Our road trip to Holland was sentimental for many reasons. It’s been the better part of two decades since I lived in the Netherlands, where I met my husband SVV. We lived in Utrecht in late summer through the fall, and I’ve visited on four separate trips in spring months from March through May—but haven’t been back with him until now.
After spending 10 days bopping around Holland by car, I’m sharing our personal planning experience so you can emulate our Europe vacation if you wish.
Getting to Holland
The Netherlands is an easy country to reach thanks to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and its regular airlift between international hubs from around the world. We flew on United Air from Nashville to Amsterdam connecting in Dulles and back through Chicago O’Hare, though I have flown many different routes and airlines to Holland in the past.
As of publication date of this post, there were no testing requirements to get into Holland. I recommend checking the health requirements of both your origin country and destination before you go.
Our road trip itinerary in Holland
Since we have both spent significant amount of time in Amsterdam, we completely took that off of our Holland itinerary. Instead, our Netherlands road trip looked like this:
- Friesland, 2 nights
- Giethoorn, 1 night
- Utrecht, 3 nights
- The Hague, 2 nights
- Haarlem, 1 night
We also visited a lot of smaller towns like Zaandam and Wageningen on day trips. I’ll go into more detail about each of these destinations in future posts, but I wouldn’t remove anywhere we visited from the list as they all had their quirks and charms. I particularly loved Haarlem and would like to stay there longer on my next trip to Holland.
Likewise, we only visited Rotterdam for the day, and there was so much to do, I wish we’d had more time to explore the art scene.
What does it cost to travel to Holland?
On this road trip to Holland, we skipped out on Amsterdam as we’ve both been there so many times before. Instead, we prioritized seeing smaller towns like Harlingen and Giethoorn mixed with mid-sized cities like Utrecht and the government seat, Den Haag (the Hague). Expect to pay a premium on all prices listed below if your Holland road trip includes a stay in Amsterdam, the priciest part of the Netherlands.
- Flights from BNA to AMS: $456 per person
- Economy car rental for nine days: $180
- Gas per gallon: $6.50
- Lodging: $157 a night for a two-bedroom rental
- Nice dinner (entrée, cocktail, dessert): $30 to $60 per person
- Wine or beer: $6
- Cocktail: $9-$11
Cost of airfare to Holland
We booked our flights four months before departure and paid $467 per person for an international round-trip flight in basic economy on United (i.e. no frills, no baggage, no perks). That’s pretty standard airfare to get to Holland in shoulder season (spring or fall), but expect to pay double that if you’re traveling to Europe in the summer when airfare prices are sky-high.
Cost of lodging in Holland
The cost of lodging in Holland was very affordable in the rural areas; most vacation rentals I searched ranged from around $80 to $150 a night for a 1BR or 2BR rental. We typically opted for the bigger or more luxury lodging option so we could each have our own room; over four different rentals spread over nine nights, we averaged $157 a night or $78.50 per person.
Hotels ran around the same cost. Here’s a look at the various hotel and lodging options in Holland.
Cost of dining in Holland
The most surprising thing about our road trip to Holland was how cheap food was. Typically, we spent around $40 to $60 total for a meal with drinks. We even dined out at a Michelin restaurant where we ordered the tasting menu and several cocktails, plus tipped on top of the total cost, for $100 even per person.
Food got more expensive when we ventured into bigger cities like Utrecht, Rotterdam and the Hague, but overall was very affordable compared to what we spend on an average night out in the U.S. (i.e. a non-special occasion).
Cost of car rental in Holland
I’m so glad we opted to rent a car in Holland instead of taking the train for a couple reasons: The trains stopped running one day, it rained the entire trip, and it allowed us to visit many small towns not on the train line. We booked the tiniest, cheapest car there was, and it cost us $180 with taxes and fees for nine nights. It was a Citroën C1, and while it barely fit the two of us and each of our carry-on bags, it was totally fine for a 10-day road trip through the Netherlands, particularly considering how little it cost us.
Of course, gas is your main expense on a road trip to Holland. During our trip, it averaged $6.50 a gallon. Luckily, the Netherlands is barely twice the size of New Jersey, so even if you are covering the whole country, you’re likely not putting a lot of mileage on your rental car. We filled up once and then topped up before returning the car to Schiphol, spending a total of $105 in gas for a 10-day trip.
Driving in Holland is a whole other subject, as you’ll need to know how to drive a stick shift (manual car) and also how to drive mindfully in a country that primarily comprises bikers.
