Pregnant and Traveling: London Booked at 7 Months

Baby on Board London

I am traveling to London for business soon!  I wanted to go early in the pregnancy but it didn’t work out.  I’ll be taking off on a 10-hour flight just shy of 28 weeks (or 7 months along).  Given the choice between flying while really pregnant or having to go later and leave a baby behind, I’m choosing the former.

What can possibly be going through my head having scheduled this?  This:

Assuming I can until I can’t.  Just like with my trip to Australia, I’m assuming I can travel as normal unless my body or this baby tell me I can’t.  I easily could have not scheduled the trip not knowing how I would feel.  But what if the 28th week rolled around and I felt fine?

Carefully reviewing the rules.  Different airlines have different rules about how far into the pregnancy you can travel.  Some require a doctor’s note after a certain point.  My airline requires a note at 28 weeks.  While I don’t technically need one on the way there, I will carry one.  I recommend carrying one if you’re showing even if your entire trip will occur before the deadline — you never know what a gate agent will say.

Insuring the trip and making cancellable reservations.  All of my hotel reservations can be cancelled and refunded.  I’ve insured the parts that are coming out of my pocket and not the company’s.  Pregnancy is a tricky thing and not covered by all travel insurance policies, especially if you are pregnant at the time you make the reservations.  I’ve purchased a “cancel for any reason” policy which will allow me to stop the trip if I just don’t feel up to going.

Mr. P is coming along.  He’s not coming just because I’m pregnant, though I’m much happier to have him with me.  We try and travel together always, even if one of us is on business if we can swing it.  I’m glad he’ll be looking out for me!

Being aware of my health coverage options if something goes wrong.  Without getting into too much minutiae, I will be fine if I need medical care or emergency evacuation abroad.  I’ll make sure and know what to do and where to go if I need help.

Adjusting our leisure time.  We’ll have two weekends to ourselves.  In non-pregnant circumstances, we’d probably take two weekend trips as far as we could get.  We’re still taking a trip one of the weekends, but it’s a bit less ambitious.  Even if I’m a spry pregnant lady at that point, I’m sure I’ll be tired so it’s a good compromise.

How will it turn out?  I have no idea but I’m hopeful.  I’ll keep you in the loop!

A pregnancy disclaimer:  I’m writing to share my experiences.  Your experiences, resources, and situation may be different.  My choices might not be the best choices for you.  I thank you in advance for trusting that all health decisions were discussed with my doctor and husband. 

Image courtesy Leon Brocard via Creative Commons license.

Gondola Rides in Venice: 9 Essential Tips

How to Ride a Gondola in Venice by Natalie Parker

Well over ten years ago in Vegas, I wanted a gondola ride at the Venetian Hotel.  Mr. P balked at the price and said that he’d pay for a real gondola ride when we made it to Italy.  I was hopping and skipping when we finally arrived in Venice last year, ready for him to make good on his promise.

Just like anything that’s mildly famous in a city, it’s worth knowing a bit before you buy.  Here are my essential tips for having a great gondola experience!

Rates are fixed.  At the time we went, it was 80€ for 30 minutes.  The price was the same for two to six people.  If you want to save, split it among a group.  If you have a group, note there are only two traditional seats in the gondola.  The others will be sitting on small footstools.  Rides at dusk cost more.

Yes, they speak English.  Gondoliers speak well-enough English to quote you the price, sell you the ride, and understand the below.  Don’t worry!

Watch the clock.  Even though rates are fixed, look at your watch to make sure you are getting the entire time you paid for.  To avoid an argument, make a big show of looking at your watch as you climb in.

Singing costs extra.  If you want a serenade by your gondolier, you will pay extra.

How to Ride a Gondola in Venice by Natalie Parker

Gondola vs. Sandalo.  Make sure you are riding a gondola and not a sandalo if you want a gondola ride.  A sandalo is a smaller boat that can fit into tighter canals, which can be a good thing if that’s what you’re after.  But if you’re after a ride in a gondola, make sure you know the difference in looks.  A gondola looks like this (note tall ends) and a sandalo looks like this.

