Babymoon. Ba・by・moon. Noun. “A trip or vacation taken by a couple shortly before the birth of a child.”
Yes, it’s totally a thing. Think of it as one last hurrah before your life completely changes with the arrival of your newborn. When I found out that I was pregnant in mid-December 2021 (I was about ten weeks along at this point), I just knew that we had to book one last epic vacation. After all, once the baby came, there was zero chance of getting on a plane again for at least a few years.
My husband and I recently came back from a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Italy for our babymoon in February, and it was incredibly fun. Relaxing? Not so much. But you don’t go to Italy to sprawl on a beach chair, do you? And why would you want to laze by the water when there’s so many museums, churches, landmark art, and ancient ruins to indulge all your senses in?
Read the details of our escape through Northern Italy that we took when I was 18 weeks pregnant, and my top babymoon tips. Did I mention we travelled during a State of Emergency?
But first, why go to Europe in winter?
Crazy, right? Wouldn’t it make more sense to wait until the weather was a bit warmer so we could enjoy our holiday more? Nah.
We decided to travel to Italy in winter because it suited our circumstances. For one, it’s recommended that the best time to travel long-distance whilst pregnant is during the second trimester. Why? Well, in the first trimester, you’re most likely battling exhaustion, morning sickness, and changing hormones. In the third trimester, you’ll be needing a toilet every 30 minutes and there’s all kinds of body aches from carrying around all that extra weight.
Keep in mind that after 28 weeks of pregnancy (when you enter third trimester), most airlines ask for a doctor’s letter confirming that you’re not at risk of complications before you can board a flight.
Going in February meant that I would be 18 weeks pregnant, which meant I was in my second trimester. My bump was starting to show as well, and I hadn’t announced my pregnancy to anyone except immediate family. I was just waiting for the perfect opportunity to tell everyone – and it had to be monumental.
Secondly, I thought it might be a nice change to travel when the weather was much milder (on our honeymoon in 2018, Europe was experiencing an unusually intense heatwave, and temperatures soared to 40+℃.) We did not anticipate how cold it would really be, but we had it on good authority that an Italian winter is mostly dry with potential rain in certain regions.
In the end, February turned out to be the perfect month, as it would coincide with our wedding anniversary, Valentine’s Day, and Carnevale (something I’ve wanted to experience since forever).
Travelling to Italy during COVID
I write this post while I’m back in Melbourne, but when I was in Italy, I had so many people asking me how I got there. The answer was simple: I did my own research. When your own media tells you daily that you can’t leave the country, you start to believe it. But I had many friends leaving Australia to go to Turkey, Dubai, and various other countries on the daily, so I thought, “Why can’t I do that?” And I did.
Despite all this, I’ll be the first to admit that planning a trip B.C. (Before COVID) can be quite stressful, but the pandemic presented its own set of issues.
For one, Melbourne had endured 8 lockdowns. What if we got locked down again and couldn’t escape? After leaving it up to fate, we booked the holiday just two weeks before our departure date, and said our prayers. But that didn’t mean I relaxed.
Every day for two weeks, I closely monitored the data from Regions and Autonomous Provinces, waiting with bated breath on whether anything would change from Italy’s Minister of Health. Before we left, most of Italy was coded a yellow zone (lower-risk), with a few areas that were orange (medium-risk). These zones had specific restrictions – for example, restaurants in the orange zone only offered takeaway or museums were closed to the public.
Miraculously, Italy relaxed its COVID restrictions for most regions, coming into effect from 1 February 2022. The locations we were visiting had downgraded from medium-risk orange zones to lower-risk yellow zones. Talk about divine timing!
I also religiously checked the weather in Italy, and bookmarked Italy: SmartTraveller to notify me of any new restrictions that may take place.
Laying the groundwork
In order to get to Italy, we had to fill out a lot of paperwork.
There was the EU Passenger Location Form, where we listed the addresses of every hotel we were staying at, travel dates, flight numbers, and other personal details.
Then, we had to connect our Australian passports to the EU Digital COVID Certificate in order to be eligible for the Super Green Pass. As we later discovered when in Rome, the QR code wasn’t activated in Italy for any travelling Aussies. So, we would spend a whole day at the Australian Consulate in Rome trying to get ours to activate in order to enter retail stores, attractions, and restaurants. Of course, we had no such luck as we were told over and over that we were the “first Australians in a long time”. We did get the number of a doctor who could give us ‘authentic’ QR codes for €50 each…
As is my understanding, you don’t need to do any of these things anymore but this is just an indication of how difficult they made it to leave the country. But where there’s a will, there’s a way.
