8 Things to Do in Amsterdam with Kids

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8 Things to Do in Amsterdam with Kids

Our very first stop on our first trip to Europe with our kids was to Amsterdam and it was a great way to initiate ourselves into international travel. Our girls were 2, 5, and 7 at the time. Our visit was short, but memorable, and we can’t wait to visit again. In this post I’ve pulled together some of our favorite activities from our time in Amsterdam and then also included some recommendations from some of our friends. We’d love to hear what else you’d suggest as must-see-do activities in and around Amsterdam.

Just from some background, we stayed in a wonderful Airbnb in Haarlem (just outside Amsterdam) and we used public transportation to get around. We also rented bikes for exploring. We stayed for 3 days.

Things to Do:

1. Explore Vondelpark. This is a wonderful green space where kids can run free and explore. It has three amazing playgrounds and a treehouse. We used it as a place to run out energy in between museum visits and meals.

2. Rent Bakfiets. We rented a bakfiet (cargo bike) in Haarlem, just outside of Amsterdam. Haarlem doesn’t have the crazy bike traffic of Amsterdam so it was easier to navigate. The kids loved exploring the city on bike. The bike took some getting used to because it is heavy, but such a cool way to experience the dutch life.

3. Stop by the NEMO science museum. We have heard from our followers that this museum is awesome. It is an interactive science museum where kids can playfully experience science and technology and would be great for a rainy day with kids. We can’t wait to go on our next visit!

4. Visit Haarlem. This medieval city outside of Amsterdam is the perfect day trip from the city (just 15 minutes by train). We loved wandering Grote Markt, exploring the Frans Hals Museum (it had some kid-friendly exhibits, and visiting the De Adriaan Windmill (also next door to the windmill was a great playground). We also spent a lot of time in Haarlemmerhout (the oldest park in the Netherlands and a great green space with a playground, petting zoo, and walking paths).

5. Ride a canal boat. Amsterdam is a city of canals and one of the best ways to experience the city is by boat. A lot of companies have 1 hour boat rides that are perfect for kids. You can also rent your own boat through Boaty and customize your own canal tour. We’ve heard great things about these boat rentals!

6. Enjoy an art museum. Amsterdam has a wealth of art museums, but our favorite was the Van Gogh Museum. This museum has a family guide, treasure hunt, and hands-on activities. We loved learning more about Van Gogh’s impressionist paintings. We also loved the Anne Frank House (although we went without our kids).

7. Visit Keukenhof. If you time your trip right (between mid-March to mid-May) you can see the tulips in bloom in one of the world’s largest flower gardens. It is very accessible by train or bus from Amsterdam. Of course the tulips are the best part of Keukenhof but it also has a giant playground, petting farm, and a maze for kids.

8. See the windmills in Zaanse Schans. This is one of the activities we are dying to go back to Amsterdam to experience. Here you can visit a working windmill, see clogs being made, and go cheese tasting, and go back in time to see what life was like in 18th and 19th century Holland.

We also loved just wandering Amsterdam, eating pastries and local delicacies, and exploring. When we travel with our kids we try to mix in playground visits, treats, and more grown-up activities so that everyone has an enjoyable time. We have found that travel with kids is best when it isn’t just checking off a list of sights to see, but is spent at a slower pace. If you are planning a trip to Amsterdam, we hope these ideas are helpful! And if you aren’t, we hope you are inspired to add Amsterdam to your list.

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Basic Packing List for Kids

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Basic Packing List for Kids

Do you make a new packing list every time you travel? Well, if so, this packing list should make your life a little easier. You asked for it, so we made it! Below you can find our BASIC Packing List for Kids. This list isn’t a comprehensive list (that comes next!) and it is for kids ages 5-12. This is the kind of list that I give to my kids when we are getting ready to go on a trip. It is simple and straight-forward. My kids can take this list and use it to pack their own bags or I can use it as I pack for them.

The packing list is broken into six categories: Clothing, Shoes, Toiletries, Medicine/First Aid, Misc., and Kid Gear. In each section there is a list of items to bring. Next to each item is a checkbox where your child or you can check each item off as you pack it. Where you might pack multiple items of the same type (i.e. four jackets) I’ve included a place to write the number of items to pack.

