Time for a Babymoon?

Planning a 'Last Hurrah'

Enjoy the perks of being pregnant and some relaxing bonding time with your partner in one of the growing number of babymoon packages being offered by resorts and spa destinations across the country.

By Carolyn Graham

I was in my 32nd week of what felt like an endless pregnancy. My poor husband had finally managed to move the last of the boxes into our newly purchased home, which, our real estate agent had assured us, would be fine without air conditioning. I don't know too many pregnant women in their eighth month who are "fine without air conditioning" in the summertime. I was definitely far from "fine."

My ankles bore the shape of turnips, my feet fit only in one very unfashionable pair of Teva sandals and my tank top rolled up off my bloated belly like cheap window shades. Despite the momentous and wildly romantic occasion of moving into a new home, the only thing I wanted to do was have my husband, Steve, drive me around so I could enjoy a luxuriously air-conditioned traffic jam.

On a whim, Steve called up a hotel on the beach and booked the least expensive ocean-view room he could find to fit our depleted travel budget. In an instant, since we already were sitting on the highway, I was enjoying what would in just a few years become known officially as a "babymoon."

Like thousands of other couples who recognize the value of some serious one-on-one time before diaper duties take over, we reveled in having some time to reflect on why we decided to become parents in the first place. The travel industry has only recently gotten on the stork wagon, however, and savvy travel industry folks are finding that babymooning is almost as popular among pregnant women as banana splits. According to a 2005 Liberty Travel/Baby Center survey, $80 million in annual revenue can be attributed to babymooning couples.

Unable to ignore the ca-ching'ing in their ears, resorts, boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns are offering cleverly named packages with everything from special menus to full-scale prenatal programs, thus ensuring that parents enter this new phase of life relaxed and ready for all those 2 a.m. feedings.

Babymoon: What Is It?

While the honeymoon is the traditional time for couples to celebrate the joining of two souls, the babymoon can be both a refresher course in romance and a time for reflecting on the new journey into parenthood.

"You talk about the baby so much, but you're never really talking as much about the impact it's going to have on your life," says Stacy Denny, who created the Barefoot and Pregnant program at the Casa Madrona Hotel and Spa in Sausalito, Calif. "You can remove the couple from their environment so they can spend time together."

There are no set rules for babymooning - they can range from weekend getaways at nearby resorts to far-flung adventures across the globe. They can include self-made itineraries or extensive resort packages offering everything from "womb service" menus and pregnancy massage to prenatal counseling and product-filled gift baskets.

Alexandra Wensley, who's expecting a baby boy this fall, took an adventurous approach to her babymoon.

"We love to travel, and we knew this would be the last time we'd be able to travel by ourselves," says Wensley, the director of communications at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. The waterfront hotel she represents offers a Blissful Beginnings package, but Wensley decided to venture to a more exotic locale: Chile.

While Wensley's adventurous vacation wasn't part of a designated "babymoon" package, she capitalized on her second-trimester energy to go exploring and even do some bike riding. She found that wherever she went on her babymoon, she enjoyed the perks of being pregnant.

"Of course, you don't want to jeopardize anything. I just drank the bottled water," she says. "But you find that people are just so accommodating."

Embarking on a Babymoon

Rules of the Road

Common sense dictates that you should always check with your doctor before embarking on any major excursion that has you traveling a good distance from your preferred delivery room.

If you're ready to take to the friendly skies, consult the airline that you're planning to use before booking a ticket, since rules vary among individual carriers (especially internationally). Most airlines will not allow pregnant passengers who are in their last four weeks of pregnancy, unless you have a note from your doctor. Others require a medical note for 32 weeks onward. Just to be on the safe side, you might opt for a doctor's note regardless of your due date.

While in the air, try to stay hydrated, bring plenty of snacks (those peanuts and pretzels just won't cut it), stand up and stretch often and don't be shy about asking for help when putting your bag in the overhead compartment.

