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Luggage and packing, and Customs
Luggage and bags: My wife and I checked two large roller bags on our flights, that contained mostly clothing. We each had a carry-on that contained, in a worst-case scenario of checked luggage being delayed or lost, items such as one change of clothes, toiletries, minor first-aid, personal items, camera, guidebook and other maps and pre-trip to-do lists and notes, pretty much everything that would be a pain or costly or impossible to replace if lost. You could always buy more clothes in a pinch.
Prior to our trip we bought TSA-approved combination locks for our checked luggage and carry-ons, with nifty red/green indicator lights that would go from green to red if a bag had been opened by an inspector with a TSA lock tool. Nice peace of mind after reading reports of baggage handlers stealing items from luggage at various airports. Neither checked bag indicated having been opened on the trip over or back, and we didn't lock our carry-ons until passing through airport gate areas in case they needed to be inspected.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Winter, even early Winter in Amsterdam, means being dressed for anything from sub-freezing temps to surprisingly mild, almost warm days. Also for the very high probabllity of some rain and maybe a windy, gusty day. Keep in mind that the prevailing winds and weather systems are usually coming from the direction of the sea, with the attendant moisture.
Photo Equipment: We took only a digital camera, mainly for compactness and its ease of carrying, but also due to not having to be concerned with film issues and luggage x-ray machines at airports. We also own a nice 35mm film camera, and I would argue with anyone that if you know what you're doing can take better quality with those than a digital, but chose to leave it at home.
Miscellaneous: I honestly could not tell you exactly how Customs works as far as going into the Netherlands, and I know that sounds weird. When we exited our plane, with our two carry-on bags, we went to the baggage claim carousels and got our two larger, checked bags. Back behind some of these was obviously what was a Customs area, with a long line and several tables at an inspection point with luggage being opened and items strewn about on the tables. We started over that way, then noticed that quite a few people carrying or pulling luggage seemed to be just walking to the other end of that area from the carousels and getting in a shorter, line leading through some doorways. Unsure of what the deal was, we turned and went into that line, which also included those that had been in the inspection area and coming out the other end. Right on through some corridor areas we walked with everyone else and we were on our way.
If someone can explain this to me, I'd love to hear it. Still scratching our heads on this one!
Watch your luggage weight
Luggage and bags: While a seasoned traveler will most likely know, for first timers it can be a little bit of a shocker.
Skycaps & bell hops are not part of the local culture! You are expected to carry your own bags. The good news is that the airport does offer free carts, as well as some hotels.
Also while flying from/to the U.S. the limit is almost twice what domestic travel is here. Most European domestic flights limit you to 1 check in bag at 40 to 50 pound limit and 1 carry on with a 11 pound limit.
If you are flying through, no problem. However if you have set your trip on different tickets (example Amsterdam for a few days, then booked a flight for Paris) this can be a problem. Make sure you check the airlines limits before leaving.
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Luggage and bags: The main shopping areas are the Leidsestraat between the Leidseplein and Spui, and the Kalverstraat and Nieuwendijk.
There are large stores near the Munt Tower, and at the Dam.
The flower market on the Singel (between the top of the Leidsestraat and the Munt Tower) is not to be missed.
- Family Travel
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: You do not need to bring a full suitcase, because shopping in A'dam is really fun.
If you are a shopping victim, A'dam is the place for you. The main shopping area is the Nieuwdijk, Kalverstraat, but you will not find a lot of interesting shops there: it is a typical pedestrian street with basically the same stuff than any other city. You have to look for the many exclusive, eccentirc shops you will find scattered all over the city centre. But get ready to make your credit card turn into fire, since prices are not low there.
The best thing about shopping in Amsterdam is that most shops are open also on Sundays.
Miscellaneous: Just in case you might be the motif on a post-card, dress smart ;)
Luggage and bags: If you like to shop till you drop this is a good place to indulge yourself. Bring a spare fold up bag to bring home your purchases.
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Amsterdam Travel Guide
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