Tips for Traveling While Pregnant

After eight or nine trips overseas, Andrew and I are pretty seasoned travelers.  With each trip, we learn something new that will improve our experience, such as having the right footwear or packing less and keeping our bags light.  When we first started traveling in 2007, we didn’t dream of buying toiletries in-country and the thought of renting a car didn’t even cross our minds.  Now, we don’t think anything of popping into a pharmacy for toothpaste (In fact, it’s fun!) and we can’t imagine NOT having our own vehicle, at least for part of any trip.  But, this year’s voyage across the ocean was going to be a little different with me being pregnant (into my third trimester), and I wanted to be as prepared as possible.

Now that I’m back, I thought I’d share some of my thoughts about traveling while pregnant based on my own experience.

This year, we traveled to Sicily for two weeks in April.  My husband chose Sicily because it was a completely new destination and it was basically as far south in Europe as we could get.  We normally travel mid-May to mid-June, and the weather in Europe is usually cooler than we anticipate.  Going on a trip six weeks earlier in the year would mean even colder temperatures. So, Sicily it was!

Finding color in Palermo. I almost bought one for baby’s room!

Before I get to my observations on traveling while pregnant, let me just sneak in a plug for babymoons.  This was ours’, and whether you think ‘babymoons’ are great or on par with made-up holidays, I’ll tell you that it was the best trip we’ve been on in awhile.  We had something very tangible to celebrate, and it was a welcome break from our growing responsibilities at home.  Andrew started talking to our baby girl every night before we went to sleep, and we were able to have plenty of quality time together doing what we love: traveling in Europe.  Whatever it is you like to do, make time to do it before baby comes.  For some people, it’s camping.  For others it may be a spa weekend at a resort.  Taking a babymoon gives you both a chance to connect in a deeper way before baby arrives and all hell breaks loose.

PACKING (clothing + luggage)

All packed up after four days in Palermo and ready to get our rental car for the rest of the trip.

When Andrew and I travel overseas, we use large backpacking bags so we’re more mobile.  This was probably more important when we were younger and using public transportation.  Now that we’ve started renting cars, it’s not quite as crucial.  However, dragging a rolling suitcase over the cobblestone (or worse!) streets of ancient cities is no fun.  A backpack is easy to carry and helpful on stairs, of which there are MANY in Europe. On our last trip, Andrew and I made the decision to get smaller bags to encourage ourselves to pack less, especially now that we’ve started doing laundry on our trips.  With me being pregnant this time around, I knew I’d need a lighter bag for sure.  So, I purchased this Kelty bag, the capacity of which is 60L versus the 78L bag I used previously.  The size and price were right, and I purposely didn’t fill it to capacity knowing we’d be bringing home souvenirs. I was thrilled with all the updates to make the bag even lighter and more comfortable than my previous Kelty bag, which we purchased back in 2007.  Obviously, depending on your destination and mode of transportation, a duffle or suitcase might be just fine.

Additionally, it’s important for us to have day bags while we’re out and about to keep water, light jackets and other essentials.  I have a variety of small bags at home that I’ve used over the years, including a messenger bag, a lightweight hiking backpack and even small purses.  Just a few weeks before our trip, Andrew and I were walking in Old Town Alexandria and I happened to notice this one (pictured above, also) in the window of a running store.  I was curious, and at the time felt a little silly looking into yet ANOTHER bag, but it proved to be quite the workhorse on the trip.  I’m working on a separate post about the bag–it was that awesome–but for now I’ll just say it was versatile, stylish and super functional.

