June 10 2014

Amsterdam Trip Report: Introduction & Photo Essay

Trip report index:


As I previously wrote, the stars aligned to allow for a quick trip to Amsterdam a few weeks ago. I was planning to attend an event in North Carolina and, unable to find inexpensive airfare, decided to redeem miles for the flight. But, since I’m always looking to maximize value for my miles, I don’t like using miles for domestic flights.

Instead, I thought I’d try to find an international award flight to use those miles on and then just tack on a stop in North Carolina for free. (On an international award ticket, United allows one stopover and two open jaws for free.)

That same week, there was award availability at the InterContinental Amstel Amsterdam – a hotel I’d always wanted to stay at in a city I’ve yet to visit. While grand in other ways, the hotel has only 55 guestrooms and 24 suites, making reward availability scarce. And with rates in my timeframe starting at €500 (approximately $700) per night for a standard room, I wasn’t about to pay cash.

The last piece of the puzzle was finding award flights on dates that lined up well with both the North Carolina event and the Amstel hotel availability. It took a bit of work – I had to (politely) hang up on a couple of United reservations agents before getting one who could make the itinerary work. Tip: if the agent’s not helpful, use the HUCA trick (hang up, call again).

In the end, I redeemed 60,000 United miles for a roundtrip ticket to Amsterdam with a free 2-day stopover in North Carolina.

Trip costs

As a discretionary, opportunistic trip, I was determined to keep costs low. At the final tally, I ended up spending about $230 in cash for four days in Amsterdam – flights, hotels, insurance, and sightseeing included. (I don’t count meals and ground transportation as I incur those expenses regardless of whether I’m traveling.)

AMS trip costs

In the next post I’ll share my thoughts on visiting Amsterdam, and in later posts I’ll review the hotels on this trip.

Meanwhile, enjoy a short photo essay on the city…

Photo essay

The view on approach to Schiphol airport:

1-AMS approach


Amsterdam’s Canal District was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Prinsengracht (“Prince’s Canal”), one of the main canals, is where you’ll find the Houseboat Museum. This photo was taken from the bow of the boat/museum:

2-View fr Houseboat Museum bow


The Anne Frank House – also a museum – is on the Prinsengracht as well. This is the house’s canal-facing façade:



Dutch painter Rembrandt was buried at Westerkerk (“Western Church”), just yards away from the Anne Frank House. Its spire is said to be the highest church tower in Amsterdam:

4-Westerkerk spire


In contrast to the elaborate spire, I found Westerkerk’s interior relatively plain:

5-Westerkerk interior


The city’s transportation hub, Central Station:

6-Central Station


A grim reaper in Dam Square looking toward the National Monument:

7-Dam Sq toward monument


The Royal Palace sits on the other side of Dam Square (there’s the grim reaper again!):

8-AMS Palace w grim reaper

By the way, is there significance to grim reapers in the context of Amsterdam? (Seemed they were pulling in healthy tips from tourists wanting photos with them.) My quick Google search didn’t turn up anything, but if there’s a back story please enlighten me!

The Red Light District at 5:30pm is not the best “gawking” time, but you can still see enough to get a sense of the place. Here’s a PG-rated photo of the area:



Outside the Rijksmuseum (“State Museum”) you’ll find sculptures in nicely manicured gardens:

10-Rijks Museum Garden


Inside, you’ll find a vast collection which includes Rembrandt’s The Night Watch (my photography “skills” do not do it justice):



Museumplein (“Museum Square”) is surrounded by three of the city’s major museums – the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh Museum, and Stedelijk Museum. Here, the Rijks is in the background:



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Posted June 10, 2014 by Admin in category "Destinations", "IHG", "Photo Essays", "Trip Reports", "United

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