(How to book your flight, what to pack, and how to handle the day of your flight!)
Before I get into the details of traveling “with a passenger”, I want you to get an understanding of where I am coming from…
Once upon a time, I was a fearless, beautiful, adventurous young lady who was on a plane almost every week. During my days in the corporate world, I was promoted to an awesome position that allowed me to travel and train people all over the country. Being from a town with a population of about 11,000 people, it was a big deal for me.
In my traveling days, I would work in all different types of places. Some were fun, like Clearwater, Florida. Some were not so glamorous, like Akron, Ohio or Gainesville, Georgia. Not that I didn’t have great experiences in Akron or Gainesville, but when you think about ‘traveling for work’, you typically picture cities with big experiences and grand attractions (Think Boston, New York, etc.)
Whenever I could, I would take advantage of the free airfare and explore. For example, when I worked in Clearwater, Florida. I would invite my good friend, Bri, to come stay with me. When I was done working for the week, we would rent a cheap car and drive to Miami. Oh, we had so much fun! I will treasure those days forever.
Anyway, I digress. The point I am trying to make is that this pregnant flying advice is coming from a woman that used to hop on planes, jump in rental cars, workout in gym hotels, and go wherever the wind would take her…almost every single week of the year.
Fast forward a few years later, I am beginning a family with the love of my life and we have had quite an exciting ride, so far!
I took three flights in my first trimester. One flight was from Honolulu, HI to Fresno, CA and another flight back to HNL. The third flight in my first trimester was when we made “the move” from Honolulu, HI to Arlington, VA (right outside of Washington, D.C.).
In my second trimester, I took a total of four flights, all during the holidays. We left the DC Metro area to visit family in California, Washington (state), and Hawaii, before flying back to DC. I learned the most from traveling pregnant on these trips!
So, look no further! Here is my advice for my fellow pregnant travelers:
BOOKING YOUR FLIGHT
Depending how far away your destination is, you REALLY need to take your “connecting flight” decisions seriously.
For most pregnant women, if a direct flight is going to be more than 4 hours long, I would consider finding a connecting flight instead of a direct flight, if possible. You can only get up to walk around on your flight so often and the seating can be REALLY UNCOMFORTABLE, even if you’re in first class. Believe it or not, walking around in an airport and using a real toilet can make a huge difference in your traveling experience.
Now, there are some things to consider when making your connecting flight decision. How long will your layover be? And where will your layover take place?
You want your layover to be at least an hour and fifteen minutes long, if possible. You are probably going to be okay booking a one hour long layover. However, that extra fifteen minutes will make a big difference. You won’t have to rush as much to your next gate. You won’t have to stress as much about standing in that [usually] long women’s restroom line. You will have time to fill up your water at a water bottle station (or drinking fountain for smaller airports). You MIGHT even get enough time to pick up a meal or some snacks!
Disclosure: The following information only pertains to flights and/or connections in the United States.
From my experiences and from reading reviews, I have compiled a list of “Airports to Avoid Connecting in While Pregnant”. Connecting in these airports will heighten your chances of having a stressful, delayed, or rushed experience.
- ORD: Chicago O’Hare Airport – Lots of delays.
- SFO: San Francisco International Airport – Lots of delays.
- PHX: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport – I’m fine flying through here if I’m not pregnant, but this airport typically requires a lot of walking which will take away from your restroom, water, and/or eating time.
- CLT: Charlotte/Douglas International Airport – I hate putting this airport on this list, because they have AMAZING food selections (even their sushi isn’t horrible) and it’s a really nice airport. However, this airport requires A LOT of walking. So, avoid it while you’re pregnant.
- DEN: Denver International Airport – Lots of delays.
- MSP: Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport – Although one of my besties is a flight attendant based out of this airport, and she will probably be angry with me for listing this one, it made the list because of the distance between terminals. There are great food options here, and they do have a monorail, but it still can take a lot of time to get from one gate to another.
- LAX: Los Angeles International Airport – Some of their terminals are separate from each other, which means you may have to stand in a long line…to get on a shuttle…to get to your next terminal. When you don’t have to switch terminals, you’re fine. But to be safe, I would avoid connecting here, if possible.
Again, from my experiences and reading reviews, here are the airports I would give the green light for a pregnant woman to connect in:
- DFW: Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport – The flights here run pretty much as expected. There’s decent food options, and a monorail that helps tremendously with switching terminals.
- SEA: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Same as DFW, except the food options are a little better (in my opinion).
- ATL: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport – Being named, “The busiest airport in the world”, you’d think it might be difficult to get through this place. It’s the opposite. I have flown through here at least a hundred times and have always had a good experience. The reliable monorail and timeliness of flights are the main reasons I try to connect here whenever possible.
