I’m calling it: people don’t spend enough time in the Netherlands.
This country has so much to offer and yet most visitors opt to spend just a few days in Amsterdam before moving on. I recently spent three weeks travelling around the Netherlands, visiting Amsterdam, Utrecht, Keukenhof, Leiden, Maastricht, and the Hague, and my biggest takeaway is that this country is so much more than just Amsterdam.
And you’re going to want to make sure you pack well for your trip. During my first visit to the Netherlands, I arrived off the plane from sunny Southeast Asia. I believed that May would bring warm weather to Amsterdam, but instead spent the entire time shivering because I didn’t have the right clothes. Eventually, I had to go shopping to make myself more comfortable.
I’ve since returned to the Netherlands four times since then and I’ve learned a hell of a lot about how to pack for this country. Let’s get started.
My Luggage Recommendations for the Netherlands
When it comes to travel in the Netherlands, the amount you’ll bring with you will depend a hell of a lot on the time of year you’ll be visiting, as well as the activities you’ll be doing while you’re there.
Travelling outside of summer? You’ll want to bring a lot of warm clothes and wet weather gear. Planning on doing a lot of walking? Make sure you have proper walking shoes, a decent backpack, and clothes for every weather condition.
Yes, in case you haven’t realised, the weather in the Netherlands can be more than a little variable, and it’s one of those countries where you can experience all four seasons in a single afternoon, not dissimilar to the weather in the U.K.
I’m a huge fan of travelling with a carry-on-sized backpack, as I appreciate the lack of back pain, the added ease of moving through the crowds, and not having to worry about lost luggage. For the Netherlands, though, there’s no real reason to really battle to keep the size of your luggage down. The streets are paved, so don’t pose a problem for suitcases, and because public transportation is fantastic, you’ll find travelling by trains to be easy.
I’m a big fan of the Osprey Farpoint 40l backpack, and take it on all of my adventures, whether I’m spending two weeks in Japan or six months in the South Pacific. It’s super-comfortable to wear, easy to pack, and has plenty of compartments to help keep your belongings organised. Osprey also offers a lifetime guarantee for all of their backpacks, which makes opting for one a no-brainer.
If you’re not a fan of backpacks, a possible alternative could be the Osprey Sojourn, a combined backpack and suitcase in one. You’ll be able to comfortably wheel your suitcase around the country, then wear it as a backpack when you come across a series of steps or a cobblestoned street.
What about a day pack?
You’re not going to want to take your main backpack/suitcase out with you while you’re exploring the streets of Amsterdam or the tulips of Keukenhof, so that’s why I recommend bringing a daypack with you on your trip.
Enter this teeny-tiny backpack that packs up to the size of an apple.
Despite its tiny size, this daypack still surprisingly strong, holding a two-litre bottle of water, two SLR cameras, two phones, and a guidebook when I was exploring all over Oceania last year. And it doesn’t look cheap and crinkly, either, as so many packable bags often do. I take this bad boy on every single one of my trips and appreciate that it doesn’t take up much space or weight in my luggage.
When it comes to spending time in the Netherlands, you’ll most likely be planning on spending a lot of time in cities and towns.
Note: I always, always overpack when it comes to tops. I’m 5’1” and tiny, so most of my strap tops ball up to the size of a sock. I always take advantage of this and bring a few options!
What to wear in the Netherlands in summer
Summer in the Netherlands (June – August) isn’t as hot as you might expect, with maximum temperatures ranging between 17 and 20 degrees across the country. As always with the Netherlands, prepare for bad weather and hope to be pleasantly surprised. Here’s what I recommend wearing during summer:
- Two strap tops: The Netherlands can get hot, so you’re going to want to wear lightweight, thin tops to stay as cool as possible. I pack a couple of spaghetti strap tops for those days where I can’t bear the thought of wearing anything larger.
- Three tank tops: For much the same reasons as why I bring strap tops, I pack a handful of tank tops to give me some variety with my clothes.
- Three t-shirts: T-shirts are also good for cloudy days or if you feel uncomfortable showing any more skin.
- Two dressy tops: Bring a couple of nice tops for your evenings out.
- One dress: I like to wear a dress to keep cool in the summer months.
- One bikini: If you plan on hitting up the Netherlands beaches, you’ll want to bring some swimwear with you!
- One pair of denim shorts and a pair of bike shorts: I give myself two options, bringing some denim shorts and a pair of longer bike shorts.
- A poncho/rain jacket: The rain in the Netherlands can be a pain, so I usually pack a thin, breathable rain jacket for any unexpected showers.
