As a travel journalist, I’ve taken more flights than I can count. But I’ve learned that the flying experience changes drastically once you’re pregnant. When I found out I was pregnant in 2021, my husband and I continued with our vacation and travel plans, and throughout my pregnancy, I took 10 flights, including some as far as the Indian Ocean.
Though I stopped jet-setting around 22 weeks into my pregnancy, many other women continue to explore the friendly skies further into gestation. And generally speaking, it’s safe. As Elaine Bishop, MSN, CNM, a midwife for Ovia Health, explains, for non-high-risk women, air travel isn’t likely to interfere with your pregnancy.
However, as with anything related to carrying a baby, it’s always wise to check with your healthcare provider to get the green light before booking your next trip. They may recommend you stop traveling at a certain point — many OBGYNs and airlines recommend pregnant women ground themselves at 36 weeks, when labor could happen at any moment. Your healthcare provider may also suggest you book your vacation in the second trimester of pregnancy when the fewest amount of emergencies happen, Bishop says.
Additionally, you may also want to check with your airline and let them know you’re pregnant to avoid any uncomfortable conversations at the check-in counter or boarding gate. “Most airlines allow pregnant people to fly without restriction before 36 weeks of pregnancy,” Bishop says. “Some may request that you bring documentation from your provider stating your gestation age.”
If you’ve established with your healthcare provider that you’re ready and able to travel, you’ll want to pack some extra necessities to make the journey more comfortable. From new aches and pains from swollen ankles to an oversized bump that requires some TLC, flying while pregnant is a different experience. We spoke with prenatal experts and women who frequently flew during their pregnancies for their best advice to make flying while pregnant more comfortable.
Though you may suffer from nausea in your first trimester, once you reach the second trimester where significant growth happens, you may discover you’re hungry all the time. Though airlines will have some snacks, they’re often not the high-quality ones that offer ample protein and long-lasting carbohydrates to keep you satisfied, so make sure you pack your own.
Alexis, a mom of one, who flew up until 35 weeks of pregnancy for work to London, Hawaii, Berlin and beyond, never left her home without nuts, cheese and other high-protein goodies. In addition to the hunger pains of pregnancy, she also says that where or when you can eat when traveling is less predictable, so having food at your fingertips helps a lot.
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This pack of 24 RXBar protein bars will keep you fueled for your next few journeys. With this variety pack, you’ll get chocolate and sea salt, coconut chocolate and peanut butter chocolate flavors.
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These high-protein edamame beans are the perfect easy snack to take on the go. Each pack comes crammed with 13 grams of protein. They’re also low carb and keto-friendly. Plus, in this variety pack, you’ll get three flavors: buffalo, sea salt and sriracha.
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Once you try these, you won’t be able to put them down. The energy-packed Popcorners are a terrific on-the-go snack option, complete with 10 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber and just 120 calories.
Turn to aromatherapy
Flying can be exhausting and overwhelming for everyone, especially while pregnant. You may need to find new ways to decompress and center yourself. Aromatherapy can be a wonderful solution to combat common long-distance woes, says Jennifer Habashy, a Strata naturopathic doctor for Strata Integrated Wellness and Spa.
The key is to find the right scent that doesn’t make you feel yucky — and offers the relief you need. A couple of drops can be massaged into areas of aches and pains. She recommends eucalyptus for alleviating muscle pain and lavender to encourage relaxation, relieve headaches and improve sleep.
“Although safe for the most part, several essential oils are contraindicated in pregnancy,” she adds. “Always be sure to consult with your birth team before initiating any essential oil-based regimen.”
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This eucalyptus scent from Red Silk Essentials is 100% pure, made from non-GMO USDA-certified eucalyptus. At just 10 milliliters, it’s the perfect size to take in your travel backpack, and the built-in rollerball is perfect for easy application.
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This lavender oil is the perfect flying companion, with lavender known for its calming and relaxing properties. This 10-millimeter bottle can easily fit in your travel makeup bag. Simply roll it on your wrists or neck to feel a bit of calm at a particularly restless time.
