Family cycling holiday to The Netherlands
Have you ever dreamt of going on a family cycling holiday to the Netherlands, and riding some of the world's best cycling infrastructure with your children? It was a dream for Canadian mum, blogger and cycle campaigner Lindsay Bliek - and this summer it became a reality. Lindsay has kindly has send us this wonderful blog telling us all about it......
Sometimes dreams do become reality.
In June 2019, our little family managed to make the trek across the ocean and go cycle touring in the Netherlands for about two weeks. Not surprisingly — but, thankfully — it lived up to our expectations.
My name is Lindsay Bliek and I am a mother, teacher, and blogger at This Mom Bikes. Bicycles have long since been a big part of my life: as a teenager I dabbled in racing, as a young adult I embraced commuting, and as a mother I discovered cargo bikes and what they could do for our young family of four. Somewhere along the way, I learned that my favourite way to travel is by bike and I have always wanted to visit the Netherlands.
My bike riding Dutch Canadian husband, Desmond, loves all things urban planning, including transportation and we had been dreaming and scheming for a while about how we could possibly go bike touring with our two girls, aged 7 and 4. We looked high and low but always came back to Europe, but especially the Netherlands because of its infamous infrastructure.
Planning for our family cycling holiday to The Netherlands
We started practicing on our home turf with small overnight bikepacking trips up old fire roads in the Rocky Mountains, close to our home in Calgary, Alberta, because that is the only car-free infrastructure that we have nearby to tour on. These little trips definitely helped to give us the confidence to travel as a family; we had a chance to figure out what set-ups worked with the kids, what and how to pack, and learn that our children really enjoyed travelling by bike and camping, too.
And then one morning I found a seat sale and a direct flight to Schiphol (AMS) and the ball really got rolling!
On one hand, buying tickets was easy thanks to online shopping; on the other hand, narrowing down and deciding where to go in the limited time we had was extremely difficult! We did know a few must-dos for our trip:
● We had family to visit in Dordrecht area
● I was intent on making it to the Hoge Veluwe and at least seeing the outdoor sculpture garden of the Kröller-Müller Museum therein
● We had more family to visit in Den Haag
● We wanted to see the sand dunes along the coast
● We decided that we did not really have enough time to do Amsterdam justice, and
● We were determined to keep things simple
We somehow got pointed in the direction of the long distance Landelijke Fietsroutes (LF) and discovered the Natuurkampeerterrein network, so that really helped us to narrow things down. With these tools and the confidence that we could very likely cycle somewhere between 25-40 kilometres per day enabled us to plot out a little route with Google Maps and a spreadsheet.
We had a lovely trip. The Netherlands really did meet our very high expectations and touring with the kids was great. I set myself up with the expectation that it would be a fascinating experience yet a lot of work and quite tiring for me, due to all of the camping and moving about with two young kids, not to mention being unsure of how they would handle the jet lag. However, we found our rhythm and camping was a comfort each night with the same bed and within a familiar space. I came back from our two week tour feeling as rested as I imagine someone who reads books on a beach for their holiday does. I think that camping was a great choice with the kids, too, simply because they did get to sleep in the same bed each night.
As with most things involving kids, there was the odd hiccup, but nothing drastic and some events were fortuitously timed, like when my youngest got some sort of gastro bug and I tweaked my back running her to the washroom multiple times one night, so we checked in to a hostel for the next two nights and were blessed with tremendous thunderstorms each evening that made me feel quite grateful for having a roof over our heads!
Cycling in the Netherlands was so intuitive — once I knew what the shark’s teeth meant, at least! We had our LF route maps and hunted for knooppunt all day long, taking in the sights along the way. Admiring the beautiful architecture or the bright array of wildflowers in the median. Navigating to find a grocery store midday to gather whatever food we needed for the next 24 hour period. Easily finding a place to throw stones in the river while my hungry eldest ate her third hard boiled egg of the day! Exploring yet another fantastic playground or kinderboerderij! Seeking out our campground for the night.
It seemed to just ebb and flow. And there were enough route options, ample towns with grocers, campgrounds at attainable distances, and safe infrastructure that it was all a very enjoyable experience, even as a family with young kids.
It took the first third or so of the trip to acclimatize to, but the most striking thing, for me, about travelling to a place like the Netherlands was, overall, this impressive respect for other, and this is evidenced throughout the country via infrastructure but also mannerisms engrained in law, i.e. the driver is always at fault if they hit a cyclist. As was said to us many times over there, chances are all road users, including people who drive, are cyclists at some point in their day or week or they at least know people who are, possibly even their own grandmother is out there. This systemic level of empathy was so refreshing and is something that I can only dream of and will continue to advocate for on my home turf.
Europe is a goldmine of family-friendly cycle tour routes and the Netherlands is a wonderful place to test the waters. We are already dreaming of going back and possibly even scheming a sabbatical year overseas!
You can read our daily journals, ogle at our touring set-up, and see our complete itinerary on my blog’s Netherlands page.
A big thank you to Lindsay for sharing her experiences or arranging and going on a family cycling holiday in The Netherlands. If she's inspired you to take a trip we'd love to hear about it - either drop us a note in the comments box below, or if you'd like to write up your experiences for others to learn from we always love to publish guest blogs. Here's how to get in touch......
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