Since March 2020, the Netherlands has had several different levels of lockdown to control the virus, some of which offer an opportunity to get away for a weekend. Here are my tips on how to responsibly enjoy a holiday in the Netherlands during the pandemic.
The fine print
I am not a doctor (not enough education), nor a politician (not enough blind ambition), nor a conspiracy theorist (not enough Kool-Aid). I do take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously and respect the guidance provided by RIVM. Most importantly, I use common sense – a commodity seemingly in short supply around the world these days. These are the principles that I used when putting together my travel tips.
The Netherlands. First and foremost, don’t cross any national borders. There are too many risks with rules suddenly changing and you having to dash home before a border closes. Remember, you are escaping your house to relax, not to introduce additional stress into your life. Besides, The Netherlands is beautiful! Get out and explore it!
Nature. No one loves a good city trip more than me. But, with a highly infectious virus spreading through the population, my preference is to avoid places where you are in close proximity with others. There are plenty of wide open spaces in the Netherlands with fresh air, forests, rivers, fields, and hills (yes, hills!) to enjoy.
Zero contact, self-catered only. This means a house or cottage with a key-less entry system and a basic kitchen. There is no/very little contact with anyone for check-in, check-out, or other reasons throughout your stay. It’s just like staying home, but better. You don’t impact others. Others don’t impact you. You don’t spread the virus.
Automobile. This one is very disappointing, but having a car is essential for your getaway during the pandemic. You’ll need to get off the beaten path and carry everything with you. Remember, you want to be considerate and minimize contact with others (even at a grocery store) during your holiday.
Adjust these tips to your particular situation and tastes and of course always follow the current RIVM guidelines. Pretty simple, right? Now, let’s hit the road!
The primary reason that I suggest a car is to manage all of the supplies needed for self-catered eating. What you’ll need is highly dependent upon the time of year you are traveling, how long you are staying, and the type of accommodation you chose. I find it is much easier and less stressful to do all of the cooking and preparation at home. You can then freeze meals which are ready-to-eat upon arrival. This saves a lot of space and time while still giving you delicious home cooked grub.
Most of the places that I stay have full kitchens with all of the essentials. However, there are a few which are much more basic, having only a refrigerator and microwave. Don’t worry! If you have the following three items, you can make it work:
Cooler – Something to transport your frozen meals and keep at least one beer per person and a bottle of white wine chilled for when you arrive. I have a fold up, cloth cooler that works perfectly.
Electric fondue pot with lid (or foil) – It cooks, boils, and reheats all your meals in even the most basic kitchen. All you need is a plug and you can eat a hot meal – just like the old university days.
Italian coffee percolator – You have to have coffee, right? Bringing your own percolator guarantees your morning java. It will also heat water for tea if that’s your thing. If there is no stove top, then use the fondue pot as a burner.
What are we going to eat?
Keep it simple! For breakfast, I take a loaf of spiced bread and a stick of butter. That’s it. It doesn’t take up any cooler space and will stay fresh for your vacation. For lunch, I have either Ramen noodle soup if I am eating at the vacation house, or a simple wrap of meat and cheese if I am out-and-about exploring the local countryside. Don’t forget to bring plenty of fruit and snacks for your outside walks.
By the time that I get back in the evening, dinner is thawed and ready to reheat. Some of my favorite self-catered travel meals are:
Cheese Fondue – a simple, yet luxurious meal that gives you that gezellig and relaxed feeling on the first night of your vacation. I usually have a French baguette and some pre-steamed veggies for this meal. Brussel sprouts and mushrooms work best.
Chili – a hearty meal for fall and winter after a day on the trails. Easy to cook up and freeze at home with many variations possible. All you need to bring along is some bread and pre-grated cheddar cheese. Use the fondue pot to heat it up.
Meatloaf – Another easy meal to make at home and freeze. Frozen meatloaf also makes a great ice block for your cooler. Add a can of corn and pre-steamed potato and you have a simple, filling meal. Another tip is to make the meatloaf a bit bigger than needed for one meal, because the leftovers are great in your next dish – pasta.
