The Netherlands is the cheap, no-fly holiday destination that avoids the threat of flight strikes this summer

Dodge potential flight disruption this summer and discover white sand beaches, amazing architecture and sublime cycling in this compact, good-value European alternative

Though only the ninth most visited European country by British holidaymakers, the Netherlands was recently ranked as the best family holiday destination in Europe by Google’s experimental AI chatbot, Bard – as part of a study by Forbes Advisor – thanks to its wealth of family-friendly attractions.

More than that, it’s ideal for those who want to avoid searing summer heatwaves but find value for money, multiple dimensions, and the ease of avoiding airport hassles. Here are eight reasons to go…

Sail away

Rolling on to a car ferry direct to destination not only eliminates the threat of European air traffic control strikes and the expense of airport parking, car hire, and add-on baggage fees, but also gifts all the seatbelt-free fun of a seven-hour cruise.

Price comparisons swing in ferries’ favour too: a return journey for two adults and two children in a car on the Harwich to Hoek-van-Holland daytime ferry service costs £509 from 6-13 August (; a classic fly-and-flop such as Gatwick to Alicante with easyJet (no bags) costs a total of £977 for the same dates.

Ferries also operate between Hull and Rotterdam (, and Newcastle to Amsterdam (

Heighten the excitement by making one of your crossings overnight (like a sleeper, only cheaper). The journey takes around an hour longer than the daytime Hook of Holland service, but there are dog-friendly cabins available. Once you roll off, nowhere in the Netherlands entails an eternal onward drive: the country’s most distant destinations are a maximum of three hours away.

North Sea secrets

The Netherlands has a 350km -long North Sea coastline of dunes, powder-soft sandy beaches, and islands favoured by Dutch and German nationals.

While Scheveningen (neighbour of The Hague) and Zandwoort (near Haarlem and Amsterdam) are the most popular mainland resorts, the five Wadden Islands that crest the northern Netherlands are under-the-radar wonders. Chief of the chain is Texel, a 25-km-long haven for beach horseriding, nature reserves, seafood, dunes, lighthouse climbs and swimming, all accessible by 20-minute ferry from Den Helder.

For a family of four, four nights in a family suite at Hotel-de-Waal in early August costs £1,055 B&B.

Holiday villages

If you prefer your swimming to be a tad more on the tropical side than the brisk North Sea, there are nine paradise-pooled Center Parcs sites in the Netherlands – the group was founded here and separated from Center Parcs UK in 2001.

They share some hallmark features and some points of Euro-difference. Compare the cost of two adults plus two children at the UK’s Whinfell site – £1,349 – to the Netherlands’ refurbed De Kempervennen (near Eindhoven and with an all-year-round winter sports centre) – from £957 – for the same four August nights, for example.

Look into Landal too: holiday villages all over the country, each with its own fun-factor provision from playgrounds and pools to pony ranches and pump tracks. Take Landal’s Natuurdorp Suyderoogh park in the Friesland region for example: four nights in a bungalow in early August costs £638 for a family of four, adding an indoor pool, recreational beach, mini golf, and Dark Sky Park stargazing to the holiday memories.


Statue of Miffy at a square in Utrecht. Children all over the world have grown up with it; Miffy's books. And that makes the creator and draftsman of Miffy, Dick Bruna, one of the most famous people from Utrecht. Image via
Statue of Miffy at a square in Utrecht (Photo: Iris Van Den Broek/Eyeris Photography)

While most parents have no inclination to drag hot, whiny tots through Mediterranean city streets in August, Dutch summer highs averaging 23°C make urban exploration more viable.

Go for Utrecht: canal scenes as picture-perfect as Amsterdam’s, minus the crowds and with the added USP of split-level canalsides that nurture a water’s-edge café culture. It is easy to visit by train from most parts of the country (it’s on the same line as Amsterdam)

A smart and neat city that won’t overly tire young limbs, Utrecht is also home to Miffy (creator Dick Bruna takes on godly status around here) and the revamped Miffy Museum, complete with 360° immersive projection, has just reopened.

Nearby, the Speelklok museum of mechanical musical instruments is an exuberant, antique wonder.

Rotterdam – a shade cooler

NYC meets Berlin in Rotterdam, the teen’s pick, where Second World War destruction gave rise to reinvention, creativity, and colour-popping statement architecture.

Standout moments come care of a climbable work of street art, Tate-Modern-esque interactive art at Kunsthall (children over 120cms can bounce on temporary installation, Giant Billiard), and rooftop views from the multi-mirrored Depot Boijmans art storage facility.

The real fun is in the A to B: a good-value, high-speed water taxi service that zips up the Maas river.

Make the multicultural food venue Foodhallen one of your destinations for moreish bitterballen (fried ragout balls – the Netherlands’ answer to tapas) with a side portion of table tennis while you wait.

Add a unique place to stay – the Stayokay hostel at the iconic cube houses, or to push the boat out and earn some serious kid kudos for a night there’s Wikkelboats floating glamping – from £587 for a family of four.

Donald Dutch

Europe?s oldest and weirdest theme park, Efteling Sprookjesboom Fairy Tale Tree Pic -
The Fairy Tale Tree at De Efteling in the Netherlands (Photo: De Efteling)

Natives in flat countries need to get their highs somehow (ahem); and in the Netherlands they’re at De Efteling, the Netherlands’ most popular theme park. As easy to reach from Calais as Disneyland Paris (it’s bang on 178 miles to each), expect extreme waaaaah!s on a 55-mph plunger, a roller-flume, a double-looper, and a rollercoaster in the dark, plus wads of fairy tale thrills to suit the young.

Efteling also hosts the family show “Caro” – slick, pacy, funny, multilingual, and with highly skilled performance – plus there’s some really good on-site accommodation. Efteling may not be Disney-dimensioned, but it’s £250 cheaper for a family of four on the same August date.

Clever clogs

Notwithstanding a junior’s distain for anything that looks like LOH (Learning On Holiday), use the country’s Unesco listings as your compass to some unique and otherworldly Dutch facets to light up their neural pathways. Highlights include: the Wadden Sea nature reserve where families with hardy teens can walk across the bottom of the sea at low tide (with an experienced guide only); the historic Dutch Water Defence Lines, an ingenious and mighty defence mechanism that could be flooded to protect against invasion; and a world of 18th-century windmills to discover at Kinderdijk, where 19 stand as part of the water management system to prevent lowland flooding. Class dismissed.

Cycling as flat as a pancake

This is a photo of bicycles on a bridge in the old town of Utrecht, Netherlands. Its the 4th largest city in the country and has a very long history.
There’s a reason the Netherlands is so popular with cyclists (Photo: George Pachantouris/Getty)

Is it even a Dutch holiday without at least one spell on two wheels? Mad not to, with the incredible national network of cycle paths – principally flat, wide, peaceful, and clean. Search the 13 signature long-distance (“LF”) recreational routes, maybe plumping for a stretch of the spectacular 380-mile Kust (Coast) Route with dunes, resorts and historic towns en route. For a family of four, four nights from 4 August, Residentie Vlissingen costs £1,099 with overnight bike storage.

No matter where you cycle in the Netherlands, red-and-white wayfinding signs at every route-crossing ensure you can navigate reliably. If you’re hiring, go for a family-cargo bike or the classic high-handle-barred Omafiets to blend in. Just remember to bring your own helmets.

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