The only time anybody welcomes a small child on a flight is if it’s still in utero, and for some reason, people just love pregnant women. I recently flew to Chicago for the weekend with my kid, even if it’s still in a fetus stage and doesn’t count as an extra passenger. You get smiles out of the airline agents, which is rare these days, and suddenly everyone is dropping their luggage to help you with yours. People let you ahead of the lavatory line, and maybe even the flight attendant offers you an extra snack, if they have such a thing (snacks at all).
Still, I had to lug my luggage around the airport by myself for a while, since I was traveling alone. Fortunately I only have about three pieces of maternity clothing that fits at all, so that’s all I packed into a roomy laptop briefcase, along with several snacks. A month ago Jon and I flew down to the island of Anguilla, and even though he was there to drag our suitcase around and help me out, we still managed to get a bit of star treatment.
It’s amazing how a protruding belly can suddenly get in the way of a lot of ordinary habits. For example:
- You can’t lift your own luggage to put in the overhead anymore
- You can barely bend over to access the bag under your seat
- Airline seats are designed to make you hunched over, which is even worse when all your want to do is bend in the opposite direction (and there are no pillows or blankets to be found anymore)
- You and the tray-table compete for space, especially when the guy in front reclines his seat. Makes typing on a laptop difficult
- If you don’t have an aisle seat, your neighbors start to hate you for needing to pee every 20 minutes.
Some benefits, however:
- I ended up on a “priority lane” at the TSA security point and skipped ahead of everyone, and nobody questioned me
- Nobody saw me naked on those new X-ray machines since I opted for a pat-down instead
- The pregnant belly distracts people enough so they don’t notice you are still wearing a cardigan or have three carry-on items as you enter security.
- People feel sorry for the solo pregnant traveler.
Some tips for pregnant travelers:
- Pack light. Seriously. You can’t expect someone else to do all your hauling, even your spouse.
- You already look disproportional and weird, so don’t worry what your shoes look like. Sneakers go a long way. Wear them in the airport.
- You already look disproportional and weird, so don’t worry what your clothes look like. Pack light. Pack few. You probably don’t own much that fits anyway. Less is easier to haul around.
- Bring snacks. Lots of them. Granola bars, saltines, pretzels, fruit, raisins. And bring enough for your husband who will have “sympathy hunger”.
- If you’re going to a beach, just wear a bikini and ignore the comments more conservative people make about pregnant bellies and bikinis. There were plenty of potbellied men on the beach who looked like they could go into labor any minute, and I think I looked better than they did. Same applies to overweight women.
- Bring Tylenol (for headaches), ginger candy and/or tiger balm (for nausea), hand sanitizer and drink lots of water.
- Give yourself plenty of time before your flight. You really don’t want to be racing through the airport, even if you’re wearing the sneakers I recommended.
- Have fun. This is going to be nothing compared to the next time you travel, which is with a kid and all the accoutrements kids come with.