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10 Tips When You Travel To Amsterdam From A Monograms Local Host

There's nothing better when you travel than having a friend in town to give you the insider tips only a local would know. Most of us don't have friends everywhere on our travel bucket lists. But we do have Monograms.

Monograms tours take the best elements of traveling on your own – and the best parts of traveling with a tour. The secret sauce is the Monograms Local Host. They meet you and transfer you and from the airport, port, or station, take you on a tour of your destination to get you oriented with VIP access to some attractions that allow you to skip the lines of independent travelers… and the Local Host is even available during the rest of your visit to answer questions and give you tips about other things to do to personalize your vacation so it's all you want it to be.

We've strung a couple of Monograms tours together to make a longer trip. And we've taken a Monograms tour of Amsterdam as a pre-cruise extension of an Avalon river cruise in the Netherlands.

We've been to Amsterdam before, but were thrilled to have a Monograms Local Host to give us some insider tips to what's latest and best in Amsterdam right now. Here are his 10 fantastic tips:

By: Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

1. Lynn: Amsterdam is on a lot of travel bucket lists and many people have a checklist of places they want to see and things they want to do when they visit Amsterdam.What is the neighborhood or experience that might be over-hyped now… and visitors could skip?

Monograms Local Host: Skip Dam Square & Damrak Area.It's way too crowded and is a very tourist-y area where the shops & restaurants target tourists.You won't find authentic Amsterdam here.

2. Lynn: Is there a less-famous district where you can still see how real locals live today?

Monograms Local Host: Yes!Travelers can experience real local lifestyle.

  • Explore the Jordaan district, the Pijp district and Amsterdam Tower, they are up and coming and not so famous yet.
  • Go to the new Food Hall!
  • Take a train to Zandvoort, the beach, from Central Station, which is next to the Double Tree Hilton Hotel we use on Monograms tours.

3. Lynn: When you take visitors on their private Monograms tour, what is the thing about Amsterdam that surprises first-time visitors the most?

Monograms Local Host:People can't believe all the bicycles!There are more bicycles in Amsterdam than people.It's a huge cycling culture and it's right in front of you from the moment you arrive in Amsterdam.

4. Lynn: Many people might be intimidated to try cycling in a city with such aggressive cyclists. If we don't want to bicycle ourselves, or take a break from walking, what is the best way to get around?

Monograms Local Host:

  • Take the tram (streetcar).They are efficient, take you anywhere in town, and easy to figure out.
  • The next best thing to taking a bike yourself might be a bike taxi, but be careful which company you use – ask your Local Host or hotel concierge to recommend one.
  • Hop-on hop off canal boats are such a unique Amsterdam experience.

5. Lynn: Every time I come to Amsterdam I make sure I reserve one evening for Rijstaffel.What are other local food experiences or dishes you must not miss when you are in AMS?

Monograms Local Host: Everyone must try Rijstaffel, or 'Rice Table'.It's Indonesian food that came here from the Netherland's colonial heritage in Indonesia.So it's not at all like traditional Dutch food, but still it's a truly unique Dutch dining experience. For Dutch food, you must try:

  • Poffertjes = small pancakes
  • Kibbeling = dutch fried fish
  • Stamppot = potatoes mashed with other vegetables or even fruit
  • Dutch Apple pie at Café Papeneiland at the corner of Brouwersgracht & Prinsengracht

6. Lynn: How about drinks?It seems everyone takes the Heineken tour.

Monograms Local Host: Dutch beer is not only about Heineken! Try newer, local Amsterdam breweries like:

  • Brouwerij ‘t Ij (Brewery in a windmill)
  • Brouwerij “Poesiat & Kater” in the east of Amsterdam
  • De Leckere = a beer from Utrecht
  • Genever = dutch Gin, Bols is the most famous genever producer

7. Lynn: There's a lot of Dutch food I still haven't tried. What is the most unexpected culinary tradition in AMS you have a hard time convincing visitors to try?

Monograms Local Host: Well, I think all Dutch food is delicious! But two dishes are hard to get people to try:

  • Raw herring.Everyone is afraid to try it! You eat it with pickles and onions and it's always more delicious than visitors expect.
  • The dutch like to eat “salt liquorice” which guests don’t like at all!!! But you should still try!