Gondola traffic jams eat into your time.  Your time is fixed even if your gondola has to wait for 3 or 4 other gondolas to clear out of your path.  Do not get a gondola near San Marco or from the touristy side of the Rialto Bridge.  We got ours from Rialto Mercato on the other side of the bridge.  We told the guy we wanted quiet after seeing groups of cruise passengers stuffed up in other canals.  He listened and we had a wonderful time.

How to Ride a Gondola in Venice by Natalie Parker

Gondoliers will point out sites.  It’s sort of like a mini tour.  Since we asked for a quiet trip, we saw some cute cafes out of the way that we were able to find our way back to after the ride.

They will take your picture.  I think they’re pretty used to it!

How to Ride a Gondola in Venice by Natalie Parker

Don’t save your gondola ride for the last day.  Or save it really at all.  You never know how the weather can change.  If the weather is great, go for it!  If you really want to put off the ride, make sure to check the weather online.  If the weather is bad, no gondola rides.  We were there for 2 days: the first day was sunny and the second day was drizzly and windy.  If we waited til the second day, we would not have gotten a ride.

How to Ride a Gondola in Venice by Natalie Parker

Anyone else have tips to share?  We loved our experience!

Want more travel advice?  Check out an index of all my travel posts here!

Pregnant and Traveling: Going to Australia at 7 Weeks

Traveling While Pregnant by Natalie Parker
We travel a lot.  I’m pregnant.  How is that going to shake out?  I have no idea.

We’re making the choices that we can with the information we have.  We were in Australia during Weeks 7-9 of the pregnancy.  That’s not exactly a hop on Southwest from SF to LA so let’s talk about it.

Planning the Trip

I wasn’t pregnant when we planned the trip, but we knew it would be a possibility.  We decided to make the plans anyway.  We used a bunch of American Airlines miles to get business class seats to Sydney.  I figured that if I was pregnant, I’d at least be comfortable in those seats.

What if I felt sick?  What if it just wouldn’t work?  It was all possible.  I decided to not to assume I couldn’t do things.  Instead of not making the plans in the absence of information, we made the plans and decided we’d adjust if we needed to.  I’m assuming I can do things (maybe with some adjustments) unless my doctor and/or body tell me I can’t.

Preparing Now that I Was Pregnant

Doctor’s advice.  We got to a doctor right quick and got her advice.  I was worried about a ton of stuff including the possibility of nausea (morning sickness).  Handily, if it hadn’t started yet, it would start at the latest in the middle of our 14-hour flight.  Awesome.

Nausea remedies.  I brought a pack of every nausea remedy known to man in my carry-on just in case.

How Did the Flight Go?

In the end, everything was fine!  When we landed in Melbourne (SFO-LAX-SYD-MEL), I practically skipped out of the airport because I was so proud of myself.

Staying hydrated and circulating.  The fear of God was put into me about staying hydrated on the plane and keeping up my circulation.  I HATE moving around on planes because flying scares me.  Drinking a ton of water fixed all of that because I was up and down to the bathroom all. the. time.

Sleeping and eating.  Having the business class seat helped because I was able to lie down and sleep for several hours.  I had no issues running out of food because we were fed constantly.

Being the weirdo turning down the free booze.  I didn’t feel the need to disclose my pregnancy to the flight attendants, but I’m pretty sure they thought I was a weirdo.  No thank you, I don’t need an endless supply of wine.  No thank you, I don’t drink coffee (I don’t).  Please bring me water with this fancy dinner.

How Did the Trip Go?

I ended up with zero nausea but got really tired.  I got tired really early in the evening during the trip, which is normal.  Mr. P loves going to bed early and my fatigue forced us to take it easy.  I’m a big fan of that!  Pregnancy is a good excuse for me to rest.  On earlier trips, I’d feel guilty about lazing in the hotel room thinking I wasn’t getting enough out of my time.

