Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

Sam and Carrie

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Congratulations on your pregnancy! These months of carrying and nourishing your little human will be some of the most special—and, at times, challenging—of your life.

And don’t worry. Just because your world is about to change in a big way doesn’t mean you have to table your love for travel. In fact, most women can safely travel well into their pregnancy.

While pregnant with Baby Girl, I have taken numerous flights—including a long-haul international trip to Japan—and several road trips. Some of those experiences were great…others weren’t.

I learned that the key to making travel enjoyable, safe, and comfortable during pregnancy is to plan carefully and pack wisely. 

Here are some things you should consider before traveling while pregnant.

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, and these tips and suggestions are based solely on my personal experience. Be sure to discuss any and all travel plans with your medical caregiver.

How to Plan a Trip When Pregnant

Chicago
Twelve weeks pregnant in Chicago.

Even for seasoned globetrotters, traveling while pregnant can pose some challenges. Here are some things you should keep in mind when traveling during pregnancy.

When to Travel

One of the most important decisions you’ll make when traveling while pregnant is when to travel. While you can’t always control the timing of your trips, certain stages of pregnancy are more conducive to travel than others.

First Trimester

You just found out you’re pregnant (Yay!), and you may be wondering if you should tell your boss to send someone else to that out-of-town meeting or give your regrets to Cousin Myrtle that you won’t be able to attend her destination wedding. Well, here’s the good news. Many women have no problem traveling during the first trimester of pregnancy. For other women, traveling during the first trimester can be challenging. Here are a few things to consider before you book that trip.

Pros
  • You’re not huge. One of the benefits of traveling early in pregnancy is that that you aren’t toting around an extra 20 pounds of weight, which means you will (hopefully!) have better mobility and feel more comfortable while crammed into an airline seat, train, or car.
  • Fewer restrictions. Some airlines have restrictions on pregnant women flying late in their pregnancy, but few (if any) have any problem with women traveling during the first trimester. After all, most people won’t even be able to tell you’re pregnant!
Cons
  • Morning sickness. If you’re unlucky, the first trimester (and, in my case, the first half of the second trimester) is characterized by near-constant nausea. Some days I couldn’t keep down any food all day. And, unfortunately, I found that traveling intensified my nausea. I often spent the whole flight or drive struggling to hold down my lunch. Not ideal for making life-long travel memories!
  • Fatigue. During the first trimester, many women are hit with mind-boggling exhaustion—something you didn’t expect to face until after the baby was born. During my first trimester, I was often ready to craw into bed by 6:30pm. So the first trimester may not be the best time to take that multiday hike or attempt to explore a big new city on foot.
  • Still in the “danger zone.” Though it’s something most pregnant women try not to think about, the vast majority of pregnancy losses occur during the first trimester. And while—thankfully—only a small percentage of pregnancies experience serious complications, some women feel more comfortable staying close to their home and medical providers during the initial weeks of pregnancy.

Second Trimester

Japan
Fourteen weeks pregnant in Japan.

Hooray for the second trimester! For most women, the second trimester is the most pleasant stage of pregnancy, bringing with it increased energy and the ability to keep down something other than ginger ale and saltines. As a result, the second trimester is typically a great time to travel.

Pros
  • More energy. After spending the first few months of pregnancy exhausted, many women experience a resurgence of energy during the second trimester.
  • No morning sickness. Most women find that the queasiness that plagued them in the first trimester eases up in the second. Planning a culinary trip?The second trimester might be your best window!
  • You’re Not huge. Though the baby bump will almost certainly become visible during the second trimester (cue the comments from total strangers!), it’s not the size of an overripe watermelon yet, which makes squeezing into cramped airline or train seats a lot more manageable.
Cons
  • Lingering 1st trimester symptoms. Though many women feel a lot better in the second trimester, there is nothing magical about week 14. And some women are frustrated to discover that the nausea sticks around way past its expiry date. Sam and I planned a trip to Japan for when I was 13-14.5 weeks assuming the queasiness that hit me so hard early on would be gone. We were wrong! Let’s just say, I got to know those famous Japanese toilets a lot better than I would have liked. In hindsight, we wish we had planned the trip for about a month later into my pregnancy.
  • Getting uncomfortable. Though the belly will probably still be small compared to the beached-whale status you’ll achieve in the third trimester, some women may start feeling uncomfortable late in the second trimester. I started to feel some of those pregnancy aches and pains in the last few weeks of my second trimester.

Third Trimester

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In the third trimester, it’s natural to want to squeeze in one final trip before that sweet bundle of joy enters your world and changes it forever. But planning a trip for your third trimester comes with some unique challenges. Here are some things to consider before traveling in the third trimester of pregnancy.