8. Lynn: Amsterdam has many world-renowned museums but some people avoid them because of line- ups or miss them because they haven't planned ahead.Do you have any tips?

Monograms Local Host: There are so many museums in Amsterdam, but these are among the most popular and most busy, and some of these tips apply to many museums not just in the Netherlands, but everywhere.

  • Getting the tickets for Rijksmuseum sometimes can be a challenge, but it’s included in the Monograms city sightseeing tour and so our guests skip the line.
  • Anne Frank: book the tickets months before, or go after 3:30 pm if you don’t have tickets and you can just walk in. The best time to visit Anne Frank house is actually at 6 pm, it is open until 9 in summer months and then there are almost no visitors.
  • Van Gogh Museum: you can only book tickets online, which is easiest to do from home before you travel.Choose your window very early or very late in the day to be sharing the museum with the fewest other fans of the artist.

9. Lynn:I love Amsterdam canal cruises, but I know some people skip tours and like to explore on foot.Do you think people should always take an Amsterdam canal cruise?

Monograms Local Host: Amsterdam is a city of canals – they are maybe more important than even the streets. The best way to see Amsterdam is from the water – it gives you the best perspective of the beauty of the canal houses and it is the way to get a good idea of the city & lay-out of the city. A canal cruise is a great orientation, after that you know which places you would like to spend more time in.

10. Lynn: Every city has café's and bars, markets and parks that can entertain you people watching for hours.Where are your favorites?

Monograms Local Host:

  • For cafés, try the Jordaan area, Noordermarkt, or Westerstraat
  • Go to the Saturday market at Lindengracht
  • And the daily Albert Cuijp market
  • For parks, try Westerpark or Vondelpark
  • And the Sky Lounge bar at Double Tree Hilton is always buzzing and has the best views of the city.

Start your Trip!

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Buenos Aires ranks high on travel bucket lists: an exciting, European-influenced city in a remote country, renowned for a passionate history and punching above its weight in contributions to global culture.

Argentina has given the world the breathtaking music and dance of tango, the legendary Eva Peron (immortalized in the timeless musical Evita!), some of the New World's best wines from its vineyards, finest beef from its ranches, not to mention its famed polo players, soccer stars, and rabid soccer fans.

With a European familiarity, but its own uniquely Argentine and Latin sensibility, Buenos Aires is a world capital where you want to make sure you don't miss a beat. So my colleagues and I decided to try Monograms.

It's a hybrid way to travel that cherry picks the best parts of doing it on your own, and combines them with the benefits of groups. Monograms promised all the pleasures of Buenos Aires, with someone else doing the hard work – and a Local Host to provide tips and insights and recommendations. Sounds like the dream way to travel, doesn't it?

Here are 6 Reasons to Take a Monograms Tour of Buenos Aires:

The Local Host

The Local Host is the hero of any Monograms story. Our guide Analia is a local who loves her city and is passionate about sharing it with guests. Even when she wasn't with us, she was available by phone. It's like visiting a friend in another city: they take you to and from the airport, help you with logistics, provide you with essential insider tips like the coolest restaurants and local tipping practices, take you to some places and recommend other places for you to explore on your own in your free time.


The Airport:

Independent travelers are used to that moment in Arrivals. You're tired after that long flight, you haul your bags off the belt, go through Immigration… then you're in Arrivals and you have to rally again to figure out the lay of the land as you longingly file past the signs being held up to greet other new arrivals that promise a warm welcome and assistance.

That VIP treatment is yours on a Monograms tour. Our guide Analia was waiting for us, her Monograms sign a welcome beacon in a busy airport. It's not like a large group tour either. No waiting for 30 other people to join us; our group of 3 was whisked off to a waiting mini van.

Luggage and Tipping:

Lugging luggage is the least fun part of any trip. Our bags were taken from us, loaded into the van, and at our hotel, unloaded, and handed to bellmen to take care of from there. A seamless hand-off with no fuss for us. We breezed into our hotel, all without lifting a finger. Or opening a wallet and fumbling with local currency. Tipping had already been taken care of.

Hotel:

Monograms tours include hotels, but you still get to customize your Buenos Aires experience. You can choose among different hotels at different price points and different neighborhoods to suit your own budget and interests in the city. Breakfast is included, so you can start your day off right and without having to figure that out.