I packed my workout gear.  I almost never have room for workout clothes in my suitcase but the baby has priorities.  I packed it and made sure to stay active whether it was walks or some time in the hotel gym.

What I’m allowed to eat.  Being newly pregnant, I was hyper-paranoid about what I was eating.  Australia’s not a bad place to be because the food is relatively safe.  I only had one hormone-induced-cry at the Melbourne airport when our flight was cancelled and there were almost zero healthy food choices I could eat.

So far, so good.  Am I letting my blissful ignorance guide me?  Perhaps.  Am I glad I had an excuse to purchase an adorable koala rattle?  You bet.

A pregnancy disclaimer:  I’m writing to share my experiences.  Your experiences, resources, and situation may be different.  My choices might not be the best choices for you.  I thank you in advance for trusting that all health decisions were discussed with my doctor and husband. 

5 Important Travel Things You Need to Keep in the Cloud

Passports by Natalie Parker

Going somewhere?  Planning on going somewhere?  Save yourself a ton of time and aggravation by keeping important travel things saved in the cloud.

By cloud, I mean stored with an online service that you can access from any computer or mobile device.  I use Google Drive but you can also use Evernote, Dropbox, or Microsoft OneDrive.

Storing these things online means you can access them from any device no matter where you are as long as you have an internet connection:

Important ID numbers.  Mr. P and I have a shared Google spreadsheet that contains all important travel ID numbers.  This includes: passport numbers and expiration dates, Known Traveler Numbers (for Global Entry / TSA PreCheck), and every single airline or hotel loyalty number.  The amount of times we have to copy/paste these numbers into online reservations is absurd.  Keeping them shared in the cloud means we can make, check, or edit reservations from anywhere.

Scan of passport photo page.  This will become so freaking useful you’ll wonder why you didn’t have it saved before.  While most of the time you’ll just need your passport number and expiration date, sometimes you will need an actual copy of the photo page.  Sometimes you’ll need info that you won’t have saved with your ID numbers, like when a visa application asks you for the “issuing agency” for your passport.

Event or attraction tickets.  Save copies of any event or attraction tickets just in case you lose or forget to pack your copies.  For my current trip, we are going to two sporting events and I have printed copies as well as PDFs on Google Drive.

Recent passport photo.  These are frequently needed for online visa applications and the like.  If you aren’t a kid who’s growing like a weed, a good digital passport photo can last a while.  Mr. P was getting his international driving permit the other day and assumed I could just print a photo for it.  I didn’t remember to save the last one.  Grrr.  I had to whip out the camera and take, size, and print two copies in under 10 minutes.  Lesson learned.

Here are the State Department’s rules for taking a passport photo, which generally should work for other visa photo needs.

Visas or visa information.  True story:  I didn’t realize until we landed in Istanbul that I forgot to print our Turkish visas.  I got them months before the trip and freaking forgot to print them.  While we were taxiing, I pulled up PDFs of the visas on my phone.  After deplaning, I was able to punch the visa numbers into a machine and print copies before immigration.  Boo-yah!

Start this before your next trip and you will thank yourself!

Vacation Video Using 1-Second Everyday App

Mr. P and I just got back from two weeks in Spain!

After our crazy trip around the world, I wanted to take it really easy.  That meant taking fewer pictures and relaxing.  But I couldn’t resist trying a new cool way of documenting our trip.

The 1 Second Everyday App

The 1 Second Everyday App is available for both iOS and Android.  Traditionally, this app has been used to snap 1 second of video for every day.  I’ve seen some really cool videos and love how the app makes everyday life really amazing.  In addition to the everyday mode, it has a “freestyle” mode that allows you to mash several seconds over one or more days.

Using Freestyle Mode to Document Our Trip

I snapped tons of videos on the trip.  It was really fun!  I took videos of things I wouldn’t normally take pictures of.

