There’s something about being pregnant that makes me want to travel. Maybe it’s the impending life change, the idea that “we’ll never be able to travel again after this!”, or just the need to get my mind off everything going on with my body.
During my 2 pregnancies, I’ve traveled to Czech Republic, Netherlands, England, Netherlands again, and Italy – all past 30 weeks. And those last two were with a toddler in tow.
I had many well-meaning people try to talk me out of taking a trip in the third trimester, but I was so glad that we did. With the schedule of my job, I was off work the last few months of each pregnancy, so that was the time to do it.
I will also note that I had challenging but healthy pregnancies. Walking was my biggest hindrance, thanks to an underlying hip issue. I also had gestational diabetes. But neither of those conditions impacted the safety of traveling while pregnant, so with the go-ahead from my doctor and midwife, I went!
Know your airline requirements.
If you are thinking of flying anytime in your third trimester, make sure that you check your airline’s requirements before you book. (While we’re checking things – talk to your doc, as well!)
They’re all a little different, and you can find it by googling [your airline] + pregnancy policy. Many will require a doctor or midwife’s note with your due date, and while I was never asked to actually present mine, I had it just in case.
Not every airline employee is good at guessing how far along you are, especially if you carry way out in front. So don’t assume that just because you’re “only” 31 weeks doesn’t mean you will not be asked. Better to be safe than sorry!
Everyone will want to help you.
If you are, or ever have been, visibly pregnant, you know how “on display” you become as a pregnant woman. That is in no way diminished when you travel. Yes, you’ll probably get a lot of thinly veiled “compliments” about how brave you are for traveling (at least in US airports).
But you’ll also get people who want to carry your bags, airline attendants who go out of their way to help, and people will pop up out of those disabled/pregnant/elderly seats when they see you coming a mile away. Take advantage. After this, you’ll be waiting on somebody else for the next 18 years.
Plan realistically for your body.
I tend to expect a lot of my body, and never more so than when I’m planning a trip. So for our first trip when I was pregnant, I did not plan a lot of time for resting. It used to be no problem for me to plan excursions that would have us out and about in a foreign city from sun up till sun down, but the reality of being pregnant, for me, is that I need a little slow time in the middle of the day or I’m going to get incredibly cranky.
I also didn’t know how difficult it would be for me to walk, so when I booked us a place only half a mile! from the train, I thought that was perfect. Fast forward a few months, and that half mile suddenly takes me half an hour to walk. Or, you know, hobble.
That apartment also literally had 4 flights of the steepest stairs I’ve ever seen (if you’ve been to Amsterdam you know what I’m talking about)… and no elevator. My poor husband actually had to stand under me and heft me the entire way. 4 flights. Every single time.
That would have been worth looking into a bit more closely on the Airbnb listing, to be honest. I should have planned better. You might not have hip issues, but I’d be willing to bet you’ve got something going painfully wrong – or at least, you will by your third trimester. Choose your lodging with comfort and access as a priority!
Oh, did I mention that we camped out for a race in the back of a small van for 2 nights with the closest bathroom a 15 minute walk away? Yeah. I regretted that decision. Don’t be like me.
Get in front of that camera!
As women and mothers, we are often the photographers of our trips. Add to the the self-consciousness that a lot of pregnant women carry, and it is very easy to go a whole trip without getting any great pictures of your baby bump on vacation. But trust me, even if you do not want to post them all over social media, you’re going to want to look back and admire how awesome you were for dragging your unborn child to a different part of the world.
Or possibly hold it against them when they complain that you never take them anywhere.
Prepare well for the flight.
There are a few things that you can do to make the flight more comfortable, and more safe, for your pregnant body.
- Think about your seat selection. I really needed to “man-spread” late in my pregnancy to give my belly room to be comfortable, so the middle seat was not ideal for me. Unfortunately, my 6’4″ husband literally does not fit in the middle seat of many airlines, so we had to manage some weird angles. For my second pregnancy, we paid a bit more for the roomier seats.
- Wear compression socks. Look, I’m not going to lie. Putting these on while pregnant might be the most humbling thing you will ever do. Don’t leave it to the last minute before you board, because it will involve a whole lot of grunting, sweating, cursing, and – if you’re unfortunate like me – flashing people. But they reduce the risk of blood clots and without them your feet will look like absolute sausages by the end of the flight and it will be hard to walk. I forgot them once, for a short flight. That’s what happened.
- Get up and walk around. Every hour. It will help with swelling and it just feels good. I would go back in the oh so roomy space outside of the bathrooms and do some stretching. And let’s face it, you’ll be up to go pee every hour anyway.
