This week marks the halfway point in my pregnancy—just 20 more weeks to go! What a better time, then, to write a post on pregnancy travel tips? Even as I sit here typing, though, I know I may have to do a follow-up article on moving during pregnancy.
Yep, moving. Remember back in November when we were supposed to move to Germany but were pulled at the last minute due to visa delays? Well the same thoughtful planning that caused those delays (yes, that’s sarcasm there) was displayed again on Saturday afternoon when Matt got a call asking him to pack up and move to Germany by Tuesday.
Moving to a new country obviously takes a little coordination (especially when there’s a baby on the way), so Matt went ahead to Frankfurt this morning while we hash out the details with his company. I’m holding down the fort in Toulouse ready to begin packing once we get the greenlight. We may be facing one or two more country moves before the baby is born. Never a dull moment in our household!
In the meantime, let me extol on the experience I’ve racked up traveling while pregnant over the past few months. Since conceiving, I’ve traveled multiple times each month and have spent time in four different countries (some, like Germany, on multiple occasions and to multiple cities). The longest trip took nearly 24 hours each way—and that was just two weeks ago. I’ve traveled via plane, train and car. I think I’m just missing boat right now!
So without further ado, here are some tips I’ve developed based on my travels during the past five months.
1. Consult your doctor. If you are pregnant and reading this (or if you’ve been or expect to get pregnant) you’ve probably heard this line over and over again: every pregnancy is different. That’s because it’s so true. Making sure everything is going okay before you travel is not only good for your baby, it’ll also put your mind more at ease. Plus, some countries you travel to may require vaccinations that you can’t get during pregnancy or may have disease risks that are worse for pregnant women and their unborn children. Check out this article from the CDC for some background on potential travel risks and be sure to book that appointment with your physician.
2. Second trimester is the best trimester. Though I have yet to experience traveling in the third trimester, I can say second trimester travel is much more enjoyable than being on the move in the first three months of pregnancy. My first trimester was not the living hell some women experience, but my significant decrease in energy, food aversions and mood swings certainly added their own complication to travel.
Though my bump is now steadily growing, I’ve felt much more human in the second trimester and that makes travel much more pleasant. Plus, showing a little bump can sometimes bring little perks like being pulled to the front of a long line waiting to get on the plane (small victories, people). So if you are able to plan your trips—go for the second trimester.
3. Pre-plan for snack attacks. I’ve always tried to pack a snack or two when I travel long distance. You never know when a flight will be too choppy for the beverage service or when you’ll be stuck in gridlock traffic for hours on a drive to the beach. Facing issues like this, or even not being able to eat the food provided (like the salami sandwich offered as the snack on a flight to Germany) can be instant cause for a meltdown during pregnancy.
During my first trimester, I had to eat every couple of hours or I’d start getting nauseous. So I brought snacks like trail mix, fresh fruit, string cheese and cereal bars on every trip. They were absolutely a life saver. Now that I’m in my second trimester my appetite has increased and taking dehydrated fruit on our trip back to the U.S. prevented me from going into a hangry, pregnant rage when our flight was delayed by an hour—meaning lunch was much later than I’d expected. So PACK THOSE SNACKS. Your partner will thank you.
4. Invest in a travel pillow and pick an aisle seat. This is especially important on those long-haul flights. Pregnancy does some wonderful and crazy things to your body. Parts of you that may have never previously gotten sore suddenly flare up and the larger your little baby grows, the more difficult it is to get comfortable. And you’ll probably have to use the bathroom a lot, so unless you want to be crawling over your neighbor every 20 minutes, take an aisle seat.
Matt and I bought travel pillows on our recent trip back to the states. I ended up using both to stabilize my hips in my seat on our flight back. We also requested an extra pillow for me when we got on the plane, so I ended up with one behind my back, one under my butt and one on either hip. It wasn’t perfect, but it did keep me from getting too stiff to get up and go to the bathroom or walk around every hour or so. Having extra pillows on hand also helped cushion my back from the small child behind me who was using my seat as a kickboxing bag. What I wouldn’t have given for a strong drink.
5. Dress for comfort not for style. When you are traveling, especially when flying, your body tends to expand a bit. Water gets retained and your blood isn’t circulating as best as it could when you are sitting for long periods. Now is not the time for skinny jeans and high heels (though if you are able to handle a little discomfort in the name of fashion, more power to you).
I like to dress in layers, starting with a pair of stretchy leggings and a long, loose fitting tank top which I cover with a wrap sweater. For our flights to and from Arizona, I also wore compression socks (so sexy, I know) and my favorite Butterfly Twists ballet flats (I bought them just to wear on flights and in the airport). Layers mean you can add or subtract depending on the current temperature and the compression socks and comfortable shoes help prevent swelling in your legs and feet.
6. Know how to be pregnant in the country you are visiting. I don’t mean you have to do anything out of your ordinary like start drinking espresso at cafes on a visit to France even though you’ve sworn off caffeine, but you do your research before you go. Learn what food and drinks are safe and what you might want to stay away from. Practice a few phrases like “I’m pregnant” and “where is the hospital” in the native language of the country you are visiting. Find out if your health insurance will cover you if you have an issue on your trip—or if you should invest in temporary coverage.
Hopefully your trip will go smoothly, but it’s better to be prepared in case of emergency. Plus, calling attention to your pregnancy in some countries, like France, can help you gain access to things like restaurant restrooms (even if you aren’t patronizing the joint) or ensure your food is cooked the way you want it (ie. not rare and bleeding).
Though you might have to do a little more planning if you are traveling while you are pregnant, it certainly won’t compare to what you have to do after your little one is born. So, as long as you get the go-ahead from your doctor, get packing and get moving.
“To travel is to live.” –Hans Christen Anderson