Traveling by Train through The Netherlands with Kids

Much has been said about getting train tickets, specifically at Schiphol airport. So here we'll discuss  train tickets when traveling with a family and specifically with kids under 12. 

Or as the dutch tend to say - kids from 4 years old and up to and including 11 years years (kinderen 4 t/m 11 jaar). Just to be crystal clear, if your kid is 12 years old, your kid is too old for these tickets.

Kid's Tickets

Let's look at getting a ticket for a kid up and including 11 years old:

The one thing you are looking for is a RAILRUNNER ticket. Right now it costs 2.50 Euro, and you should consider this a "full day, go anywhere" ticket for your kid. On the automated kiosk, it tends to be under "other products".

Railrunner ticket
Couple of things (these are also on the actual ticket, albeit in dutch):
  • When traveling 2nd class - this ticket is sufficient for the child to travel by themselves. So if just your child is taking the train, 2.50 Euros is all it costs, for the entire day!
  • When a child is traveling with you, you must have one of these rail runners for each child in the appropriate age category
  • These cards are day passes, be aware of the check-in / check-out rules. Find the posts mounted somewhere and do not forget both checking in and out... Funnily enough, this is in both English and Dutch on the ticket. So you bet this is important...!
  • If you are traveling first class (more on why you should at least consider this can be found below) an adult must accompany the child. So no free first class for kids traveling by themselves - bummer
Get that one, either first, or after you got your own tickets. These Railrunner tickets are not linked in any way to your own tickets (other then that you must accompany the child in first class).

To plan your trip, use this website (the official NS website - English): Travel Planner.

Those Damned Ticket Machines

Yes, they are a pain. Specifically for those with non-European cards. Credit cards, debit cards etc. never seem to work in these NS machines. My Visa card always ends up with a "technical error" on the pin pad. Never found a work-around.

In certain areas of the country (not Schiphol!) you can find machines from a different company called Arriva. These machines took my US Visa card without any issues.

For the NS machines, my best guess: either get a European debit card, or a US card with PIN.

First Class or Not?

As promised: why even consider first class? Well, here are a few reasons when traveling with suitcases, a family and coming off an international (trans-oceanic) flight:
  • Dutch trains are build for commuters, not luggage toting trans-oceanic travelers, so by choosing first class (and paying more!) you can actually typically put your suitcases somewhere. You typically even get away with taking up some passenger space because very few people are in the first class carriages
  • And that is immediately the second point: if you want to sit, specifically in busy commute times, go first class
  • Wider seats - but don't get too excited about those. While nicer, the regular 2nd class seats are plenty fine.
All of the above accurate as of July 2018.
As always, hope these are helpful tips and comments welcome.


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