After a wonderful time traveling with my mom, we (a bit sadly) parted ways in Brussels.  She headed to the airport for her journey home. Finn and I then caught the train to Amsterdam for the start of our Rick Steves Tour! We arrived a day early in order to catch our breath a bit and to get oriented to a new city. First order of business, get settled in to the hotel and have a re-look through all the tour information. Then, on to find a supermarket to buy some healthy fixings (after several weeks of rather heavy meals) for a healthy picnic dinner in nearby Vondelpark. I must admit, Finn and I were both feeling somewhat nervous about the start of the tour the next afternoon...

Good Tips!

(or, things one learns the hard way)

Find your local supermarkets or small food stores that are used by the locals.

Kim: They're often a cheaper and healthier way of eating when you don't want to do the restaurant thing or if you just want to stock up on snacks for your room or the bus. Also, they can be a great way to interact with the local people.


Finn: I love grocery stores -  they can really be a fun way to discover

different snack foods and drinks, etc. For example, different flavored chips in every country. And, here in the Netherlands, a huge selection of chocolate sprinkles to put on buttered bread!

Kim: You can look these up pre-trip or even just use your smart phone from your hotel room and "search" grocery stores in your maps app. 

At a loss for words. Or not.

Schwellenangst (n) - origin, German

The fear of crossing a threshold to embark on something new.

So the time had come to meet the group! 

Finn and I prolonged our park visit as long as we could - now it was time to get this tour started. We bravely entered the comfortable but full meeting room and grabbed a table with another family. 

So here we were - a group of like-minded families who had all just shelled out a bunch of money for a self-inflicted two week vacation with complete strangers. What we we thinking?!! - For my part, I was truly enthusiastic and thinking positive thoughts. I was determined to make this work and felt mostly certain that it would turn out great (it HAD to, right? after all ...I had done my research. I'd watched all the shows and read all the guide books!!)  Okay, I was crossing my fingers, just in case.

The meeting went well. Introductions and ice-breakers and snacks (bitterballen!) and drinks. It was easier than I had hoped for  -- for the kiddos, too. Just  simple round-the-room introductions: Name. Where you're from. What you are most looking forward to on the tour. Choose a check-in "buddy" as a means of keeping track of tour members (brilliant!!)  Boom, done. The next day and a half were easy-peasie -- a wonderful hands on get-to-know-how-the-tour-works exploration of the beautiful city of Amsterdam. 

Just before breaking for lunch on our own on day 2, our guides offered to treat the group to the famous local street food, fresh pickled herring. In a flash, all tour members but Finn and myself vanished into thin air (really!) and we were left, just the four of us, to have this delish treat all to ourselves! This led to an amusing running joke that stayed with us for the duration of the tour and it has since become the official Archer family travel philosophy:

Just say 'YES' to the pickled herring!

Good Tips!

(or, things one learns the hard way)

Prep the kiddos for a successful trip: 

Read books about the people and history (for Amsterdam, definitely read about Anne Frank). Read about the 2 world wars because, well, because they are still so relevant - and by extension, the whole travel experience will mean that much more. Let them help with the planning - assign them guide books and internet research. Museum websites are awesome  - full of kid and teen activities to get them engaged BEFORE they arrive.

Have them 'google' those local grocery stores. 

Give them some sort of camera of their own.When Finn was 6 and I took him to Paris for the first time, I gave him a disposable. We toured the main sites and spent a few hours at the Louvre. How stunned and pleasantly surprised I was to be able to see Paris from his perspective: it was all close-ups of artistically sculpted greek buttocks (statuary) and photos of his own feet around various famous landmarks!!

I absolutely treasure these photos. 

Parents of teens - it is worthwhile for the kids to have a connection (via web or an app) to friends back home for sharing photos and thoughts etc.)