BYOP: Bring your own pillow
If you’re planning to travel during your pregnancy, replace BYOB with BYOP. What is that exactly? “Bring your own pillow,” of course.
As your belly grows, the task of becoming comfortable while seated is more and more difficult. To help Alexis get cozy, she kept her Boppy pregnancy wedge with her everywhere. “It helped me sleep — as much as one does in the third trimester — on planes and in hotels,” she says. “It took up room in my carry-on, but was 100% worth it.”
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This wedge pillow is perfect for travel — it’s easy to pack and bring with you anywhere you might need it. Plus, it comes with a soft jersey slipcover. Perhaps best of all, when you return home, remove the slipcover and throw it in the washing machine so it’s fresh before your next use.
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This pillow features a two-sided design so you can choose whether you want a softer memory foam side or a firmer side for support. It has its own carry bag and a washable plush cover.
Pack for your trimester
When you’re packing for your trip, do so with your trimester in mind, says Princess Estocia McKinney-Kirk, a doula, author and Bellibind expert. You may not need much in your first trimester since you won’t have a burgeoning belly to navigate. But in your second and third trimesters, you’ll have different needs that require various packing must-haves. For me, flying was easy initially, but by 20 or so weeks, I felt the stress and weight of travel.
“Each trimester brings on their own unique set of needs for every pregnant person,” McKinney-Kirk says. “Assess what those things are that help you get through your day-to-day symptoms of pregnancy and be sure to have those on your packing list before a big travel day.”
McKinney-Kirk recommends anti-nausea remedies like suckers, ginger candies, crackers, travel-sized mouthwash and mints for the first trimester. She says to be mindful of heartburn and indigestion in the second trimester, while soft maternity leggings can be a game-changer as you start to outgrow your pre-pregnancy clothes in the third trimester.
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These ginger chews help fend off feelings of nausea. They’re made with 10% fresh ginger and contain no artificial sweeteners. They’re vegan, gluten-free and have a medium-high ginger heat.
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These wristbands are clinically proven to relieve feelings of nausea, motion sickness and morning sickness. They’re simple, too: Just a plastic knob sewn into a knitted elastic wristband.
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Staying comfortable while flying is key — including what you wear. Many of our favorite pairs of travel pants are leggings, but even more so with maternity leggings. These high-waisted midi leggings will keep you comfortable for your entire journey.
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“Elevating the legs in pregnancy, especially when sitting for prolonged periods, aids in circulation and helps to minimize swelling, so bringing a portable airplane footrest that can easily hang over your food tray is a fantastic gadget for traveling,” McKinney-Kirk says.
This foot rest hands on the seatback tray table and can be adjusted to meet the length of your legs. This will completely change the way you fly.
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For the third trimester, one unlikely travel essential hero is flushable wet wipes, which make bathroom trips more soothing for those tender parts. “With hormones preparing the body for childbirth and constipation being a common issue in this period, areas down south may need that extra tender care,” McKinney-Kirk adds.
Scope out a doctor or hospital where you’re going ahead of time
How you feel any given day or week in pregnancy can be unpredictable. And if you’re heading to a destination that you’re not familiar with, you may want to research where you can go for emergencies.
“I made sure I knew a doctor or clinic in each city where I traveled in case I needed help,” Alexis says. “Hopefully, you’ll never need it, but it will give you peace of mind. I ended up seeing a doctor in Berlin late in pregnancy to help me get insulin when I had not packed enough for my gestational diabetes.”
In addition to knowing where to go, it’s not a bad idea to print your prenatal medical records to take with you. In case you need to seek medical attention, having your records will help the physician to know your history and better treat you. Carry your travel essentials in a single place like a travel wallet to keep everything organized while you’re on the go.
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This nylon travel organizer has a place for just about everything — credit cards, passport, cash and much more. Plus, it’s got a durable zipper enclosure to ensure the contents stay secure during travel.
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This travel wallet can hold your phone and credit cards as well as any documentation you may want to take with you when you travel. It’s also got RFID-blocking technology to keep the contents secure.
