands is my favorite place to visit. Most Dutch people are courteous and helpful, but you may find your fellow tourists less so because the country's reputation of turning a blind eye to drug tourism. It exists, less than it used to, and encountering those folk is often unpleasant. Ask the advice of the locals at your hotel or the tourist offices on the easiest and safest ways to see what you wish to see.

The actual flight will not be as bad as you're psyching yourself into thinking. It's overnight, the cabin will be mostly dark, wear something comfortable and you may be able to sleep much of the flight.

Have fun!
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Old Nov 7, 12, 9:00 pm
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Best advice to avoid stress is to show up plenty early to the airport, say 2:30 early so you will have time if you happen to go the wrong direction. Then just find a cafe near your gate and sit with a coffee and a good book and relax. Nothing is more stressful than being late.

You will have a great time.
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Old Nov 7, 12, 10:45 pm
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I disagree with the Euros before you leave. It's much cheaper to get them via ATM when you get there. (Don't go to a money exchange counter at the airports, you won't get a good deal there). Go to Walmart and get their new Bluebird card. They have big displays you can't miss. This is a joint effort between Walmart and AMEX. It is a banking alternative. It's meant more for those who don't want to do business with a bank but it's great for international travelers since there is not FOREX (foreign currency) fee. You can put money on the card at any Walmart check-out so in an emergency a family member could "deposit" money for you. Most of your CCs will charge between 1 and 3% of the total purchase price. If you have time and the credit, try to get a Capital One Venture card which is a VISA CC with no FOREX fee. Your best exchange rate will be given to you by your CC company when you make a purchase.

You are probably on a overnight flight. Try to get some sleep. Once you are up in the air you likely won't feel any motion. Every transatlantic flight I've been on has been smooth as butter once we reach cruising altitude. If there is turbulence just remember that airplanes are built to also be gliders. A few feet of vertical movement won't do anything more than scare you. If you are really nervous you might have an OTC sleep aid on stand by (be sure it's legal in the Netherlands or be willing to throw it away when you get there).

If you feel like you want to be able to call back home, there are cheap cell phone options in Europe that we don't have here. When we were in Ireland we picked up a cell phone on a prepaid plan to call back to the US for like 8 cents per minute (our US cell carried wanted $2/min). You'll want to do some research on the cheapest to the US carrier (in country calls may actually be pricier than US calls).

You should buy a money belt (at Walmart/Target/etc) to put your money and extra CC in. Carry very little money and one CC max in your pocket/purse. If the hotel has a safe, that's a good place to put your passport and extra cash. But be sure to carry a photocopy of your passport in your money belt just in case you need it. Our CC technology here in the states stinks compared to what they have in Europe. Europeans are using a chip and PIN system (the card has a chip and it won't charge without your correct PIN -- no more signing and much less fraud). Some retailers may not be able to process signature style cards (we ran into only 1 our last trip). Be sure to ask before ordering at a restaurant, if you don't have the cash.

You are going to have a great time. Try not to let your fears overwhelm you (I know, what a stupid thing to say to a woman). Take lots of pictures. And remember when you go ... you go big! You are awesome!
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Old Nov 7, 12, 11:27 pm
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Originally Posted by It'sHip2B^2 View Post
I disagree with the Euros before you leave. It's much cheaper to get them via ATM when you get there.
In these circumstances, this is extremely bad advice.

Re-read the OP's post. She's young, a very inexperienced traveler and very nervous. She needs to have cash in hand to get out of the airport and to her hotel. Then she can worry about finding an ATM. Landing in her in a foreign country with zero local currency to save a few bucks on the exchange rate is pennywise, pound foolish, as the old saying goes. Getting $100-$200 at her local bank is a cheap insurance that she can get where she needs to go and eat for a day or two. Many restaurants in NL still do not take credit cards, and if you use a $US card to buy a local train ticket you'll pay several times the cost of the ticket in exchange fees.


Originally Posted by It'sHip2B^2 View Post
You should buy a money belt (at Walmart/Target/etc) to put your money and extra CC in.
. Money belt? Again, re-read the OP's post: 23 and female. Odds are excellent that a money belt would be screamingly obvious under her clothes. Maybe a bra pouch or one that fastens under the arm, but not a money belt.

I do agree that one should never carry all their cash and cards in the same place.

Last edited by CDTraveler; Nov 8, 12 at 9:13 am
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Old Nov 8, 12, 5:29 am
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You'll be fine - Schiphol is a very easy (though big) airport to navigate. I'm an American living in the Netherlands and pass through that airport very frequently. If you need any help/tips while you're over, feel free to PM me and I'll be glad to help if I can.
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Old Nov 8, 12, 1:37 pm
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Originally Posted by CDTraveler View Post
In these circumstances, this is extremely bad advice.

