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I was 22 weeks pregnant and boarding a plane at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport by myself. I had an 18-hour journey ahead of me to Honolulu, where I was to be maid-of-honor at my close friend’s wedding. Originally, my husband planned to attend as the best man (It’s a cute story, really – the bride- and groom-to-be met at our wedding a couple years ago). Unfortunately for us, he could not take the time off from work. I went ahead and scheduled the trip anyway. I had been having a great second trimester – I felt better than I had pre-pregnancy, even. But a small part of me had doubts about traveling pregnant. What limits would my pregnancy place on my trip? With some careful preparation, I ended up having a tolerable plane ride, and an incredible time in Hawaii. Read on for some tips I learned along the way.
Let Yourself Be Helped
Strangers are incredibly kind when they see a cute baby bump. I phrase this tip as “let yourself be helped” rather than “ask for help” because, more likely than not, people will offer if you are obviously showing. Flight attendants and passengers on my flight were quick to ask me if they could store my carry-on for me. A woman on the airport shuttle gave me her front seat so that I wouldn’t have to cram into the back row with three other passengers. It may feel awkward at first, but you should enjoy the special treatment. Pregnancy is so short and fleeting, after all!
Have a Support Team
Once I got to Honolulu, I stayed with a small group of friends who acted as my support team during the trip. During pregnancy I found it to be so important to spend time with supportive and understanding people. Even though I did not have my husband there, I was well cared for. Your support person won’t mind forgoing more extreme activities in favor of relaxing ones (laying on the beach instead of scuba diving, shopping instead of hiking a mountain). They’ll remind you to drink water throughout the day because you tend to forget to hydrate (along with forgetting everything else – thanks, pregnancy brain). They will help you shop for souvenir onesies, slow down their pace when you’re waddling behind everyone else, and remember to pack snacks when you go out for the day.
You will probably need to alter your pre-pregnancy packing list. Among the things I could not live without on my trip are:
You’d be surprised by how much water you need to consume once you’re expecting. The little cups the flight attendants give you will not be enough. Bring an empty water bottle with you through security (I brought my 24 oz Hydro Flask) and fill it up at a water fountain or, if you’re in a really nice airport, a specialized water filter after you get to your gate. Keep it with you at all times during your trip (ie. do not forget it at your Airbnb like I did!).
If you’re going somewhere hot and humid especially, add this to your list. You may even choose to bring a pair of bicycle shorts to wear under your skirts and dresses. Even if you have never experienced chafing before in your life. Your ever-changing body may surprise you, as mine did. I had to run to the nearest convenience store for baby powder for my gross thigh rash. Don’t end up like me.
This one is a no-brainer for me because I always wear sunscreen. If you typically don’t, consider starting now. If pregnancy has been giving you skin discoloration, sun damage will worsen it. I won’t even go into the well-known dangers of skin cancer. Anyway, I’m a stickler for sunscreen. I use Cerave on my face, as the ceramides in it are good for moisturizing my dry skin. I travel with body sunscreen in stick form to save space and avoid messes. Read more about this strategy here.
This tip came from my midwife. Pregnant women are at increased risk for varicose/spider veins, swollen legs and feet, and blood clots. Combine that with hours sitting on a plane and you have a recipe for potential disaster. I wore compression socks on the plane to help with blood circulation in the legs. Try to get an aisle seat so that you can stand up often to stretch and walk around (if you don’t have an aisle seat, revisit my first tip – someone may be willing to trade). If you’re self-conscious about how the socks look, cover them up by wearing a pretty maxi skirt or dress on your flight!
Listen to Your Body
Traveling while pregnant won’t be exactly like any other pre-pregnancy trip you’ve taken, and that’s okay. Your body will have different needs, and the last thing you want to do is ignore those needs. If you are dehydrated (my tell-tale sign is always a sharp pain in my temples) stop for a drink of water. Your feet are swelling? Find a pretty park or cafe to sit in. If you’re tired, don’t feel guilty about taking a nap or calling an early night in. If the mere idea of fish makes you nauseous, skip that nice seafood restaurant everyone’s been talking about. Your health and your baby’s health are your first priority, even on vacation. If you are traveling with supportive people (see point number two) they will totally understand and accommodate your needs.
Try not to let minor setbacks get in the way of your having a good time. If your flight’s delayed, take advantage of the extra time and get some reading done (in my case I read through half of Ina May Gaskin’s Guide to Childbirth with morbid fascination). Is your lower back killing you after a long flight or drive? Find a local spa and treat yourself to a prenatal massage. Are your friends all going out to a bar? Go with them and stick with juice, soda water, or even those fancy frozen non-alcoholic drinks. I promise you’ll have fun anyway (though you may be much worse at karaoke when sober, speaking from personal experience).
I hope these tips help give you the confidence to travel solo! Do you have anything else to add? Let me know in the comments below.
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