Traveling while pregnant isn’t always easy, can be very uncomfortable and crazy even, but it can be done! Take my advice as someone who has traveled in my first, second and third trimesters in some pretty extreme climates. Follow these easy steps and not only will YOU be traveling like a pro but your baby will be happier and healthier as a result!
1. Hydration: Like a broken record we have heard the mantra “Drink water!” until we are ready to chuck that person across the room or off a cliff. Unfortunately it is true, but it doesn’t have to be boring or taste bad. (Note: lack of proper hydration can cause a miscarriage.) We are sensitive critters once we start the adventure of gestation. Taste, smell and even feel can become more acute, more sensitive and more difficult to manage.
In my 1st trimester I went to visit my family in Reno, NV USA in July, definitely one of the hottest months of the year for high desert. I was still suffering vomiting, low energy and stomach upset from the morning sickness. Here are some simple tricks to not only help you drink more but also help your body absorb and retain it better so that you avoid dehydration:
- Soak chia seeds and drink them with a glass of water. Chia holds moisture into your body and helps to not only avoid dehydration but also keeps your energy up over a longer period of time. (Great substitute for coffee!)
- Put a teaspoon of rolled oats in your water bottle or drink with a glass of water. By retaining more water you won’t dehydrate as fast. It doesn’t mean you can drink less but it does mean that your body will use more of it.
- For water that has a brackish or funky taste add fruit, a pinch of salt and honey. The honey will help boost your energy, the salt will help you replace salt lost from sweat and the fruit will help to offset weird tastes.
- ALWAYS have a water bottle in your purse or backpack. I recommend water bottles with built in carbon filters like this one from Brita, this is the water bottle I personally use. Not only will a filtered water bottle save money but also it will help IMMENSELY with the taste and help keep bacteria out of your water especially with the Ebola threat that is floating around right now.
2. Hat’s are Back! Especially for travelers in hot climates, wear a hat. In the heat half the battle is keeping the sun off of you. I traveled to Cartagena de India in the end of my 2nd trimester/beginning of my 3rd trimester. I then spent an entire week walking around in extremely hot and humid temperatures. The only time I really felt like I was close to getting heat stroke or at risk was when I did not have my big broad brimmed Sombrero, my energy dropped or I started feeling dehydrated. If you are traveling in extreme cold wearing a hat or cap will help trap more heat into your body and lower your risk of catching a chill or hypothermia. Don’t do it for the fashion, do it for your baby!
3. Slow and Steady Wins the Race: Being pregnant doesn’t mean you have to be in a spa-like environment with your feet propped up and someone feeding you grapes, not that you don’t deserve it! When you do have to get out and walk around be sure you aren’t over extending yourself nor giving up before you have begun to enjoy yourself. I walked around for hours each day in these extremely hot environments and I found that if I paced myself I conserved energy, had more stamina and didn’t feel quite so sore the next day. The idea is to set a moderate, consistent pace and then maintain it by drinking water during the exercise and dressing appropriately. Don’t forget good shoes! I walked around in a pair of Jambu Mary Jane style sandals and never had rubs, arch soreness or blisters.
4. Fill Your Gas-Tank For Success: Be sure you eat enough calories during travel, make sure they are healthy ones too. Remember you are eating for 2 people! This doesn’t mean you have to eat more necessarily but you DO have to eat strategically enough to make sure you are getting enough nutrients. Try to eat every couple hours especially as the baby gets bigger and pushes on your other organs.
As the baby gets bigger you physically run out of space so sometimes you will do better off of more small meals. Try to eat foods that are rich in protein and healthy fats. One example is a tasty protein snack such as a chicken pastry or a sweet but low calorie option like frozen yogurt. Be sure to check the frozen yogurt for type of sugar used, avoid preservatives and make sure the milk is hormone free. Yogurt contains microbes and bacteria that will help keep you and baby happy and healthy.
5. Get Enough Sleep!: This isn’t always easy, especially if you stay at hostels in group dorms like I do. (I am also a cheap ass who doesn’t like to waste money on hotels) When I start feeling sleepy I go to bed. Cultivate “sleeping” habits or actions that help you relax and fall asleep. I have always found that by reading a book before bed I lull myself into a restful state that allows my brain to shut down. This will occasionally backfire however if it is a good book so beware!
Some travelers find it helpful to use their smartphone to play meditation music, ocean waves or even white noise in the background to help in falling asleep. Note: These habits must be established before you ever go on your trip in order for them to be successful. All you are trying to do is create a habit or “feeling” that cues your body to relax and fall asleep.
6. Pregnancy Nutrition and Sickness Prevention : When you travel your body will often go through higher levels of activity and/or stress. This means that you have to focus even more on nutrition to combat all the outside bacteria and contagion assaulting your body. Often when we travel we find ourselves eating more fast food and higher calories but lower quality of calories. For the pregnant traveler this becomes even more important. If you are already on a nutritional program be sure to keep to the routine as much as possible. I travel with my protein/nutrition powders, vitamins and a few nutrition rich foods that have quality calories. Pack your protein/nutritional powders in individual plastic baggies, one for every day. Either separate or included in those “daily baggies” should be any vitamins or medications you are taking.
If you don’t mind extra weight but want a more sustainable option try small glass jars like the ones used for baby food. Finally pack a trail mix of raw nuts such as chia seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and pumpkin seeds. These are all high in nutrients and healthy fat that can help pick you up if you get too run down while also delivering extra nutrition to you and baby. If you are allergic to nuts try bringing preservative free dried fruits, protein bars, granola or even chocolate (for morale!). Remember, your body is undergoing changes in size and balance, be sure you give it enough quality energy to stay right side up and still enjoy your travels. Finally be sure to carry hand cleaner and use it frequently as you are passing through high traffic/high germ environments such as airports, buses and taxis.
7. Hotel or Hostel?: Hard core backpackers and low budget travelers will often ask this question more frequently even when pregnant. I did both and each one has the good and the bad. I like hotels because they are more private. If you are NOT traveling alone and you don’t want to share a bathroom or cook for yourself hotels are nice. Hotels are very expensive. I love hostels because you have better amenities. At a hostel even to get a private room you will pay a lower price but have better benefits, if you do your research.
Food. If your morning sickness is really severe or you have special dietary needs you can make your own meals. Most hostels have fully stocked kitchens for guest use. You have to wash your dishes afterwards but you can cook better meals, save money and avoid buying things that pollute the environment like paper and plastic. At a regular hotel they might hand you a hot plate or a microwave which is a poor substitute for a stove and blender.
Keep in mind also that people at hostels are a lot more interactive and open which means more people are likely to notice or even offer help if problems arise. If you are traveling alone, it is also helpful to have people around to talk to during the emotional or lonely times. This is harder to find at a hotel where people are more self-involved in their own travel groups or plans.
I have no doubt that I could add more travel advice for pregnancy but I wanted to hit what I felt were the most important points. This information is 100% based on my own travel experiences in the last 6 months during my own pregnancy. I can report that the baby is getting quite big now and my balance has really started to change even before my Cartagena trip. I’m pretty awkward but doing Pilates has spared me the bulk of the sore back and muscular weakness many women tend to suffer.
Only two more months to go before my little travel buddy will come out into the world. According to the sonogram it’s a boy so we are thinking of the name Daniel!