Knocked up abroad: second trimester travel

Not far along enough for second trimester travel? Read more about pregnancy in a foreign country, Turkish prenatal care, travel in the first trimester,Turkish superstitions, and foreign baby names on Knocked up abroad.

A few years ago, before the word staycation foisted itself into the travel lexicon, babymoons were all the rage. A babymoon typically referred to the last getaway for expecting parents, often a deluxe resort vacation replete with couples’ massages, room service, and lots of pampering. I’ve spent my my pre-baby travel slightly differently, exploring post-Soviet museums before needing a stroller, eating at restaurants that have never heard of kids’ menus, and learning what non-alcoholic drinks are on offer in local dive bars. Living abroad in Istanbul has also changed my short-haul destinations considerably. In the first trimester, my husband and I traveled to Kiev and Warsaw, Russia in the dead of winter, and to Frankfurt for the Christmas markets, and I don’t regret having gone without the his-and-hers massages. For second trimester travel, I found Singapore to be nearly ideal: the food and shopping are epic, the street food is safe, and the people polite and helpful. Though the hotel prices and high temperatures can be hard to deal with, the Southeast Asian city-state is a nice balance of relaxation and city exploration.

Ask any new parent or doctor and they will tell you that the second trimester is the best time to travel, after the early days of morning sickness have passed and before you get so uncomfortable that a walk around the block feels like a marathon. Given the relative comfort level, the second trimester is also the best time for longer trips further from home. I flew 10 hours home to New York (my first trip back to the US in 10 months) in late February at 20 weeks, and just returned from a week in Malaysia and Singapore at 27 weeks. Today I hit the 28-week mark of pregnancy, a big milestone as it means the end of unrestricted air travel. For many international airlines, including Turkish Airlines, British Airways, and Qantas, you are required to bring a doctor’s note certifying you are fit to fly overseas. We all want to avoid childbirth on a plane, even if it could mean free flights for life.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from travel in the second trimester:

  • Travel when you are showing: Part of what makes first trimester travel tough is that no one knows you are pregnant other than you and your travel companions. Exhausted and need a seat? Tough luck, lady, we’re all tired. Need to make sure that foreign drink is non-alcoholic? Better stick to (bottled) water. While my friends cooed over my five-month baby bump, not a single person gave me a seat on the NYC subway in a week of rides, even when I unzipped my winter coat and looked longingly at strangers. Two months later in Singapore, I barely stepped onto a train before several people offered me a seat and every car has a few reserved seat for passengers in need.
  • Don’t skip the creature comforts: Even if you skip the traditional resort babymoon, you should still give yourself a break when traveling. When booking air travel, if you can find a way to upgrade yourself to business class, you’ll be glad to stretch out even if you can’t sip that free champagne. Coming from rainy and chilly Istanbul, a week in tropical Southeast Asia seemed heavenly, but walking around in humid 90-degree weather felt more like hell. I must agree with my food blogger friend Kate over at Savour Fare who said that “swimming pools are God’s gift to pregnant women.” Staying at a hotel with a pool gave me much-needed relief in between wandering the historic (but seriously hot) streets of Penang, Malaysia.
  • Bring documentation: As noted before, many airlines require a doctor’s note for women to fly between 28 and 35 weeks. But how do you prove how far along you are in the earlier weeks? At my last doctor’s appointment before flying to Asia, I asked for a note allowing me to travel just in case, having heard that Malaysia sometimes restricts entry to pregnant women in later months for fear that they will give birth in the country. Good thing I did as nearly every Turkish Airlines personnel asked me for my medical report: when checking in, at the gate, and on the plane. If you’re traveling internationally after 20 weeks, play it safe and bring a note.
  • Do half as much: For first trimester travel, I noted that you should realize your limits have changed. Though energy levels may increase in the second trimester, jet lag and extreme weather still take a major toll. I had a long to-do list in Singapore but could barely manage half the things. I scoffed at paying for the tram at the zoo, but in hindsight, it would have been much easier and more comfortable to get around Singapore’s massive animal park. Even if you normally avoid overpriced museum cafes, they might provide the break you need to stay a little longer. Taxis are another friend of pregnant women, especially when they are air-conditioned.
  • Buy local snacks: Pregnancy is a double-edged sword when it comes to eating: your hunger is greatly increased but you have to watch what you put into your body, whether you’re in a foreign country or not. Often flights arrive late at night or you mistime your lunch break when all the restaurants are closed, leaving you without many food options. Penang is known as Malaysia’s food capital but I had to make different choices for safety’s sake and avoid some of the famed street food, though Singapore’s hawker centers are quite hygienic even when you are eating for two. A visit to a supermarket can provide an expecting traveler with a range of unusual but safe food. Each night in Asia I tried different bottled drinks, from the tasty calamansi juice to the vile lemon-barley drink. Having a stash of local snacks made me feel better about staying safe with street food while still enjoying products only found in Malaysia. America needs to get with the Kit Kat drumstick ice cream cone, though I’m not so sure about the blueberry-and-hazelnut Pringles.
  • Dress for comfort: Nearly all pregnant women experience swelling in the hands and feet, particularly in the last few months. Air travel, salty foods, and humidity exacerbate this, so halfway through my vacation, I worried I’d burst out of my shoes like the Incredible Hulk. If you’re traveling to a hot place, pack shoes that give you a bit of room and remove your rings before flying (good opportunity to find a nice necklace to wear them on). Also be sure to dress in cool clothing that still provides coverage to avoid (or protect) sunburn.

