Pack-n-Go-Girls | 5 Great Reasons to Float Away in the Netherlands
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5 Great Reasons to Float Away in the Netherlands

If you’re like me, the next vacation—or the last—is never far from your daydreams. I grew up with a dad who loved adventure travel. Those trips always included plenty of museums, cathedrals, and historic sites. And while I’m glad to have in my memory places like Machu Picchu, the Aztec pyramids, and the Hermitage, I have to wonder if it didn’t influence my own travel style as an adult. I’m a much lazier traveler. My favorite way to vacation is to have a good book and temperature-perfect drink in hand while I soak in a stunning vista. And yes, I can do that from backyard in Colorado, but hey, where’s the adventure in that?

Last summer, my husband and I found the perfect way to blend it all together as we slowly meandered our way through the Dutch waterways on a canal boat. It’s a kid-friendly trip I’d highly recommend for all of these good reasons:

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1. The Picturesque Beauty

While we traveled primarily from star fort to star fort, even the less touristy Dutch towns are picture postcard pretty. Kids will love to explore the narrow winding streets on foot or on bikes, which are often free to use at the marinas. The Dutch meticulously maintain their homes. In addition to lots of peer pressure from the neighbors, town governments can also fine property owners if a house or business starts to look shabby. So houses that are hundreds of years old look painted, clean and sturdy. Gardens and window boxes spill over with color. We were there in hydrangea season, made all the more stunning by a cooler and wetter summer. I can’t imagine tulip season, but now it’s on my bucket list to find out what we missed.

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2. The Bountiful Markets

We were pleasantly surprised at how inexpensive the grocery stores were and totally in heaven with the assortment of breads, cheeses, and chocolates. An even better surprise was that the farmer’s markets were even cheaper and the produce even more luscious and flavorful. I don’t know if it’s because the farm-to-market chain is shorter or they plant different varieties of fruits and vegetables than we do, but we reveled in the additional flavor. Give your child a few euros to buy their favorite treats. Lucky for them that they won’t need to know Dutch to shop.

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3. The Cows

Yes, the cows (and the sheep, too). We traveled through the two northern most provinces, Friesland and Groningen—farm country. We floated at eye level with the cattle and sheep and felt like we had a backyard view (all very tidy by the way) of luscious pastures and manicured farmsteads. While it could sound boring—What? More cows?—we found it to be a gentle and serene way to experience the country for adults and kids alike. It fit our ideal vacation because we could have that great book and temperature-perfect drink (in this case hot Dutch chocolate) in hand and watch the verdant countryside slip by.

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4. The Simplicity of Communicating

The Dutch all speak English (even the schoolchildren), which means no matter where you are or what you need, someone can easily (and will!) help you. To be polite, we always asked first if the person spoke English before requesting help even after one kind Dutch soul sighed and said, “Have you met anyone in the Netherlands who doesn’t speak English?” Kids will appreciate being able to communicate without spending time studying Dutch. Of course a pleasant hello (hallo), please (alsjeblieft), and thank you (dank je) in the local language is always a courteous place to start.

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5. The Easy Navigation

The Dutch government has created a super simple navigation app for the Dutch canals. You can download it to your tablet and easily navigate along the canals, past the bridges, and through the locks. It’s free for a thirty-day trial, or if you have the luxury of a longer trip, it’s only 10 Euros (about $11 US) a month. Every town has places to tie up along the canal and usually electricity hookups as well. We never paid more than 18 Euros (about $20 US) and most of the time it was much cheaper. The best part was that the canals circled the historic town centers. We’d hop off the boat and a block (or less) later be right in the middle of shops and restaurants. As a bonus, our canal boat had a couple of bikes, which extended our range. If there’s a better country for biking, I don’t know about it, which makes it a super easy way to travel for kids. Immaculately maintained bike paths line the major and even most of the minor roads, drivers courteously defer to bikers, and the towns are so close together that we could always stop for ice cream two or three times on an afternoon ride. Best of all, the country is FLAT!

You can rent all kinds of canal boats for a week or longer. Be aware that August is high season for boat rentals since kids are out of school. Don’t worry about trying to pick the perfect weather month. Even though we had plenty of rain and cooler temperatures, we still had no trouble traveling. We just threw on a sweater and enjoyed the ride! We hope you do too. ~Janelle

And Don’t Forget . . .

Did you see that the next two Pack-n-Go Girls Adventures are out?  Mystery of the Lazy Loggerhead takes you to the Brazilian Coast where Julia and Sofia dive into a new mystery. It’s fun in the sun until they notice mysterious markings in the golden sands. Someone or something is after the loggerhead sea turtles. But why? It’s up to Sofia and Júlia to uncover the truth before it’s too late.

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And while you’re at it, travel to Australia with Wendy and Chloe in Mystery of the Min Min Lights. It’s hot. It’s windy. It’s dusty. It’s the Australian outback. Wendy Lee arrives from California. She’s lucky to meet Chloe Taylor, who invites Wendy to their sheep station. It sounds like fun except that someone is stealing the sheep. And the thief just might be something as crazy as a UFO.