• Flights

I flew Delta each time I went over. I chose Delta in part to accumulate as many skymiles as possible, but also because they will waive the $300 change fee if you ever need to reschedule your flights due to medical causes. Your treatment dates at Erasmus are always tentative until you’ve had blood tests and the doctors have determined you meet the necessary standards for each treatment. That means it’s always possible that your treatment may be delayed, and you’ll need to reschedule your flights and other reservations. If you choose to travel on an airline other than Delta, be sure to ask if waiving the change fee is a benefit they can offer you. It’s a nice peace of mind to have. I also recommend that on your flights home you reserve seats that are a bit removed from the rest of the passengers, since you’ll be radioactive. If the flight has a 2 seat aisle option by the windows, that’s perfect.

I flew from Tampa to Atlanta, GA, and from Atlanta to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport (9.5 hours). It’s a very long flight, and I recommend travelling at night so you can sleep through it, if possible. Bring your meds, a sleeping mask, and earplugs, and be sure to close your plane window when you’re ready to sleep. Holland is 6 hours ahead of eastern US time, so you’ll arrive there late in the morning, Holland time.

Another thing to consider is wheelchair assistance at the airports. You can request this by calling your airline any time before your flight, or you can do it at the airport as well. I found it most valuable coming home from treatments, when I was very tired and not feeling great.

When you arrive into Amsterdam you’ll find Schiphol is a big airport. There’s usually a large crowd in the area where you’ll get into line to have your passport reviewed. Be sure that you’re in an aisle that‘s for All Passports. They just look at your passport and ask you the purpose of your trip. Once you get through, go straight to Baggage claim. From there you can go downstairs one level to get to the trains.

Leaving Holland to go home is fairly easy. You will have papers from the doctors at Erasmus regarding your radioactivity, but you won’t need those until you get back to the US. If it’s possible for you to fly Sky Priority, I highly recommend it. It will make your passage through the departure area of Schiphol Airport much easier and shorter. They have a special area just for this. I flew out around 1030 in the morning and got home in Florida by 7pm or so, US Eastern time.

When you’re returning and arrive at your first destination airport in the US, you will find – as you approach the Customs area (with your passport and radioactivity papers ready) -- that your radioactivity will set off all the alarms in the area. The customs agents will be looking to see who’s creating the havoc, and I’ve learned to raise my hand to let them know that it’s me. Every airport’s a little different. I’ve been happiest with Atlanta. You will provide your passport to the first agent, and then you’ll get your luggage – under supervision, and then you’ll be ushered into an area for special clearance. This may take some time as they review your radioactivity papers ,identify the lutetium, and do all the paperwork necessary to declare you safe for entry into the country. It helps if you tell them that Lutetium is not on the FDA registration list. Once you get through, you drop your luggage off for your next flight, and find your gate (if you’re travelling further). You’re almost home.

  • Trains

Everyone told me that taking trains in Europe was cheap and easy. What I found was that there are a lot of different train systems – and until you’re familiar with them, it can be pretty confusing. For my purposes, I kept it simple and did the same thing every time. There’s no need to buy train tickets ahead of time on the internet. They’re more expensive that way, and there are plenty of trains available. Just be sure you have some euros before you leave the States, both in small and larger bills. As I stated in the Flight section above, the Schiphol train station is right underneath the Schiphol airport (one level down), so it’s easy to get to. There you will find many automated ticket machines (too hard for me) and a long ticket desk with agents who will help you get what you need. I chose to ride on the Fyra fast train. It’s red and fast and very comfortable. Tell the agent where you’re going (Rotterdam Central Station) and you might (I recommend this) also get return tickets, based on your flight home, date and time. The train ride between Amsterdam and Rotterdam is about 30 minutes, so I found that when I was heading back to the airport to fly home, if I left Rotterdam Central at 8 am, I arrived at Schiphol about 830 – with plenty of time for my 1030 flight. The Fyra tickets cost about 26 euros, round trip, per person. When the agent gives you your tickets he/she’ll tell you what time it leaves, but be sure you ask which track it leaves from (this will be something like 15A, or 18…) You probably won’t have much time so look around and find stairs or an escalator that goes to that track. There’s a header over each of them to guide you. When you get to the track there should be a sign above statingRotterdam Central, or other destination you’re heading for. The trains are generally on time – so you may need to hustle, and ask for assistance from others to get to where you need to be. I learned it was easiest if I approached people and just said “speak English?” and smiled. No one ever declined. The trip on the Fyra from Schiphol to Rotterdam has no other stops, so you’ll enjoy a leisurely half hour train ride through the country, and then arrive at Rotterdam Central – which felt to us like it was in the middle of nowhere. They will announce it, though, in both Dutch and English. You’ll get off the train, go downstairs, and head to the left, to get into Central station, and on to Rotterdam proper.

Walk straight ahead and you’ll go through a turnstile, and see a glassed in entrance/exit area ahead. To your left you’ll find a service area where you can purchase tickets for various kinds of transport. On our first trip we went there to find out which tram to take to get to our hotel, but after that we walked straight over to the tram stop and bought our tickets on the tram.

  • Trams, taxis, and buses

Tram 4 will take you from the train station area to the stop for Hotel van Walsum, and costs 3 euros per person. You won’t need exact change, but you will want some small bills or coins on hand. There’s always someone working on the tram who can answer your questions and help you find your stop. To get to Hotel van Walsum, you’ll get off tram 4 at the intersection of Mathenesserlaan and Nieuwe Binnenweg. As you get off, be careful you don’t step right into the bike path. Everyone bikes there, and they have wide beautiful bike paths everywhere, but you don’t want to get in the way of bikers. Turn right onto Mathenesserlaan and Hotel Van Walsum is just a few minutes away, on the right. Look for a modest Hotel sign.

Trams run on schedule, are clean and comfortable, and are a nice way to get to places too far to walk to. Schedules are different, however, on Sunday, so ask ahead for any mode of travel you’re planning ahead for. The desk clerks at van Walsum went out of their way to provide me with this kind of information.

We never rode on the buses, but they are plentiful.

Taxis are very similar to ones in the US. We found that since we usually left the hotel to fly home on early Sunday mornings – before the tram was running - it was best to ask the hotel to call a taxi to take us to the train station. The charge each time was 6 or 7 euros, plus tip, and they dropped us off right at the station, so we didn’t have to walk much at all.