Pasta – Boil the noodles in your fondue pot then strain off the water. Then add the leftover meatloaf (chopped up) and a can of diced tomatoes with garlic and herbs. Serve with pre-grated parmasian cheese and some hot chili flakes.
Soup – One of the simplest travel meals with endless varieties available. Make it up at home and freeze it or just bring along soup-in-a-bag purchased from your local grocery store.
Cold noodle salad (pictured) – For a summer stay, noodles with a peanut sauce and chicken is a great meal for having a picnic out in the sun. Easy to make at home and also freezes nicely.
Where are we going?
I’ve done a fair bit of exploring in The Netherlands, but the diversity of this little country continues to amaze me. I decided to focus on national parks for my pandemic escapes. As of January 2021, there are 21 national parks in the country, each offering a unique experience in nature. The accommodations around these parks are very diverse and cover a wide range of amenities and budgets. Here are a few that I can recommend from this years travels:
The Utrechtse Heuvelrug
A sprawling national park close to the Randstad with a wide range of activities. But for me, it’s all about the hills! There are some great mountain biking and hiking trails throughout the park. My favourites are near Amerongen, near the highest point in the park. This is the first time that we stayed in a cottage attached to a farm and it exceeded expectations for privacy and quiet. You can find these types of accommodations by filtering for “Op en erf” (in a yard). It was just a short walk to a trailhead into the national park. Here is a link to the vacation house we stayed in: www.natuurhuisje.nl/vakantiehuisje/51770
At just 5000 hectares, this park looks small on paper. But it is directly beside another national park and surrounded by thousands more hectares of preserved nature. For me, it is the most wild part of The Netherlands. Deer and wild boar are easy to find and there have even been recent sights of wolves!
I always stay at this little camping site when I visit the Veluwezoom. The Pods are cozy for a weekend stay. However, the kitchen is very limited so this is where you’ll need that fondue pot. Here is a link to the glamping pods: www.buitenplaatsbeekhuizen.nl/
Again, don’t be fooled by the small size of the parks here. Drenthe is a walker’s paradise! Dwingelderveld has stunning scenery, and the surrounding countryside is chalk full of trails and scenic villages. For someone living in the Randstad, the lack of crowds in Drenthe is almost shocking. The cottage that we stayed in was very dated and needed some major maintenance. However, I can still recommend it because it was clean, and cozy, and best of all it was located in the middle of nature inside the park! This is the place we stayed in: www.natuurhuisje.nl/vakantiehuisje/24466
Next to the German border, this long and narrow park has some hilly terrain for exploring or biking. There are great views out over the Maas river.
We stayed about 20 minutes away in Oploo. This house felt so luxurious over the Christmas period with its cozy fireplace and cottage feel. It is tucked into an old country estate and is extremely private. We could walk the trails of the estate right from the back door. I would highly recommend this place.
De Loonse en Drunense Duinen
This national park is frequently rated one of the most scenic in The Netherlands, but we will have to save it exploring it for the next trip. That’s because the vacation house we rented in Lage Mierde was surrounded by several large country estates that were open to the public and we had plenty of hiking and nature to explore right outside our door. This house was also luxurious, with two fireplaces and a wood-fired hot tub so we spent more time playing games inside and enjoying the cozy warmth. It snowed during our stay and sitting in the hot tub surrounded by white was nothing less than magical. Here is the link for the house: www.belvilla.nl/vakantiehuizen/lage-mierde-6-personen-NL-0018-21
One last tip
I want to give you one last tip before you book your getaway. I know that many of my European friends will roll their eyes and shake their heads, but I’d recommend travel like an American during the pandemic. Keep it short and do it often. It’s amazing how well just few days can recharge you. Enjoy your getaway! Hopefully we’ll be back to normal for late summer vacations.
Hunkering down and staying safe during a global pandemic is the right thing to do – for ourselves, for our health care system, and for our fellow citizens. We need to follow the RIVM guidelines and work together to get through this difficult time.
This is an ongoing situation and it is advisable to check the websites of the relevant authorities to obtain the most up-to-date information.
To keep updated with advice from the government and the RIVM, head to: