Whether planning a babymoon, traveling for work, or crossing destinations off of your bucket list before the baby’s arrival—here are some tips for traveling while pregnant.
While you might be fending off morning sickness or swollen joints, pregnancy is a great time to travel once you realize that your baby is likely being much more cooperative now than after delivery. In utero, there is no crying to soothe or dirty diapers to change! First, of course, talk to your doctor or medical practitioner to get the green light to travel and heed any limitations on travel. Then, think about what you want to get out of your babymoon: do you want to focus on connecting with a partner or friends, soak in some solo relaxation, experience an adventure of a lifetime, or just make it through a business trip unscathed? Whatever type of journey fits your needs, a little advanced planning can make the trip much more enjoyable.
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When to Travel During Your Pregnancy
You may have heard the advice to travel during your second trimester. The reasoning is that for many people, the first trimester morning sickness is over and you are at lower risk for pre-term labor and complications. However, every person–and every pregnancy–is different. Some people don’t experience any nausea during the first trimester, others get a rush of energy in the last trimester that inspires them to cross a bucket list adventure off of their list. And not everyone finds the second trimester to be the easiest or most comfortable. The best solution is to book refundable tickets and flexible reservations so that you can change plans depending on how your own pregnancy experience evolves.
Choosing a Safe Destination
The safest options for traveling while pregnant are developed areas with exceptional medical care, clean water, and comfortable accommodations. But, being pregnant shouldn’t stop you from having the kinds of experiences you love, even if it does take you more off the beaten track. While there are currently very few Zika outbreaks in the world, check the CDC for up-to-date Zika-related travel alerts.
Take sensible precautions but don’t let anxiety stop you from taking a dream trip. Instead, consider what you might want or need specifically during this special time in your life, both physically and emotionally. For example, one nearly universal pregnancy symptom is a more active bladder, so consider if you’ll want to spend an entire sightseeing trip through Italy looking for a bagno.
In addition to speaking with your medical practitioner, also check on your health insurance to see what is and isn’t covered during travel. Knowing what your options are if you need medical attention while you’re away from home can help you feel more comfortable and confident while traveling. In addition to what your insurance will cover, some pregnant people like to research doctors and hospitals at their destination, so they know where to turn if they need medical attention. Pack a first aid kit with doctor-approved treatments for common pregnancy ailments like nausea, heartburn, gas, and achy muscles, along with your prenatal vitamins. If you know that you’ll need extra medical attention while traveling, book a “Flight Nurse” ahead of time through an organization like Flying Angels.
Take Advantage of Airline Accommodations
Many pregnant people prefer aisle seats when flying for easy access to the bathroom and to follow the recommendation to get up and walk around every hour or so. Even if your ticket fare doesn’t include your choice of seats, call the airline’s customer support and they will typically work with you for an ideal seating arrangement (often at no charge) if you explain your situation. While you may also be eligible for early boarding, decide if you want to spend the additional time seated on the plane before taking advantage of that perk. Once onboard, if your seatbelt feels snug, don’t be shy about requesting a seatbelt extender!
What to Wear While Flying
Compression socks help to prevent cramps, increase blood flow, and minimize muscle fatigue. Dressing comfortably is key, with light layers that you can add or remove as your temperature fluctuates. If you’ve gotten to the point where bending down to take your shoes on and off is difficult, opt for slip-on shoes or sign up for TSA precheck so you don’t have to remove your shoes when going through security. Some pregnant people like to show off their bump when flying to invite extra assistance and accommodation.
Food and Flying
If you’re on a flight with meal service, there are likely lots of options for different dietary restrictions–but nothing specific to pregnancy. If you want to stay on the safest side of food options, select the vegan meal option or bring your own meals on board. Or, select the meal service you normally would and make sure your flight attendant knows that you’re pregnant so that they might be extra accommodating about bringing you extra bread, fruit, or whatever else you find works well for your stomach. Staying hydrated is especially important, so bring along your refillable water bottle. In the airport, avoid grab-and-go options, as they’ve likely been sitting out for long periods of time, and instead opt for freshly-prepared food options.
Additional Airline Prep Ideas
Have you developed a stronger sense of smell while pregnant? When you’re stuck on a plane with a few hundred strangers, an unpleasant odor can make the flight even more uncomfortable. Bring along pregnancy-safe essential oils to help combat those smells. If morning sickness is a concern, pack your own barf bags. A flexible pregnancy pillow can provide lumbar support and comfort when you are sitting for long periods of time. And while most airlines allow you to fly until the 36-week mark, bringing a doctor’s note with your due date and explicit approval to fly may be a useful addition.
What to Know Before Hitting the Road
Road trips provide fantastic flexibility for travel, allowing you to stop whenever you need to and set your own preferences for travel. However, consider many of the same guidelines for sitting in a car that you might while sitting in an airplane, making sure to move often to avoid blood clots, stay hydrated, and maximize comfort in the car. Wear your seatbelt low across your hips and across your chest, and keep your airbags turned on. If airbags are a concern for you, move your seat back a bit from the dashboard and, if driving, point the steering wheel at your chest instead of your belly.
Cruise ships tend to be more restrictive for how late into pregnancy a passenger can sail, often limiting you to the first two trimesters. Check with your preferred cruise line as each one has its own requirements. If you want to cruise in your last trimester, look for a river cruise line that may have looser restrictions since they stick closer to land. Even if you don’t typically get seasick, combined with the hormonal changes of pregnancy, plan ahead with doctor-approved treatments for nausea like ginger or acupressure. In addition to requesting a cabin in parts of the ship that may offer a smoother cruise, don’t forget to ask for extra pillows to help you get comfortable in the stateroom bed.
Having the Correct (and Comfortable) Gear
Start with a lightweight wheeled suitcase that is comfortable to both roll and lift. Pack your most comfortable clothes and shoes for daily wear, like After9 maternity leggings that are versatile to dress up or down and don’t dig into your belly. And your stomach isn’t the only thing getting bigger during pregnancy! Your chest may be extra sensitive, so pack especially comfortable tops, like JJ Winks built-in support tops, so that you can ditch your too-tight brassiere if need be. Swelling and bloating are common during pregnancy travel; you might be surprised at how differently your clothes fit before and after a long flight. Pack supportive shoes, like Vessi’s knit sneakers, that cushion your feet while providing a little give in case your feet swell.