Travel Tricks for Pumping on the Go

Travel is one of those things that changes dramatically after becoming a parent. Gone are the days of picking a destination, throwing some stuff in a duffle, and hitting the road—where the toughest decisions were how many swimsuits to pack and what CDs (cassette tapes? 8-tracks?!) would serve as the soundtrack. Whether traveling for business or pleasure, the bottom line remains the same after junior—what was once a whimsical and often well-deserved break is now a circus of logistics, preparation, and fortitude.

And the most daunting part for new moms: mastering pumping breastmilk on the road. The art (yep, it’s an art) of pumping en route requires a slew of savvy shortcuts and tricks. So we connected with some experienced mommas who travel for work—be it on trains, planes, or automobiles—to share their helpful hacks for pumping on the go.


If hotel travel is on your agenda, call ahead and let them know you’ll require a refrigerator in your room for medical purposes—your milk will not stay cold enough in a bar-fridge (and you’ll likely be charged for the booze and snacks you remove to store your precious liquid). The hotel cannot charge you if it’s for medical reasons, a little known rule shared by a frequent-flying network exec. She also suggested you request a late checkout in order to keep the milk cooled for as long as possible. It also gives you a place to pump, if possible, before heading to the airport.


If you’re traveling the morning of a big meeting, pump early and often. Before the airport (which could involve car pumping), in the airport before the flight, and when you reach your destination. This way, you won’t have to worry about excusing yourself during a morning meeting. Note, this will involve bringing milk through TSA, so leave some extra time for security.


If you are covering a territory by car, plan your route the night before with pumping stops in mind. Identify a few ideal pumping places—the tip we heard the most from moms was find a Nordstrom (which has wonderful nursing lounges) or malls with mother’s lounges. One pharma rep shared that she would pump at her clients’ offices (it helped they were doctors), but it never hurts to ask your client if there’s a quiet place you can pump. Car pumping is usually more private and sanitary than using public bathrooms—the radio is a plus as well. It’s not a bad idea to bring your nursing cover with you, (if you use one) in case your pumping point isn’t as private as you’d like. You can also use an app like Moms Pump Here, which uses GPS to help moms find, rate, and share great places to pump.


When traveling (especially on someone else’s timetable with team meetings, trade shows, board meetings, etc.), time can be a seriously sparse commodity. To help make the most of the time you can steal away, first figure out the lay of the land and where you’ll pump. You can even call ahead to the conference center, office, etc. to ask if there are any designated areas before you arrive. Next, take the time you have. Even if you only have a short 15-minute break, it’s better for your supply to have more frequent five-minute pumping sessions than two 20-minute stretches in a day. One of our management consultant moms confessed, “Some days I could only get two pumps in, but the more often you skip a pump, the more quickly your supply will tank.”


After working so hard to plan how and where you’ll pump and keep it cool, figuring out how to safely get it home is essential. If you’re gone for an extended time or are just squeamish about flying with your liquid gold, you can try a milk shipping service like Milk Stork, which that takes the work out of shipping milk home from anywhere in the U.S. with an overnight delivery service. They also provide large medical-grade coolers you can pick up at your hotel and carry on the plane.




We would love to know what you know! What travel pumping tips and hacks can you share with other moms? #babyation


Julia Beck

Julia Beck is the founder of the It’s Working Project and Forty Weeks. Beck is based in Washington, D.C., where she is the matriarch of a blended family that includes a loving husband, a loyal golden retriever and four children—all of whom are her favorite.