Amsterdam on a Shoestring – Part One: The Planning


Me and my #TeenageSon (17), have been Derby County season ticket holders for some years now, as well as going to numerous away games each season. I have blogged previously about the priceless memories these father and son #RoadTrip ‘s have left me with. (Click Here)

Throughout May the lad had been dropping numerous hints about Derby County’s pre-season friendly tournament in ‘Amsterdam’  in summer, all of which went over my head. So, it was time for him to change tack and it went something like this:

  • #TeenageSon: Daaaaaad, do you know how you and mum have been on holiday this year and I haven’t?
  • Me: Yes, because you didn’t want to come and said you would be bored!
  • #TeenageSon: I know……but it still means I haven’t been on holiday doesn’t it?

At this point I was expecting a request to fund a trip for him to go with his mates to Newquay over the summer break or a long weekend to Ibiza, however, I was pleasantly surprised…..

  • Me: …and your point is…?
  • #TeenageSon: I was thinking me and you could go and watch Derby pre-season friendlies in Amsterdam?

Now, this threw me, you need to understand the context of my decision making that night, I’ll set you the scene: It was a Friday night and I’d had one hell of a week at work, the wine had been opened and I was the best way through a bottle of half decent Sauvignon Blanc. With the athleticism of a panther the boy sensed my moment of alcohol inebriated weakness, he pounced on the glimmer of hope in my hesitation and bombarded me with a range of reasons why we should go, it wasn’t long before I succumbed and agreed to the trip which was the following month – not that it took much persuading.

The following morning I became privy to the actually details of the trip, firstly it was not a couple of nights it was four, secondly the two football games weren’t in Amsterdam, but the Netherlands which is a big country. Furthermore the games were miles away from Amsterdam Centre and poles apart. During the course of the morning I also discovered the previous night I had also agreed it would be a good idea if one of his mates tagged along, fortunately, it was one of the longstanding loyal and sensible footie road trippers.

During their time in the Netherlands, the Rams will play Eredivisie side PEC Zwolle on Tuesday 21st July (7:30pm local time) followed by a match against FC Utrecht also from the Dutch top flight – on Friday 24th July (7pm local time). I quickly realised time was against us if I was to get the best price, so the first thing I did was to research the flights. We all know poor flight times and lengthy journeys to departure airports can turn a four day break into two actual days of holiday.

The Flight

When booking a no frills flight I think the majority of people have a destination in mind and spend hours a day checking some of the well known budget airlines to see if the prices have dropped, whereas a few may just be searching for a cheap flight to determine their holiday destination and plan around that – either way researching flight routes from the departure airports of your preference will very quickly help you get an idea of which airline flies where and help you focus your research. Budget airlines often announce flight sales that offer cheaper flight deals on selected dates for often ridiculous prices (with hidden charges normally) so keep your eye out for those, as they often sell out in minutes. 

At a first glance a lot of the low-cost airlines offer flights that are advertised for a very low price. There are couple of things to be mindful of before booking which can bump up the price and catch you off guard, once taxes and additional charges are added they can work out costing more than you would like to pay. Each airport and airline has different charges, so it’s important to consider the final price before you book.

When you’re booking your flight, remember to check if the airline website is adding travel insurance to your booking. Many of the websites do this as standard, but as I have annual multi trip insurance I don’t requires this, often indicate cover, ensure you un-tick this option. Other unexpected charges are booking fees for using a credit card and don’t even get me started on the minefield of hold and hand baggage weights and size limits for the different airlines. Last month I got stung for £30 excess baggage on a hold bag, not realising the limit was only 15kg! (The suitcase weights 4kg empty!!)

To cut a long story short I got return tickets for £105 per person, taxes, charges included and 10kg worth of hand baggage, yes creative packing will be required to prevent paying the added cost of a hold bag. (£87)

I did research driving there using the ferry or tunnel but even with the fuel efficiency of my Toyota Prius the cost was far greater than flying. I’m not going to dwell too much on airport parking charges but you need to factor this in, obviously the cheapest method is to sweet talk a friend or family member to take and bring you back in return for a decent bottle of wine, however this normally relies on decent flight times which mine were but I still opted for paying £54 parking onsite at the airport, walking distance to the terminal for my own convenience.

A interesting fact that I haven’t managed to fathom out yet was if I enter the same journey, date and time with the same cheap flight comparison website on three different devices, at the same time… I get different prices, sometimes significantly different, I can’t help thinking dark forces are at work with some of these companies with them knowing my previous search history on the different devices.. Hmmmm time to delete history and clear cache!!

