Kensington Mums Travel: Lisbon

We love having our community involved in reviews and family holidays. This review is from Helena a mum of one who recently visited Lisbon with her family.

My first trip abroad with my daughter, Sui, was when she was 4 months old. I was on my own flying to NYC. It meant having to carry her while going to the loo, bringing along a very heavy carry-on and ensuring I had absolutely everything we might need: enough diapers for a week; several changes of clothes; creams and so on. I was worried to bother our seat neighbors and, at one point, she kicked ice cream onto the woman sitting next to me. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck. I didn’t realize that would be one of the easier trips, nor the bigger challenges the toddler stage would present. But we have taken many trips since, and throughout this time, I have learned ways to make our trip more enjoyable and less challenging.

My husband, Lee, Sui and I decided to take a trip to Lisbon for six nights during the Easter break. However nice it is to stay in hotels, where you don’t have to cook or make a bed, we find having an apartment with Sui makes our stay flow easier. We found a flat on AirBnb in the Chiado area, which was very centrally-located and yet quiet at night.  The pros were many. We were perfectly located in a smart area of Lisbon but paying far less than at a hotel. Sui got to have her own room (we try to get her excited about this) and she gets to put her books and pyjamas as she likes. This means we can have a glass of vino and our own date night in the apartment with yummy Portuguese delights, once she’s asleep. It also means we can eat a healthy meal, every once in a while, to balance the overindulgences: Portuguese patisseries, like Pasteis de Belem or Pastelaria Benard and the amazing food and wine at the Jose Avillez’s restaurants (we only tried two but can’t wait to go back for the others, including his two Michelin star Belcanto).

                                                           Helena and her family

Lisbon is a pretty manageable city but it is full of hills and children don’t tend to be the best at walking the city, do they? This is where bribery is handy. Bribe 1: At the start of the trip we tell Sui she can choose one thing from that city to buy. The first day she chooses a paper cut-out traditional Portuguese dress set. She’s convinced that’s it! But we tell her she needs to look at all of the other shops to make sure, as she can only choose one thing. It works. It means we can peruse more shops. When she wants to go to the apartment, we say, she can’t stop yet as she needs to makes sure she’s picked the right thing. Bribe 2: desserts. Promising a typical Portuguese dessert  works amazingly well at tactical moments, for example, when visiting the castle, when she no longer wants to walk or when she has to finish her meal.

And finally, we came to the realization that bringing the right activities versus sheer amount is key. I used to bring so many toys and activities and have paid many excess baggage fees as a result! Not that I cared at the time because having a happy child on holiday seemed more important. But it is easier now and I choose with her. We choose one or two activity books for the plane, restaurants, the apartment. And one or two reading books for story time. And a game, be it cards, memory game or a puzzle. It works. We also find creating stories helps pass time when she starts to say things are getting ‘boring’. We each take turns starting a story and then pass it to the next person until someone decides to end it and we start again. (By the way, I am not adverse to the iPad and, in desperate times, we do use it.)

Sui is now 5 and it is truly easier. Not only is her ability to concentrate and focus on tasks a huge help, but our trials and errors have helped us travel better. I am happy to be at this stage.

By the way, she did end up picking the cut-out paper Portguese dresses. And Lee and I are still cutting the damn things out!


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