By April Drew
Over the Christmas break, publisher of Getaways with Kids, April Drew and her husband John Mooney took their three children, Colum, 8, Sadie, 6 and Arden 2 to the Netherlands to experience one of the best theme parks in the world, Efteling.
Efteling is a fantasy-themed amusement park in Kaatsheuvel, about an hour outside Amsterdam. The attractions reflect elements from ancient myths and legends, fairy tales, fables, and folklore. The park was opened on May 31, 1952 and has evolved from a nature park with a playground and a Fairytale Forest into a full-sized theme park.
This was the first year that both John and I were off for nearly 2 weeks at Christmas and with this magazine in mind I wanted to do something over the break that I could write about but that didn’t cost an arm and a leg and would be super fun for the kids (and adults). After a little research I came across this really cute website called Efteling.com. After a little more digging I discovered this magical world of wonder. I was blown away by it.
We even convinced good friends of ours, the Pooles, to join us (they also have 5 kids) and we booked in October for a Christmas treat.
We flew Ryanair from Dublin to Amsterdam (1 hour from Kaatsheuvel) on December 28th and back to Dublin on December 31st. Flights were E441.90 for 5 of us including seat selection and 2 x 20kg bags return. We hired a car for an additional E135 to get us from Amsterdam Airport to Efteling (1 hour journey and motorway most of the way; very easy).
ACCOMMODATION AND TICKET PRICES
We booked directly on the Efteling website. We paid E785 for 3 nights accommodation onsite (about 10 min walk to the park), 4 day ticket into the park (which opens at 10am until 8pm in winter and 11pm in the summer) and 5 tickets to an Eftleing show that was incredible and lasted 1 and a half hours. We felt this was an unbelievable bargain considering what we got. We stayed in the Loonsche Land cabins and they were so much fun for the kids. We had a two bedroom. One room had 2 beds and the kids room had four beds. It could sleep up to six. (they also had a travel cot). There are other accommodation types including hotels on site so lots of options.
My husband and our friend Marc (the dads) went to the supermarket on the first morning and picked up some light groceries that did for breakfast and snacks in the park.
If you are not staying onsite you can visit the park for a day for E36 per person and parking is E10 per day.
There is only one word that describe my feelings towards Efteling and that’s magical. It was beyond my wildest dreams.
The park is huge and divided into sections. We arrived about 5pm the first evening so after a bite to eat in the hotel onsite we took the kids to the park for the last hour before closing. Imagine seeing all this magic for the first time in lights. We couldn’t contain our excitement, and by we I mean us adults too. The kids were enthralled. We witnessed an amazing water show and strolled around to find our bearings in anticipation of our adventures the following morning. We only saw about 1/10th of it that night. Little did we know what a gift we were going to receive the next three days.
The following three days were spent having the times of our lives. We initially hit the rollercoaster section (which most of our kids were too small for- or so the dad’s said who were supposed to go on with the kids). There is some mighty coasters if you are into them (I’m not-I only see green). Most of the group (I stayed with my 2 year old) went on this super cool bob sleigh ride and thoroughly enjoyed it.
While they were queuing for that I sat by one of the large open fire pits and enjoyed a hot chocolate and watched everyone around me warming up by the fire, giggling at their latest adventure, taking pride in their adventurous side and just soaking up a general happy atmosphere.
Throughout the three days we discovered so many different parts to the park.
There is a wonderful fairytale forest that you would spend half a day exploring with the little (and big ones). Think Rapunzel, The Three Little Pigs, lots of talking trees (albeit in Dutch), The Emperors Clothes,
Some of our favourites: (family friendly rides) Forbidden 1001, The Carnival Festival Ride, and Droomvlucht (the best).
There was still a lot of things we didn’t get to do including cross-country skiing (this wouldn’t be available in the spring, summer) and boat rides.
For a theme park I expected it to be a lot more expensive than a regular Irish restaurant. It was decent. For example one lunch-time we got 3 burgers meals, drinks and treats for just under E30. Lots of restaurants dotted around the place and snack bars. We bought lots of snacks to munch on while walking around or queuing for rides.
I was asked a lot if Efteling is appropriate for certain ages. It’s perfect for every age up to 90 I would say. There is something for everyone to enjoy. Teenagers will be delighted with the rollercoasters, younger kids the magical rides and explorations and the parents will enjoy the magic of it all and seeing their kiddies having the time of their life. My two year old is talking about it everyday. We will go back again some summer to see what its like in a different season.
Our total spend for 5 of us for 3 full days and nights (including flights, accommodation, car hire, tickest to park, shows, food, spending money and souveniers was E2,100.
-Give yourself at least 3-4 days to see it all if you have small kids. If travelling with just teenagers you might do it in 2.
-Although food is reasonable onsite bring your own food to snack on as it’s a long day.
-Bring a stroller for anyone under 4 to rest their little feet.
-You can queue up to 1 hour for some of the rides so maybe bring something to entertain the kids while standing around. Our guys entertained themselves as they had their friends with them.
-Make sure your phone battery is fully charged (or have a back up battery) because you’ll be taking numerous pictures and videos.
-Amsterdam Airport (Schiphol) is one hour from Efteling but you can also fly into Eindhoven and it’s only 30 min away.
-Find the ride you want to go on the most and leave it just before the parks closes to visit it as the queues will be a lot less.
-Flying Christmas Day, St Stephen’s morning and New Years day early are the best times of the year- there were NO queues in Dublin airport.