We hope you find this useful! We’re working on a comprehensive packing list, a babies/toddler packing list, and a carry-on packing list so stay tuned for those!

DOWNLOAD YOUR PACKING LIST HERE

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A Maine Weekend with Kids

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A Maine Weekend with Kids

For the past 10 years we have made a trek across the country in October to see the fall foliage in Maine. Our ideal weekend to visit is the second weekend in October, although our visit occasionally varies depending on our work/school schedules. Acadia National Park is one of the best places in the country to see the fall leaves change color so we spend some time near Bar Harbor and then visit a few other coastal towns. There is a Maine Foliage Report that we read religiously leading up to our trip every year — in the hopes of seeing peak foliage. Our annual visit to Maine is approximately 4-5 days (usually a Thursday to a Monday), although you could definitely extend your visit. Below I’ve included our usual itinerary. Of course, Maine has so much to offer we couldn’t possibly do everything. Also, we do a lot of eating on our Maine trip. Every year our itinerary changes slightly as our kids get older and there are more things we can do together.

Day #1: Travel Day (Salt Lake City, Utah to Freeport, Maine)
Because we fly from Utah, our first day is partially a travel day. We usually fly into Manchester, New Hampshire because we can find great flights on Southwest from Salt Lake City. Occasionally we will also fly into Portland, Maine on Delta. We land in Manchester and get a rental car at Enterprise and begin our scenic drive through New Hampshire to Maine. The views of the fall foliage as we land in Manchester are always so breathtaking!

Our first stop in Maine (after about a two hour drive) is Freeport, Maine. Freeport is a quaint little town that is also the home of the L.L.Bean flagship store. We stay at the Hilton Garden Inn, centrally located in Freeport so we can wander throughout the town. Every visit we try a different restaurant for dinner after we arrive. Some of our favorites have been Derosier’s Pizza, Tuscan Brick Oven Bistro (this place was a little fancier), and Antonia’s Pizzeria. Usually we pick somewhere we can get food quickly so that our kids (who have been traveling all day) don’t throw epic tantrums. After we get settled for the night in Freeport we sometimes wander the town (the L.L. Bean store is open 24 hours!) or go for a swim in the hotel pool.

Day #2: (Freeport, Maine to Bar Harbor, Maine)
The next day we wake up and usually I go out for a run while my husband takes the kids to find breakfast. Last year he took them to Frosty’s Donuts, which was really fun because they could make their own donuts. It was less fun for me because they were then hopped up on sugar all day!

After breakfast we explore Freeport. Our favorite stores to visit are Wicked Whoopies (so many great flavors of whoopie pies!), When Pigs Fly Bakery (their bread flavors are amazing), and the L.L. Bean campus. The L.L. Bean store features a lot of interactive activities for kids in addition to some shopping. We always take a picture in front of the big boot.

After we’ve shopped a little we check out of our hotel and then begin the coastal drive to Bar Harbor. When we had babies we drove the quickest route we could find to Bar Harbor, which is inland and not quite as scenic. Now that our kids are older we drive along the coast and stop in Wiscasset, Camden, Rockport, and any other towns that look pretty. We usually check Yelp for reviews of restaurants along the way to grab lunch. For example, in Wiscasset (known as the prettiest village in Maine) there is a famous place to stop for lobster rolls (Reds Eats is known as Maine’s #1 Lobster Roll).

We usually arrive in Bar Harbor right as the sun is setting and get settled into our hotel. We have stayed at almost every hotel chain in Bar Harbor (and not all were a positive experience!!) but the one we have found to be the most family-friendly and affordable in the last few years is the Hampton Inn Bar Harbor. The hotel has a cute kids area, they have treats every night, the higher rooms have great views of the water, and there is a great breakfast buffet included with your stay. We usually book a large room that has two queen beds and a pull out sofa.