Parking in Holland
Of course, renting a car poses the added hassle of parking. Luckily, it was easy enough—we downloaded the app Seety, which allowed us to pay for street parking anywhere in the country. Parking cost around 2 euro an hour in smaller towns and as much as 8 euro an hour in bigger cities like Leiden and the Hague, and it was pricier the closer you got to the center (Centrum).
On average, we paid 3 euro an hour to park in Holland. Garage parking was much more expensive; we paid 36 euro to park overnight in Utrecht.
Commonly asked questions about traveling to Holland
Before you pull the trigger on your Netherlands vacation, here are a few common questions we’ve answered with 20 years’ worth of experience traveling through Holland.
When is the best time to visit Holland?
I won’t sugar-coat it: Our weather sucked. Our 10-day trip straddled March and April. Dutchies claimed the three weeks prior to our visit was gorgeous and spring-like; this was my fourth trip to Holland in the spring, and I’ve only ever seen gray skies and rain.
I did live in Holland through the fall, and it was gorgeous and dry. If you want to guarantee nice(r) weather, I’d aim to visit the Netherlands in September of October. If you want to see Holland’s tulips, plan your trip for May. They weren’t out yet during our most recent visit as our departure was mid-April and peak tulip season is late-April into May.
What do they eat in Holland?
Since our last visit to Holland, we’ve had some dramatic dietary restrictions, namely SVV being diagnosed with a mammal allergy and told to eat gluten- and dairy-free. While Holland loves its meat, being a coastal nation, it’s also full of fish dishes, which we took full advantage of. I also had several 12 o’Clocks, which are traditional Dutch lunches with an open-faced carpaccio sandwich, a cup of soup, and a croquette or salad.
You’ll see bitterballen on every menu; these fried doughy ball (similar to kroketten) are cooked up with a variety of fillings. The traditional filling is a meat paste, but we ordered the vegetarian versions and hardly noticed a difference. And yes, there are cheese shops everywhere.
Holland is also famous for its pancake houses, and every town has one (or a dozen). If you’re a sugar-lover like me, you’ll not only want to put a pannekoeken on your dining list, but also plan to eat at least one stroopwafel a day. These Dutch sweets made from sealing layers of a waffle cookie with caramel filling are sold in every supermarket, but I suggest getting them at a local farmers’ market, hot off the griddle.
What do they drink in Holland?
While you’ll find cocktails on every menu in Holland, expect to drink a whole lot of beer. Being sandwiched between Belgium and Germany means that the Netherlands is not wanting for quality brews, and it’s far more common for the Dutch to order beer than it is cocktails.
If you’re more into spirits than beer or wine, many bars and restaurants offer extensive gin and tonic menus, though you’ll often pay double the cost of a craft beer for a cocktail.
Do I need to exchange money?
We were in Holland for 10 days and only needed the local currency, the euro, twice: at the grocery store and at a castle in the rural part of the country. Everywhere else, from tiny cafes to museums, accepted U.S. credit and debit cards.
It’s smart to take out a nominal amount of euro (like $100) when you arrive for emergency purposes but plan to use your credit card when possible assuming you have a credit card with no foreign transaction fees.
Do I tip in Holland?
Like pretty much everywhere in Holland, tipping is not customary; service workers are paid a living wage without relying on tips, though you can always round up if you’re paying with cash. Only once in our 10-day trip was there a place on the credit card transaction screen to add a tip, and that was an American-owned business.
We did tip extra at the Michelin restaurant because the service was phenomenal, but just paid the bill exactly as it was everywhere else. It’s so nice being in a country that values hospitality and service industry workers and doesn’t guilt you into tacking on an extra 25 percent.
Do the Dutch really bike everywhere?
Yes, the Dutch ride bikes everywhere. It was one of our favorite things about living in Holland! Every town you visit will have plenty of options for riding a bike, just be sure you understand biking protocol before you join the masses on the roads.
The likelihood of a biker photobomb is high!
On this latest road trip through the Netherlands, we only biked one day in the West Frisian Islands, mainly because it was raining and right at freezing most of our time in Holland. Biking is fun when it’s warm and sunny; not so much when it’s raining and snowing.
Any questions about planning a road trip to Holland? Or Dutch culture in general?
Here are some of my other favorite Europe vacations:
- Island-Hopping in West Sweden: The Rugged Weather Islands
- Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Iceland in Winter
- High-Altitude Adventure: Hiking Gorges in the Austrian Alps
- Lisbon Essentials: The Portugal Tourist Traps to Visit—and Those to Skip
- The Ultimate Guide to Gothenburg: What to Eat, See & Do
- Planning an Epic Road Trip Through the Alps