Things to Do With Kids in Amsterdam: Cruise Under Control

Gorgeous architecture. Inspiring perspective. Fascinating history. Cruising through Amsterdam’s famed canals is an absolute must to do for anyone visiting or living in the city, evidenced by the many boat operators in Amsterdam. In our ongoing mission to help families have a memorable experience in Amsterdam, we recently stopped by Blue Boat Company, one of the oldest and biggest canal cruise providers in the city, to give their family boat tour a whirl.  The company recently launched the first augmented reality canal cruise game, Pet Cruise, designed to engage and entertain younger passengers. We brought our kids on a recent voyage so they could properly test it out.  

The concept is simple. Prior to setting out on the boat ride, search for ‘Pet Cruise’ in the Apple Store or Google Play and download the app for free. Once installed, your kids will be all set to catch the Bluebees that show up on the phone screen whenever the boat passes by particular points. Once caught, each character shares a different fun fact about Amsterdam. The game is designed for the 75-minute cruise, but can be played on any of the tours offered by Blue Boat.  

Judging by the extreme focus on the game from the children, the Pet Cruise does a good job of holding kids’ attention and teaching them about the city in a fun way. Dylan, age 10, reports, “I give the app 5 stars because it was the most fun I’ve had on a boat”!    

Practical Information


Point of departure: Stadhouderskade 30

Times: Boats depart every 15 minutes  

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In Support of Childcare at Professional Conferences

We As Women Need to Work Within the World We Have, Not the World We Want

Too often, today’s parents—especially those who answer to the name of ‘mom’—are pressured to believe that in order to be a fully realized human they must have it all, and to achieve this all without breaking a sweat. But what is the “it” we have to have all of? Is it the same for everyone? Or are our alls all different? We believe it’s the latter and that for true personal fulfillment and happiness it is important to focus on having your all, whether that all relates to personal or professional growth—or both. For working parents, especially mothers, this includes having access to reliable childcare so they have the freedom and flexibility to take advantage of opportunities such as relevant business conferences that can help further their career development. This also ensures a more diverse, well-rounded conference attendance, which is of benefit to everyone.   

It is our mission at Holiday Sitters to provide parents with on-demand, top-quality childcare so they can more easily balance life with kids. We are about so much more than traditional transactional babysitting; we strive to give parents the flexibility they need to keep their life in balance and the freedom to pursue any and all opportunities that come their way.  

That’s why we partner with conferences including The Next Web, to provide childcare to attendees—all attendees—with the primary goal of encouraging and supporting working mothers, so they are not kept sitting on the sidelines.  

Women For Women?

So imagine our surprise when we approached a large conference business, who creates conferences for women, and they dismissed us in hand saying there was no need or demand for childcare at its events. Childcare is of course a parenting issue but in the majority (not ALL but the majority) of today’s households, women are responsible for sorting and arranging care and more likely to take a career detour or pause after becoming a parent. As Faith Frank, the Gloria Steinem-esque character in the 2018 novel, The Female Persuasion, notes that despite an improvement in women’s lives between the 1970’s and 2010’s, in the instance that both parents work, the ‘double duty’ of work and childcare still falls mainly to women.    

General thinking on the matter among non-fictional women also appears to be split, if a recent discuss on a local business group on Facebook is any indication (the bubble implied by having this conversation on Facebook is a topic for another day). We shared our frustration with the response we got from the conference company mentioned above and the reaction—quite impassioned on both sides—was a further eye opener.

A sampling of comments firmly in the ‘con’ category:

Devil’s Advocate

Why should [childcare] be offered? It is NEVER offered when it is a conference for men, is it? To provide childcare is actually stereotyping women, no? Offer should be made at all conferences imho.

Expensive Set of Luggage

Children aren’t like luggage that we can pop in [a storage room]. They need to get used to their carers. A childcare facility at a conference means total unknown situation with total strangers (carer AND other children) for the child. NO WAY!