- SLC: Salt Lake City International Airport – This airport isn’t that big, which is probably why it’s so easy to get through. They have some fun local food spots, too (My favorite is Squatter’s.)
Okay, great! You have decided on a flight and/or layover. The next thing to pay attention to when booking your flight, is SEATING!
Make sure you get an aisle seat! Of course, if the person you’re traveling with is tall (like my mister), it might be better to give them the aisle seat. They just should be aware that you will need to get up at least once every hour to use the restroom or stretch your legs.
Why is getting an aisle seat a MUST? You already know that you are going to have to get up to use the restroom more than usual. Asking a stranger to get up that many times for you can get old. Also, most doctors recommend getting up at least every hour to maintain circulation. Staying seated the whole time might leave you with swollen feet, or even worse…blood clots!
If there are no aisle seats available when you’re booking your flight, and it’s the only flight that makes sense for you to book, go ahead and book it. Right after you book it, call the airline to explain that you’re pregnant and need an aisle seat. If you don’t have any luck, don’t worry…I’ll cover that in a bit.
PACKING FOR YOUR FLIGHT
Pack as you normally would for any flight. You know…clothes, makeup, intimates, blow dryer, etc. What you pack in your suitcase won’t matter as much as what you pack in your carry-on suitcase or “personal item” (ex. purse, tote bag, backpack, etc.)
Here are some items that were really helpful for this pregnant traveler:
- Tissue: A lot of women already keep this in their purse, but I personally needed extra for flying. The combination of hormone changes and elevation made my nose very runny, so I pulled the tissue out of my bag and kept them in the seat pocket of the chair in front of me!
- TUMS (or any other antacid that’s safe for pregnancy): Not all pregnant women have heartburn during pregnancy, but that may or may not change while in flight. I had mild heartburn before flying, but between the stress, abnormal eating, and elevation, I definitely had the need for TUMS.
- Earplugs and Eye-mask: Some pregnant women are more irritable than normal, so having earplugs and an eye-mask handy can help you drown out bothersome neighbors.
- Reusable Water Bottle/Canteen: Almost all airports now have water bottle stations. If they don’t, they have a drinking fountain that you can fill up from. As long as your bottle or canteen is empty, it is TSA safe so feel free to keep it in your purse or carry-on!
- SNACKS: As you may know, food and snacks from airport vendors are overpriced, and not that tasty. You also may not have time to pick up as many calories as you need. Being prepared with nuts, granola bars, or dried fruit will help keep your stomach (or baby) from growling at you.
- Neck Pillow: You might need it for your neck OR you might need it for lumbar support. With all the changes your body is going through, your back might get sore sitting in an airplane seat. (I know mine did.) I used my neck pillow more for lumbar support than I did for my neck!
- Slippers/Flip Flops: If you are already traveling with sandals on, no need to worry about packing extra; however, if you are wearing boots or shoes on the flight, it might be a good idea to keep some slippers/flip flops in your bag (in case your feet swell from the elevation.)
- Insurance Cards: This might be a no-brainer, but if you change wallets or purses, make sure to travel with your insurance cards, in the event you need to seek medical attention while traveling (God forbid).
THE DAY OF THE FLIGHT
- Like I mentioned earlier, make sure you have an aisle seat. If you haven’t been able to secure an aisle seat by the time you arrive for your flight, just speak with a counter agent and explain your situation. Lots of people have travel changes that will allow you to change seats when it’s time to fly. Also, counter agents are used to getting seat requests from passengers for various reasons. Let them know that you are pregnant and need an aisle seat, and they will very likely be able to accommodate your needs.
- If you are traveling with a carry-on suitcase, keep all valuables in your smaller “personal item”, if possible. You probably know by now that you should not be lifting heavy objects, especially above your head (unless you are one of those badass, body building, pregnant women). So, you don’t want to take your carry-on suitcase onto the plane if you don’t have to. After going through TSA, kindly speak with the counter agent at your gate. Let them know that you are pregnant and shouldn’t be lifting things, and ask if you can get your bag “courtesy checked”. (If you have a connecting flight, do this as you’re boarding your first flight.) The agents usually prefer to courtesy check carry-on suitcases, anyway, as it speeds up the boarding process for everyone
- Stay hydrated! Before hopping on a flight, find one of those water bottle stations I’ve been talking about (or water fountain) and fill up your water. Yes, most flights offer complimentary drinks, but sometime there is too much turbulence that may prevent the flight crew from walking through the aisle with food and drinks as planned. You want to stay hydrated on your own schedule, not somebody else’s!
I hope these tips have been valuable for you. If you have any specific questions that I didn’t cover, or if there’s anything you think I left out, PLEASE feel free to email me at email@example.com. Happy Travels! 🙂