My babymoon flight checklist
Being pregnant and travelling long-distance comes with a whole new set of challenges and extra considerations. In my carry on, I packed:
- Compression stockings: No matter what stage of the pregnancy you’re at, you absolutely need compression stockings if you’re going on a flight longer than four hours. Sure, they’re a bit unstylish but you know what’s uglier? DVT (that’s Deep Vein Thrombosis – and yes, it looks as horrible as it sounds). I put my compression stockings on as the plane took off and I wore them underneath a long cotton dress as I felt a little self-conscious. But don’t be afraid to rock out with your socks out if that’s your thing. You can buy your compression stockings at your local pharmacy, and they come in a range of colours.
- A neck pillow: Whether pregnant or not, these are the greatest things ever invented.
- Prenatal vitamins: You can take these with you in your carry on, but I also had a note from my doctor advising any airport security or staff what they were and why they were needed. The last thing you want is to have them confiscated – or worse, labelled a drug smuggler.
- A printed list of hospitals and English-speaking doctors: Travelling to a country where you don’t know the language? Research local doctors in the areas you’re visiting, and get their address and contact details. Use Google Maps to determine how far their locations are from your residence.
- Snacks: Not only is aeroplane food notoriously bland, but you’re on their schedule, meaning you only get food when they give it to you. With pregnancy, comes the inevitable increased appetite, and there’s nothing worse than a growling stomach at 3am while everyone around you is fast asleep – cabin crew included. For snacks, I stayed away from foods high in sodium (flying can be extremely dehydrating as it is), and packed food like nuts and wholegrain biscuits in airtight containers. I even took along some ginger tea sachets for nausea, and just asked the cabin crew for hot water (just not at 3am!)
- A European travel adapter: Aeroplanes are so advanced that they now have USB ports embedded in the arm rests. Simply plug in your cord and enjoy your full charge. However, when you’re between connecting flights and waiting around at a deserted airport in the wee hours of the morning (for us, it was Abu Dhabi International Airport), you’ll wish you had invested in a travel adapter.
It helps to learn a few key phrases in the language of the place you’re visiting. For me, “sono incinta” (“I am pregnant”) became my catchphrase. I also used “pastorizzato?” (“pasteurised?”) when asking about any dairy products. I hate spicy food, so I would also ask “piccante?” (“spicy?”) before ordering off the menu.
Also, don’t be afraid to contact locals via Instagram and ask them questions about their city. I would look up recent posts using the search bar (for example, I would type in ‘Rome’ and click on ‘Tags’ or ‘Places,’) and then send a DM to an account I liked the look of, asking what the current living circumstances were like. First-hand information is the most reliable way to get the answers you need. I so happened to make acquaintances with a local seminarian, who gave me honest advice about travelling to Italy in winter.
First time in Italy?
Now, “culture shock” and “Italy” aren’t two phrases that you would normally put together (after all, isn’t Western civilisation built on some Ancient Roman customs?), but if you’ve never travelled here, you may be a bit surprised at some of the local traditions, such as:
- A coffee in Italy can be as affordable as €2 – if you don’t sit down. Having a coffee at the bar is much cheaper than taking a seat, because sitting arrangements come with a surcharge (see ‘copperto’).
- Be sure to always carry coins with you. Should you need to use a public restroom, you’ll be expected to pay anywhere from €1 to €2 for this service.
- Don’t be surprised to find that many shops and businesses will close down from around noon till 4 or 5pm. That’s because the locals return home to have lunch and a nap before going back to their businesses.
- You may see “coperto” on your restaurant menu. Roughly translated as “cover charge”, a coperto is included in most restaurant bills for servings of bread, oil, and vinegar that you’re given at the beginning of the meal. You can expect to pay around €2 to €4 per person you’re seated with. Even if you don’t touch the ‘appetizers,’ or there’s no table linen present, the coperto is automatically added to your bill. Now, the coperto is apparently banned in the Lazio region (but permissible everywhere else in Italy). However, just like red traffic lights, this rule is considered more of a guideline than a law to the native Romans, where you will find coperto on your menu.
Travelling in style
We flew business class, baby! And let me tell you, it was absolutely incredible. It’s an experience everyone should try at least once. We arrived in Rome completely relaxed and ready to go – no sore muscles or stiff necks!
The sweetest part? We didn’t pay for the privilege. When we checked in back in Melbourne, the ticket agent at the counter asked how many people were travelling. Steven said, “Three.” The ticket agent looked up, and Steven pointed to my stomach. “There’s a baby in there.” She smiled and finished checking us in.
Only when we looked at our tickets later in Dubai (our stopover) did we realise what had happened. However, we were denied access to the Emirates Lounge when we tried to enter with our business class tickets. Poor us, right? Anyway, if you’re ever inclined to go on a babymoon to Italy, try to make a joke about how you’re flying with “extra cargo.” Or earnestly ask if you can upgrade to make your babymoon extra special – it’s worth a shot!
So, after a pleasant and ultra-relaxing 6 hour flight from Dubai, we arrived in Rome, the Eternal City…