Hitting the road with a baby on the way? It’s not as difficult – or impossible – as you might think! Read on for seven great tips for traveling while pregnant.
Since finding out that I’m pregnant, I’ve been on the road a lot. Most of this travel has been for business, as my freelance gig has me working events all over the United States. I also snuck in a pre-baby vacation to Paris and Amsterdam and a trip to Austin for a travel blogging conference. Since getting pregnant, I have taken at least twenty-five flights, the last of which happened when I was 32 weeks along.
There’s no doubt that traveling takes a toll on your body. You’re jumping time zones, breathing in all that dry airplane and hotel room air, disrupting your sleep schedule, and probably eating differently. When your body is also working to grow a human, the effects – and the exhaustion – can amplify dramatically. I’ve definitely noticed a difference in how my body has responded to travel over the past few months. As a result, I’ve had to learn to make adjustments accordingly.
That said, unless you’ve been advised by a doctor that it’s too risky, getting pregnant shouldn’t scare you away from traveling, particularly during your first and second trimester. A lot of couples even use the impending birth as an excuse to take a final vacation before life changes dramatically. (These trips are often referred to as “babymoons,” a term that makes M roll his eyes.) A babymoon presents a great opportunity for the parents-to-be to spend some quality time together before the focus shifts to the baby. It’s also an excellent way to celebrate your good news.
Today, I want to share some of my best tips for traveling while pregnant. Whether you’re on the road for work, visiting family in far-off places, or taking (in M’s preferred nomenclature) a “pre-baby vacation,” my hope is that they will help you to make the most of your time away from home. Maybe they’ll even encourage you to plan a babymoon (sorry, M!) of your own!
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1.) Talk to your doctor first.
First and foremost, it’s always best to chat with your OB/GYN before you start planning or booking travel. Discuss whether there are any concerns about your destination(s), mode(s) of transportation, trip timing, or anticipated activities. Your doc can also provide you with resources that will help you take good care of yourself and baby while away from home.
Continue to keep your doctor in the loop about your health and travel plans throughout your pregnancy. That way, you can jet off with perfect peace of mind!
2.) Stock up on snacks and water.
Do not leave home without throwing some healthful snacks and a refillable water bottle into your bag! Staying hydrated is critical for your health any time you travel, and it’s especially essential when you’re pregnant. Having a water bottle with you at all times will go a long way in helping you feel your best.
As you’ve probably realized, those hunger pangs tend to be much more frequent and forceful now that there’s a little one in there clamoring for your nutrients. You don’t want to be stuck in a position where you don’t have access to a quick bite. Having healthy snacks on hand helps protect you from eating sugary, fried, or other generally bad-for-you foods when temptation strikes or there’s nothing else available. Furthermore, you’ll save money by not dishing out cash to satisfy every hunger pang.
My personal favorite on-the-go snacks are Think! protein bars (most varieties have 20g of protein, 0g of sugar, and they actually taste good!), trail mix (I love Costco’s individual packs, and M wolfs them down even quicker than I do), and Clif Bars (not as good for you, but so delicious!). If you have access to fresh fruit, it’s worthwhile to bring a banana or apple along as well.
3.) Choose an aisle seat.
Even if you’re a window person, like me, consider booking the aisle seat on flights and trains. This is especially necessary later in pregnancy. As you’re probably realizing, you never know when nature will call (or baby will pick that particular moment to take up residence on your bladder). It’s helpful to have easy access to the aisle rather than having to wake up the rest of your row every time you have to pee. Plus, you’ll be able to stand up, stretch, and move around as often as is necessary (and safe).
4.) Focus on your rest.
Resting well is one of the most effective ways to prevent travel fatigue, but it’s doubly important when you’re pregnant. If you’re anything like me, you will find that you don’t have nearly as much energy as before pregnancy. (There were very few days during my first trimester that didn’t involve at least a short power nap.) Thus, it’s very important to make sure you’re getting enough rest.
Naps are a great way to recharge, so try to find some time to grab a quick snooze. If you’re vacation planning, make like a Spaniard and build a siesta into your daily schedule. Book a nice hotel and take advantage of that big, comfy bed. Rather than lamenting the sightseeing you’re not doing, think of it as an indulgent treat to be able to relax and luxuriate in the middle of the afternoon!
Even if you can’t curl up for some shut-eye, be intentional about taking breaks throughout the day. Build an hour of downtime into your meeting schedule, sit and relax in a park, enjoy a long lunch, sip some tea or hot chocolate in a café, or skip a less interesting conference speaker in favor of some peace and quiet. You’ll be more alert and effective throughout the rest of the day if you’ve had some rest in the middle.
