Frequent Flyer, travel writer and new mum - our Monthly Travel Columnist Helen Wright on the highs and lows of being a #travelmum on her year-long adventures with her son Finn
Lisbon is one of Europe's most beautiful cities. Photo: © Turismo de Lisboa
The time had come to travel solo with my baby for the first time. As a family we’d tackled the long-haul flight and a 1,000 mile road trip. This time Simon was staying home and Finn and I were off to Lisbon alone for some Portuguese sun. It was just the two of us – something I had been simultaneously excited, yet scared about since finding out I was pregnant. I’d always wanted to see the yellow city of Lisbon and with only a 2 hour 45 minute flight from London, I decided this was the destination for my first time flying alone with a baby.
Travelling light without the buggy.
LOW COST, LOW STRESS
We were flying on EasyJet, which meant priority boarding for families – very handy when you are handling a wriggling baby and a bag. I made a point of travelling light so I only had Finn in his Ergo carrier, a small bag and his sleepyhead in the plastic case that I carried on. I was still breastfeeding, which made life easier so I didn’t have to carry too much other stuff - just clothes and of course, Finn’s sleepy bear. I found that as a solo mum with an infant attached, people are extra nice to you. I was never short of help and there was always someone on hand to offer me assistance. Finn snoozed most of the way to Lisbon too, so I think I lucked out.
Part of Lisbon’s beauty is the charming cobbled streets winding up and down its steep hills. Prams are a pain here, so I didn’t bother bringing ours at all. I decided to commit to carrying Finn in his sling and it was the best decision I made. Being pram free was strangely exhilarating after all this time and the heat meant he spent lots of time sleeping while I did some sightseeing. Plus, I burnt off a few extra calories on those hills!
Relaxing with Finn at La Lumiares
I decided to book a hotel that had ‘apartment-style’ rooms. Firstly, it meant I had a kitchen to cook and wash up. Plus, having a microwave is, of course, really helpful if you are sterilising bottles too. But also, knowing that I wouldn’t be able to explore too much in the evening once Finn was asleep, it was nice to have a lounge and a view of the busy streets so I could enjoy Lisbon from above and not feel like I was missing out or squashed in a tiny room. The hotel, The Lumiares, had a boutique feel, bright, colourful rooms and a gorgeous roof terrace with views over the city. Read my detailed review of the Lumiares
The annual Feast of St Anthony Sardine Festival was going on when we arrived, so the area of Barrio Alto was buzzing. This meant that as well as the usual Lisbon partygoers, there were lots of locals and families socialising on the street. With adults and children dancing and playing in the streets it was a great atmosphere and perfect for our first day.
Tour the winding streets on one of the city's iconic yellow trams. Photo: © Turismo de Lisboa
Pretty cobbled streets, cheerful yellow walls, live music and a chilled out crowd, Lisbon was everything I expected and more. It was ideal for my first solo trip as a mummy. With Finn in the sling I could move easily around, use the classic trams and stop for tapas style snack and tour the city with no hassle. The narrow streets also provided some shade and a breeze, which with another human attached to you, was much appreciated in the summer heat.
Snack on tapas with baby in tow at Mercado da Ribeira
It’s a must-see tourist spot but I loved the Mercado da Ribeira Time Out food market. For a solo adult with a baby in tow, I wasn’t really able to indulge in formal dining around the city. Here, pop up stalls from some of Lisbon’s best restaurants hold fort at the market so I was able to sample their delights all in one place without dragging Finn to a sit down meal at every foodie favourite in town. What a bonus!
Before flying home I enjoyed a gelato in the gorgeous Jardim da Estrela, a family-packed park opposite the Basilica da Estrela that lies to the west of Lisbon. As Finn’s attention fixed on a hovering butterfly, I couldn’t help but feel proud of myself. I’d managed to show my son his first European country all on my own. It was a personal #mumgoal for me. Finn, as it turned out, was the perfect city break companion. He enjoys a good afternoon nap or two, was happy to follow my itinerary and never complained about me taking too many Instagram pictures. The same can’t be said of my other half, that’s for sure!
A #travelmum moment in Instagram gorgeous Lisbon.
Perfect for sleeping through the night: We stayed at The Lumiares, Lisbon.
This hotel had plenty of space, a bathroom with a bath, a cosy living area and a kitchen so provided the ideal home-away-from-home for our visit to Lisbon. There is also a rooftop bar and restaurant with lift access and high glass walls – perfectly safe for mini guests. I loved that the area around the hotel is mostly closed off for cars, making walking around stress-free. Location-wise, perched on top of a hill in Lisbon’s trendy Bairro Alto area, views over the city were divine.
The stylish lobby at The Lumiares
THE PACK UP
The top three junior travel must-haves for a Europe mini break:
Ergobaby 360’ Carrier, £99.98
The decision to leave my pram at home this time was a good one. Cobbled hills and stairs everywhere would have made a single mum trip with a baby quite tricky. This carrier is made from a breathable lightweight fabric and children can be carried facing you or out, and on the front, side or back. Now I would never travel without this #travelmama essential.
StorkSak lightweight backpack changing bag, £85
Having the carrier on the front, I needed a decent-quality backpack on my back and I found the Storksak option simple, comfortable and roomy enough for everything we needed. Bags that hang on the shoulder (or pram) were no good for this trip but this was a stylish alternative.
Childs Farm SPF 50+ Sun Cream (125ml), £12
Finn has sensitive skin so finding a suitable sun protection for him was a source of concern for me but this has been a real find. The lovely brand contains no artificial colours, parabens, SLSs or mineral oils so very gentle on baby skin.The cream is thick, but a little goes a long way. The travel size is perfect for a hand-luggage only trip too.
THE DREAM FEED
A baby-friendly place to grab a bite: Mercado de Ribeira Food Market.
Lisbon’s most popular restaurants all under one roof with plenty of seating and a choice of tasty ice cream parlours too! It gets really busy around 9pm so going earlier when you have kids in tow is recommended. It is open all day.
WHERE TO PLAY
Fun for little and big kids: Lisbon’s ‘Museum Quarter'
Located in the town of Cascais, west of Lisbon, and well worth a visit if you have kids in tow. The Marechal Carmona Park is a cool place to chill out if you don’t want to hit the beach and as well as a choice of interesting museums, there is a fab playground with activities suitable for a range of ages.
Find more travel tips and reviews visit Helen's blog at Passportstamps.uk