- One outfit to keep you warm: Lows in the summer months are usually around 8-13 degrees, so you’ll want to have a warm outfit for any chilly nights. I usually bring a pair of jeans and fleece for any late-night wandering.
- Enough underwear for the length of the trip: For me, this is two bras, five pairs of socks, and seven pairs of underwear. If I’m travelling for longer than a week, I’ll either pay to get laundry done or use my travel laundry bar and stain remover to wash my clothes in the sink.
The Netherlands is one of the flattest countries in the world, but the streets are often full of cobblestones, so you might want to leave the heels behind. Here’s what I took with me on my three-week trip across the Netherlands:
- Flip-flops: I travel with these tropical-themed Havianas and love how comfortable they are. I use flip-flops for short wanders through the local towns in the evenings.
- Walking shoes: I’m absolutely in love with my Merrell Accentor walking shoes and think they’re the best I’ve ever owned. I’ve used these shoes to hike the 120 mile South Downs Way in the U.K. and plan on taking them on the Camino de Santiago with me later this month.
- Something for dressing up: I really like taking tennis shoes, like these low-top Converse sneakers in pastel shades to wear for dressing up, especially as they’ll give me a little more grip on the streets than strappy sandals. If you plan on hitting up high-end restaurants and dressing up while you’re in the Netherlands, take something you know you’ll be happy wearing. You know your style better than I do!
Sunglasses: Obviously, this is just a summer essential, but I always seem to end up packing sunglasses with me on every trip I take.
Quick-dry travel towel: This is one of my travel essentials! My Sea to Summit towel in extra large size has been the perfect travel companion for the past eight years. It’s the size of a satsuma, weighs next to nothing, dries within minutes, and lasts for years. I’ve been travelling with the same one for five years now, and I promise it isn’t as gross at it sounds — it looks as good as new!
Medications to Pack for the Netherlands
You’ll be able to get most medications in the Netherlands that you can at home, so there’s no real reason to pack a huge first aid kit with you. Still, there are a handful of medicines I find useful to have on hand at all times. This is what my travel first aid kit contains:
- Dramamine: I suffer from motion sickness, so always make sure to have some motion-sickness tablets on hand, especially if I’m going to be venturing out on the water. Yep, my motion sickness can get so bad that I get nauseated on the Amsterdam canals!
- Painkillers: There’s nothing worse than having to venture out in an unfamiliar country in search of a pharmacy when you’re dealing with an agonising headache. That’s why I always travel with a dozen painkillers when I travel, usually half a dozen acetaminophen tablets and half a dozen ibuprofen.
- Imodium: Unfortunately, travel isn’t always incredible for our stomachs, and travellers’ diarrhoea can sometimes threaten to ruin your vacation, even in a country like the Netherlands. I always keep Imodium on hand for any times when the local food doesn’t agree with me. It’s been a life-saver on days when I’ve needed to get on a train and wouldn’t have otherwise been able to leave the bathroom. I also recommend packing some DripDrop rehydration sachets in case you get felled by food poisoning or sun stroke.
- Anti-histamines: I’m a very reactive person, so anti-histamines are a must for me! I always bring half a dozen tablets with me in case I break out in hives or start sneezing all over the country.
- Band-aids: You don’t want to get an infection while travelling in the Netherlands, so you’ll want to bring a couple of bandaids and a small tube of antiseptic cream for any cuts or grazes you may get. The last thing you want is for a cut or blister to get infected while travelling.
Essential Travel Technology for the Netherlands
When it comes to travel technology, what you decide to pack will depend on the type of traveller you are. I work as a blogger, so I tend to carry a little more tech than those of you that don’t work on the road. Here’s what’s in the technology section of my backpack:
- A smartphone: I travel with an iPhone XS, but there’s no real need to upgrade your phone for your trip to the Netherlands — just take whatever you normally use at home. Ensure your phone is unlocked and pick up a local SIM card once you arrive. If you’re an EU resident, you’ll be able to use your phone as normal.
- A camera: My main camera these days is the Sony A7ii with a 28-70mm lens, along with a couple of 32 GB SanDisk SD cards. I’m incredibly happy with the quality of the camera and lens, though, and would highly recommend it if you have the cash and are looking to invest in a mirrorless system. If you’re not into photography, just bring whatever camera you usually use on holiday, or use your smartphone to take photos.