After we arrive in Bar Harbor we usually eat dinner the first night at Stewman’s Lobster Pound. This restaurant is right on the water and has a great casual environment. My husband loves seafood so he usually gets “The Downeast Lobster Experience” that includes New England Clam Chowder, Steamed Lobster, Mussels, Sweet Corn, Potatoes, and Homemade Blueberry Pie. I’m less adventurous but they have options for every kind of palate. After dinner we wander around the souvenir shops in downtown Bar Harbor and stop for ice cream at Ben & Bills Chocolate Emporium — they even have lobster ice cream! Bar Harbor is such a idyllic New England town.

Day #3 (Bar Harbor, Maine)
The most important stop for us in Bar Harbor is Acadia National Park (named the “Crown Jewel of the North Atlantic Coast” by the National Parks Service). We love this place so much that we even used the name “Acadia” for one of our daughter’s middle names. This national park offers activities for every type of person. If you are very adventurous there are hikes and bike rides that take you throughout the park along the carriage roads. There are also scenic overlooks to drive to and restaurants to visit. We rent bikes in downtown Bar Harbor at the Bar Harbor Bike Shop and then ride into Acadia National Park. The bike shop has trailers to pull kids, it has baby seats, and it also has attachments to make regular bikes into tandem bikes. Now that our kids are getting older we have been able to do even more bike riding in Acadia.

Our favorite easy bike ride in Acadia National Park is around Witch Hole Pond. There is an easy loop that our kids love and some scenic bridges and ponds. It is easy to get lost so you want to make sure to have a map and follow the signs. We also love to explore and throw rocks into Jordan Pond and hike around there. Now that our kids are older we are looking forward to incorporating some more hikes into our visits.

When in Acadia National Park you must stop by the Jordan Pond House for popovers and tea/hot chocolate. We love the popovers — they are legendary! You can even buy their popover mix. It is sometimes hard to get in for lunch, so we’d recommend making a reservation ahead of time or arrive on the early side. Parking can also be a nightmare! So take the shuttle bus if it is still running during your visit. If you can’t make it to the Jordan Pond House you can visit the Asticou Inn in Northeast Harbor where they also serve the legendary Jordan Pond popovers.

After a full day of hiking or biking we usually end up at Rosalie’s for dinner (the best pizza in Bar Harbor!) and then wander around town checking out the various shops. If there is a cruise ship in town we usually save our souvenir shopping for the evening to avoid the crowds. Occasionally on one of our visits the “Bar” of Bar Harbor (a sandbar) reveals itself and we wander along the sandbar looking for sand crabs and shells. Your hotel can usually tell you when low tide is, so you can see the sandbar, but be careful not get stuck when the tide comes in (we almost did this time!). We also recommend taking a walk along the Bar Harbor Shore Path where you can see some of the old homes of Bar Harbor and catch scenic views of the coast line.

Day #4 (Bar Harbor, Maine to Southeast Maine)
We usually can’t escape Bar Harbor without a stop at Two Cats Restaurant — we love their breakfast. If we don’t have time for breakfast we stop and get some homemade granola to go. Before we head out of town we usually drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain for one last view of Mount Desert Island and a family picture. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Eastern Seaboard. Be prepared — it can be windy and cold. On our drive back down the coast we usually take the inland highway to see the leaves on the way to Ellsworth (another quaint but larger town that has an airport, fast food restaurants, and a Walmart) and to get down the coast faster. We stop along the way and take pictures at covered bridges we find, old railroad tracks, and any gorgeous vistas. It is pretty much guaranteed that we always stop in Portland, Maine for a short visit while driving back down the state. The Old Port waterfront is fun to wander around and warehouses have been converted into shops and restaurants. If you haven’t noticed yet, our family likes pizza so we usually stop at the Portland Pie Company for one of their awesome pizzas — we love the Harbormaster and the Old Port. It is great family-friendly restaurant. Our kids usually convince us to stop for ice cream at Mount Desert Island Ice Cream or Beals Old Fashioned Ice Cream.