BYO Babysitter

If you want to spend time with your kids you do not go to a conference and leave them at the daycare. If you want to enjoy the trip outdoors as a family event, you can organize your own caretaker for the kids during the conference time. That said, I agree that would be better to have a daycare option to big (multi days) conferences and business events but this is true for all conferences and not only for the ones aimed at female audiences.

And in the ‘pro’ column:

Lead the Charge

When you have really forward-thinking conference organizers like [@The Next Web], they are willing to start the trend. It takes people who believe not just in the idea of childcare but in the idea of new ways of working to promote gender balance. You would think that a women’s conference would do that, but I encounter resistance from both men and women on things like this. Women I’ve spoken to are sometimes concerned about being too stereotypical or radical, so I wonder if that’s related. In any case, on a positive note, there *are* event organizers who care about this, I would go for the bigger ones first.

Cultural Matters

Great conversation. I think if you wanted to bring your children to a conference that had childcare it would not mean your children were like luggage. It would be nice to be in the same space as your children and they get to enjoy some activities while you network, etc. I get that some parents would not feel comfortable, but I also see what an advantage this would be for many parents. They do this in the States quite often. Is it a cultural thing that parents here don’t want to take advantage of this?

Chicken and Egg

It’s partly a chicken and egg problem. I know moms who never even look into attending conferences because they assume they never have childcare, because they usually don’t. But then conferences assume women don’t want childcare because many women who do want it never bothered trying to register to begin with. The cycle will only end when conferences just offer it anyway, and heavily promote it, and it becomes a norm. And to the people pointing out that it isn’t offered to men—I think you’re mixing up equality and equity. Women and men are not equal yet, and until they are, we need to offer them different accommodations to make their experiences equitable. Of course dads should have access to childcare at conferences too. But it’s more important at a conference for women because of the reality of society right now.

And a completely valid response that reflects a desire that the world be different than it actually is:

An Issue for Parents

I totally think there is demand, but this is another example where what is really a ‘parents’ issue’ for some reason becomes only a woman’s issue. These conversations should not be about women’s needs but parents’ needs. Otherwise we keep getting stuck in some cycle about women’s being the main [party] responsible for the kids.

Where Do We Go From Here? Forward.

The comments range from a fundamental resistance to on-demand childcare (we can assure you we have never treated the children whose care we are entrusted with as luggage) to equating catering to women as to somehow holding them back, to acknowledging the need while acknowledging the resistance to the need, to realizing we do live in a world where childcare still falls primarily to women and is just one issue holding them back professionally.

We choose to deal in the reality in which we live. As such we will keep reaching out to conferences to offer our childcare services. We believe we’ll get to the point where it will seem surprising that childcare services were at one time not a standard offering at professional conferences.

That’s our view. We’d love to hear yours. Please share your thoughts and experiences and solutions and frustrations below.


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Tried-and-Tested Travel Tips

Summer is here and other than not having to make lunches for 6, 8 or 12 weeks (take your pick based on where you live), the best part of no school is going on family vacation. As we all know, bringing the home circus on the road is no small undertaking and can be fraught with kids being kids, parents being parents, and other people being other people.  

What’s Your Mode

Sometimes the very mode of travel we choose can add undue stress to kids or adults, depending on whether or not they have motion sickness or other physical reactions. We look after a lot of children who don’t like spending a significant amount of time in cars as they are not used to them. Whether swapping in for a car or plane ride, train travel is a great way to travel with children. The are roomier and provide more opportunity to walk around. You also don’t have to show up hours in advance, deal with security and stress about whether or not your luggage is over the allocated weight.  

Pod People

Particularly well suited to trips in the car, podcasts are a great shared experience (when listened to together) and cover pretty much any topic you can think of. Some of our kid-approved favorites include, Story Pirates, Wow in the World, Pants on Fire, Past and the Curious. Full of fun facts about history, science, politics and child-created content, podcasts spark a lot of interesting conversations and are good at drawing kids in as the medium is very personal. 

