adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Knocked Up Abroad: Tips for the Pregnant Traveler

Even though I'm a pretty experienced traveler, I was a little nervous about the journey back to the U.S.  It's a really long trip, about 17-18 hours door to door with 3 flights, 2 layovers, and I was doing most of it alone while 22 weeks pregnant.  Even though I was all, "I can handle this!"  Secretly I was thinking, "this is going to be long and boring with heavy things I have to carry myself."  I coincided my departure with Michael's trip to L.A. for work, so we were at least able to fly to Paris together, which definitely helped.  Thankfully, the trip was as easy as I could have hoped for and was relatively uneventful, if you don't count our near-crash landing in JFK or the seagull murder (unrelated instances, thankfully). In an effort to ease the minds of any other pregnant travelers, I put together this little list of Tips for Pregos that have helped me on our recent trips to Prague, Sardinia, and twice to the U.S.  Please feel free to add any others that you have!

the Air France stewardesses insisted that I use this pillow under my seat belt for take off and landing. Not sure that it really did anything to make me more comfortable, but it was a nice thought!

- Buy some very sexy compression stockings.  In France, these are ordered through the pharmacy after special measurements are taken of all the parts of your leg.  They measure around your toes, ankles, calves, and thighs to make sure that the stockings will be specially fitted to those areas, which makes them really fun to try to put on at 4:45am while getting ready for your 6am flight.  The compression stockings help promote circulation and prevent blood clots, which is essential when you're sitting still for long periods of time.  They're pretty much like normal stockings, but as one of my friends said, "They're like Spanx for your legs!"  The pair I ordered are toeless and thigh high, so not only were they sexy, but I could also hide them under loose fitting pants and still wear flip flops - pretty comfortable! - Book an aisle seat. Normally, I'm a window seat kind of gal myself, but if you're pregnant, the aisle is the way to go.  You will need to get up several times throughout the flight to walk around and go to the bathroom, so it just makes it much easier for both you and your seatmates.  I made sure to specifically book an aisle seat for my 8 hour flight from Paris to JFK, and when I sat down, the girl sitting in the middle asked me if I would switch with her boyfriend, who was also in a middle seat a few rows up, so that they could sit together.  I felt really badly as I told her sorry but no -  I really need an aisle seat.  She gave me the stink eye for about 15 minutes until the guy sitting next to her boyfriend allowed her to switch with him.  Sorry lady, don't ask the pregnant girl to sit in a middle seat on an 8 hour flight!  You'll regret it when you have to get up 100 times throughout the flight to let me out.  I refuse to feel guilty on account of your poor planning! - Get up every 1-2 hours to walk around the plane.  This goes along with promoting good circulation and preventing blood clots.  Walk up and down the aisles and stand for a few minutes in the back of the plane.  If you're bound to your seat by the dreaded "fasten seat belt sign," you can continue work on your circulation by wiggling your legs and rotating your feet in a circle 10 tens times clockwise, and then 10 times counterclockwise. - Drink LOTS of water.  I brought 2 liters with me just for my 8 hour flight from Paris to JFK and finished the whole thing!!!  It's important to stay hydrated.  This will also mean that you're getting up to pee a lot, so again, it's good to have the aisle seat. - Bring lots of healthy snacks with you.  Airplane food is full of sodium and always makes me feel so yucky and bloated.  Plus on a long flight, it's good to have lots to eat so you don't get hungry and nauseous, especially if you're in the first trimester.  I cut up a bunch of veggies (carrots, cucumbers, peppers), wrapped them in damp paper towels, and put them baggies to help them stay fresh.  I also brought some cheese bites and pretzels, an apple, a hard boiled egg, a bag of trail mix, and a few granola bars.  I didn't finish all the snacks, but I was glad I had options with me.  As a side note - if you are traveling internationally, make sure you finish all the fresh fruits and veggies during the flight and don't try to bring them through U.S. customs - they don't allow that!  On the other hand, the EU doesn't care what you bring in, so don't worry about it if you're traveling that way. - Get to the airport a little bit earlier than usual.  If you're like me and Michael, you usually time your arrival so that you're getting to your gate only a few minutes before boarding.  But when you're pregnant it's nice to have some extra time so that you don't end up having to run through the terminal if the security line is really long.  You can take your time, and also have a little cushion when you get to the gate so you can buy your 2 liters of water and go to the bathroom before boarding. - Ask for an opt out on the full body X-ray scan machines.  Are these safe?  Who knows.  The TSA says that the radiation levels are low, so it's ok, but why should we trust them?  I've heard mixed things and it's better to be safe than sorry.  Even when I was going through JFK and I asked for the opt out, the TSA agent said, "Oh ya, you don't want to go through there."  Very reassuring.  It takes a few extra minutes to call for an agent and get a full body pat down, but you arrived to the airport bit early, remember?  You have plenty of time!  If you're in an airport that only uses the regular, old metal detector walk throughs, those should be fine, but you can still ask for a pat down instead if you prefer. - Pack light. This sort of goes without saying, but if you can, only carry on a small bag or a purse and a lightweight roller.  I used my purse and my teeny little RyanAir roller suitcase so that I didn't have too much weight on my shoulders, and it was really nice not to have to lug heavy bags around or lift them up to the overhead bin.  If you must travel with heavier bags, get a cart for going through the airport and ask people to help you when you're on the plane. - Show off that bump!  Wear something that makes it obvious that you are pregnant and people will generally be nice to you.  It's true.  Someone gave me a free muffin at the market on Sunday and it was fantastic.  Wielding my Bump Power definitely went a long way in France where they let me to the front of every, single line.  People weren't quite so accommodating in the U.S. (more on that in a future KUA post) but it at least makes it less strange when you ask for help carrying your bags. - Bring a copy of your Pre Natal records.  Hopefully you won't have to use them, but if you run into any issues during your trip, you'll be happy to have all of the up-to-date and accurate information about your pregnancy.  Make sure to include it in your carry-on bag.

a seat at our gate in CDG. Michael insisted I sit here.

Feel free to include additional tips in the comments section! Bon Voyage!

4 Responses to “Knocked Up Abroad: Tips for the Pregnant Traveler”

  1. nate says:

    Pregnant or not, it’s not okay to ask someone on the aisle or window to switch for a middle seat. Sorry. You have be offering an equivalent or *better* seat, especially on a long flight. That’s B.S.

    • Natalie says:

      Agreed! Maybe if SHE were pregnant and it was a short flight, it would be ok to ask someone to switch…but seriously an EIGHT HOUR flight? I don’t think so.

  2. Jamie Van Eyck says:

    Charming blog. Great tips. No, I’m not pregnant. :) And old stink eye should be ashamed of herself. Hellz no, I’m not taking your boyfriend’s middle seat!

  3. Kara says:

    I was laughing at the chick who wanted you to switch seats. She definitly hasn’t been pregnant. I love reading your blog. I am pregnant with my second and let me tell you compression stockings are sexy. I wear them everyday to work. I love putting them on in the morning.

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