Thursday, March 28, 2013

Traveling While Pregnant (or Why my Husband is Awesome)

Traveling by Airplane While Pregnant May+Contain+Affiliate+Links

We are down to just a month until my husband and I leave for a 2-week trip to Europe.  We will be starting our trip in Madrid, Spain, then taking a few days in Salamanca, a short train ride from Madrid, before flying to Ireland for a week-long guided tour with my aunt and uncle.  After Ireland, we will head back to Madrid for a few days and maybe take a few day trips by train to the surrounding areas.

The Ireland tour has been planned since around August of last year.  My aunt and uncle showed up at our annual family reunion with details on their planned trip and asked the rest of us, "Who's coming?"  Jesse and I jumped on it, partly because hey, who wouldn't want to go to Ireland, but MOSTLY because we realized that traveling to Europe with my aunt and uncle, who are in their 70s (not that you would ever guess or believe it) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

A few months later, during a trip to Turkey, we made ourselves a little surprise: a baby boy who is due in July!  I spoke to the doctor, and she said that as long as everything was going well in the pregnancy, we could still take our trip.  We will be returning a couple days after I hit the 7 month mark, just in time by the doctor's standards.

Given the level of discomfort I already have when it comes to trying to sleep or walk for a long time, I know that this is not going to be the easiest trip for me physically.  When my hubby and I have traveled in the past, we have usually done so without a lot of planning for daily activities.  Our first full day in Istanbul, we walked over 10 miles, just checking out whatever we happened to come across.  When we started planning our Spain/Ireland trip, I told him that this one has to be different.  There is no way that I can be out walking for hours without resting and using the bathroom.  Plus, public restrooms in Europe often require payment for use.  In the past, I have usually been able to avoid having to pay by using restaurant facilities, but this trip, I doubt I will be able to do that every time.

I knew I was going to need to put some serious thought into staying comfortable during our flight.  As I was writing this post, however, it occurred to me that my husband had never sent me flight information, so I glanced at my Delta Sky Miles account.  There, in big bold letters, it said "Business Class."  What?!  We never fly first class, not even domestically, and especially not internationally.  It is ridiculously expensive, so expensive that it would not even be enjoyable.  But my husband, who travels ALL the time, just happened to have a TON of Delta Sky Miles from all his work travels, and he decided to surprise me with an upgrade.  He was disappointed that I found out before the trip because he really wanted to watch me figure it out as we boarded the plane, but I am so excited that I think he figured it was better to let me enjoy looking forward to it now.

As I was jumping up and down and squealing like a 6-year-old on Christmas (which is not unusual behavior for me), he pulled up the video below to show me how we will be traveling.  I didn't even know there were planes like this, at least not ones that I would ever ride on, even in coach.  (As you watch this video, don't be jealous.  Remember that the only reason I get to fly like this on our vacation is because my husband is gone 4-6 months out of the year.  I would gladly fly coach, or not fly at all, if it meant having him home.  That being said, I am going to enjoy every moment of this!)

So, I guess I don't need the foot rest now, but even so, below is a list of the most helpful items to bring on a plane if you're flying while pregnant (or even flying while not pregnant).  These will help to keep you comfortable during the flight and prevent some of the back and foot pain that we pregos deal with so often.  

Every time we fly internationally, I arrive exhausted and with intense back pain.  I have chronic back pain due to a car accident over a decade ago, but through a lot of stretching and exercise, I have learned to manage it...most of the time.  But when I fly, I end up aggravating it because I am too short (just under 5'2") for my feet to reach all the way to the floor.  I STILL have pain in one area of my lower back that started on our flight to Istanbul back in October.  Since being pregnant means that everything hurts a little more than usual, it takes even more effort to be comfortable.

The most important thing that you can invest in is some kind of foot rest for the airplane.  There are several different kinds available, including some inflatable ones, but the one that seems to be the most popular is the Econo High Folding Portable Foot Rest.  (This is also a really good option for under your desk at work!)  At just $25.00, it's well worth the money to get the added comfort of being able to put your feet up while you're hurtling through the air at 500 miles an hour.

The next important piece of equipment is the travel pillow, and the one I would select is the TravelRest Inflatable Pillow.  My understanding from my research and from reading the reviews is that you should experiment a little at home before your trip to determine the best level of inflation for your needs.  Also, there is a great informational video from the company that explains all the different ways that you can use the pillow, so you can practice at home and see what is most comfortable for you.  

Another essential travel companion is a good pair of shoes.  During pregnancy, your feet tend to swell, especially when you're standing or walking for extended periods of time.  Invest in a decent pair of walking shoes and consider buying a pair that is a half size or so larger than what you normally wear.  Match them up with some Dr. Scholl's Gel Inserts, and you will be good to go.  Or at least bearable, if not good.

Also, make sure to get a prescription for compression hose from your doctor if you are going to be taking any long flights.  Pregnancy increases the risk for blood clots, and compression hose will help reduce that risk.  Also, make sure to get up and move around from time to time when you are flying and stretch your legs to keep the blood flowing.  (You should always do this on long flights, but especially when you are pregnant.)

Your doctor should also provide you with a full print-out of your medical records to take along, just in case you have any issues while you are away.

You also want to bring some simple snacks to ensure you always have access to some kind of nutrition, especially if you end up struggling to find a restaurant where you really want to eat.  Jesse and I never plan where we are going to eat.  We just walk around until we stumble on something that looks compelling and isn't too pricey.  If nothing grabs us, we usually try to find a grocery store and just pick out some interesting meats and cheeses.  (Europe has such a better cheese selection.)  But all of this takes time, and if you are pregnant and getting hungrier by the second, you will be so glad that you brought some little snacks along to hold you over until the next meal.

Finally, make sure to bring a water bottle with you.  It doesn't have to be anything fancy, just something that you can easily tuck into a pouch or pocket on your purse or backpack and refill as needed.  The more you are able to stay hydrated, the less susceptible you are to foot swelling and Braxton-Hicks contractions while you're out sightseeing.  It will mean more trips to the ladies room, though, so keep that in mind and always have an eye out for the nearest facilities.

All of these things should help to keep you rested and relatively comfortable wherever your pregnant travels may take you.  If you have any tips that have worked for you, please share them below!

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