Contrary to popular belief, being pregnant is a great time to travel. Forget all of the tales of women going into labor on planes and instead, embrace the fact that you have a major life shift coming up and jetting off on a whim is soon to be in the distant past. Besides, being pregnant (while a beautiful, wonderful gift), can also really suck.
My best advice is to give yourself something to look forward to, because as you’ll quickly learn, it only gets harder once the baby arrives.
When I was expecting our daughter Claire, I did a lot of traveling. Most of it was work-related, but I did manage to sneak in some trips with my husband during the long nine months, and even one last-minute girls trip with my sisters.
So if you’re traveling for two, here is my best advice for a great trip:
When to Travel While Pregnant
The best time to do this is during the second trimester, after you’re feeling a little better and before you’re too close to your due date (or too big to move, in my case). If you’re not struggling with morning sickness (who are we kidding here, all day sickness?) congratulations, and I hate you – you can probably plan an earlier trip. We went to Costa Rica when I was 12 weeks pregnant and was just starting to feel better. The fresh air and sunshine seemed to do wonders for me and from then on, my morning sickness began to taper off.
When to Fly While Pregnant
The American Pregnancy Association recommends you stop travel before your 37th week. My sister-in-law joined us in Australia a couple months ago when she was 35 weeks pregnant. She came home at 37 weeks and her doctor okayed it. If you have an uncomplicated pregnancy and are not carrying multiples, you should be good, but if you look big the airline will ask for a note from your doctor, so make sure you get one before you go.
I found that hoarding those plastic bags in the front seat pocket was vital when I was in the throes of morning sickness and traveling a lot for work. I also told several flight attendants I was feeling ill before the flight took off, and when they found out I was pregnant, they happily brought me some ginger ale and pretzels, hoping to avoid a sick bay. My sister-in-law brought compression socks during her long flight, and stood up every hour to walk up and down the aisles. Since your bladder holds maybe half a teaspoon when pregnant, my guess is you’ll already be getting up regularly to walk.
Where to Stay While Pregnant
This is one thing I really had to adjust my expectations for. Gone are the days of sleeping on a hostel floor surrounded by 25 Swiss tourists, but it’s okay because you paid $6 for that futon.
When you’re pregnant, mama needs sleep and she needs it in a quiet, air-conditioned space, preferably without late-night interruptions from the frat house next door.
Spring for a quality hotel, and don’t be afraid to ask for extra pillows. People in Costa Rica and Nicaragua where I traveled while pregnant were so kind when they found out I was expecting.
It also helps to have a home base to return to since long days of walking when pregnant can be exhausting. I loved being able to bring a suitcase and leave it in the secured hotel room, instead of lugging around my backpack like I had done so many trips before. You’re already lugging around an extra 30 pounds. Nobody has time for that.
What to Eat When Traveling Pregnant
Obviously you’re hungry more often when pregnant. Before, when we traveled, my husband and I would bring Lärabars and food from home, eating just one quality meal a day, usually an early lunch/dinner. We found this helped us save time and, who are we kidding, a lot of money. But when you’re pregnant, you need at least 3, probably more like 5 quality meals or snacks a day.
If you’re traveling to a foreign country, I would stick to bottled water and avoid any strange foods, especially meats, since you’re more prone to sickness. Buy a lot of snacks, and eat your heart out. Eating for two, which experts say is a myth (since you really only need 300-500 extra calories a day) absolutely applies when you’re on vacation. The proverbial rug of your life is about to be pulled out from under your feet, so my best advice is to just go for it. Eat that croissant in Paris. Have two helpings of that Pad Thai. Spring for the filet mignon.
What to Do on Vacation While Pregnant
For you and your baby’s safety, this is probably the biggest adjustment you’ll have to make to your travels. We were disappointed that many of the activities we wanted to do in Costa Rica (white water rafting, zip-lining, bungee jumping) were not safe for pregnancy. But, there was still so much we could do, and we decided to focus on that. We went on a river jungle tour, where an eight-year-old redhead from Milwaukee fell in the crocodile-infested waters (true story), saw an active volcano, went snorkeling, and rode a speed boat around Lake Nicaragua (we also went on the longest, hottest hike of my life and got lost, but I’m trying to block that memory out).
Focus on what you can do, instead of what you can’t. And if you really don’t want to miss out on the amazing things a country has to offer, my best advice is to plan your pregnancy travels around places that don’t involve extreme sports like Europe … or Arkansas.
Now I want to hear from you mamas out there. Whether you’re a seasoned kid-wrangler, or a first-time parent, I’d love to hear your best tips for traveling pregnant!