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We love this tri-fold travel wallet. It’s got space to store everything you might want to take with you while also being able to fold up into an easy-to-carry wallet.
Pack and wear compression socks
During pregnancy, fluid acutely accumulates in the body, which is why many women report swollen hands, ankles, feet and even their face. Habashy says this is due to the fetus growing and putting pressure on the venous system, amniotic fluid pooling and the mother’s blood volume increasing.
“This fluid accumulation is what causes aches and swelling in the lower legs, and flying can also cause temporary edema due to changes in cabin pressure and air circulation,” she explains. This makes compression socks an invaluable item to keep on hand.
“Compression socks act by squeezing the walls of our veins and redirecting blood flow back to the heart,” she continues. “This change in blood flow is what then reduces the swelling that is often associated with pregnancy and flying.”
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These compression socks offer a graduated compression, which is targeted at the ankle and decreases in pressure toward the sock opening at the calf. They’re made of a bamboo-based blend, so they’re extremely soft while also wicking away moisture and reducing odors.
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These graduated compression socks promote good circulation while also keeping you comfortable during your next flight. If plain black isn’t your style, you can choose from 31 different color and pattern combinations to better match your travel shoes.
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This set of three compression socks also comes in fun designs. But, more importantly, they offer a good amount of compression to promote blood circulation and oxygen flow, and are made from a lightweight, breathable fabric that will keep their shape no matter the setting.
Pack a bungee chord
New mom Tiffany frequently flew for her job when she was expecting up until 36 weeks for both of her pregnancies. The one must-have she recommends is a bag bungee to ease the travel process.
“It hooks to the handle of carry-on luggage and secures the things you don’t want to carry so you can roll them,” she says. “Purse, coat, laptop bag…and giant bags of Garrett popcorn when connecting through Chicago.” As a bonus, once she had her children, it was also helpful to attach the diaper bag to her suitcase.
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With this bag bungee, you can more seamlessly strap together multiple pieces of luggage to travel easier. It attaches to the handle system of a wheeled suitcase and secures a second bag, coat or other item in place. Say goodbye to fumbling your things in the terminal.
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This leather and elastic band stretches around larger bags to keep your belongings securely in place at the top of your wheeled suitcase.
Drink more water than you think you need
This one holds true regardless of whether you’re pregnant or not: Drink lots of water on your flight. Staying hydrated while flying is one of the best ways to reduce jetlag, get better sleep on board and arrive feeling refreshed.
It’s smart to carry a large water bottle and kindly ask the flight attendants to refill it for you with potable water several times during your flight. You can also look into hydration tablets to give you a boost, too.
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This stainless steel water bottle comes in 12 different color options to match every style. It’s well-insulated, too, keeping your drink ice cold for up to 24 hours or hot for up to 12 hours. It’s also got a leakproof lid, so you don’t have to worry about spills in your bag during your travels.
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When I visited my best friend in Seattle at 21 weeks pregnant, I packed Nuun tablets to boost my hydration. They’re low in sugar (compared to a sugary Gatorade), but helped quench my thirst in flight and boosted my hydration levels.
Wear shoes you can easily slip on and off
Unless you have TSA PreCheck, you’ll be required to remove your shoes to go through the security checkpoint. Early in pregnancy, this is an easy task, but the bigger your belly gets, the harder it becomes to bend down. Skip laces or anything difficult, and opt for comfortable shoes instead, recommends Sarah Bradford, the founder of Luna Mother Collective.
“Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off while you’re going through security and that are supportive and comfortable,” she says. “Make sure they’re not too tight in case you experience any swelling during your flight.”
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With more than 10,000 5-star reviews, these slip-on sneakers from Dr. Scholl’s are a must-have for any woman who plans to travel while pregnant. Thanks to insole technology, they offer great support for your feet while also being lightweight and made from soft materials. Best of all, they’re easy to slip on and off while you’re heading through security.
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These shoes from Sketchers are a great option for travel. They’re comfortable, offer great support for walking through the terminal and are easy to get on and off when you’re heading through security. They’re also machine washable, so you can easily get them looking fresh after a few wears.
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