Pros
  • Much-needed relaxation. Growing a human is hard work! After months of dealing with kicks to the ribcage, an aching back, swollen feet, and insomnia, you deserve some hard-earned relaxation! And while it can be hard to truly relax at home with piles of laundry to wash and a still-incomplete nursery taunting you, a few days away might be just the ticket.
  • Bonding with your spouse. Having a baby is definitely going to change your relationship dynamics, so having some romantic alone time before the little one makes an appearance can help prepare you both for the big day.
Cons
  • Travel restrictions. Some airlines have restrictions on how late into pregnancy women can fly—they don’t want anyone delivering a baby at 10,000 feet! Be sure to check the restrictions on your preferred airline and have a signed doctor’s note ready if necessary.
  • Uncomfortable. In the third trimester, many of those pregnancy aches and pains have intensified, and you’ll probably feel like you just swallowed a beach ball…that someone filled with lead and then set on fire. When simply putting on your socks unassisted becomes an Olympic sport (and don’t even think about shaving your legs), you may not feel up to spending several hours cramped in a plane or car.
  • Nesting! Even those of us who live and breathe travel might be surprised by what homebodies we become near the end of pregnancy. I mean, you couldn’t possibly bring a baby into the house without having every can in the pantry organized by size and color. Pregnancy hormones are real, and so is the mad desire to nest.
  • Premature labor. Obviously, the biggest concern many women have about traveling in the third trimester is going into labor somewhere far from home. Be sure to clear any and all travel plans with your doctor! She may want you to come in for a checkup shortly before you travel to ensure you have no signs of imminent labor.

 What to Pack for Travel When Pregnant

Japan Rail Travel

Choosing what to pack is almost as important as deciding when to go. When traveling during pregnancy, packing wisely can be the difference between having a miserable experience and creating awesome life-long memories.

Here are some things you should consider packing when traveling while pregnant:

Wheeled Luggage. As anyone who has ever read this blog knows, I’m a huge fan of my Osprey Porter 46 backpack (read our review here). I’ve taken it on trips to 13 countries on four continents and can’t praise it enough. That said, when I was already lugging around nearly 20 pounds of extra weight, I wasn’t a fan of carrying a heavy backpack too. Instead, I opted for this carry-on size wheeled suitcase. It was a lot easier to drag around an airport than my backpack and still fit easily within the overhead compartment.

Compression Socks. Pregnant women are at a much higher risk for developing deep vein thrombosis than the general population is. One way to mitigate the risk is to wear compression socks when traveling on airplanes—especially on long-haul flights. I wear these ones.

Prenatal Vitamins. Your doctor has likely recommended that you take a daily prenatal vitamin. I suggest taking a few more tablets than you think you’ll need. I ended up extending my trip to Canada for several days due to sickness and had to replenish my supply at a local pharmacy!

Snacks. While airplane dining is rarely a gastronomically pleasing experience, the thought of eating airplane food while pregnant—especially when battling pregnancy nausea—might be downright stomach turning. Since having an empty stomach often makes the nausea worse, I recommend packing some snacks in your carry-on to be sure you always have something edible on hand.

Comfort items. Pregnancy can be super uncomfortable, especially in the later stages. Be sure to pack anything that might make your trip more pleasant. These items can include your pregnancy pillow, a heating bag for your back, a pregnancy support belt, or calming essential oils. Even a few comfort items from home can go a long way toward making your experience more enjoyable!

Tips for Flying While Pregnant

Destin
Eighteen weeks pregnant in Florida.

Even if you’re a frequent flyer, you may not know what to expect when flying while pregnant. But don’t worry! It’s totally doable. Here are a few tips that will make your trip safer and more enjoyable.

Educate yourself on the health risks. When planning a babymoon or family vacation during pregnancy, consider health concerns in your chosen destination. For example, Sam and I avoided destinations within the Zika zone, as well as regions that would require us to take antimalarial pills or receive new travel vaccinations. The CDC offers some good information about potential health risks in every country, and I strongly recommend seeking advice from a trained medical professional before you make your decision.

Book an aisle seat. Personally, I’m #TeamAisleSeat whether or not I’m pregnant, because I’m not a fan of waking up a dozing stranger every time I need to get out of my seat to use the bathroom or access the overhead compartment. But even if you love window seats, I recommend booking an aisle seat during pregnancy. To prevent deep vein thrombosis, it’s essential to get up and walk around the cabin frequently. When traveling to Japan, my OB made me promise to get up and move around at least once every 1-2 hours. Of course, most pregnant women have to get up at least that frequently to use the bathroom anyway! Save yourself (and your seatmates) a lot of frustration by booking an aisle seat.

Consider checking a bag. I’m typically a huge proponent of traveling carry-on only. Sam and I spent an entire month in Sri Lanka last year with only carry-on backpacks. But when flying during pregnancy—especially if you’re traveling solo—checking a bag is sometimes worth the hassle. The last thing you want to do when you’re pregnant and uncomfortable is worry about lifting a heavy suitcase over your head and shoving it in the already-stuffed overhead bin. That said, when traveling with a companion who can help carry the load, flying carry-on only may still be preferable.

Explore nausea prevention options. Some lucky women sail through pregnancy without dealing with morning sickness (which—as anyone who has actually had morning sickness knows—is more like morning-noon-and-night-I-think-I’m-dying sickness). For the rest of us, pregnancy involves at least a few months of feeling rotten. And flying and jet lag can seriously intensify the nausea. Before flying, I recommend discussing nausea prevention options with your doctor. Some women have success with prescription medicines or sea bands. I found that the scent and taste of citrus settled my stomach somewhat. Snacking regularly can also help keep pregnancy sickness at bay.