Re-read the OP's post. She's young, a very inexperienced traveler and very nervous. She needs to have cash in hand to get out of the airport and to her hotel. Then she can worry about finding an ATM. Landing in her in a foreign country with zero local currency to save a few bucks on the exchange rate is pennywise, pound foolish, as the old saying goes. Getting $100-$200 at her local bank is a cheap insurance that she can get where she needs to go and eat for a day or two. Many restaurants in NL still do not take credit cards, and if you use a $US card to buy a local train ticket you'll pay several times the cost of the ticket in exchange fees.


. Money belt? Again, re-read the OP's post: 23 and female. Odds are excellent that a money belt would be screamingly obvious under her clothes. Maybe a bra pouch or one that fastens under the arm, but not a money belt.

I do agree that one should never carry all their cash and cards in the same place.
I agree about getting the Euro's ahead of time for her first trip... but disagree about the money belt.

Screamingly obvious?

My mom is 5'1 and under 100lbs ... she's worn a money belt with 10K in it on multiple occasions, and you couldn't tell.
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Old Nov 8, 12, 3:38 pm
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Thanks for the tips guys!

I can't decide if I want to switch out the currency before I leave or do it when I get there. That's an issue I'm having also. I don't want to switch it out too soon and have nothing but Euros in the emergency that I have to get something. I'm also not worried about a money belt. It's a good idea but the jacket I am bringing with me has a completely separate pocket that you can only get to on the inside of the jacket.

I forgot to mention that I won't be staying at a hostel or hotel or anything like that. I'm actually going over to see my boyfriend and he's picking me up at the airport and will be taking me around and such. He's lived there his whole life so out of everyone he knows what's the best to go to and whatnot but sometimes even the locals don't realize what they have so it's not a bad thing to ask

I'm still nervous about flying. I think I'm more scared of getting lost and then ultimately being in the air.

As for Efteling I had been told about it and I read up on it and it just seemed like a really fun place to go to and not some "normal" touristy thing to do. I'm only going to be there for 10 days as I have school to return to.
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Old Nov 8, 12, 6:04 pm
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Cool

If you have someone meeting you, there is really no need to get Euros before you go, since the price will be bad here in the US. OP, I assume you know your boyfriend from real life, not just online....?

Your best price on getting Euros is to withdraw them from an ATM once you get there.

Thanks for the heads up on the no FOREX with the Bluebird Card, Hipster. Nice to know.
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Old Nov 8, 12, 10:01 pm
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Originally Posted by missydarlin View Post
I agree about getting the Euro's ahead of time for her first trip... but disagree about the money belt.

Screamingly obvious?

My mom is 5'1 and under 100lbs ... she's worn a money belt with 10K in it on multiple occasions, and you couldn't tell.
I have been on 3 colleges campuses in the past 2 days and the majority of the young ladies I saw wear their pants and skirts according to the prevailing fashion, which dictates the top edge of the pants/skirts reach to about the level of the hips, some 1 to 3 inches below the natural waist. Skin tight also seems to be in fashion, and despite the 40F weather, many young ladies top these pants with shirts that do not reach the tops of their pants.

If your mom can conceal a money belt under an outfit like that, more power to her!
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Old Nov 8, 12, 10:13 pm
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Originally Posted by iwearskirts View Post
Thanks for the tips guys!

I can't decide if I want to switch out the currency before I leave or do it when I get there. That's an issue I'm having also. I don't want to switch it out too soon and have nothing but Euros in the emergency that I have to get something.

(Snip)

As for Efteling I had been told about it and I read up on it and it just seemed like a really fun place to go to and not some "normal" touristy thing to do. I'm only going to be there for 10 days as I have school to return to.
Don't convert all your cash to Euros in advance. You may not need all the money you have with you, in which case you'd pay exchange fees twice. Plus, upon landing back in the US you may need cash before you get home.

Efteling: never had the chance to go there, but would be interested to know what you think of it. Please report back. You might also like Madurodam, near Den Haag, if it is open this time of year. Something your native Dutch boyfriend might not think of is how much fun bicycling can be for visitors.
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Old Nov 9, 12, 9:06 am
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Originally Posted by Doc Savage View Post
If you have someone meeting you, there is really no need to get Euros before you go, since the price will be bad here in the US. OP, I assume you know your boyfriend from real life, not just online....?

Your best price on getting Euros is to withdraw them from an ATM once you get there.