The Hotel

As with most places you will always get more hotel for your money the further away from the city centre you are. Amsterdam is no exception and one of the most expensive cities in Europe when it comes to accommodation. Common sense told me to avoid the central red light district area as even the most basic of accommodation is likely to be notoriously expensive for what is likely to be back packing quality or require a second mortgage for something more classy. My budget for accommodation was no more than £500 (a triple room for four nights) so,  I figured I had two options: a hotel just outside the city centre but walking distance, (20 mins) or a hotel near the airport which I know has great transport links to the centre.

I had a couple of reservations about the second option, even though it was my preferred option as I knew I could secure a 4 star hotel with pool and gym under budget, but hey, it’s not all about me. You have to remember I have two 17 year olds in tow who are going to want to go exploring without me. So, the decision was made, no gym, no pool, but walking distance from wild and wonderful spaces, inspired architecture, museums, rows of canal houses, historic markets, gorgeous waterways and courtyards, not to mention the cafe’s and restaurants offering any cuisine you can image at a budget price if you know where to go.

I managed to secured the hotel for £450, four nights for all of us, triple room, 3 stars and reasonable reviews on Trip Adviser (yes I know they can be manipulated but I’m taking a gamble), We’ll have to see how it fairs in my sequel to this blog post trip.

Football aside…………

So the two preseason #DCFC games are the Tuesday night the day we arrive and the day before we leave which gives me some play time. I’ve only ever been to Amsterdam once before with work, it was literally a flying visit then onto Rotterdam and didn’t really get to see much of the culture. I’m likely to end up home alone in Amsterdam with the lads wanting go off and therefore need to organise my time wisely, this requires a plan… So, here is the short list of places I must squeeze in, anything else is a bonus.

Dam Square

Dam Square an obvious choice located in the heart of Amsterdam where history and modernity collide. Given the theme of the venture is #AmsterdamOnAShoeString this freebie is a must to see the magnificent foyer and historical rooms of the Royal Family’s neoclassical ceremonial home.

Red Light District

Come on, it would be rude not to take a mosey through the city’s most risque district. Of course my only purpose is to check out the restaurants and Chinatown and embrace the area’s liberal vibe that reflects the Dutch tolerance for freedom of expression.

Flower Market

The idea of a flower market and me armed with my iPhone 6 sends shivers down my spine, I’ll be #Instagram ‘ing until my heart is content walking through the tulips at the city’s unique floating flower market.


Dappermarkt is one of Amsterdam’s oldest markets where you encounter the ‘real’ Amsterdam apparently, with it’s noises, sights, smells and sounds tingling every one of your senses. Everything is available here from food to clothes and there are even some local delicacies that you can sample in the market.


Durgerdam is an old harbour village east of Amsterdam’s city centre, in the IJsselmeer. There’s a long row of “dyke” houses on the edge, as well as a chapel, harbour and church #iphoneography opportunity. I think this would be a good opportunity to hire a bike for the day and explore a little more of the outer centre to escape the busyness of the city.

As I said these are a must and I’m sure if I am left alone, I’ll clinically plan and shoehorn as many freebies in as possible (yes freebies).


The only other thing to touch on is where we are going to eat. There’ll be no Michelin Star Restaurants, just well reviewed, excellent value for money nosh, (that the lads will also appreciate). So here are few places i’ve spotted on the internet as being exceptionally good quality and value for money.

Burger Zaken
Apparently Amsterdam finest burgers are prepared here and Burger Zaken has just added a great new burger type to the Menu: the Wagyu beef burger. Yum! Wagyu cattle is famous for its marbling characteristics and its naturally increased, tenderness, taste, and juiciness.

De Rozenboom

De Rozenboom is a traditional Dutch restaurant, described as a cosy little place with a an uncomplicated menu that serves high quality food at very reasonable prices.


A quaint cafe located in a quiet spot but in the old part of Amsterdam over looking the canal, ideal for a quick cheap lunch where everything is homemade


Run by two Italians this is apparently the best place for pizza or pasta in Amsterdam and very very reasonable prices. The lobster linguine and the scallop appetiser a must according to reviews.

To Summarise…

I call it #AmsterdamOnAShoeString but it’s on my shoe string, I know you could have four nights back packing and hitch hiking but would I enjoy it… Erm no! I may end up experiencing all of the above or none of the above (except the footie) but a good Boy Scout is always prepared and all will be revealed post trip in part two of this blog. As long as I come back with more happy memories with #TeenageSon and him and his mate have the time of their lives I don’t care about the rest ……….oh as long as I have something to blog about!


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