You'll find a variation of rules for the cruise industry, too, so be sure to verify before you book. The cut-off point for most cruise lines is 27 to 28 weeks.

Other than the numerous rest stops your partner will have to be willing to make, there's no reason you can't take a road trip, as long as your doctor gives you the OK. Wear your safety belt and stop often to stretch your legs and enjoy the scenery.

For more information and travel tips, consult the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists web site.

- Carolyn Graham

Depending on your stage of pregnancy as well as overall health, energy and comfort levels (and various regulations within the travel industry, see "Rules of the Road"), you'll find a number of avenues for babymooning. According to the Liberty Travel/Baby Center survey, 2 million babymoons are taken annually and most couples take them during the second trimester. In fact, a number of resort spas won't accommodate an expecting mom until she's in her second trimester.

Denny says her program at Casa Madrona, while available to women in all stages of their pregnancies, can be especially beneficial to women in their first few months.

"With the first trimester, there's so much going on with your body," she says. "You need relaxation."

Denny's unique packages go above and beyond pedicures and quiet dinners for two. Casa Madrona is the nation's first destination maternity spa, offering a place where pregnant women not only find comfort and rejuvenation, but also peace of mind knowing that the massages, treatments and programs have the pregnant woman's well-being and health as the top priority. All massage therapists and aestheticians are certified through a special training program that caters to both the physical and emotional needs of the pregnant mom (and dad). The packages can include a romantic picnic lunch for the couple, an appointment with a maternity photographer and a two-hour consultation with an OB/GYN nurse practitioner.

"We've found that couples really love that one-on-one time to ask questions they might not get out at those 10-minute doctor appointments," Denny says.

Of course, you don't have to opt for big resorts or expensive packages. Simply plan a getaway based on your needs and energy levels.

For the traditional route, the honeymooners' favorite, Hawaii, has the beaches, resorts and burgeoning spa industry that also make it a great babymoon destination. On the mainland, bed and breakfast areas in the northeast and all rural points between are tailor-made for babymooners.

If you're all about food, consider Las Vegas for buffets or New York City for its variety of cuisine. In Boston, the Langham Hotel downtown offers a pregnancy menu at its Café Fleuri. The menu is the brainchild of U.S. Women's Soccer Team player and Beacon Hill resident Kate Markgraf, a regular at the downtown eatery. When she became pregnant, she had questions about the safety of the menu for her and her baby and decided to work with the hotel's chef, Mark Sapienza, to solve those menu mysteries for future moms.

The resulting pregnancy-safe menu (Markgraf gave birth to a baby boy last summer) offers a breakdown by trimester and features a selection of dishes that include folic acid, protein and calcium as well as desserts and a free pickle.

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami's "Blissful Beginnings" package includes plenty of couple time, including a yoga session just for two and a special lunch served in a poolside cabana. Other big luxury hotel chains are rolling out the pink and blue carpet as well. The W Hotel chain of New York offers a "Baby Me" package, which includes books and products in its welcome basket in addition to a "Womb Service Menu."

The Path to Relaxation

The most important elements to any babymoon, whether it occurs at a nearby hotel or requires some island hopping, is relaxation and rejuvenation. Not only does pregnancy take a toll on the body, it causes major emotional shifts as well (for both the moms and dads).

Denny, who's hoping to expand her program to boutique hotel-spas across the country, says new moms are often just looking for a place where they can feel comfortable and safe.

"It's amazing how far people are coming from," she says. "They feel, 'I want to choose a place where people know what I'm going through.'"

And don't forget that dads need a little pampering and attention, too. If you're going the babymoon package route, you'll find that many include massages for two and even special classes to get dad ready for labor, delivery and everything that comes after it.

Denny says that she often sees the results of her work when the couples check out of Casa Madrona. In fact, she adds, the massage therapists at the spa say they prefer to work on her expecting patrons.

"They love pregnant women," she says. "Their favorite client is the prenatal client - they're just so appreciative."