For anyone that may be thinking about doing a long road trip while pregnant I would definitely say go earlier than later. We had to make the trip from Red Deer, Alberta to Napanee, Ontario to transition into the next stage of our lives. The trip was a total of 38 hours of drive time with a total of around 3500km. We ended up pretty much driving straight through taking short breaks over two nights which in total it took us 48 hours.
I had originally thought I could wait until the end of May to make the transition home allowing me to work a bit longer but I am definitely counting my lucky stars I didn’t wait that long. Waiting any longer it would have been much, MUCH more difficult and uncomfortable.
There were countless roadside pee breaks, Timmies coffees and fuel stops. By the middle of the second day my body was extremely stiff, my stomach was upset from not being able to eat properly and it was stressful driving for hours on end trying to make it home to a hot shower and a warm bed.
I really want to share some of the things I wish I had done differently, or things that worked for us during this trip.
Travel by vehicle
Luckily enough we driving my full sized pick up with a great interior and comfortable seats. If you don’t have a large vehicle where you can at least stretch out a bit definitely plan your stops and stay in a hotel for the night. I have done the drive between Ontario and Alberta ten times now, twice in a smaller compact car and it was by far the least enjoyable trip.
Ensure that your vehicle of choice is up to the trip. If you are travelling solo this is even more important. Make sure you have an usable spare tire, booster cables, first aid kit and at least a small tool kit. It will be better to have more than you need, then to be caught without it. Also ensure you have weather appropriate clothing and footwear. You may just be thinking comfort when you pack your vehicle and get dressed for your trip but if you get stuck somewhere in the winter you are going to want a pair of winter boots, coat, mitts and a hat.
Become familiar with your vehicle and check all engine fluids BEFORE making your trip. If you or your travelling partners do not know how to do this, make sure you ask someone who does. If this is not an option simply take it into a shop to get checked out before you get stranded in a less than favourable situation. Vehicle maintenance is an important part of any road trip, but when you are pregnant or have little ones coming with you this step is even more essential.
Travelling with partners
Long distance travelling is definitely complicated, tiring, and stressful. Whether you are going on one last girls trip, a family vacation or cross country travel like I did it will definitely be worth it to have a co-driver. Having someone to talk to, make travel decisions with and to obviously share the driving with will be a life and sanity saver. Keep in mind if you are going to be travelling for an extra-extended amount of time that chances of bickering with your partner or friend is going to increase. Everyone thinks about bringing activities for their kids on road trips, but make sure you and your partner bring something to occupy your down time as well. You will not instantly fall asleep if that is what you are planning on doing; magazines, books, downloaded movies or even an adult colouring book will be handy to bring.
Make sure you let someone know the route you are taking and where or when you are planning on stopping. Try to keep in touch with someone at least every few hours to make sure that if anything does happen, someone knows where and when your last stop was, and where you were headed.
Plan your stops
If you haven’t done a lot of long distance driving I would say make sure to stop frequently to get some fresh air and stretch. Your group dynamic will depict how long you can travel before taking a break for the night.
I have stayed in my fair share of hotels over time and even though I used to frown upon staying in lower end hotels, the majority of the places I have stayed in while travelling across Canada or for work were around the $60-$80 mark. I can honestly say that I have yet to stay in one of these road side hotel/motels that I disliked to the point where I wouldn’t stay there again. Yes it is much nicer staying in a 5 star hotel with a king sized bed, a jacuzzi tub and room service. But if you’re just stopping for the night, and on a budget, economy hotels are the way to go. The service is generally friendly and many times it is a family run hotel that makes you feel right at home.
Always pay attention to changing weather and road conditions and remember that although there is always a chance of wildlife crossing your path, it is most common in the early morning, early evening and throughout the night.
I always set my weather app up with predetermined mile markers on the route I am taking so I can constantly watch what is up ahead of me. If there are two routes I am looking at, I set both of them up on my phone and let the weather pick the route for me. It may not always be possible, but try to map out your trip knowing where areas are going to get rocky or remote as to know where you may start to lose service so you can check for things before you lose contact with the outside world. The first time I made the drive through the Canadian shield as soon as I noticed it was getting rocky I checked for upcoming fuel stops, weather and the distance to the next town. The locals are always a good source as well, I often ask people when I stop for fuel if I am travelling in the winter to see how the roads are or if they’ve heard of any accidents.
If the weather looks like it is going to get dicey it is most likely a good choice to call it a night and get an earlier start in the morning. I once made the mistake of allowing a travel partner to push through a storm that a local friend had told me about near Thunder Bay, Ontario. The highway ended up getting closed behind us due to the blizzard. The only way we made it to the next travel station was the ruts in the snow from a truck that had gone through ahead of us. Definitely not the smartest decision and will not be happening again.
Essentials for travelling while pregnant
- Pack lots of water! This may be obvious but sometimes juice and pop are the only things packed (especially if your hubby does the packing) and you are going to be craving a giant bottle of water.
- If space permits, pack a small cooler with yogurt, fruit & vegetable snacks and sandwiches. This will save having to eat fast food on the drive which is usually the only option and you may prevent stomach problems. This option is also cheaper, and limits the amount of times you may have to drive into towns and search for places to stop. Fast food turns my stomach now that I am pregnant and I ended up not eating as much as I should have as I just couldn’t handle the options that were available to me. I survived on crackers, soup and croissants from Tim Hortons. All I craved was fruit and a salad.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes. Nothing worse than wearing jeans sitting down for hours, especially if they’re starting to push on your baby bump.
- Depending on how far along you are, make sure you know what cities and towns would have hospitals if you need to stop. Also let your doctor know about the trip your planning and make sure she is on board.
- Health care in Canada is pretty universal, if you have a provincial health card you can be seen in any other province and have it covered except for Quebec I believe. Although general doctors appointments are covered, some procedures are not. Having health insurance is a safe bet if you have any worries or doubts.
- Bring pillows and blankets to help keep yourself comfortable. You may want to put a smaller pillow under your lower back for support.
- Don’t forget to pack your prenatal and any other supplements you may be taking. After you ask your doctor, you could also bring Gravol and tylenol if you get any sickness or headaches.
The keystone to successful travel during any stage of life is planning. There will always be unexpected stops or events but the more you plan different options the more successful you will be. Don’t be afraid to plan for alternate routes or activities, the more options you incorporate the more enjoyable and stress free your trip will be.