2022 has been a rough year for us as a family so we were very much looking forward to our yearly spring travels. This year we decided to go to the Netherlands to finally see the famous tulip fields (spoiler alert: they are amazing). And while our original plan was only for a week, we quickly changed our trip plans and bought award tickets to India to go see my grandmother after we saw that case numbers had dropped off in both Europe and India. My mom hasn’t seen her mom in over 3 years so that was reason enough to make this impromptu trip over.
Trip Report Index: The Tulips of Holland & the Heat of India
Introduction: How everything was planned/booked
Capital One Lounge DFW Terminal D
British Airways Club World/Europe (DFW-LHR-AMS)
Hyatt Regency Amsterdam
Our trip to Keukenhof – The Garden of Europe
Our Marriott Homes and Villas Experience (Bruges, Belgium)
Residence Inn Ghent
The Westin Mindspace – Hyderabad
The Taj Bangalore
Etihad Business Class (AMS-AUH-HYD)
Air France Economy (BLR-CDG-DFW)
We (all 4 of us) had accumulated quite a few points over the 3 years we didn’t travel so we tried to plan our trip around burning those points for the most part. You never know when you will get to travel nowadays.
How I booked the flights:
I say we decided “this year”, but I actually already had this trip planned since August of 2021 when award space for the spring first opened up. Airlines have been flexible with award bookings due to the pandemic so it only seemed logical to have flights booked ahead of time as prices sky rocket.
Outbound:BA Club World/Europe DFW-LHR-AMS (125,000 BA Miles + $2800)
Back in 2018, both my dad and I signed up for the BA Chase credit card and earned the companion certificate the first year of card ownership. Of course my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer and the pandemic hit so we didn’t get to go overseas in about 3 years. Even though BA gave us an extension on the expiration date for our certificates, finding award space on BA out of Dallas for 4 passengers was extremely difficult. After a thorough search I only came up with a one way option for us to use our certificate. Something is better than nothing so I booked it for us at 125,000 miles and $2800. BA still makes you pay those crazy taxes on award tickets!
My cancelled inbound: AF Business Class AMS-CDG-DFW
I originally booked us in Air France business back from Amsterdam to Dallas via Paris for 220,000 miles + $1200 , but I ended up cancelling that ticket when we decided to go to India. It’s great to have Air France back as an option at DFW.
Outbound to India: Etihad Business AMS-AUH-HYD (60,000 Aeroplan points/person)
This is where I was really tempted to fly to Mumbai to try out Etihad’s new A350-1000 flights with doors. I nearly booked it actually, but my mom didn’t want to take any detours on our her way to see her mom. Who wants to pay more money to fly from Mumbai to Hyderabad in Vistara or Indigo economy anyway?
Vistara Economy HYD-BLR This ended up costing 7,500 United miles/person + $15 for the one hour flight.
Inbound to DFW: 2 Air France Economy seats ($1400/person) and 2 AF Business seats (150,000 miles/person)
When it was time to come back to the U.S I couldn’t find any good options for the 4 of us to come back in business. The cheapest option was on Gulf Air for $5000 one way. About 2 days out from the last possible departure date, I found two Air France business award tickets for my parents and that sealed the deal. AMEX has been having 25%-30% transfer bonuses on a quarterly basis to Flying Blue so this ended up costing 120,000 membership reward points per passenger. Not terrible for travel on such short notice.
How I booked the hotels:
Hyatt Regency Amsterdam: This is a category 4 Hyatt oddly enough. I booked one hotel room using 6 Hyatt annual free night awards from the Hyatt Chase credit cards and the other using 15,000 points/night for 6 nights. This ended up being a great value stay given my dad’s Hyatt Globalist status.
Marriott Homes & Villas: ~$250/night for 4 nights at a 3 bedroom 3.5 bath townhouse in the center of Bruges.
Residence Inn Ghent: 2 Marriott annual free night certificates
Westin Hyderabad Mindspace: I booked this using 17,000 Marriott points/night per room for 5 nights and Marriott actually gives you the 5th night free on these bookings so the actual cost per room per night was lower.
Taj Bangalore: $206 for a 1 night stay.
I booked the rental car with Hertz at Amsterdam airport when I booked my flight ticket. I have to say that I got a very good price for a little more than a week in a Volvo S60. The final price came out to 750 Euros including taxes and fees.
The Places We Visited:
Our trip was broken down to a little more than a week in Amsterdam and a little more than a week in India. We drove to most of the places we visited in our rental car and I have to say Dutch roads are truly as smooth as a baby’s skin.
The majority of our stay was in Amsterdam and we would just take day trips to the Dutch countryside and come back in the afternoons for an early dinner. Exploring Amsterdam in itself is a one week affair, judging by what I saw from my morning walks and bike rides in and around the city. They truly don’t make cities like this anymore….
The Tulip Fields of the Netherlands (20 min to 1 hr drive from Amsterdam)
Driving around and looking at all the tulip fields was by far the best thing we did during our trip. They weren’t really that hard to come by once we drove outside of Amsterdam.
Contrary to popular belief the tulip fields and windmills seen on postcards aren’t easy to find and can actually take some time to scout out. After several days driving around Flevoland and North Holland, I finally found the one I was looking for the morning before our departure. I sprinted across a mile long tulip field (very carefully) and line this shot up:
Edam, Netherlands (20 min drive from Amsterdam)
Edam is a small town about 20 minutes from Amsterdam by car or bus. My first trip there was in 2014 when I took a day trip out there on a local bus. It’s a quiet town with great shops, restaurants, and a scenic cityscape with its narrow canals.
Keukenhof (Lisse), Netherlands (~20 min drive from Amsterdam)
The town of Lisse (close to Amsterdam Schiphol) is home to perhaps the no. 1 attraction in all of the Netherlands: the Keukenhof Gardens. Most people have probably seen it in movies, travel videos, and many more places but this place truly blows one’s expectations out of the water. While I initially thought this was a tourist trap, I found it to be one of the highlights of my trip.
Gouda, Netherlands (~45 minute drive from Amsterdam)
Gouda (pronounced How-da) is a small town in South Holland known for the cheese of the very same name. It’s about a 45 minute train or car ride from Amsterdam and makes for a great day trip to escape the crowds of Amsterdam.
Bruges, Belgium (~3 hour drive from Amsterdam)
If you seen 2014’s Monument’s Men you are probably familiar with the town of Bruges already. Bruges is the largest city in the West Flanders region of Belgium and is perhaps the most well preserved city from the Middle Ages. The entire town is straight out of a story book and the canals add to its claim as being one of the three cities with the name “Venice of the North.”
Ghent, Belgium (~2.5 hour drive from Amsterdam)
A rather funny incident happened on our last two nights in Bruges (I will explain it later), and we ended up staying in Ghent for the last night of our stay in Belgium. Often termed “The Manhattan of the Middle Ages”, Ghent is yet another Medieval Town that has been preserved over the ages. The tall nature of its towering cathedrals and the relative density of the town centre certainly draws parallels to New York.
We spent about three or four days quarantining in our hotel after which we went to go see my grandmother here. I can’t say that I did much throughout my stay in Hyderabad this time around, though the Mindspace Skywalk which had just opened in the “Hi-Tech City” neighborhood of the town was nice to see from our hotel room window. Hyderabad has certainly developed into one of India’s “modern” metropolises.
About time I get to writing a trip report as I have so many of them to write about. Bear with me as I catch up on my travels over the last year or so. This trip was a much needed reload for my head after the events of the last three years.