With three months to go, there’s still more Knocked up abroad to come, stay tuned for more on pregnancy travel.

Daily Pampering: The Curtain Bluff Babymoon

Pregnancy is already challenging enough, especially if you’re a first-timer. Moms- and dads-to-be alike need a break from the doctor’s appointments, planning and anxiety that come with bringing a new life into the world. So, when you measure the future in centimeters (you’ll get it if you’re expecting) instead of miles, it’s hard to imagine getting on a plane, regardless of how attractive the destination is.

Before pampering takes on a new meaning – and it will – book a babymoon to Curtain Bluff. The resort, located in Antigua, takes all the thinking out of your vacation, thanks to the all-inclusive pricing. Reserve your stay and your flight, and then just show up. Sleep comfortably in your junior suite (while sleeping is still an option), and have dinner on your balcony overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Sprawl out in the sand, get on a boat or take a swim. Enjoy the last days of pre-parental life with each other.

The spa at Curtain Bluff has prenatal treatments, so be sure to book at least one trip to this den of luxury while you’re in Antigua. The massages are unbeatable, and the skilled professionals know how to navigate both male and female bodies, pregnant and otherwise.


Get your daily dose of pampering right here.

Four reasons why your babymoon matters five months later

Babymoons are hot. Every major resort is looking for a way to get in on the action … and why not? Moms-to-be are carrying all that extra weight, coping with the effects on their bodies and dream of a place where they can be pampered for a little while. Pregnancy massages take up the space between fantastic meals, and mom finds a bit of bliss. The guys don’t lose with this arrangement either. It’s a last chance to take a vacation and focus on the people who soon will be called “the parents,” even by their own friends. Dad can have a few cocktails while mom sits in the sun.

But, eventually, it comes to an end. The car comes to the resort, and the revelers return to the airport, go home and resume normal life. It’s all finished far too quickly, and in a few months, life changes forever.

What’s interesting is that the babymoon may be over, but the effects can linger for months. After lying dormant for a while, they provide relaxing thoughts when you need them most – right after your kid is born. My wife and I went you ours around five months ago, and I’m still feeling the residual effects now. Of all the travel I’ve done this year, those four days remain the smartest.

Most travel writers focus on the immediate benefits of a babymoon. That doesn’t do you much good when the kid has arrived, so here are four reasons you’ll be happy you went on a babymoon, even months after you’ve returned from it.


1. It’s part of the progression
Becoming a parent doesn’t start with the birth of your child. There’s so much that goes into it, from the decision to have one (or the realization that you are …), the visits to the doctor, setting up the kid’s room and agonizing over every minute detail (only to come to the conclusion later that the stuff you worried about really doesn’t matter). Your babymoon is part of this – it’s one of the experiences that will shape your life as a parent. Among the things you’ll remember later was that amazing getaway, the last sans child that won’t have you calling every hour to see how he is.

2. The memories will get you through sleepless nights
The first few weeks after a kid is born, I’m learning firsthand, can be incredibly tough. You won’t sleep much, and sleep doesn’t mean rest. I’ve found my mind wandering back to that July trip to Curtain Bluff more than a few times and remembering how easy it was. Having experienced pure relaxation has given me something to which to think back. It helps.

3. You’ll have fantasy fodder
When you and your spouse are watching your child fall asleep – and hoping he’ll follow through with it – you’ll be able to whisper to each other about how much you’d love to get a break. “Wouldn’t it be great to go back to …” It would. But, as soon as the baby’s asleep, you won’t be far behind. Your dreams, hopefully, will take you back to that babymoon for a few hours.

4. You’ll go back … but not alone!
For all your dreams of wanting nothing more than a little bit of sleep, it’s great to have the new guy around the house. When the kid’s ready to travel, the first place that comes to mind will probably be the last one where you had a great time. There’s no need to negotiate over where to go. Both parents have a great idea and memories that have gotten them through those sleep-deprived first weeks and months. Pull the trigger, and bring your son or daughter in on the tradition.