In Buenos Aires, the breakfast buffet was so much more than a generic, 'international' meal. It was hard to resist delicious local dulce de leche (how do you make fresh pastries even better? Adding the local caramel sauce) and some of Argentina's famous meat in the form of thinly sliced cold cuts and sausages.

Our guide Analia escorted us in; the hotel staff knew her, and while our bags were being taken from the van to the lobby to our rooms, she smoothly arranged a late check out for us to accommodate our travel schedule. Our hotel was in a busy neighborhood, steps from local shops and cafes and on our first evening, we found the best restaurant around the corner, full of locals and only local dishes and wines – fantastic!

The Private Tour

What a wonderful way to get the lay of the land. And a private tour of the city with your guide is part of every Monograms tour.

Essential Buenos Aires includes the world's widest avenue (which Analia explained to us as we drove in from the airport), the famously and fabulously European architecture, the colorful and eccentric La Boca neighborhood, and even the cemetery in the Recoleta neighborhood, where Eva Peron's final resting place still draws fans and floral tributes. When we were chatting with Analia and she learned of my foodie side, she offered to change the private tour to include the wonderful local market. Although there are 'must see's' in every new city, we were so thrilled our Local Host and the tour was responsive and customizable to our own interests.

The Customization

Some of the customization, like changing up the private city tour to swing by the market, is spontaneous, but other ways to make the Monograms tour your own are baked in so you can put your own mark on your holiday.

Your choice of a selection of vetted hotels, your choice of additional, curated experiences that range from a hands-on culinary experience where you learn to make the famous beef empanadas, a tango show, or even exploring outside the city – a cruise on the Tigre river, or a visit to a real Argentine ranch where you can see 'gauchos' in action.

Plus, of course, plenty of non-programmed free time so we could do exactly what we wanted. I'd heard about the woman who makes the world's most famous tango shoes, so one free afternoon, we went on our own to the atelier of Comme il Faut for an extravaganza of extravagant, limited edition tango/party shoes. Wow!


Our Verdict:

Even in our short stay, we discovered the best of Buenos aires with Monograms. We loved having a 'back up team' even while we did our own thing, taking the inconveniences of travel off our hands, and providing us the that local contact during our tour and transfers in person, but available by phone throughout our stay who gave us that private, insiders' experience of the 'Paris of Latin America'.

By Lynn Elmhirst, Producer/ Host, BestTrip.TV

Copyright BestTrip.TV/Influence Entertainment Group Inc or Rights Holder. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this material from this page, but it may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Intrepid Doubles Family-Themed Itineraries

Intrepid Travel is doubling its family-themed tours for 2017 with 48 itineraries tailored to families in two new styles of travel, Comfort and Active Family.

The decision to launch more than 20 tours comes as a result of the increasing demand for multi-generational travel. Intrepid Travel has also experienced significant demand for its teen trips, designed for ages 12 and up, inspiring the launch of teen trekking itineraries in Peru and Nepal, among other destinations.

“Intrepid Travel’s kid-friendly tours shake up the typical family vacation, offering a sense of adventure suited for all generations,” says Leigh Barnes, North America director for Intrepid Travel. “By significantly increasing our Family tours for 2017, we hope to be the go-to operator for family adventure travel.”

Ideal for meeting like-minded families, Intrepid Travel’s family-only adventures offer action-packed experiences steering off the beaten track, away from ball pits and buffets. Transforming travel into a form of education, the tours encourage families to use the world as their textbook by immersing into the destination and culture. With an average group size of 12, travelers can hop aboard local transportation, eat at family-run restaurants and kick back in home-stay accommodations. Family-friendly tours with 2017 departures offer one-of-a-kind experiences including:

  • Act like Mowgli in search for Shere Khan and other Bengal tigers for a true “Jungle Book” experience on the Comfort Northern India Family Holiday.
  • Visit Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park, recognized by World Animal Protection for its protection of elephant welfare, on the Thailand Family Holiday.
  • Punt along the waterways of the Okavango Delta’s vibrant ecosystem by traditional canoe, greeting grunting hippos on the Namibia & Botswana Family Adventure.
  • Take on life as a local Gozitan shepherd for the day, tending to animals, cutting corn, making ‘gbejniet’ cheese and preparing lunch with the host family during the Malta and Gozo Family Holiday.

Start your Trip!

A version of this article previously appeared in TravelPress.com