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Today, we boarded a train from London to Brussels, Belgium and then on to Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  The bright spot of the trip:  buying Belgian chocolates.  Aidan bit into his truffle, and excitedly (and a bit worriedly) exclaimed, “Mom, I think my chocolate had wine it it!”  No my dear, that was cherry liqueur.

Yum!   Belgian chocolates in Belgium.

Yum! Belgian chocolates in Brussels.

Travel TipTip 8:  You’ll need local currency.

In some countries, certain merchants will not take credit cards without a chip.  We weren’t able to get a chipped card in the U.S.  So make sure to have an ATM card so that you can withdraw enough cash. We encountered this issue at the train station and the grocery store.

In Amsterdam, we purchased 3-day tram tickets and made our way to the Stayokay Youth Hostel in Vondelpark.  Yes, I said “hostel,” our first and only on the trip.  I walked in and was instantly transported back to my college days at Northwestern – the main desk, the rooms with bunk beds (sheets, pillows, blankets included; no towels), the cafeteria (free continental breakfast), and a bar… ok, my dorm didn’t have a bar!

The place is packed with 20-somethings (who really slow down the Wi-Fi in the lobby!).  The boys are the youngest here; I’m close to the oldest.  Yikes!  The boys aren’t thrilled with the hostel, but it’s safe, clean, conveniently located, and much less expensive than area hotels.  For three nights, including breakfast, we’re paying $545.  (Note:  I paid for 4 people so that we could have a private room with a bathroom.) That’s a deal in Amsterdam.

Tip 9:  Don’t overpay for accommodations in large citiesTravel Tip

European city hotels are expensive.  Honestly, you’re not going to spend that much time in your hotel room, so why pay a small fortune.  We save our hotel splurges for more resort settings.