Go With the Phone

Don’t feel guilty if you let your children use devices on on the airplane, bus, train. Most of us limit screen time, but we approach travel as a do-whatever-it-takes to get through. After all, don’t we all enjoy watching movies, playing games, reading on Kindle or listening to music while en route somewhere? Our children are no different. But if you want to scratch the kids’ itch to have a phone in their hand, you can also make their time a bit more productive. For a creative, interactive phone experience, you can send them on a photo scavenger hunt: find a red door, yellow flower, etc. Give them a list of things they need to find and then take a picture of. When you are looking to have them take a break from the screens but still keep them occupied, Smart Games has a brilliant selection of one- and tw0-person logic games and puzzles that are well designed, colorful and engaging. 

Little Kids Do Cry

Of course you don’t want to be the person on the plane with the crying child, but if that does indeed happen try and not let it cause undue stress. Focus on your child and ignore any unhelpful or annoyed passengers. The situation may be trying but it is temporary and children are also paying customers, we were all young once, etc., etc. Bottom line is that you can’t control whether or not your baby or small child is going to get upset on the plane and introducing external stress into the situation is not going to make matters better. 

Relax, Have Fun

It’s vacation after all and supposed to be an opportunity to take a break and spend some quality time together as a family. So even if the kids, and you, are a bit out of sorts and out of routine, embrace the experience. And set realistic expectations that while everything may not work out as perfectly as you have it in your mind, the bumps and hiccups along the way usually result in the most fond shared memories. Safe travels! 


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Technicolor sunrises and sunsets. Warm cobblestone streets. Rows of ‘awwww’-inspiring houses reflected in mirror-like canals. Couples holding hands on bikes (guaranteed to grow the hearts of even the Grinchiest of Grinch). Charming, steeped in history, surprises around every corner, Amsterdam is an ideal backdrop for love and romance. And despite being recently named the most expensive European city in which to rent a hotel room, Amsterdam has loads of free and low-cost activities for couples looking for a romantic night out. So, book a sitter, grab your partner, and get out there and soak up all the love generously provided by the famed Dutch capital.  

Stroll Along Utrechtsestraat

A gorgeous street with loads of shops, bars and restaurants, Utrechtsestraat runs the length of Amsterdam center, passing over the canals and through Rembrandtplein. This iconic streets is one of the best paths to take in the city on foot. Grab the drink of your choice, get to strolling and see where you end up. And make sure to snap your pic for Instagram in front of the canal bridges.

Picnic in the Park (or by a Canal)

One of the greenest cities in Europe, Amsterdam has 30 parks, from small, tucked away, to medium, to the Vondelpark, which in addition to being likened to New York City’s ‘Central Park’, holds free concerts on Friday nights in the summer in its open air theater. But no matter which park you end up at, there are no shortage of picnic spotsbe it in the grass or alongside a canaland there are lots of shops and restaurants that cater to picnic makers with prepared foods and cold drinks.

Up on the Roof  

The largest terrace in Europe can be found on top of Nemo, the science museum that looks like a giant sinking ship. With its cafe, science experiments and games, Nemo’s terrace is a great way to while a few hours away, relaxing and enjoying the panoramic view of Amsterdam. And as the roof is separate from the museum, entrance is free.

Water, Water, Everywhere

Not surprising in a country of swimmers and water lovers, there are a fair number of beaches and lakes in and around Amsterdam that are perfect to reconnect with your loved one and enjoy pink-skied evenings. There are also incredibly cool and ‘gezellig’ spots along the Amstel and the canals, like De Ceuvel, where you can relax on a dock by the water and enjoy drinks and food from the organic cafe.

No matter what you choose to do on your evening or day out, pair it with drinks and dinner at one of Amsterdam’s thousands of bars and restaurants. Making a reservation is as easy as booking a Holiday Sitter.

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