Our last night in Maine is when we usually try out new hotels and new cities. We have stayed in Downtown Portland a few times at the Residence Inn (although it was pretty pricey and cramped compared to other options) and we also stayed at the Atlantic Birches Inn (before we had kids). For the past several years we have stayed at The Colony Hotel in Kennebunkport and we love it. We aren’t staying there this year because their season ends before we arrive, but we love this hotel. The Colony Hotel has family-friendly rooms and various options for different size families. They do allow dogs (and sometimes the dogs and wedding party guests at the hotel behave worse than toddlers!!). We love getting an ocean view room that has an adjoining room for our kids. The pool at the hotel is heated and there is also a game room at the hotel and various restaurants to eat. A breakfast buffet comes included with the room. This hotel definitely has a New England charm to it. From the hotel is an easy walk to the beach or to the ocean pathway where you can see the beautiful mansions and beach houses along the shore. Even though we are sad to not be staying at The Colony Hotel this year, we tried out a wonderful new hotel called the The Dunes on the Waterfront in Ogunquit and we loved it. The Dunes has little cottages you can reserve that fit up to 6 people or so. The cottage we reserved had ocean views and it had two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, living room with a fireplace, and a screened porch. The hotel also had a playground for kids, free rowboats, and it was within walking distance of town.

When we stay in Kennebunkport we love to wander around town and visit the shops. Last year we enjoyed a kid-friendly dinner at Alisson’s Restaurant, a local tavern that had New England-style seafood and pub food. Our kids enjoyed the kid’s menu options. Then we searched for ice cream and could only find Ben & Jerry’s and Rococo Ice Cream. The flavors were a little fancy for my girls at Rococo, but I enjoyed it!

This year when we stayed in Ogunquit we enjoyed dinner at a kid-friendly pizza restaurant called La Pizzeria and then went back to our cottage for hot chocolate and a game of cards. In the morning when we woke up we borrowed a hotel rowboat and went on an adventure across the estuary at high tide to get over to the Ogunquit beach. It was quite the adventure!!

Day #5 (Southeast Maine to Salt Lake City, Utah)

Every time we visit Maine we wish we had booked a longer trip!! We usually spend the last few hours before we fly out driving around and enjoying the fall colors on the Maine Coast and in New Hampshire. Of course, because we are so sad to leave Maine, the trip always seems much longer on the way home!! And, of course, we usually get delayed somewhere in the midwest (usually Chicago!).

We have done this fall foliage trip for the past 10 years starting with a four month old and then adding kids every two years (that one year when we had a 9 month old, a two-year-old, and a four-year-old was particularly brutal). There were some times when it was a struggle because flying cross-country with babies and toddlers was so hard, but whenever we arrived in Maine and saw the beautiful leaves and scenery we knew it was worth it.

If you decide to go on your own fall foliage trip to Maine, we hope you will have an amazing adventure. We’ve only scratched the surface here of what you can do in Maine and we can’t wait to keep finding new adventures every year.


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Travel Family Spotlight: The Rhodes Family

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Travel Family Spotlight: The Rhodes Family

One of my favorite things about social media is meeting other families that love to travel. I like to dig in and find out what works for them, because every family travels differently and for unique reasons. This series spotlights families that love to travel like we do. We hope you’ll enjoy the latest installment of our “Travel Family Spotlight” series.

Jordan Rhodes, founder and editor of the luxury travel guide, Glimpse Guides, was kind enough to give us some insight into her family, why they travel, and some of the things her family has learned from all of their experiences. Jordan has extensive resources on her blog for upscale family travel and also has an app with city guides for families.

Glimpse Guides is a “collection of city guides for parents who don’t want to give up dining in stylish restaurants, staying in luxury hotels or shopping at some of the most charming and exclusive boutiques in the world, just because they are traveling with their children”. We love that all the recommendations in the guides are kid-friendly yet fashionable, and Jordan and her team have personally experienced each city with their own families.

Jordan also has a philanthropical arm to her business, the money she makes on guides and any products she sells goes to “Give a Glimpse” which in turn covers travel costs for disadvantaged scholarship students wishing to study or intern abroad and artisans working to create products. We hope you’ll love getting to know Jordan and her family like we have! You can find more about Jordan and Glimpse Guides on her website and Instagram account @glimpseguides, or download her app in the app store.