Stay hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids while flying is always a good idea, but staying hydrated is especially important during pregnancy. After all, you have an extra little human to support!

Check airline restrictions. Each airline has its own policy regarding flying during pregnancy. Be sure to check requirements with your preferred airline in advance to avoid any frustration at the airport. Many airlines require pregnant women to present a doctor’s note if traveling in the third trimester.

Read travel insurance policies carefully. Purchasing travel insurance for international travel is always a good idea, but doing so is especially important during pregnancy. But read your insurance policy carefully. Some policies do not cover complications related to pregnancy, especially in women who are in their third trimester, are carrying multiples, or who got pregnant using fertility treatments.

Tips for Road Trips While Pregnant

Japan

Road trips can be a great, often more economical alternative to flying during pregnancy. But here are a few things to consider before packing up the car and heading on one last pre-baby adventure.

Clear travel plans with a medical professional. First and foremost, be sure to get your doctor’s approval before taking any road trips. While most pregnant women can safely travel up until the final month or two of pregnancy, women with high-risk pregnancies might need to avoid traveling, especially in the third trimester.

Avoid rush hour. Obviously, no one likes getting caught in rush hour traffic. But starting and stopping frequently combined with lack of access to a restroom can make for a fairly miserable experience if you happen to be battling pregnancy sickness. Sam and I foolishly decided to drive through Atlanta during rush on our way to a conference in Nashville when I was 8 weeks pregnant. Not to go too deep into the gruesome details, but I was very glad I’d decided to grab a plastic grocery bag at the last minute. We didn’t make that mistake again!

Avoid traveling alone. If possible, plan to travel with at least one other adult, preferably one who can shoulder some of the driving responsibility. Having a companion will give you peace of mind should something go wrong. If you must take a solo trip, I recommend investing in a roadside assistance service like AAA. The last thing you want to do when you’re seven months pregnant is change a flat tire on the side of a busy freeway!

Take anything that will make you comfortable. When flying, packing light is often the only way to avoid exorbitant checked baggage fees. But packing for a road trip is typically a lot less restrictive. And pregnancy is not the time to experiment with ultra-minimalism. Even though I’m typically a SUPER light packer, I didn’t feel the least bit guilty about over-packing for our babymoon road trip to Chattanooga. If taking your honking big pregnancy pillow will help you get extra sleep—pack it! If you will be more comfortable in your favorite robe and slippers—pack them! Especially in the later months of pregnancy, being comfortable can become a rare luxury. So embrace that inner pregnancy diva and pack that trunk full.

Other Things to Consider When Traveling While Pregnant

Tips for traveling while pregnant

Choose your destination wisely. Health and safety concerns are obviously important to consider. Avoiding Zika zones or regions that lack access to quality medical care is a good idea. But other factors play a role in choosing the perfect destination as well. For example, a food tour through Italy might be a fantastic experience. Then again, it might not be an ideal trip for women who are suffering from severe morning sickness. Likewise, visiting Disney World might be a lifelong dream of yours. But keep in mind that pregnant women are discouraged from riding many amusement park rides. It may be better to postpone the trip until a time when you’re less restricted. Not to mention—your little human will likely want to tag along on that trip! While there are very few destinations you can’t visit during pregnancy, some will make for a better experience than others.

Don’t over-exert yourself. When Sam and I travel, we typically go hard. We usually average 30,000 steps per day and see it as a personal challenge to visit every attraction within a 50-mile radius of our hotel—usually before noon. But traveling during pregnancy comes with its own set of challenges, and one of those might be fatigue. During our trip to Japan early in my second trimester, we went hard (we averaged more than 20,000 steps per day!), but we also built in time each afternoon to nap or relax in the hotel. Because jet lag is real. And it sucks.

Don’t be ashamed to accept help. People tend to go out of their way to help pregnant women. And though I know we’re strong, independent people and all that (#girlsrock #girlpower #etcetera), growing a tiny human is hard work. So if there is an open seat in a crowded subway reserved for the elderly, disabled, and pregnant woman, don’t hesitate to use it. If you are trying to maneuver your bag into the overhead compartment, don’t be afraid to accept (or request) help. I mean, you’re growing a human. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone (#beastmode).

Book comfortable accommodations. Even if you’re super budget-cautious, pregnancy is probably not the time to book a $5 bed in a 14-person hostel dorm. While you don’t necessarily have to splash out on the Four Seasons, choosing comfortable accommodations might be worth the extra expense. For our babymoon in Tennessee, we spent double our normal accommodation budget to stay at a super cute B&B that had a big comfy bed and a jetted tub. Worth. Every. Penny.

Build in some time for pampering. Traveling is often uncomfortable. Traveling while pregnant can be downright miserable if you’re not careful. If possible, try to build in some activities that make you feel pampered. During our babymoon, I booked a one-hour prenatal massage, and it was possibly the most blissful experience I will ever have this side of heaven. Whether a visit to the hotel spa or an afternoon of poolside reading, don’t be afraid to treat yourself a little. After all, you may not get another chance for a while!

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Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

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