My next biggest packing concern was proper footwear.  We walk A LOT on our trips, and I want my footwear to be comfortable, stylish and functional at the same time.  Being pregnant meant it was even more important to be comfortable this time around!  I’ve taken my Allbirds (pictured above) on a couple trips so far, and they did not disappoint.  They’re sneakers that doesn’t look like running shoes and are very comfortable. Back when I got them, they only came in a couple colors; now you can get them in a rainbow!  It’s also important to have a dressier shoe to wear to dinner, so I chose my black Clarks flats.  These are the second pair of black ballet flats from Clarks that I’ve purchased, and I’ve been very happy with them, both at home and while traveling.  Unfortunately, it looks like they don’t carry them anymore, according to their website.  I’ve also brought my Tieks flats on trips (in different colors), and they would be the closest thing to the specific pair of Clarks I have. Other than worrying about rain or wear and tear on my super-nice Tieks, I’m happy to wear them anywhere since they’re so comfortable!  Lastly, I brought my black Chaco sandals since I was anticipating warmer weather than at home.  I bought them last summer after I got drenched in DC and wished I’d had a fast-drying shoe, and purposely chose black (instead of some of the super fun colors they offer) to keep them neutral.  While I didn’t wear them often in Sicily, sandals were a welcome change of pace.  Chacos have a lot of arch support and can be adjusted, which is critical for swollen, tired, pregnant feet!  One final word about footwear: be prepared for blisters!  If your trip involves a lot of walking, it’s possible even well-worn shoes will rub more than normal.  I always bring band-aids and blister block adhesive stickers and keep them in my day bag in case I need them while we’re out sightseeing.

Because I was traveling at just the time I started needing maternity clothes–but didn’t have a ton–I had to be strategic about my packing.  I didn’t want to bring too much, which means it’s smart to bring lots of things that go together.  I wanted to be comfortable and stylish, but my wardrobe was very limited.  Black maternity leggings to the rescue!  I might have worn them half the trip. While I can technically still ‘fit’ in my pre-pregnancy jeans (with a hairband around the top button), they aren’t exactly comfortable.  For your babymoon, opt for clothes that are comfortable AND make you feel good.  For me, that was black leggings with flowy tops (maternity or not), a pair of maternity jeans and my trusty black/gray scarf that goes with everything.  It’s probably a good idea to make sure your underwear and bras still fit before the trip; I ended up borrowing a couple bras from a friend since I’ve outgrown my normal ones but am not ready to buy a bigger one yet.

One thing I didn’t bring on the trip and kinda wish I had was a belly band.  I wear this one for running, but it’s bulky and meant to be worn OVER your clothes. I knew I didn’t want to be traipsing around Italy with a belly band around me, and I didn’t think I’d need it.  However, we walked A LOT, and much of it involved stairs.  A medium-support belly band worn under my clothes would have been perfect. Here’s a link to find one you might like.

Lastly, I did wear compression socks while we flew there and back.  It’s recommended to wear compression socks while flying (pregnant or not, but especially while pregnant) to reduce the chance of blood clots.  I don’t wear my compression socks often, and trying to put them on at seven months pregnant is relatively difficult, but I thought it would be prudent.  This, of course, does dictate the outfit I wear on the plane as I don’t want my socks to be visible.  Thankfully, my trusty gray linen pants (pictured above) still fit and they are the perfect item for long travel days.

SPLURGE on accommodations (if you can)

Our Airbnb in Ortigia. A good bed in Europe can be hard to find!

One thing I really DID worry about was sleeping.  At home, I’m sleeping with so many pillows that my poor husband barely has any room!  Plus, we’ve definitely slept on some sub-par beds on our travels, especially when we first started out more than a decade ago.  A typical bed for two people in Europe is two smaller, hard-as-rocks beds pushed together, and one pillow each.  I will say, however, that accommodations in Europe in general seem to have improved over the years, as has our travel budget, so we’ve been able to get better-equipped rooms over time.  My sweet husband specifically booked us nicer-than-our-normal rooms so I’d be a little more comfortable.  The giant showers and plush beds we enjoyed on this trip are a FAR CRY from what we were used to when we started traveling 10 years ago!