- A Kindle Paperwhite: Now this is something I won’t consider travelling without. I’m a read so much when I travel, and a Kindle allows me to power through a travel memoir a day without adding weight to my luggage. If you’re looking for reading material, obviously How Not to Travel the World is a travel memoir classic. I’m also a superfan of Love With a Chance of Drowning, Wild, In a Sunburned Country, Canoeing the Congo, Travels With Myself and Another, Marching Powder, The Alchemist, The Geography of Bliss, What I Was Doing While You Were Breeding… I’d also recommend grabbing a Kindle copy of Lonely Planet Netherlands — it’s the best-reviewed Netherlands guidebook, was published in 2019, and is one of only a few you can read digitally. As an added bonus, Lonely Planet guidebooks look fantastic on bookshelves — I always buy one for every destination I visit!
- A laptop/tablet: Most of you won’t need to bring your laptop with you. If you don’t think you’ll have a use for it, save on weight and space and leave it at home. You’ll probably be fine just using your phone.
- Various chargers/adapters: Make sure you bring a travel adapter with you! I’ve tried out so many travel adapters over the years, but the one from Saunorch is easily my favourite. It looks great, works perfectly, and doesn’t fall out of power sockets, like so many others do. You can use it for travel in the Netherlands, no matter which country you hail from. You’ll also want to make sure you pack enough chargers for all of your devices.
Toiletries for a Trip to the Netherlands
There’s nothing out of the ordinary that you’ll need to pack for the Netherlands when it comes to toiletries. If you’ll be rocking the carry-on life, you’ll want to make sure that your liquids are under 100ml, or resolve to buy them when you arrive.
- Bamboo toothbrush and toothpaste: I invested in a bamboo toothbrush recently to cut down on my plastic consumption, and I’m obsessed with the offerings from B-Earthly. Their toothbrushes are biodegradable, comfortable to use, great for sensitive teeth, come with a travel case, and have a built-in tongue-cleaner. I combine mine with Crush&Brush toothpaste tablets, which come in zero-waste packaging, and biodegradable dental floss.
- A razor: I usually pack one reusable razor for each trip.
- Deodorant: I’m a big fan of the Organic Island solid deodorant bar. It’s plastic-free, biodegradable, and works just as well as traditional deodorants. The fact that it’s not a liquid will please all of my fellow carry-on travellers out there!
- Sunscreen: If you’ll be visiting the Netherlands during the summer, there’s still a risk of sunburn. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and pack a small bottle of sunscreen if it looks like it’s going to be hot.
- Solid shampoo and conditioner: I love LUSH’s solid shampoo bars — they leave my hair feeling soft and shiny, are super-lightweight and small, and last me over six months when using them continuously! Because they’re so small, I’d definitely recommend picking up some solid conditioner, too. The cork pots that are sold by LUSH are perfect for storing your bars as you travel.
- A small bar of soap: I usually grab a bar of soap from LUSH before a trip, too. I love their products and the fact that they’re packaging-free. A bar of soap will last me for an entire trip and also means I don’t add to my liquid limit with shower gels.
- Tangle Teezer: I’ve been traveling with a Tangle Teezer since I first started traveling, and it’s the only hairbrush I’ve found that can get rid of all of all of the knots in my crazy, curly hair.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
If you’ve read any other posts on Never Ending Footsteps, you’ll know that I’m a great believer in travelling with travel insurance. I’ve seen far too many Go Fund Me campaigns from destitute backpackers that are unexpectedly stranded in a foreign country after a scooter accident/being attacked/breaking a leg, with no way of getting home or paying for their healthcare. In short, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.
Travel insurance will cover you if your flight is delayed and you miss your connection, if your luggage gets lost and you have to buy replacements, if you unexpectedly get struck down by appendicitis and have to be hospitalised, if your phone gets stolen and you need to get it replaced, or if you discover a family member has died while you’re overseas and now you need to get home immediately. If you fall seriously ill, your insurance will cover the costs to fly you home to receive medical treatment. You can’t afford not to travel with it.
I recommend using World Nomads in the Netherlands. I’ve used them as my travel insurance provider since 2012 and have had nothing but good experiences with them.
What Not to Pack for a Trip to the Netherlands
A money belt: There’s no travel item I despise more than a money belt, and I very much recommend leaving yours at home. Why? Because they don’t work! Thieves know what money belts are and they know to look for them. When a friend was mugged while travelling, the first thing the attacker did was lift up her shirt and check for a money belt.
So not are they uncomfortable and weird and make it look like you store your valuables in your underwear, but they don’t even protect you from being robbed.
Instead of travelling with a money belt, I recommend splitting up your money and credit cards before you travel. Keep an emergency €20 in your shoe, put some of your money in your wallet, keep a card in your daypack, and some extra cash in a pocket. You’ll be a lot safer by doing this.