Before living abroad, I used to make meticulous packing lists before any trip. After living in Spain for four years and traveling across Europe every chance I had, I perfected my packing strategy. My detailed lists were a thing of the past and I was especially confident in my carry-on packing skills. All of this changed when I realized I would be flying while pregnant.
Fast forward to this past Christmas, when Juan and I thought it would be a great idea to make the long trip to visit family in Spain over the holidays. We had booked the trip months prior, when I was just a few weeks into my first trimester. At that time, I had no idea what I was signing myself up for. Little did I know then that my pregnancy would be plagued with “morning” (ahem, all-day) sickness and that the stereotype of pregnant women needing to pee every 8 minutes was completely accurate. Clocking in at 28 weeks pregnant the day we left for Spain, I knew my normal carry-on packing strategy wasn’t going to cut it. I was going to need things that I never thought to pack before if I wanted to survive the long-haul flight.
After hours of online research (apparently free time was in great supply in my pre-baby days), I felt confident that I had packed what I needed to be comfortable during the hours up in the air. In the end, the flights were just fine and the trip was fabulous. We spent the holidays visiting friends and family and I did my best to avoid thinking about the deep, deep sadness I felt to be in Spain and not able to eat jamón or drink wine. Once we returned stateside, I realized that there were a few items that I could not have made the trip without. There were also some things that would have made my time on the plane even more enjoyable, if I had thought to pack them.
Aisle seat / Upgrade
I know this isn’t something you can pack, but bare with me. We were so fortunate to receive an upgrade to Business class for one leg of the trip as a Christmas present from family. I know not everyone can buy an expensive upgrade, but space is essential when flying while pregnant. For the legs of the trip that we hadn’t received the upgrade, I made sure that I at least had an aisle seat. Sitting on the aisle meant that Juan, my 6’6” husband, was banished to the middle seat. But, his sacrifice was not made in vain. With me sitting on the aisle, Juan was able to sleep undisturbed, as I was up and out of my seat at least 5 times every hour (between bathroom trips and laps around the plane to prevent those pesky blood clots).
Reusable water bottle
This was one of the things that I didn’t bring with me that I later realized would have been super useful. When I was pregnant, I was a camel. That, plus the normal dehydration that happens during flights, meant that I had to waste a lot of money on way overpriced bottles of Dasani from airport gift shops. If I had brought my reusable water bottle, I could have used that money to buy even more Spanish wine to bring home and stash away until my pregnancy was over.
Disposable heating pads
One of the many joys of my pregnancy was terrible back pain. At work, I had to all but permanently abandon my desk and work from an office sofa for my third trimester. Putting one of these disposable heating pads on my lower back during the long flights helped so much.
These were one of the suggested carry-on items for pregnant travelers that I had read about over and over again before my trip to Spain. Earlier in my pregnancy, before I knew that these were recommended, I didn’t wear them on a domestic flight that I had taken for a business trip. After that flight, I looked down at my feet while waiting at baggage claim and noticed that they had swollen to about three times their normal size (think, in the hospital, postpartum swollen). It was savage. Please wear these if you are flying while pregnant – even if it’s a super short flight.
I had one of these and didn’t use/need it. But, it did give me peace of mind to know that I had it, just in case. Most airlines let you fly up until 36 weeks pregnant without any trouble, but I didn’t know if anyone would question how far along I was. Lufthansa had a form online that I printed and asked my OB to fill out and sign. Check with your airline before your trip to see if they offer something similar.
These are essential. We traveled in winter, so I dug through the basement storage of my parents’ house to uncover my long lost high school pair of Uggs. Whether you wear Uggs or flats or some other shoe, you’re going to want to be able to slip them on and off at your seat without having to bend over. Just make your life easy and don’t wear anything with straps or laces.
I made sure to wipe down every tray table (proven to be the dirtiest thing on a plane), seat-back TV, remote control, and armrest I came across. Even if you aren’t a seasoned germaphobe, nothing is worse than being pregnant AND having the flu.
There you have it. If you are planning on flying while pregnant and bring these things in your carry-on, you’re going to have a great trip!