Pre-baby trips are a growing travel trend, but this one wasn't exactly planned with relaxation in mind.
For our fifth wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided it was time for a splurge.
Weekend trips to the San Juan Islands were nice getaways, but making it to this early milestone — which I suppose means you’re still in love after the honeymoon is over — was a good excuse to cash in our vacation days and blow some travel miles on a three-week vacation in Italy.
And then I found out I was pregnant.
By the time our trip rolled around, I would be six to seven months along, but our tickets were non-refundable. Our anniversary trip had turned into a “babymoon.”
The babymooning trend
As it turns out, lots of expectant parents take these trips on purpose. After having a child, for a good number of years, vacations are primarily chosen for their ability to, at best, entertain and, at worst, not harm a tiny human with a short attention span, unpredictable moods and questionable judgment.
Thus, the babymoon: your last trip where romance, relaxation and the basic human right of self-determination are the overarching themes.
The ideal destination for most babymooners is quiet and relaxing, says Christine Albury of UK-based babymoonguide.com. Resorts offering pampering spa treatments are popular, as are beach destinations and eco resorts.
Our Italian itinerary, however, was ambitious: A few days tackling Rome on foot, then a train ride to the Adriatic coast, where we’d rent a car and explore the relatively less-touristy southern regions of Puglia and Basilicata. We also wanted to see the ruins of Pompeii.
Rustic cuisine and few English-speakers had been a selling point when we first booked the trip. Suddenly the most important Italian phrase I had to practice was, “Is this cheese pasteurized?” And it was definitely time to start breaking in new pair of Birkenstocks.
Tips for babymooners
Although the term “babymoon” was first used to define the period of time after a baby’s birth that the family spends bonding, in the early 2000s it started to include the pre-baby vacations taken by expectant parents, Albury says.
“The travel industry then jumped on the bandwagon by creating upscale vacation packages specifically catering to parents-to-be,” she says.
Indeed, a web search for “babymoon packages” yields countless airline and hotel deals. One package, offered at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Phoenix-Scottsdale, entices the soon-to-be-sleep-deprived with organic skin-care gift sets, in-room movies, couple’s massages, make-your-own ice-cream sundaes, and a 24-hour “Cravings Chef” service that will presumably bring you pickles at 3 a.m.
Websites like babymoonguide.com, as well as parenting and travel sites, offer advice on topics such as what to pack, flying while pregnant, pregnancy-safe sunscreens and destination ideas.
Not recommended: Long flights, long car rides, traveling during the first and third trimesters, and destinations where food safety or quality medical care are questionable. And, of course, now travel to Zika-infected areas is a no-no.
Albury also suggests that couples triple-check their insurance policies. “There have been horror stories of women giving birth prematurely overseas, then facing huge medical bills for their babies, who were not covered under their parents’ policies,” she says.
Babymooning in Italy
OK, so I was clearly violating one or two rules of Babymoon Club. But I made it through the 14-hour flight by taking regular walks and doing plenty of stretching in the aisle.
I was good for about six hours a day traipsing around Rome’s cobblestone streets, while taking plenty of breaks for gelato and decaf espresso (what I couldn’t eat in cured meats and raw cheeses I made up for in dessert).
I’m a fairly active person, and it felt good to stay that way. Plus, I couldn’t help imaging that my daughter-in-utero was drinking up a sense of adventure, grit and the awe and wonderment of seeing new places and experiencing new things.
The Italians were wonderfully gracious and accommodating. If anything, traveling while pregnant in a country with an inadequate birth rate affords you a respect and near-reverence that you miss when you’re just eating for one again.
Hosts would usher me quickly away from restaurant smoking sections, and then, of course, encourage me to drink wine. Fellow passengers would practically trip over each other to offer me their seats on a full train or bus. It was easy to find small kindnesses everywhere, without having to buy any special packages.
On the final leg of our journey, and entering my seventh month of gestation, we landed in an upscale hotel in Sorrento with a serene and relaxing outdoor pool. Mount Vesuvius, a miraculous snapshot of Roman history, beckoned just a 30-minute train ride away.
But we never did get up from our patio chairs that day. Relaxation had finally won, and Pompeii would have to wait a few more years until we could return with a questionably appreciative child in tow. And that was perfectly OK.