Thanks for the heads up on the no FOREX with the Bluebird Card, Hipster. Nice to know.

Like I said, it doesn't hurt to ask these things And yes know each other from real life. I was asked to do hair and makeup for a wedding and he just so happened to be the best man and well you can probably figured out what happened
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Old Nov 9, 12, 9:11 am
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Originally Posted by CDTraveler View Post
Efteling: never had the chance to go there, but would be interested to know what you think of it. Please report back. You might also like Madurodam, near Den Haag, if it is open this time of year. Something your native Dutch boyfriend might not think of is how much fun bicycling can be for visitors.
I'm pretty sure I'm going to love it! I shall report back as soon as I will be able to with pictures! There is also a GLOW festival going on in Eindhoven that I'll be attending the night of 17th which is also the day I will be going to Efteling. Oh he doesn't even bike! But I had told him I wanted to bike to De Laatste Kruimel one day to have a nice cup of coffee and something sweet to eat
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Old Nov 9, 12, 12:35 pm
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Not far from Efteling is s-Hertogenbosch, which was a good stop. They have canal tours that are interesting as the canals go underground and under the buildings and an good number of cafes etc. I enjoyed the Hieronymous Bosch "museum", since I like his paintings. There are actually not many/any of his original paintings there, but all his works have been reproduced and are there for viewing.
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Old Nov 9, 12, 2:30 pm
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First, welcome to Flyertalk!

Enjoy your first time on a plane & int'ly. You've gotten some good advice by others in the thread, and if the boyfriend is picking you up at the airport (hopefully w/ flowers in hand ) you should be fine.

A few generic tips:

* Make sure your debit card has a 4-digit PIN for ATM withdrawals. 6 digit ones aren't common overseas.

* Contact your credit card companies just before you go over to let them know you'll be in the Netherlands. That way your card won't get declined for 'activitity outside your normal spend pattern'. Most of the restaurants I go to in Amsterdam accept credit cards, but I don't know about other cities.

* At Schiphol & at least in Amsterdam, everyone speaks English very well.

* Schiphol has a lot of shops/restaurants/bars. It's actually one of my favorite airports.

* I normally get $$ from ATM when I'm at Schiphol, but I've got friends that get it from their local bank branch to have some Euros in hand when they land. If you've got an account w/ the bank there's usually no charge for the currency exchange & they go w/ the prevailing daily exchange rate.

* If you've got a laptop w/ you, load Skype on it in case you need to call back to the US. It's free computer-to-computer, and cheap computer-to-landline. I called my godmother from Amsterdam, and think it was only 2cents/minute via Skype.

* Also, make sure you've got a plug adapter so if you need to recharge your laptop you can plug into an outlet & do so. You can buy one for about $10, or ask your boyfriend if he has one. Ask him if you can use his blowdryer to dry your hair; one less thing to bring. Make sure you have enough batteries for your digital camera because you'll probably take a lot of pictures.

* If you have a Kindle, bring it w/ to read on the plane in case you can't sleep (a book if you don't have a Kindle) - or watch some of the lame movies that you're glad you didn't pay $$ to see at the movie theater.

* I've crossed the Atlantic many times. Sometimes it's totally smooth; sometimes there might be turbulance. I'm not a big fan of turbulance, but it's normally not extreme. I just think of it like the plane version of a boat going through some waves & bouncing/surfing the waves a bit. I also remember that these planes go through a LOT of stress testing, so they're able to handle the turbulance. When you are in your seat, keep your seatbelt on.

* Sometimes planes can be chilly, so have a sweater or shawl to wear or to use as a make-shift pillow.

* When out & about, don't have all of your cash w/ you or all of your credit cards. Leave some at the boyfriend's place or, if you'll be in a hotel, in the hotel safe. Make a xerox of your passport & keep it in the safe. Don't carry the actual passport w/ you other than when at the airport.

* Make sure your boyfriend has your parents' phone #/email & they have his, in case of emergency.

* You'll be tired when you land. Try to stay awake through early-mid evening vs. taking a long nap, as it will be easier to adjust to the time zone difference. If by chance you wake up during the night, don't look at the clock! It's hard to explain, but if your brain doesn't know what time it is, it doesn't know if you've been asleep 2 hours or 8 hours & it's easier to fall back asleep. If you look at the clock, then your brain has a time to associate w/ & you start thinking, geesh I've been up x amount/am losing x amount of sleep. Again, it's hard to explain but the take-away is don't look at the clock.

Have a great time! Report back when you return & let us know how it went.

Cheers. Sharon
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