1. Time It Right Timing is everything when it comes to deciding when to go on your babymoon and it's important to find the sweet spot that works for you so you can have the best experience. For most, this is during the second trimester which is often referred to as the 'honeymoon period' of pregnancy, as you're past the nauseous, exhausted phase of the first trimester, but not yet at the heavily pregnant - and potentially uncomfortable - stage. I, personally, was very grateful that we waited until I was well into my second trimester before going away as it wasn't until about 16 weeks that I started to get my appetite back and feel more myself again. I can't over-emphasise how sensitive your sense of smell is in those first few months too, which made for many an unexpectedly queasy moment, particularly when out and about!
This second trimester is also good as the risk of miscarriage is considerably lower. If you're anything like me, you'll have spent at least the first 12 weeks googling every tiny symptom, maxing out the phrase 'is it normal to...?' on your phone. Though the anxiety didn't disappear completely, I did feel (slightly) more relaxed after we'd had our 20 week anomaly scan which checks the physical development of your baby. Once we had the reassurance that our little girl was growing as she should and appeared healthy, it was a weight off my mind, meaning I could focus on enjoying the lovely holiday we had planned.
2. Research Your Destination
One of the most important aspects to research and take into consideration when choosing a destination is the risk of disease, particularly those spread by mosquitoes in more tropical climates. The crucial one of these for pregnant women to note is Zika, which can cause severe birth defects if transmitted from mother to the unborn baby. However, it's also worth being cautious about locations with other recent outbreaks, including dengue fever and malaria.
At the time we were looking to travel (February), we were fairly limited as to where we could visit weather-wise. I was keen to seek out some sunshine for a beach break, but this is unfortunately in fairly short supply when travelling short haul from the UK in the winter months. With this in mind, my first thought was to start looking further afield to the Caribbean, Mexico, Maldives etc. but it soon became clear that not only would the travel time to these far-flung destinations be tricky and exhausting whilst pregnant, but that the majority posed viral risks that should be taken seriously and avoided. Many destinations also require vaccinations and, if so, you need to check whether these are safe during pregnancy. NaTHNaC's Travel Health Pro website is a brilliant tool for researching which countries are safe to travel to and what medical precautions are advised.
For us, this all lead to us narrowing our search to the Canary Islands where the weather remained warm in February but there was no risk of Zika or need for vaccinations. Although I was slightly worried it wouldn't be warm enough for me (after the long winter months, I was all ready to bask in the sun for a week!), in hindsight, I'm glad we didn't go anywhere too hot as my pregnant body temperature was a lot warmer than usual and my skin much more sensitive to the sun. I was also glad we didn't opt for a longer flight than the four hours it takes to Lanzarote as, though I coped just fine, I fear I may have started to get quite uncomfortable if on the plane for much longer than this.
In addition to the medical aspects, it's a good idea to check your airline's policy on pregnancy. Whilst flying (and going through airport security) is entirely safe, a lot of companies may ask for a letter from your GP after 28 weeks. Generally speaking, if you have any concerns, don't hesitate to chat to your GP - I spoke to my midwife before we booked anything and again to my GP a few weeks before departing which helped alleviate any anxieties I had.
3. Take It Easy
As much as you may have a bucket list of adrenaline-fuelled excursions such as hiking up mountains, white water rafting or scuba diving you want to do before settling down to start your family, I'm afraid this isn't the time. Apart from potential risks, it's likely that your energy levels will not be what they once were and even walking for a few miles may take it's toll - especially the further along you get into your pregnancy.
I love a city break and given the aforementioned lack of guaranteed sunshine in Europe in February, we did consider a romantic trip to Paris, Amsterdam or Rome. However, just a mile or so of walking around London to and from work was beginning to leave me feeling tired by the start of the second trimester, often with hip pain thanks to the relaxin doing its thing in my body. With this in mind, we felt we wouldn't be able to do justice to a trip exploring these amazing cities, and I didn't want to put that pressure on myself or my body.
Instead, we opted for a good blend of relaxation and exploration. We chose lovely hotels by the coast to stay in, which allowed us to laze by the pool all day if we felt like it, but also hired a car so we could do day trips to other areas and visit interesting towns and landmarks. A year on, with an 8 month old and many a sleepless night under my belt, I would wholeheartedly recommend making the most of the opportunity to just relax in whatever way makes you happy - whether that's reading a stack of books, drinking mocktails at a rooftop bar, walking around a beautiful art gallery or just laying in every day until noon!
4. Be Prepared
Though it's definitely worth taking the opportunity to be as spontaneous as you can on your babymoon before you're ruled by nap schedules and feeding times, it's also useful to be as prepared as you can be so you're not caught out.
The two things I'd say are essential to plan and take with you are your maternity notes and travel insurance. I packed my maternity notes in my hand luggage to have on me at all times and ensured that our travel insurance covered anything maternity-related (most do, but it's worth double checking). It's unlikely you'll need either, but so important to have on the off-chance that you do. Regarding travel insurance and visiting Europe from the UK post-Brexit, your E111 card will remain useable until it's expiry date but you will need external medical cover after that point.
I took it one step further and also familiarised myself with the nearest hospital and medical centres to where we were staying before we left, just to give me peace of mind. We did, in fact, end up visiting one whilst we were in Lanzarote as I had an anxious day when I felt that our little one wasn't kicking as much as usual. Fortunately, everything was fine and the little mischief maker starting wiggling about as soon as we entered the hospital to be checked, but it was reassuring to know what to do and where to go in that instance.
Less important, but also something to be aware of, is food. As there are a few food items (unpasteurised cheese, pate etc.) that are not recommended whilst pregnant, I found it useful to have a look at menus before we visited restaurants to check that they had dishes I'd be able and feel comfortable eating. Also, although nausea had abated, my tastebuds still weren't quite what they were usually and certain things continued to make me queasy, so it was good to choose somewhere that had something that I fancied eating.
5. Treat Yourself
Your babymoon doesn't have to cost the earth (I'm sure you're already anxiously working out how much the crib, pram, baby monitor etc. costs), but it is your last hurrah as a couple before your lives change entirely, so is the perfect opportunity to treat yourselves and do something extra special. This is the time to book that quirky hotel you've always dreamt of staying in, dine in that fancy restaurant whose menu you've spent years drooling over, or visit that remote, romantic destination you've fantasised about.
When I first came across Lani's Suites in Lanzarote, I immediately dismissed it as it was way out of our price range and much more than we'd ever usually spend on accommodation. I just couldn't justify spending that amount on a hotel, especially with a baby on the way. As we continued looking though, my mind kept flitting back to the near-perfect reviews and beautiful images looking out to the sea. Eventually, we decided to go big or go (stay) home and chose quality over quantity, staying at the luxurious Lani's Suites, but only for 3 nights. And honestly, it was totally worth it. Not only because it was our last holiday before becoming a family, but it also ended up being our last before the pandemic hit, so I'm doubly pleased we decided to splash out. We ended up staying at Lani's Suites and one other hotel, both of which were amazing, so special and places we wouldn't necessarily be able to visit post-baby.
Speaking of which, we also chose to stay in adults only resorts, purely because this was our last chance to do so. It hadn't been something we'd ever really been bothered by before, but it did feel much calmer and luxurious as a result. Both hotels we stayed at had spas as well, which added to the sense of relaxation and I had the most wonderful pregnancy massage which I'd thoroughly recommend.
My advice would be that whilst, yes, having a child will be expensive, you won't get this time of no responsibility, freedom and just being the two of you back, so make the most of it, push the boat out and treat yourselves.