- Speaking of stretching, there are tons of great stretches that you can, and should, do from your seat. Check out this great (and extensive!) list of simple exercises to do on an airplane.
- Drink lots of water. Ask the flight attendants to bring you extra. Yes, you’re already swollen but you absolutely need to stay hydrated. Plus it will help reduce jet lag. Just do it!
- Bring snacks. This was pretty much my motto during pregnancy. But for real, sometimes you have to go several hours between feedings on a plane. Have your own snacks with you so that nobody has to die because of it.
- Wear easy-off shoes. Remember that talk we just had about your feet swelling? Even with my compression socks, my toes were exposed. They bulged out of the end of the socks like the weirdest case of muffin top you’ve ever seen. And they did not fit in my sneakers. You’ll want something that you can slip off without having to bend down when it gets uncomfortable, and then slip back on for your hourly walks.
Figure out your own philosophy about alcohol.
I know that this is one of those big debate topics out there, and I’m not trying to stoke those fires. Some people think a single sip during pregnancy is the most irresponsible, selfish thing on the planet. Others booze it up like they’re in college. Most of us are somewhere in between.
I found it helpful to decide ahead of time what I felt was acceptable, share that with my partner, and stick to that plan. Unsure where you land on the spectrum? Talk to your doctor about it. I did.
My personal comfort level was to abstain for the first 20 weeks, then enjoy the occasional glass of wine with dinner after that.
We determined that while in Italy (where the temptation for wine is intense), I would have a glass with dinner when we went somewhere particularly nice, which would be every few days. Planning for that made it easier to stick to it because I would have a really nice glass to look forward to.
It is true that nobody bats an eye at you for having a glass while pregnant in Europe, at least not the places we were. I had one waitress double check that I knew the after dinner digestif was alcoholic, and that was it.
I’m not saying nobody will speak up if you’re pounding shots at the pub with a baby bump, but you won’t get any attitude for ordering a refreshment with your dinner.
Managing your diet is an extra challenge.
Ah, my least favorite thing about my pregnancies: gestational diabetes. The joys of counting every single gram of carbs and protein.
This is hard at home. This is nearly impossible abroad. There are some great apps that will make it a little bit easier, but it really came down to finding the things that I knew would not hurt my blood sugar numbers and sticking with them.
So yes, there I was in Italy, unable to drink (hardly any) wine or eat pasta. Or bread. Or pizza. I figured out that the only way to manage my numbers effectively was to just stick to steak and salads. I’m not complaining – but I did really wish I could just have a pizza!
Even if you don’t have gestational diabetes, you are still probably being cognizant of trying to maintain some semblance of healthy eating during pregnancy. Think ahead of time about what will make that easier on you during your trip.
A supportive partner makes all the difference.
Isn’t this just true for pregnancy in general? Well, it’s doubly so for traveling in the third trimester. Make sure your partner knows ahead of time what it will take to make this trip enjoyable for you. Make sure that he or she understands that you might not be able to go at the pace that you’d like to.
One thing that helped us was to have a couple days where we split up. My husband spent the day drinking Absinthe and texting me weird pictures from all over Prague, while I sat in bed eating leftover steak and watching John Oliver reruns. Everybody wins.
Don’t forget your prenatal vitamins!
And anything else you need specifically for your pregnancy. Make a list several days ahead of time to make sure you’ve got everything. Because pregnancy brain.
Don’t expect that you will be able to find whatever you need at your destination.
For me, the item I could not live without was my Snoogle. My pregnancy pillow. We happen to be very stubborn about traveling carry-on only, so I managed to shove that Snoogle into my travel backpack and only have room for 2 outfits. But pregnancy pillow is life.
Have a plan for “just in case”.
I felt better knowing that in all of the places we traveled while in my third trimester, there was healthcare easily accessible. We weren’t kayaking to the middle of the Congo or anything. But it would still be prudent to write down the closest hospitals to where you’re staying and what number to call in an emergency (like 911 in the US or 112 in the EU). Also make sure that you’ve got your doctor’s after-hours number with you.
You should absolutely let your doctor know when you are leaving and when you’ll be back. During my second trip, I was emailing back and forth with my midwives the whole time. Communication is key, and if anything comes up that feels a little bit off, reach out right away to make sure that you don’t put yourself in any kind of harm’s way.
So there you have it! My tips for traveling in the third trimester like a boss. What about you? Have you vacationed with an extra passenger in your belly? What tips or tricks worked for you? Add on in the comments below!
to pin for later: