Ever since word got out that Eurostar would be running a direct route to Amsterdam, we tracked developments closely. Especially as it seemed that Eurostar might offer the perfect family-friendly way to travel to Amsterdam with kids.
The exciting news was dampened somewhat when it was revealed that the direct route would, at first only take place one way – running from St Pancras to Amsterdam’s Central Station however, despite the multiple challenges of both Briexit and Corona, things are looking up and you can now do the journey both ways.
So back in 2018 we took a decision to ‘rail out’ and fly back.
It was, in a word, brilliant.
If you book 120 days in advance, you can pay as little as £35 for a ticket and of course one of the key advantages is there’s no extra charge for luggage (you can take two pieces AND hand luggage with no weight limit on your bags).
Pre-covid there were four departures a day at ideal times – 07.16, 08.16, 11.04 and 17.16 and at with just a 3 hour 52 minute journey time it meant being able to depart London in the morning and arrive in time to enjoy lunch by the canals. During the pandemic, demand reduced and with it the number of trains, however we fully expect things to pick up again swiftly.
It is a particularly excellent journey for kids. We find airports can be stressful, and even flying from Luton involves some serious logistics and a lot of walking for little legs.
With Eurostar you only have to check in about 45 minutes before departure, and Business Premiere passengers can do it with just 10 minutes to spare.
Taxi drop-off is right by the Eurostar terminal and of course Kings Cross/St Pancras is incredibly accessible by tube and train as well.
On our trip, we found passport control was very efficient and after bag check we were settled in the departure lounge in minutes. The only downside is that shops in the terminal are limited, we kind of wished we’d spent a bit longer in the station before heading through – buying books and magazines is definitely a better experience in St Pancras. Still, there is a Pret a Manger for last minute food and drinks and seating is plentiful.
The minis were even offered dot-to-dot and colouring in, which engrossed them during the short wait.
Before we knew it, it was time to board. The ramps leading up to the train are another huge winner compared to airport travel, making buggy access for younger kids a dream.
Onboard we were just as happy. There are plug points by all the seats and allegedly wifi (although we found it dreadfully slow). There was ample room for restless little ones to walk up and down without annoying anyone too much, and of course a buffet car for food-mergencies. Do bear in mind it closes about 10 minutes before pulling into each station and opens again swiftly after departure.
The train stops at Brussels and Rotterdam and our kids loved the journey. Loads to see out the windows and heaps of space to complete activities at the table.
And in no time at all we were pulling into Amsterdam’s Central Station in the bright October sunshine. Best of all, there is no customs or passport check on arrival, so you literally step off the train and straight out into the city – taxis are plentiful if you need.
More recently, we opted for a return journey. The trip from Amsterdam to London was a little more frustrating – not helped by problems with the line that meant lots of go-slows and an hour’s delay for our London arrival.
It’s also worth adding that the “terminal” at Central Station is incredibly small – basically a very small room on the platform which didn’t seem big enough to comfortably accommodate all the travellers. Our tip would be not to get there too early and make sure you stock up on any food and drinks beforehand. There is a small vending machine, no shop and on our visit there wasn’t even water available to purchase.
Even when things go well, the journey is a little slower on return with a long-ish stop in Brussels and getting a taxi at St Pancras at the end of it proved slightly nightmarish.
That said, for a family of mini train-lovers, our trip was a birthday treat of dreams and the prospect of railing our way back from Centraal Station straight into North London and avoiding hectic Schipol airport altogether made it worthwhile on this occasion. Watch out, you’re highly likely to spot us board sometime soon.