9 Tips For Traveling Internationally While Pregnant
There are a lot of things you can't do while pregnant. Drinking wine, lounging in hot tubs, eating sushi. Fortunately, traveling isn't one of them! So pack your bags and get ready to head out on some summer adventures. I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Tokyo 6.5 months pregnant and have a fresh perspective on preggo travel. Here are 9 tips to help make your trip less stressful and more fun!
1. Do Your Research Before You Go
Me, 4 months pregnant with our first baby in Hawaii in 2016
When we think of taking a relaxing vacation, it often includes warm water and sandy beaches, sipping mocktails by the pool, and reading all the books you won't have time to read once baby arrives. THIS is a babymoon. And if this is what you're looking for, you should probably go ahead and book that ticket to Hawaii. Because pretty much anywhere else like this is certain to pose a risk for Zika. Mexico, the Caribbean, parts of Asia and Central/South America are off limits for Mamas-to-be. Zika isn't the only concern - yellow fever, dengue, or any mosquito-born diseases are risky for pregnant women. This shouldn't be discouraging, it's just important to KNOW before you GO. You wouldn't want to plan a trip, get excited, and then realize they are serious risks that could compromise you or baby's health
Something else to research before you go is cuisine. Are you going to be able to find healthy options? Will the produce be safe to eat? What can you do to make sure you and baby stay nourished? When we were in Japan, there is obviously a lot of raw fish, but also undercooked or raw meat and eggs served in many dishes. And unlike in the States, it's common for pregnant women to consume sushi. So I had to use some creative nonverbal communication to explain that I needed my food cooked thoroughly. Being gluten free, I also brought an allergy card that explained my strict "dont's" in Japanese. Or in Europe, deli meat and cheese is often served for breakfast, another no-no for us pregnant mamas. Enjoying the local cuisine is a huge element of traveling, and one that pregnant women can take part in. But a little research into what to avoid and how to communicate your needs will help you avoid hangry moments and make your meals more enjoyable!
2. Plan Your Transportation
One of my favorite parts of traveling is getting off the plane and navigating a new city in a new language. Sometimes getting a little lost on the way. When you're pregnant, however, navigating a busy train station with heavy bags after a long day (or days) of travel might not be your favorite part of your trip. Before you take off, see if your hotel has a shuttle or how much a taxi to where your staying will be, so you have those options if you just can't muster the energy to get your bearings. Taking some time to look at the bus or train routes and familiarize yourself with the system will take some of the stress off, and screen shots of google map directions are life savers when you don't have an internet connection!
3. Pack Snacks
It wouldn't be an adventure without a few hiccups! And if you hit a travel delay, you'll be so happy you packed snacks. Bars, granola, nuts, and crackers will also come in handy on hikes, city tours, and anywhere else your travels take you. Us pregnant gals need to eat every couple of hours to keep our energy up, especially when we're out and about all day!
4. Be Gentle On Your Body
Me, 8 months pregnant with our first baby in 2016
It's easy to be over ambitious when planning a trip. You have limited days and endless places and experiences to pursue. And on any other trip, I'd say put the pedal to the metal and GO! But when you're pregnant, it's really important to listen to your body and take time to relax. Plan a couple of days between museums, city walks, nature hikes, and boat trips to just hang out. Sit in cafes or parks and enjoy a leisurely lunch, lay on the beach or by the hotel pool. Take breaks when you need from your busy days and don't try to do it all. Remember - you're body is busy building a human. You can't expect all its energy to be there for the endless adventures you could pursue.
5. Be Prepared
Doctor's note and GF allergy translation card (see #1)
Chances are, if you're cleared for international travel by your doctor you won't have any scares on the way. But it's always best to be prepared. Have your doctor send you their notes on your pregnancy, a letter giving clearance to fly, and any prescriptions or other records you might need. Many airlines require a doctors' note approving travel for 28 weeks and beyond. Bring a copy of your insurance card and look into what your insurance covers while abroad before you go.
6. Use Priority!
In every country I've been to (except the USA), they offer Priority Lines for pregnant women and families traveling with babies. And it's AWESOME. In Portugal we were escorted to a completely empty security gate at the airport that took us just minutes to get through. Heaven! Ask if there's a priority line at customs, immigration, through airport security, on transportation, or special bathrooms. Chances are they exist and they do so to make mamas and mamas-to-be more comfortable. Take advantage! You're only pregnant for so long... so milk it while you can!
7. Expect Unique Reactions
Every culture has a different approach towards pregnancy and ideas of what's acceptable. In many European and Asian countries, it's totally appropriate to rub a strangers' baby bump and ask questions about your pregnancy. That might make you feel uncomfortable if you aren't used to it, but smile and try not to make it a big deal. In some cultures, pregnant women don't spend too much time out and about after a certain point in pregnancy or are expected to wear certain types of clothing. You might garner some sideways glances, especially from older, more traditional passers-by. In Japan, the conservative tradition is to keep your ankles covered, and to only gain 15-25 pounds throughout your entire pregnancy. My giant bump and flip flops definitely got some, um, curious looks. Try to be respectful while staying comfortable and try not to take offense if you receive some unsolicited advice.
8. Pick A Place That Makes Sense For YOU
Us wandering souls have long lists of places we long to explore. Some near, some far, some exotic, some urban.... Health risks aside (see #1), make sure to pick a place that you will enjoy, not resent being at while pregnant. For example, I am a total wino and love love love love big, earthy red wines. And strong coffee. Which means most of Western Europe would make for a miserable trip for me while pregnant! I would surely spend most of the trip glaring at my husband while he happily slurped the wine I wanted to be drinking, feeling sorry for myself and taking the fun out of my trip. This might sound silly, but I know myself enough to recognize that France/Spain/Italy/Portugal would not be my ideal preggo vacay spots. Hiking through the Canadian Rockies or seeking out the Northern Lights in Iceland, on the other hand, would have been a fantastic locales while pregnant for me. This will be different for every woman as we all have different priorities and things we miss terribly while pregnant. The point is, consider what you are excited about for the trip and make sure those things are doable while pregnant.
10. HAVE FUN!
Me, 6.5 months pregnant with baby #2, enjoying a walk through a Japanese garden in Tokyo in 2018
So much of pregnancy is focused on what you can't do. And this mindset can be negative and suck the fun out of what are a very special 10 months of your life. Spend your trip savoring your time with your family "as is", whether it's with just your partner or with them and the children you already have. Take the time to feel your little bun in the oven wiggle and kick as you breathe in new experiences and taste new flavors. Be grateful your body is capable of growing a tiny little being while simultaneously taking you out into the big, beautiful world. Eat the chocolate and the gelato, read all the books, soak in the culture. And have fun!!