Hey, congratulations! You're expecting and you want to travel! But... zika. Argh! Here's a complete guide to what you need to bear in mind when looking for a zika-free babymoon.
Zika-Free Destinations: How to Have a Zika Free Babymoon
What makes a good babymoon
Although I hate the word, I love the concept. A babymoon offers a wonderful chance for you and your partner to spend some restful time together before the whirlwind of parenthood begins.
Away from everyday trials and tribulations, you can relax, enjoy yourselves and indulge in dreamy conversations about how (you think) you'll parent before reality kicks in ;-)
Pregnancy carries with it a raft of essential considerations and raises the stakes for standard travel concerns. What you eat, what you drink, your access to safe medical care, blood clots on flights... There's a lot to learn, quickly.
And, now, there's zika.
Now, more than ever, it's important to do your research before you can lie back and relax. A good preparation for parenthood, some might say ;-)
That said, don't let people scare you off (unless they are your own doctor.) It's perfectly possible, enjoyable even, to have a wonderful, zika-free babymoon.
Reality check: should you be going on a babymoon at all?
Yes, I am a doctor and I have been pregnant. But I am not YOUR doctor. Please, please, please, and please some more, check with your own doctor before you book. Some airlines and travel insurance won't cover you if you haven't sorted things out properly. And you, potentially, face months in a neonatal intensive care unit far from home. Setting aside the human cost, this costs hundreds of thousands of pounds. Sort out the paperwork!
And, caveat, remember this article isn't proper medical advice.
Which trimester is best for a babymoon?
If you feel fine, then go for it! But if you're planning ahead, bear in mind that tiredness and morning sickness hit most people around now. It's also the most sensitive period for foetal development so you need to be super strict about what you eat and drink, which can be more challenging when travelling.
This is the golden period for many mums-to-be (but not all, alas.) Morning sickness and extreme tiredness is settling down. Bump is small and cute. Waddling is a long way off.
I had quite a complicated pregnancy and still managed to travel to Italy, Croatia, Spain and the Middle East in my second trimester without too much bother.
Some women sail through pregnancy and so if this is you - enjoy! Just a few points to remember. Some airlines won't accept you beyond a certain date, even if all is well. And estimated due dates are just that. Estimates. The normal range is 37-42 weeks so don't plan on being pregnant right up until week 40...
On the other hand, some women suffer terribly and will be unable to leave the house by now. You won't know which you are until it happens. So, check the cancellation policy or leave off booking until the last minute.
Top tip: speak to your insurance company and airline before booking. Pregnancy changes the rules...
Zika Free Babymoon Destinations
Now onto the fun part: the travel planning!
Europe (with some caveats)
Luckily, Europe remains a zika-free destination. However, certain countries are awash with soft cheese, cured meats, great wine tasting, swordfish and partly cooked meat. All off the menu during pregnancy. Then there are thermal hot springs and spas. Also to be avoided.
So. After spending a fascinating (but very hungry) time in northern Spain, I'm not going to do that to you! Instead, here's a pick of zika-free babymoon destinations where you don't have to miss out on too much.
Stunning beaches, rich history and easy to get around. I travelled to Dubrovnik and the oh-so-quiet Elaphiti Islands while pregnant and it couldn't have been easier.
Ok, you will have to miss out on some of the cheese and cold meats. But off-season travel to big-hitting cities like Rome and Venice will still soak you in culture yet keep you out of the queues. Alternatively, rent a villa in Tuscany or Umbria and mix laid back relaxation and olive oil with trips to Pisa.
Note: depending on how your pregnancy is going, you may just want to check how far you are from a hospital. Some rural parts of Italy have long drive times (through picturesque winding roads, admittedly) and so it may be better to stay close to the cities.
Often overlooked, perhaps because of the party reputation of Amsterdam, certain other cities in the Netherlands make for a great, culture-filled babymoon away. The Hague, in particular, offers the Girl with a Pearl Earring, the Peace Palace, cool coffee shops (with lots of decaf) and even a sandy beach. Weather-wise, it's pot luck, as in Britain, but time it right and it's heavenly.
Easy Access: America
The United States excels at making things easy. Clean water, safe food, elevators, parking spaces, escalators, air conditioning, snacks on demand. Healthcare (provided you have sorted your insurance.)
It also has enough amazing travel experiences to keep you busy for a lifetime. It's a big old place. So which spots make ideal zika-free babymoon destinations?
Well, avoid the remote. Now's not the time to head into the wild and away from medical facilities. Instead, try these.
Boston and the Capes
I love New York, and always will, but her transport system isn't ideal for pregnancy. Boston offers a calmer pace, where you're more likely to be able to get a seat. Head to Cape Cod or Cape Ann for sun, sand and lighthouses (but maybe skip the islands if you need to make a quick dash to hospital.)
I'm a little reluctant to recommend this one as it's such a good destination for families, which is what you soon will be! But if you want to go swimming with manatees, soak up world class Dali art and great (safe) food while still being able to scrunch your toes in the sand then try Florida's Gulf Coast.
Guaranteed Sunshine: The Middle East
Hot but with air conditioning, excellent medical facilities and no reported zika, several spots in the Arabian Peninsula make ideal babymoon spots.
I love this beautiful, friendly, calm country in the Middle East and in fact I did travel there when pregnant. Relax in beautiful luxury at the Chedi Muscat (with one of the world's best spas) or journey through this land of gleaming mosques, orchards, desert sands and pristine beaches. It is hot here, though, which is a drawback when pregnant.
Ras Al Khaimah
One of the seven United Arab Emirates, Ras al Khaimah is easily reached from Dubai and has a range of beautiful luxury hotels that mix culture in with the local landscape. Unlike Dubai, it's not a party place and doesn't particularly attract families. If you want to stay active, seek out hiking routes in Jebel Jais.
Another one of the United Arab Emirates, Sharjah is a dry state (no alcohol) so pregnancy is the time to visit and not miss out!
Sharjah city combines modern art installations and butterfly houses with traditional souks and beautiful museums on Islamic culture and aviation. It's a very short drive from Dubai and a short drive to the deep-red dunes.
Jordan is an amazing destination within the Middle East, awash with wonders of the world like the Dead Sea and Petra. However. Whichever way you slice and dice it, Petra involves an entire day walking on uneven ground in the heat. Not ideal for most pregnant folk and it would be near criminal to travel to Jordan and not see Petra. So this may be one to put on the backburner for now.
Note: dune bashing is great fun but probably not the best activity when pregnant.
Zika-Free Babymoon Essentials
So there you have it. Check with your doctor. Check the zika-free list (and other diseases, it's not only zika you have to worry about.) Arrange your insurance. And enjoy! (And then come back here and share cute bump and then baby photos, would ya?! Everyone enjoys those!)
Disclosure: Some of these trips, or parts of them, may have been hosted, but that hasn't affected which exciting places I've chosen for this list. The wanderlust and desire to share the adventures with you is very much my own!