As I prepared for my long-awaited trip to visit my family in the UK, disconcerting images flashed before my eyes: my baby screaming inconsolably mid-flight as other passengers tutted and threw me side-eye; a powerful and significant nappy explosion that I would be forced to deal with in a tiny toilet cubicle with a rickety pull down changing table. To say I was extremely nervous would have been an understatement. But I am here to tell you: we survived and we actually rather enjoyed it.
We started our journey in Vienna on a perishingly cold afternoon. My first child, Elisabeth, who had just turned four months, was strapped cosily to my chest in a carrier and it felt great to finally be travelling again since the pandemic had begun. Despite the mountain of paperwork I had been required to complete to comply with UK border regulations (20 pages of online registration, really?!), I was excited for the experience. The plane journey was uneventful, with just a few tears on the descent and after a short wait at passport control a pre-booked taxi with baby seat (an absolute must for safety) met us at London Gatwick to ferry us to our first port of call.
The next leg was a train to the Midlands. We sat next to a very sweet lady who was most taken with Elisabeth and insisted on helping me off the train with my heavy case. This was not an isolated incident. It was truly heartening to find that people are generally very kind to you when you are travelling alone with a baby and will offer to help you all the time. I was happy to accept any and all offers to carry this, hold that and to accept compliments and questions about my cute baby who was so excited by the new and different surroundings.
After a wonderful and restful few weeks with my family it was time to catch our flight back to Austria. The staff at Manchester airport were exceedingly kind, fast-tracking us through security and boarding, even though I just had a standard ticket. There were a few times when I really needed an extra pair of hands – having to take her out of the carrier to go through the security check was a pain, especially as I had worn boots (classic error) and had to remove them to be scanned. Juggling my electronics, liquids, coat, scarf, boots, baby carrier and of course, baby, was quite a performance, but again a kind stranger came to my rescue and helped me with Elisabeth and the carrier as I tried to put my shoes back on without dropping her.
The flight home was somewhat surreal. I had booked an aisle seat as I wanted to be able to get out of the row easily and I perched nervously on the seat as I waited for the other passengers, ready to jump up to let them in when they joined. About fifteen minutes before the plane was scheduled to depart and with no further passengers having joined us, the pilot announced that boarding was complete. Amazingly, our plane was fully boarded with just two dozen passengers. I assume it was due to the lockdown that was in place in Austria at the time and that many travellers had deferred their tickets (which I had also done without charge – thank you Austrian Airlines!), but this meant that blissfully we had a whole row to ourselves and that the drinks trolley was very quick in coming to us for that much-needed caffeine fix.
Landing in Vienna I allowed myself a feeling of accomplishment. We had made it, in one piece and without any huge dramas and I was already thinking of what our next adventure could be. So if you are thinking of taking a solo trip with your baby, then my advice would be: go for it! You may be surprised how much you can do with your baby on board.
My top tips for a smooth journey:
- Use a baby carrier – it’s so helpful to be hands-free at train stations and airports
- Plan ahead – pre-book family taxis, train seats and added extras to make your journey more comfortable
- Rely on the kindness of strangers – not only is an extra pair of hands essential sometimes, but it’s nice to be reminded that people are generally lovely
- Be brave and surprise yourself!
Vienna Family Network member, Natasha Kendall, is a British National married to an Austrian and living in Vienna since 2018. They have one daughter, Elisabeth, who was born in July 2021. Natasha is a market researcher working for a major international food company and is currently enjoying being a full-time mum.