Originally, I shot the videos through the app itself.  Before we even got to our first city (of course I was filming on the plane), some of my videos would mysteriously disappear and reappear.  I switched to shooting videos using my phone’s camera app and decided to load them into the 1SE app and trim them later.  This meant that all of my videos were backed up on Google Photos (awesome) but caused some major headaches with the 1SE app later (not awesome).

Some Really Buggy Editing

I waited until I got home to trim all the videos.  I watched and deleted several of them first.  I sat on the couch thinking I could get the editing done in one night.  Wrong.

The app was SUPER buggy.  I would trim 2-3 videos, then the last two would disappear.  This happened over and over again, editing about 3 videos to lose two.  It was incredibly frustrating.  I almost gave up on it but I really wanted to see the final product.

What Did I Think?

It’s hard to say.  Finding things to shoot on the trip was really fun.  I loved that I got things I would never have taken pictures of (like the bus).  I love the movement that the video shows.  It triggers memories of the trip that are very different feelings than if I looked at pictures.

Still, editing was a big pain in the ass and I’m not sure I’d do it again.  Your results may vary of course.  Enjoy the video above.  Would you try this?

 

Becoming a Master Packer

2 Weeks in Europe Packing List by Natalie Parker

It took four years for me to be a master packer.  Four years and a couple of embarrassing trips hurling suitcases everywhere leading to near divorce.

Packing light is tough for me because I like being prepared and I get uncomfortable really quickly if the weather changes.  I get too hot.  I get too cold.  I get crabby if my feet start hurting.  I don’t like sticking out.  I like to look nice.  I get bored if I’m wearing all neutrals. I don’t like wearing shorts.  You get the picture.  Effortless and my wardrobe generally aren’t said in the same sentence.

But behold, here is what I’m packing for just over two weeks in Europe.  Temps range from 65 – 86 F during the day.  It could rain, it could not.

It’s still REALLY hard.  But the point is, if the over-thinker/control-freak behind this message can do it, so can you!  I’m also taking comfort in the fact that I will go shopping while I’m there.

Check in on Instagram as we make our way through our next trip and see if I chose correctly or chose poorly.

What are your best tips for packing?

Italy: How to Handle Rome’s Crazy Train Station

Surviving Roma Termini Train Station

Roma Termini is a huge train station.  If you are planning on training around Italy at all, odds are you will be there at some point.

What We Thought of Our Experience

We were super on guard and prepared for this and it ended up being a fine experience.  If you can navigate trains or public transport in other countries, you should be fine here, but pay attention to the below tips before you go!

Roma Termini Station

Things to Know About Navigating Roma Termini

1. Get there early.  Do yourself a favor and give yourself time to sort everything out.  Even with these tips, the place is chaotic and being in a rush is no bueno.

2. It’s served well by public transport.  We took a direct bus from our AirBNB in Trastevere.

3. Ignore those who ask if you need help.  They don’t work for the station and will try to pickpocket or fleece you.  Those that actually work there will be behind a desk or counter and will not actually seek you out.

4. Buy your tickets at machines or you can wait in line for a human.  Yes, you can buy your tickets online ahead of time via RailEurope or similar sites.  Remember to have cash if you don’t have a European credit card.  Read more about using credit cards abroad here.

5. Waiting in line for a human wasn’t that bad.  Your results may vary, but the line seemed to move quickly.  We waited about 15 minutes after being confused by the machine.

6. Platforms are easy to find.  Everything was pretty well marked.

7. There are plenty of food options.  Nothing ah-mazing foodwise, but there are options and better than we’ve seen in other cities (Gare du Nord in Paris, I’m looking at you!).  If you get there early and need a bite before getting on the train, you will be fine.

8. Stamp your ticket at the machine before getting on the train.  This is not a subway/metro and there are no fare gates that prevent you from getting on the train.  However, you need to punch/validate/stamp your ticket at one of the green machines before boarding (they look like this).

9. Watch your stuff, beware of pickpockets.  Train stations generally are easy pickings for thieves.  Do not leave bags unattended.  Do not set your purse on the ground next to you.

Photo courtesy Prasad Pillai via Creative Commons license.