You will also want to make sure that you’re getting enough sleep at night. This might be the time to forego the twelve-person hostel dormitory in favor of a private room, splurge on a nice hotel, or leave the late-night dinner with colleagues a little early. Even if you end up spending some extra money or you miss out on some fun, your body will thank you. You’ll also be better equipped to handle any sightseeing, business meetings, or other activities the following day.
5.) Pay attention to your footwear.
I’ve ended a long day of hiking or sightseeing with sore feet before, but nothing compared to the aches and pains I felt when M and I were exploring Paris and Amsterdam. Despite wearing my most comfortable and supportive sneakers (sorry, fabulously fashionable Parisians), by the end of the day I was practically hobbling through the streets.
In addition to all the other fun changes going on in your body, you’re probably carrying around more weight than that to which your frame is generally accustomed. By the time I arrived in Paris, I was bringing almost ten extra pounds along on the trip. Add a daypack on top of that and it’s no wonder my poor feet were in misery.
Regardless of where or why you’re traveling, make sure to pack and wear supportive footwear. Swap the high heels for professional flats, and nix the flimsy flip-flops for sneakers. (Invest in more supportive flip-flops if your feet are swelling too much for shoes). Along with your feet, your back and the rest of your body will thank you as well.
6.) Have grace for yourself.
One of my biggest challenges during this pregnancy has been learning to accept my physical limitations. Especially before I was really showing, it was hard for me to adjust the expectations of pre-pregnancy, pedal-to-the-metal Gwen.
It soon became painfully obvious, though, that my previous travel style was impossible to maintain. I found the heat in Paris almost unbearable. Our bike ride to Zaanse Schans in the Netherlands was almost more exhausting than enjoyable. Something as simple as walking up a short flight of stairs pushed my lung capacity to the limit. On my work travel, I couldn’t lift the heavy equipment I used to lug around. Furthermore, by the end of the day, the idea of collapsing into bed was much more attractive than the thought of going out for dinner with my colleagues.
It has been difficult learning how to have grace for myself. Needing more rest is a fact of pregnancy, not a sign of laziness or being out of shape. It may make me uncomfortable to ask for help putting my roller bag in an overhead compartment, but it wasn’t good for me to be lifting that weight as I got bigger. My body is working so hard to grow and sustain a life. I keep reminding myself to not only accept that, but to be amazed by it.
For many of us, it’s not easy to accept our limitations or ask for help. This is especially true if we were previously in great health. Despite that, try to give yourself a loving break. And, as my friend (and mom of three) Rachel says, take advantage of this time, because once the kid comes along you won’t be able to take it easy or make excuses!
7.) Indulge in a mocktail.
While M and I aren’t big drinkers, we do enjoy an adult beverage every now and again. There’s just nothing like a cold beer at a ball game or a glass of good red wine with a nice dinner! Also, the addition of a tasty alcoholic beverage can make a night or an event feel special, particularly on vacation. I mean, who doesn’t love a fruity, paper-umbrella’d cocktail while sitting on a beautiful beach?
While Paris was an excellent choice for our babymoon, I’ll admit that it was tough to visit one of the wine capitals of the world and not be able to partake. Being a good and loving wife
and martyr, I gave M full permission to try some wines with dinner. It was, however, kind of a bummer to sit there with yet another glass of tepid tap water while he sampled some of France’s finest vintages. (Side note: seriously, Europe. Get on the cold water train. Room-temperature water during a massive heatwave is for the birds.)
Anyway, then, I remembered that mocktails exist.
Ordering a fun non-alcoholic drink with dinner helped make the occasion feel celebratory and special. It was nice to have something to “cheers” with, and the drinks were a tasty and indulgent alternative to the water I’d been guzzling all day. Admittedly, you might not want to drink twelve in one sitting, as they tend to be on the sugary side. I guarantee, though, that shaking things up (literally and figuratively) with a mocktail will put a smile on your face and make you forget that you’re abstaining from the harder stuff.
Here’s wishing you safe, fun travels and a happy, healthy pregnancy!
Have you traveled while pregnant? What tips do you have for future moms on the road?
Have you taken a babymoon? Where did you go?
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Need some help planning your babymoon? Full Life, Full Passport offers customized itinerary planning for all kinds of trips and budgets.
This interview was first posted on November 27, 2018, and last updated on November 29, 2020.
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