If you can’t bring your pregnancy pillows with you on your babymoon, don’t be afraid to request additional at the hotel desk. Also, I’ve been using Unisom off and on for help with sleep since the nurse practitioner at the clinic recommended it.  I made sure to take half a dose each night of our trip so that I was well-rested for our busy schedule.

FOOD SAFETY

The daily food market in Catania. Not all countries have the same food safety regulations, or guidelines for foods to avoid while pregnant.

Depending on where you travel while pregnant, you may or may not have concerns about eating the food or drinking the water.  Unbeknownst to us, it’s not recommended to drink the water in Sicily!  (Not like in Mexico; their old pipes are to blame.)  We did know to watch out in one city, but didn’t realize it was island-wide.  Thankfully, it’s completely normal to get bottled water at restaurants, and I simply refilled my water bottle using those as well.  I think I drank from the tap once or twice before I knew it should be avoided, but didn’t let it scare me.  Women are having babies in Sicily all the time!

I find the United States tends to be a bit more ‘strict’ with their guidelines for pregnant women, so I try to put more emphasis on common sense than specific rules anyway.  While in Sicily, I enjoyed some deli meats, (likely) unpasteurized cheeses and juices and even a little wine each night with dinner. For example, I passed on the fresh-squeezed juice my husband bought from a stand in a local market (did that guy even wash the fruit or his hands????) but I ate fresh ricotta multiple times from restaurants, or a little salami for breakfast at our hotel.

INDULGE in treats

A chocolate croissant and cappuccino topped with cocoa in Modica.

What’s a babymoon (or any other trip, really) without a few treats!  Pregnant or not, I prioritize food experiences pretty highly, and so does my husband.  We enjoyed having granita (kind of like a cross between a slushie and gelato) with brioche buns for breakfast and plenty of gelato stops in the afternoons.  Surprisingly, pregnancy has actually decreased my sweet tooth, and I was the one passing on treats and desserts more than Andrew.  With baby taking up room in my belly, I had to limit what I ate!  We also really enjoy European coffee, so we made sure to take a break for cappuccino each afternoon, too.

SLOW DOWN and take a break

Taking a break–from walking and the rain–with granita and cappuccino in Ragusa.

Perhaps the biggest change to our trip related to pregnancy was my need to go at a slower pace most days.  I simply can’t walk as fast as I used to, and appreciated chances to sit down more than usual.  Overall, I was fine to walk upwards of 20,000 steps a day (I wore my Garmin to keep track.) because I’m pretty active and fit at baseline.  But, even I got winded walking up all those stairs, especially in Ragusa, a town built entirely on a hill.  While we enjoy a chance to get afternoon coffee anyway, I think those breaks were really important for me to recharge a little.  Also, we opted for public transportation a couple times (taking a shuttle up to the theater at Segesta, and taking a taxi out to the Capuchin Catacombs in Palermo), both of which would have been walkable had I not been pregnant. (Note: We did walk BACK from both places…I’m pregnant, not crippled.)

Additionally, taking a break at a café is a chance to use the bathroom!  Andrew has always been amazed at how many times I have to pee each day on our trips, and being pregnant only made it worse!  Second only to the bed situation (mentioned above), the bathroom situation was also on my mind prior to the trip.  I’ve used some pretty ‘primitive’ potties in Europe, and have had to make due with less-than-sanitary conditions.  Again, being prepared is the name of the game.  Unless you’re spending your entire trip at a resort or a cabin, plan on bringing a pack of tissues and hand sanitizer at a minimum with you in your day bag.  Bathroom stalls run out of toilet paper even in the US!  I did observe that hovering over toilets is significantly more difficult while pregnant, so a pack of wipes would have helped enormously. Also, take advantage of every free (sometimes they charge to use toilets in Europe) bathroom you have access to, such as at a museum or restaurant.

I hope these tips on traveling while pregnant have helped!  Enjoy and, as Rick Steves would say, “Keep on traveling!”

 

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