1. Tell us about your family.
I have three kids (unless you count my husband)… Scottie is 6, Noah is 5, and Georgie is 22 months. We also have two dogs, a really sweet Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Berkeley and an up-to-no-good Golden Retriever puppy named Ruffin.

2. Where do you live when you are not traveling? Has your family moved around at all?
We have lived in Greenwich, CT for 12 years. Before that I lived in New York City, London, Charleston, and grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas.

3. How often do you travel with your family? Is it local travel or international? Where has been your favorite place your family has traveled so far?
I travel at least once a month and I would say the majority of that is with one or all kids. We do at least one international trip a year with kids but my husband and I usually do 3-4 together overseas. Nantucket is a huge favorite with kids but we also love big cities like London. Italy is definitely very kid-friendly, which is helpful when you want to have some nice wine with a meal.

4. Why do you like to travel with your kids?
I love to travel with my kids because it makes me so happy to watch them see and learn something for the first time. I’ll never forget the joy they felt going down a hill in San Francisco on a trolley, or how wide my daughter’s eyes got seeing the London Eye, or dancing in the street with a jazz band in New Orleans. All things they would never experience in Greenwich. Travel is just as important an education as school.

5. What are some unexpected things that you've encountered as you have been traveling with your family?
In London this summer I was so proud to discover that my kids have empathy. Whenever they saw a homeless person on the street they would beg me to give them money, and if I didn’t have any they would make sure we returned later with some. It made me so happy that somewhere along the way, they realized that there are those less fortunate in the world. Again, not something you would find in Greenwich so I know they picked up on that from travels.

6. What's the most memorable travel experience you've had with your family?
That is a tough one! I think the most memorable for me - but I am a huge Anglophile - was the Christmas we spent at The Connaught in London. Santa was there to pass out gifts, they had horse and carriage rides through the neighborhood with hot chocolate, and we had several amazing multi-course meals at The Connaught and its sister hotel, Claridges, which were kid-friendly because it was Christmas so it was so nice to be able to dress up and bring the kids to really nice restaurants. London is magical in December.

7. What are the easiest and hardest parts about traveling with kids (for your family)? The hardest parts are the flights.
My two oldest are now happy with iPads, but on overnight flights they’re too wired to sleep, and my baby will sleep, but she needs constant entertainment until she gets tired. However, we make sure we stay true to one airline (Delta) so we always have enough points to upgrade to business class with beds, or at least use miles to get a seat for the baby so we can strap her into her carseat. It’s also nice to be able to go through the shorter Priority security lines, and not have to pay for luggage (ours ALWAYS go over the weight limit). It is so important to be loyal to one airline! And I think the easiest part about traveling with kids is that everything they’re seeing is new, so they don’t get bored. Also, the abundance of wine on an airplane...

8. What are some of your favorite travel resources?
I find inspiration from magazines like Town & Country, Departures, and Garden & Gun. And Instagram is the best, as well. I’m also drawn to other adventurous souls so I’m lucky to have discerning friends give me tips.

9. What advice would you give to other families who want to start traveling as a family and aren’t sure how?
Download my app of city guides! Not only do they contain lists of stylish, kid-friendly restaurants, hotels, and boutiques, they also include itineraries and tips plus maps of everything so you’ll know what’s near you. It’s in the app store under Glimpse Guides and I think it makes traveling easier! I’m also happy to chat with anyone who has questions about traveling.

10. Have you had any barriers to traveling as a family, and how have you dealt with those? (i.e. work schedules, finances, school, etc.)
We are lucky that my husband travels constantly for work (he is a healthcare investor), so often we are tagging along on his trips, and that’s also why he racks up so many miles on Delta. As for school, my kids are still young enough to be able to miss days, but we also chose a wonderful progressive school that understands the importance of travel and one-on-one time.

11. What are three items you never leave home without?
iPads for the older kids, a pacifier for the baby, and Aromatherapy Associates ‘Support’ oil — it keeps me calm no matter what.

12. Where are you headed next? 
St. Barth’s with some fellow bloggers and then Aspen for Christmas!

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